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Bukovina, Romania

BUKOVINA, region between the E. Carpathians and the upper Dniester, part of Ottoman Moldavia until 1775, when it passed to the Austrian Empire as a result of the Kutsug-Kainargi peace treaty (the entire region named Bukovina from 1774); after World War I incorporated into *Romania; in 1940 the northern part was incorporated into the Soviet Union (western Ukrainian S.S.R.), the southern part remaining in Romania. The main town of Bukovina is *Chernovtsy , formerly Czernowitz (see entry for some major aspects of Jewish life in the region. Czernowitz is the German form of the city's name; in Romanian it is called Cernauti, in Ukrainian Tsernivcy). Jewish merchants passing through Bukovina are mentioned from the 13th century, and Jews settled there from the 14th century. In 1408 they were granted the right of freedom of movement and commerce along the Moldavian trade routes. The Jewish population increased steadily, and maintained close commercial links with the Jews of *Poland - *Lithuania , being mainly occupied in the transit trade and purveying of alcoholic beverages. The Cossack invasion from the Ukraine in 1656 (see *Chmielnicki ) caused much suffering in the region.

Jewish communal life in Bukovina developed along the same lines as in the other communities of the Ottoman Empire. From 1710 to 1834 Bukovina Jewry had an independent *ḥakham bashi , who held hereditary office, and was also responsible for collecting the taxes imposed on Bukovina Jewry. Another office of the Jewish leadership from 1716 was that of rosh medinah (head of the region). From the end of the 17th century the growing Polish-Jewish element imparted a distinct Ashkenazi character to the Bukovina communities. The census of 1776 recorded a Jewish population of 2,906 in the region, now under Austria. Their economic position was satisfactory. That year the government prohibited additional Jews from settling in the communities of Bukovina and limited trade in alcoholic beverages to Jews resident there before 1768. In 1780, when 1,069 Jewish families were recorded in Bukovina, a proposal was made to limit residence of the Jews to three main towns, with permission to settle elsewhere only if they engaged in agriculture. Orders along these lines became effective in 1782, and by 1785 the number of Jewish families had dwindled to 175. It had increased by immigration from *Galicia to 360 in 1791. From 1816 Jews were granted individual residence permits to settle in the region. After 1867 the Jews of the region were emancipated together with the rest of the Jews in Austria-Hungary. The number of Jews increased throughout Bukovina after 1848 and the attainment of emancipation (see *Austria ), and by 1890 numbered approximately 90,000. Ḥasidism struck roots in Bukovina, one of the early leaders there being *Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apta (Opatow). A branch of the *Ruzhin dynasty of ẓaddikim made Sadagora a center of Ḥasidism in the region. Another dynasty originating in Kossow settled in *Vizhnitsa . From the second half of the 19th century Jews in Bukovina tended increasingly to prefer a secular education, in which the Chernovtsy community led the way. They also took part in the political and social life of Bukovina, in general tending toward assimilation into Austro-German culture and identification with its aspirations. Zionism penetrated Bukovina at the end of the century. Jews took an active part in Bukovina's industrial and commercial development, initiated timber and cement industries, and were prominent in railroad construction and banking. A number of these Jewish industrial and financial magnates were awarded Austrian titles. Most owned large estates. The status of Jewish artisans also improved, and certain trades, such as tinsmithing, were exclusively Jewish. The relative prosperity of the Jews provoked frequent nationalistic outbursts amongst the Ukrainian (Ruthenian) and Romanian population of the region. After the incorporation of Bukovina into Romania – in 1919 – the situation of the Jews declined, since Romanian Jews had not yet been legally emancipated like the Austrians and because of the virulent antisemitism of the local Romanians and Ukrainians. However there was an up-surge of communal, in particular Zionist, activity among the Bukovina Jews. The *Bund gained ground among the growing Jewish proletariat. Among Jews active in politics was the Zionist leader and member of the Romanian senate Meir *Ebner . The incorporation of northern Bukovina into the western Ukrainian S.S.R. – in 1940 – brought new economic and political hardship to the local Jewish population, and Jewish cultural and social life came to a total standstill. On June 18, 1941, 3,800 "bourgeois" Jews of the region were deported to Siberia. When in July 1941 northern Bukovina was occupied by the Germans and the Romanian Fascists, the German and Romanian soldiers proceeded to massacre the Jewish population. The yellow *badge was introduced, their personal belongings were looted, and all occupation in professions and crafts was prohibited to Jews. Forced labor was imposed. On Oct. 11, 1941, a ghetto was set up in Chernovtsy; 40,000 Jews were deported from there, to be followed shortly by another 35,000 Jews from the surrounding areas, to the death camps in *Transnistria . On the partition of Bukovina after World War II, the Jews in the northern sector eventually had to conform to the general pattern of Jewish existence under Soviet rule. In 1945 a few thousand non-Bukovinian Jews were allowed to repatriate to Romania. The more liberal attitude of communist Romania permitted emigration to Israel from the south, where very few Jews remained. The majority of the Jews who continued to live in Ukrainian Bukovina (in the cities) were mostly not local inhabitants but Jews from the rest of the former Soviet Union (including the non-Slavic republics) who tried to improve their lives by moving closer to the western parts of their homeland.


H. Gold (ed.), Geschichte der Juden in der Bukowina, 2 vols. (1958–62); PK Romanyah, 349–549.

[Manfred Reifer / Paul Schveiger (2nd ed.)]

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