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KHERSON, city in Nikolayev district, Ukraine. The town was founded in 1778 and Jews began to settle there a few years later. In 1799 there were 39 Jewish merchants in Kherson and 180 Jewish townsmen. A Jewish hospital was built in 1827. Like other communities in New Russia, that of Kherson grew rapidly during the 19th century, as a result of the settlement of the whole area by Jewish emigrants who left the northwestern provinces of the *Pale of Settlement for the southern provinces which were developing in this period. The number of Jews increased from 3,832 in 1847 to 17,755 (30% of the total) in 1897. Jews played an important role in the development of the town, and in 1862 the governor of Kherson province even recommended that one of the Jewish merchants be elected mayor, claiming that there were no suitable Christian candidates. He added that since many of the Jewish merchants owned properties and were educated, the election of one of them to the mayoralty would result in tangible benefits to the town. Although also supported by the governor-general of New Russia, this recommendation was not approved. In 1884, of 150 merchants, 73 were Jews; 8 factories out of 53 and 55 shops out of 123 belonged to them. At the end of the 19th century, Kherson became an active center of Zionism: the Biluists Ya'akov Shertok and Ze'ev Smilansky were then active. When Eliezer Paper was appointed director of the talmud torah in 1896, he introduced the " Ivrit-be-Ivrit " method, teaching Hebrew through the medium of Hebrew. Jewish pupils constituted a majority in the secondary schools. From the beginning of the 20th century there operated a mutual fund bank for petty merchants and artisans. In 1909 it had 1,093 members and a capital of 13,880 rubles. The Jews of Kherson suffered during the pogroms which swept the Ukraine in 1905 and during the civil war. *Denikin's soldiers carried out pogroms in April 1919. In the beginning of the Soviet regime, in the years 1921–22, there was great hunger, and many died of starvation (in December 1921, 39; in February 1922, 189). In the 1920s there was a court of law in which proceedings were held in Yiddish, and a Jewish elementary school with an enrollment of 220 in 1925, out of 1,200 children of school age. There were also an industrial school and Jewish departments in the local university. An underground Chabad yeshivah existed at the beginning of the 1930s. Early in the 1930s many Jews worked in factories, and in the biggest – the Petrovski plant – there were 1,500 Jews out of 4,500 workers. There were 14,837 Jews (19% of the total population) in the town in 1926, and 16,145 (of a total population of 96,988) in 1939. The Germans occupied Kherson on August 19, 1941. On August 29 they killed 100 Jews and in early September, 110. On September 7, a ghetto was established, and a Judenrat and Jewish police were organized. On September 24–25 Einsatzkommando 11a murdered 8,000 Jews. Later Jews found hiding were executed, and in February 1942 some 400 children of mixed marriages were killed. In 1959, there were 9,500 Jews (6% of the total population) living in Kherson. The last synagogue was closed by the authorities in 1959 but was returned to the community in 1991 as Jewish life revived despite the emigration of most of the Jews.

Province of Kherson

The province (gubernia) of Kherson was until the 1917 Revolution among the provinces of New Russia, and during the 19th century one of the main areas attracting Jews from other parts of Russia. The number of Jews in the province grew from 11,870 in 1818 to 339,910 in 1897, one of the highest rates of increase in the Pale of Settlement. The majority of the Jews lived in the towns: 70.89% in 1897, as against 10.18% in the townlets and 18.93% in the villages. A considerable part of the Jewish population was concentrated in the large urban centers, especially *Odessa. Other large communities at the end of the 19th century were Yelizavetgrad (*Kirovograd), *Nikolayev, and Kherson. The province of Kherson was the principal center for government-sponsored Jewish agricultural settlement in Russia, and the largest relative concentration of Jewish farmers in the country was found there (7.15% of the Jewish population of the province in 1897). From the economic point of view, the Jews of the Kherson province were among the wealthiest and most stable in the Pale of Settlement. Like the Jews of the other southern provinces of Russia, those of Kherson were mainly engaged in commerce (41.36% in 1897), particularly trading in grain and other agricultural products; 20.52% of the Jews of the region earned their livelihood from this trade in 1897. General education and modification in the traditional way of life made greater progress among the Jews of Kherson province than in the other regions of the Pale of Settlement; 45.1% of the Jewish men and 24.6% of the Jewish women in the province were able to read Russian in 1897. After the 1917 Revolution, the province was divided up into several separate administrative units.


Ḥakla'im Yehudim be-Arvot Rusyah (1965); M. Golinkin, Me-Heikhalei Yefet le-Oholei Shem (1948), 15, passim.

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