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Oshmyany

OSHMYANY (Pol. Oszmiana), town in Grodno district, Belarus. Oshmyany, one of the oldest settlements in Lithuania, was granted municipal status in 1537. A Jewish community developed there at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1765 there were 376 Jewish poll-tax payers in Oshmyany and the surrounding villages. In 1831, after a battle against Polish rebels, Russian soldiers set fire to Oshmyany and killed many of the town's inhabitants, including many Jews. In 1847 the community numbered 1,460, and by 1897 the number had increased to 3,808 (about 53% of the population). Jews earned their livelihood from small trade and crafts, essentially from tanning, shoemaking, tailoring, and carpentry. At the beginning of the 20th century most of the Jewish workers organized themselves into a trade union. There were seven synagogues in the town, three of them belonging to the unions of the tanners, shoemakers, and tailors. Prominent rabbis served the community during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, among them R. Meir Michael Kahana (1883), R. Mordecai b. Menahem *Rosenblatt (author of Aleh Ḥavaẓẓelet, 1891–1906), and R. Judah Leib Fein 1906–14).

The Great Synagogue of Oshmyana was erected in 1902. In the battles between the Red Army and the Polish Army in 1920, many Jews fell victim to the fighting. Between the two world wars (under Polish rule) the office of vice mayor was held by a Jewish delegate. During this period branches of all the Jewish parties were active in the town. The leading educational and cultural institutions were the Tarbut and Yavneh Hebrew schools, the CYSHO Yiddish school, a Hebrew library, and a drama circle. Between the years 1922 and 1925 a Jewish agricultural cooperative with 30 members functioned in the surroundings of Oshmyany.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach XIX i XX (1930), 82; Żydzi a powstanie styczniowe, materiały osijek i dokumenty (1963), index; Sefer Zikkaron li-Kehillat Oshminah (Heb., Yid., and some Eng., 1969).