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Pruzhany

PRUZHANY (Pol. Prużana), city in Brest district, Belarus. Situated on the road which leads from Brest-Litovsk to Moscow, it was under Polish rule until 1795; in the third partition of Poland it was incorporated into Russia, and in 1919 regained by Poland until 1939. Jews lived in Pruzhany during the middle of the 15th century and around 1450 there was a ḥevra kaddisha which noted its activities in a register. In 1463 the first synagogue (destroyed by fire in 1863) was erected near the center of the Jewish quarter. In 1495 the Jews of Pruzhany were included in the general expulsion of Jews from Lithuania, but they returned after a few years. In 1563 there were 11 Jewish families and 276 Christian families. Both Christians and Jews earned their livelihood primarily from agriculture and livestock, although there were some engaged in commerce and crafts. In 1588 the town was granted autonomous rights according to the *Magdeburg Law. The rights of the Jews were formally drawn up and ratified by Ladislaus IV in 1644 and subsequently, on several occasions, by his successors. According to these rights Jews were authorized to reside in Pruzhany, to practice their religion and freely engage in their occupations. At the close of the 17th century there were 571 Jews (42% of the population); in 1868, during the period of Russian rule, there were 2,575 Jews (61% of the total), and in 1897 there were 5,080 (of a total population of 7,633). By the close of the 19th century the Jewish community enjoyed a vigorous social and cultural life in which all trends and parties were active. During German occupation (1915–1917) Jews were taken for forced labor, and suffered from a typhoid epidemic. In 1921 the Jewish population was 4,152 (about 57% of the total). With the establishment of independent Poland, Jews also participated in the municipal government. In 1927, 16 of the 24 delegates elected to the administration were Jews. In the elections of the Jewish community in 1928, M. Goldfein, a delegate of the merchants, was elected president. There were in town a Jewish orphanage, an old-age home, a Hebrew and Yiddish schools, and a yeshivah; two weeklies were published.

Distinguished rabbis served in the town. At the close of the 16th century, R. Joel *Sirkes, the renowned author of the Baḥ (Bayit Ḥadash), officiated as rabbi and rosh yeshivah for some time. R. *David b. Samuel ha-Levi, author of the Turei Zahav (Taz) also held the rabbinical office for a brief period. Among the last rabbis of the town, one of the most prominent was R. Elijah Feinstein (1842–1929) who was appointed in 1884. Active in the affairs of Polish Jewry, he wrote Sefer Halikhot Eliyahu ("Book of the Demeanors of Elijah," 1932), and a novella on Maimonides which was published in 1929. He was succeeded by his son-in-law R. David Feigenbaum, who perished in the Holocaust.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Pinkes fun Funf Fartilikte Kehiles: Pruzhana, Bereza… (1958), 3–323, 599–690.