SKIDEL, town in Grodno oblast, Belarus; in Poland-Lithuania until 1785, and from 1807 incorporated into Russia. Jews settled in Skidel in the mid-18th century and later became the majority in the town. In 1765 there were 463 Jews in Skidel and nearby settlements. The number had grown to 1,080 in 1847; 2,222 (80% of the total population) in 1897; 2,231 (76.7%) in 1921; and about 2,800 (c. 80%) in 1931. Jews earned their livelihood by trading in grain and timber, in the retail trade, crafts, and tanning, especially from the end of the 19th century. Jewish craft guilds were established in Skidel as early as the beginning of the 19th century and political and trade unions (Bund, Po'alei Zion, etc.) at the beginning of the 20th. A Zionist movement was established in 1898. In the fighting in the area during the retreat of the Russian armies, much Jewish property was destroyed. At the end of World War I, when the Germans left in fall 1918, a town council and committee of organized Jewish workers functioned independently for a time.
During the interwar period, under Polish rule, all the Jewish parties were active in Skidel. In the municipal elections of 1927, eight Jewish representatives gained seats, two-thirds of the municipal council. A Jew was elected mayor. Jewish institutions included schools of *Tarbut and of the Central Yiddish School organization (CYSHO). The community came to an end in the Holocaust.
After World War II Skidel became a part of Russia again, and all traces of its past as a Jewish shtetl rapidly disappeared. The town center, which had featured yeshivas, synagogues, factories, hospitals, and homes, was never rebuilt. The remaining townspeople dismantled the Jewish cemetery and used the stones to build their homes. Skidel became the region's "Red City," or regional Communist Party headquarters. In the early 2000s, it had a train station, a rebuilt Catholic Church, a sugar refinery, a poultry factory, and an agricultural commune.
M. Wischnitzer, in: Lite, 1 (1951), 975; Ḥ. Lapin, in: Grodner Opklangen, 5–6 (1951), 56.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.