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Bershad, Ukraine

BERSHAD, small town in *Vinnitsa district, Ukraine. Jews started to settle there at the end of the 16th century. They were butchered by one of the Cossack bands during the *Chmielnicki massacres, and in the 18th century by the *Haidamak gangs. The community numbered 438 in 1765; 650 in 1787; 3,370 in 1847; 6,600 (out of a total of 8,885) according to the 1897 census; and 7,400 (61%) in 1910. At the beginning of the 19th century, when the ẓaddik *Raphael of Bershad lived there, Bershad became a center of Ḥasidism. It became celebrated for its tallit weaving industry which came to an end after many of the weavers immigrated to the United States. Most of the plants for sugar refining and distilling, flour mills, and tanneries established in Bershad toward the end of the century were owned by Jews. Of the town's 175 artisans, 163 were Jewish. During the civil war of 1919–20, 150 Jews in Bershad were massacred by Ukrainian gangs and soldiers of *Denikin 's army. In 1926 they numbered 7,016 (total population 11,847), dropping to 4,271 in 1939. During this period, under the Soviets, many Jews worked in artisan cooperatives, some of which later developed into factories; about 20% of the Jews were blue-collar workers and clerks, and 20% were unemployed. A Yiddish high school had 621 students. Bershad was occupied by the Germans and Romanians on July 29, 1941, and included in Transnistria on September 1. A ghetto was established in the town and 25,000 Jews deported from Bessarabia and Bukovina were sent there. Many died of hunger and disease as up to 25 people were packed into a room. By August 1942, 10,000 Jews remained. The situation improved after financial aid arrived from Jewish organizations in Bucharest. A hospital, pharmacy, soup kitchen, and orphanage were opened. Local Jews organized an armed underground and later took to the forest and joined Soviet partisan units. The Jews numbered 2,200 in 1959 and 553 in 1993. There was a synagogue, and both a rabbi and kosher poultry were available.


A.D. Rozenthal, Megillat ha-Tevaḥ, 1 (1927), 100–2, 110; Y. Midrashi, Bershad ve-ha-Haganah Shellah (1935); N. Huberman, Bershad (Heb., 1956). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK Romanyah, PK Ukrainah, S.V.

[Shmuel Ettinger /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

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