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Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

Dnepropetrovsk (Yekaterinoslav until 1926), city and industrial center situated on the River Dnieper in Ukraine. Jews first settled there shortly after its foundation in 1778 and, in 1804, the town was included in the Pale of Settlement. The community numbered 376 in 1805 (total population 2,634) and 1,699 in 1847. With the growth of the city in the second half of the 19th century Jews began to move there from other parts of Russia, and played an important role in its commerce and industry. Apart from big flour mills Jews owned sawmills utilizing the timber sent down the Dnieper River.

In the mid-19th century the railroad to Odessa was laid and Jews took a large part in the development of the grain trade and exports. Later, when the Donets Basin was linked to the city by railroad, Jews were involved in the metallurgical industry. Several Jewish agricultural colonies were founded in the Yekaterinoslav province and in the neighborhood of the city itself between 1846 and 1855 with about 8,000 persons; some remained in existence until the German occupation in World War II.

Apart from hadarim there was a talmud torah for poor children and seven private schools (1887), while 153 Jewish children studied in the local high school in 1882. The writer and lawyer Ilya Orshanski together with others upgraded the curriculum of the talmud torah and the heders and organized food and clothing for destitute pupils.

Pogroms occurred in Dnepropetrovsk and the vicinity on July 20–21, 1883, in which 350 homes and many Jewish shops were looted and destroyed. The losses were estimated at 600,000 rubles, and 2,870 persons lost their sources of income.

By 1897, the Jewish population had increased to 41,240 (36.3% of the total population). It included 15,160 breadwinners (3,046 of them women), including 4,531 in trade, 2,969 in the garment industry, 1,426 artisans, and 1,714 in services and working in shops, with many professionals as well. Most of the shops and houses in the city center were owned by Jews. There were three talmud torah schools with 500 pupils, 885 studied in the ?adarim, and a yeshivah and 16 private schools were in operation. In 1860, a hospital was founded with 14 beds, growing to 29 in 1886. In 1880, an old age home was opened for the poor. The community extended help in 1882 to 500 families (2,625 persons).

There was also a small Karaite community in Dnepropetrovsk which had its own prayerhouse. They numbered 359 in 1897, dropping to 145 in 1926. Pogroms again broke out on October 21–23, 1905, and 74 Jews were killed, hundreds injured, and much property was looted and destroyed. Local self-defense was organized in 1904, comprising 600 members, 2% of them Christians. It did much to protect the community.

Revolutionary trends among the Jewish youth were strong, alongside Hasidism and Orthodoxy among the older generation of the community. Dnepropetrovsk was an important Zionist center where M. Ussishkin (from 1891 to 1906) and Shemaryahu Levin were active. The latter served there as a government-appointed rabbi from 1898 to 1904. The well-known lawyer Oscar Grusenberg was born and raised in the city. He took part in the pogrom trials of Kishinev and Minsk and defended the accused in blood libels in Vilna and Kiev (the Beilis Affair). Also living in the city was Hillel Zlatopolsky, a Zionist activist and founder, with his daughter Shoshanah Persitz, of the Omanut the publishing house (later Massadah).

In World War I and the civil war in Russia, thousands of Jews took refuge in Dnepropetrovsk, which numbered 72,928 Jews in 1920. In the Civil War (1917–20), the city changed hands a number of times, suffering from tributes, looting, rape, and murder. In June 1919, the Denikin army raped about 1,000 women and, in May 1919, the Grigoryev band killed 150 Jews.

After the establishment of Soviet rule, Jewish community life ceased there as elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Zionist activity was forbidden, and on September 18–22, 1922, about 1,000 were arrested. Only He-?alutz was allowed to function, until disbanded in summer 1926.

The Jewish population numbered 62,073 in 1926 (26.9% of the total), with the following occupational structure: workers in factories and workshops: 6,397; office workers: 8,477; in professions: 425; in agriculture: 887; in trade: 2,194; artisans: 3,469; without professional status: 2,146; unemployed: 4,819. In 1924, 1,187 school-aged Jewish children studied in Yiddish schools and 4,064 in general schools. In the 1930s, there were four Yiddish schools, a vocational high school for mechanics, and an industrial school at the Petrovski steel mill, where 500 Jews studied. An illegal Chabad yeshivah operated in the years 1929–35 with a few dozen students. According to the census of 1939, the Jewish population of the city was 89,525 (total population 526,000).

Dnepropetrovsk was occupied by the Germans on August 25, 1941. Thanks to evacuation and flight, only about 17,000 Jews remained. In September, 179 were killed. On October 2, a big tribute of 30 million rubles was imposed on the community and on October 13–14, 13,000–15,000 Jews were assembled and led to the botanical gardens, where they were murdered. The remaining 2,000 Jews were executed at the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942.

At the end of summer 1943 a unit of Operation Group 1005 opened the mass graves, burned the bodies, and dispersed the ashes. The city was liberated on October 25, 1943, and many Jews returned.

According to the 1959 census there were 53,400 Jews living in Dnepropetrovsk. In 1963, anti-Semitic hooligans broke into a synagogue during the High Holiday services without interference from the police. In 1970, there was one synagogue still functioning in the city. During the High Holidays the synagogue street became filled with Jews and order was maintained by the police.

J.L. Levin served as rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk before becoming chief rabbi of Moscow. Subsequent census figures put the Jewish population at 45,622 in 1979 and 17,869 in 1989. Immigration to Israel diminished the number significantly during the 1990s. The community offered wide-ranging communal and educational services. Shmuel Kaminetzky was chief rabbi.


I. Halpern, Sefer ha-Gevurah, 3 (1950), 105, 162–79; M. Osherowitch, Shtet un Shtetlekh in Ukraine, 2 (1948), 99–111; Z. Harkavy, in: He-Avar, 5 (1957), 128–32; Die Judenpogrome in Russland, 2 (1910), 175–95; B. West, Be-?evlei Kelayah (1963), 76. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Pinkas.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.