KORETS


KORETS (Pol. Korzec), town in Rovno district, Ukraine. The community in Korets was one of the oldest in Poland. Jews were living there in the 16th century. During the *Chmielnicki massacres in 1648/49 the community was almost annihilated, and only ten Jewish houses were left. The community recovered soon afterward to become the largest and most influential in the Council of Volhynia Land. A textile factory established by Joseph Czartoryski in Korets in 1786 employed 60 Jewish workers, and another textile factory founded in 1787 by Pinkhas Israel employed only Jews. In 1765, 937 Jews lived there but the number dropped in 1787 to 364 persons. Between 1766 and 1819 there were four Hebrew printing presses in Korets, some of them associated with those in Shklov, Nowy Dwor, and Ostrog. They printed nearly 100 books, mostly works of Kabbalah and Ḥasidism, which contributed considerably to the spread of Ḥasidism in Poland and adjoining countries. Works by *Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye and *Dov Baer of Mezhirech were first printed there. Korets was a center of Ḥasidism. Dov Baer the Maggid of Mezhirech and Phinehas Shapiro were active there. The Jewish population grew in the 19th century, to 3,832 in 1847 and 4,608 (76% of the total population) in 1897. Additional factories were founded, such as tanneries and a large sugar refinery, all owned by Jews. In the beginning of the 20th century a modern talmud torah, a private Hebrew school, and a large library existed in Korets. During World War I and the Civil War, pogroms were averted due to the intervention of the Ukrainian town mayor and the self-defense unit, and only two Jews were killed. The Jewish population diminished during World War I, and amounted to 3,888 (83%) in 1921, increasing to 4,695 in December 1937. The first democratic elections to the community administration were held in 1917. Elections were held again, under Polish rule, in 1927, and Nehemiah Herschengon (d. 1923) was rabbi of the community for 67 years. In 1924 many Jews were elected to the City Council. One of them served as a vice-mayor. Apart from the talmud torah, there were a Hebrew Tarbut school and a Yiddish school, and in 1920 the Zvihil yeshivah from Novograd-Volynsk, headed by R. Joel Shurin (the Poltava Illui ("prodigy")), moved to Korets.

Holocaust Period

Soviet forces entered Korets on Sept. 17, 1939. Jewish institutions and political parties were disbanded, and Jews whose means of livelihood had been taken away attempted to settle into new occupations. Cooperatives for artisans and craftsmen were set up. The Tarbut school was closed, and the communal charitable bodies were forced to stop their activities, although they managed to continue some operations, especially in aiding Jewish refugees. Religious life as such was not disturbed. When war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, over 500 Jews managed to escape from Korets to Russia. German troops entered on July 2, 1941. On Aug. 8, 1941, Jewish men were called up for forced labor. The 112 who appeared were murdered on the outskirts of the city. On Aug. 20, 1941, another 350 Jewish men were murdered there, and on August 25 a fine of 100,000 marks (a million rubles) was levied against the Jews. In the winter that followed, the community suffered from hunger and epidemics, and many were conscripted for labor camps. On May 21, 1942, 2,200 Jews were killed near the village of Kozak. The survivors in the community, about 1,000, were subsequently concentrated in a ghetto. A Judenrat was established under Moshe Krasnostawski. The Judenrat maintained contacts with the Jewish underground headed by Misha Gildenman and his son Simkha, and a resistance group of 20 members was formed in the ghetto, armed with one pistol and knives. On September 25, 1942, when the final liquidation of Korets Jews came, Krasnostawski set fire to the ghetto houses (he died in the flames), and under the cover of fire and smoke many escaped, among them 11 persons, led by Gildenman to the forests north of the town. Gildenman built up a partisan unit, connected later with the partisan division of General Saburov, and became one of the outstanding partisan leaders of the region. About 500 survivors returned there after the liberation on January 13, 1944, but most left for Israel and the West. The Jewish population in 1970 was estimated to be only a few families. During Passover 1959 a minyan conducting services in private was dispersed by militia.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

A. Tauber, in: KS, 1 (1924/25), 222 ff., 302ff.; 2 (1925/26), 54ff., 215ff., 274ff.; 3 (1926/27), 281ff.; Rivkind, ibid., 58ff.; Ḥ.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Polanyah (19502), 74f.; E. Leoni (ed.), Sefer Koreẓ (Heb. and Yid., 1959).

[Aharon Weiss /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.