RECHITSA, city in Gomel district, Belarus. Rechitsa had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Belorussia. In 1648 the rampaging Cossacks murdered many of its Jews. The Jewish population in 1766 numbered 133, increasing to 1,268 in 1800 (two thirds of the total population), and 2,080 in 1847. The city was a center for Chabad *Ḥasidism. At the end of the 19th century Rechitsa had a yeshivah led by Rabbi Ḥayyim Shelomo Kumm and was the residence of the ḥasidic leader, R. Shalom Dov Ber *Schneersohn. Rechitsa's Jews included petty merchants in lumber and agricultural produce, artisans, a few wholesalers, and the owner of a match factory. In 1897 the 5,334 Jews of Rechitsa constituted 57 percent of the population. On October 23, 1905 the peasants of the surrounding area participated in a pogrom which killed 6 Jews and wounded 12, most of them members of the Jewish self-defense force. On the eve of World War I the Jewish population numbered about 7,500. Jewish communal and religious life began to decline under Soviet rule. There existed a Yiddish section in the court of law and two Jewish elementary schools. In 1926 there were 7,386 Jews, and 7,237 in 1939 (24 percent of the total population). The Germans occupied the town on August 23, 1941. In November 1941 all 3,000 remaining Jews were gathered in a ghetto, and on November 25 they were murdered. A few Jews returned after the war. They had no synagogue, and in 1970 the Jewish population was estimated at about 1,000. In the 1990s most remaining Jews emigrated to Israel and the West.
I. Halpern, Sefer ha-Gevurah, 3 (1950), 186–90; Die Judenpogrome in Russland, 2 (1909), 465–7; Prestupleniya nemetsko-fashistskikh okkupantov v Belorussii (1963), 268–71.
[Yehuda Slutsky /
Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.