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OSTRYNA (in Jewish sources אוֹסְטְרִין), town in Grodno district, Belarus. Jews are first mentioned in Ostryna some time before 1569 as contractors of customs and taxes. In 1623 the Lithuanian Council (see *Councils of the Lands) placed Ostryna under the jurisdiction of the Grodno community. The number of Jewish poll tax payers in the town and surrounding communities was 436 in 1765. There were 405 Jews in Ostryna in 1847, 1,440 (59% of the total population) in 1897, and 1,067 (67.3%) in 1921. The Jews engaged mainly in trading, forestry, crafts, peddling, and agriculture; in the early 1920s there were 60 Jewish farmers in Ostryna. When the Germans evacuated Ostryna in 1919 the Jewish youth and military veterans established a Jewish police force to guard against peasant attacks. A Jewish self-defense group, which was organized in 1934, acted effectively against peasants who, incited by Polish students, were attempting to loot Jewish shops. A Jewish savings and loan fund was established in 1912 with 214 members; it was dissolved in World War I and later renewed as a cooperative bank which had 168 members in 1921.

A Hebrew school, in which the "direct method" (Ivrit be-Ivrit) was used to teach Hebrew, was established by the Zionist M. Gornilki. The first coeducational school was founded in 1913. In 1921 the CYSHO (Central Yiddish School Organization) established a Yiddish school which operated a club to promote cultural activities in the spirit of the *Bund. From the earliest days of the movement Zionists were active in Ostryna. In 1923 they opened a *Tarbut school. There was a Jewish public library in the town. In 1923 a branch of *He-Ḥalutz was organized and in 1928 of He-Ḥalutz ha-Ẓa'ir. An attempt was made to establish a training center (hakhsharah), based on forestry in the area. A training center of *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir was established in 1927. Many ḥalutzim from Ostryna emigrated to Ereẓ Israel and some of them settled in kibbutzim. Among Ostryna's rabbis were Jacob Ẓevi Shapiro, author of Tiferet Ya'akov on the Mishnah; Jacob Tabszunsky, who during World War I gathered a group of students around him; and S. Gerszonowicz, the last rabbi, who was murdered along with his congregation by the Nazis. Harry Austryn *Wolfson was a native of Ostryna.

Holocaust Period

During World War II, when the Germans entered Ostryna on June 25, 1941, all the Jews were ordered to wear the yellow badge, and shortly after a Judenrat was established. The week after the invasion, the first Jews were killed. In October 1941 the Jews of Ostryna, together with those of Nowy-Dwor, numbering 1,200, were concentrated in two small ghettos. On Nov. 2, 1942, all the Jews from the Ostryna ghetto were deported to the Kelbasin forced-labor camp near Grodno, and at the end of the month were deported to *Auschwitz. A few young people succeeded in escaping from the trains going to Auschwitz and joined partisan units.


S. Dubnow (ed.), Pinkas… Medinat Lita (1935), 17, 96; Sefer Zikkaron li-Kehillot… Ostrin (1966); Unzer Hilf (1921–23); "Ort" – Barikht (Berlin, 1923); ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Pinkas Kehillot Poland, vol. 8 – North-East (2005).

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