ORSHA, city in Vitebsk district, Belarus. Already in existence during the 16th century, the community of Orsha was subordinated to that of *Brest-Litovsk. In 1643 Isaiah Nahumowicz of Orsha was mentioned among the tax lessees of Lithuania. In the charter of privileges granted by King Jan II Casimir to the Jews (1649), Orsha is numbered among the large communities of the country. In 1765, 368 Jews in Orsha paid poll tax. There were 1,662 Jews in 1847 and 7,383 (56% of the total population) in 1897. Most of the town artisans were Jews. There were 4 Jewish schools, a talmud torah, and many ḥadarim. In October 1905 over 30 Jews in the town lost their lives in a pogrom. Although in 1910 there were 9,842 Jews in Orsha, the community began to decline under the Soviet regime. In 1926 there were 6,780 Jews (30% of the total population), and 7,992 (21.3% of the total population) in 1939. In the Soviet interwar period two Jewish elementary schools existed, but they were closed by the authorities in the mid-1930s. At that time 95% of Jewish artisans were organized in cooperatives. The Germans occupied Orsha on July 16, 1941. Many Jews succeeded in escaping to the East. A Judenrat was appointed, the main purpose of which was to collect tribute for the Germans. In September 1941 two ghettoes were organized, with about 2,000 people in each. On November 26, 1941, all Jews – some 5,000 ( including from the environs) – were murdered in the Jewish cemetery. The Jewish population was estimated at about 1,000 in 1970, with most leaving in the 1990s.
Delo o pogrome v Orshe (1908); Die Judenpogrome in Russland, 2 (1909), 467–87.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.