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Bobruisk, Belarus

BOBRUISK, capital of Bobruisk district, Belarus; became part of Russia after the second partition of Poland in 1793. Jewish settlement there is first mentioned at the end of the 17th century. The kehillah of Bobruisk was included in the jurisdiction of the township of Smilovichi (see *Councils of the Lands ). Three hundred and fifty-nine Jewish poll taxpayers are recorded in Bobruisk in 1766. The community increased appreciably after Bobruisk's accession to Russia. The supply of provisions to the garrison of the large fortress built there at the beginning of the 19th century became a major source of Jewish employment. Toward the middle of the 19th century, Jews also took part in lumbering activities, since Bobruisk became an important lumber center, where timber from the adjacent forests was rafted or entrained to southern Russia or the Baltic ports. The Jewish population numbered 4,702 in 1847; 8,861 in 1861; 20,760 in 1897 (60% of the total); and 25,876 (61%) in 1914. It dropped to 21,558 Jews (42%) in 1926 and rose again to 26,703 (total 84,078) in 1939.

There were numerous yeshivot in Bobruisk. Distinguished rabbis who officiated there included leaders of *Ḥabad Ḥasidim (Mordecai Baruch Ettinger, Hillel of Paritch, Shemariah Noah Schneerson) as well as mitnaggedim (Jacob David Willowski (Ridbaz), and Raphael Shapiro, afterward head of the Volozhin yeshivah). The Hebrew author M. Rabinson served as "government-appointed" rabbi from 1911. Toward the end of the 19th century, Bobruisk became a center of cultural and political activity for Belorussian Jewry in which both the Zionist and radical wings were prominent. The publishing house of Jacob Cohen Ginsburg became celebrated throughout Russia. The "model" ḥeder, established in 1900, provided comprehensive Hebrew instruction and did much to raise the standard of Hebrew education. A popular Jewish library was also opened there. After its founding, Bobruisk became one of the main bases of the *Bund ; in 1898 its clandestine printing press was seized in Bobruisk by the police.

After World War I, the Jewish population suffered from the frequent changes of government during the civil war and the Soviet-Polish war (1918–21). Subsequently, Jewish activities ceased. J. Ginsburg and other publishers continued to print prayer books and other religious publications in Bobruisk until 1928; the last work of Jewish religious literature to be published in the Soviet Union, Yagdil Torah, was printed in Bobruisk. A network of 12 Jewish schools giving instruction in Yiddish was established in Bobruisk after the 1917 Revolution, enrolling 3,000 pupils in 1936 and functioning until 1939. Bobruisk was occupied by the Germans on June 28, 1941. Seven thousand succeeded in fleeing but 3,500 Jews were murdered at the beginning of July and 800 men on August 5 after supposedly being taken to a labor camp. A ghetto was established in an open field near the airport. On November 7, 1941, 20,000 Jews were sent from there to their deaths. Another 5,281 Jews were later executed after they refused to wear the yellow badge and report for forced labor. Small groups fled to the forests, where they joined Soviet partisan units. The Jewish population increased after the war, and was estimated at 30,000 in the 1970s and 10,000 in 1989. There was no synagogue under the Soviets, the last one having been closed in 1959, but there were said to be underground minyanim. There was a separate Jewish cemetery. Most of the Jews emigrated in the 1990s as the Jewish population of Belarus dropped by over 75%, but Jewish life begain to revive with a synagogue, day school, and Sunday school in operation. Bobruisk was the birthplace of Pauline *Wengeroff , I. *Nissenbaum , Berl *Katznelson , David *Shimoni , Yiẓḥak *Tabenkin , Kadish *Luz , and Y. *Tunkel .


Y. Slutsky (ed.), Sefer Bobruisk (Heb. and Yid., 1967). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jewish Life, S.V.

[Yehuda Slutsky / Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

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