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Slutsk, Belarus

Slutsk (Pol. Słuck), town in Minsk district, Belarus; from the end of the 13th century under Lithuania; from 1793 under Russia and a district town in the province of Minsk until the Revolution. Jews are known to have lived in Slutsk, one of the oldest Jewish communities in Belorussia, from 1583. The community developed under the protection of the owners of the town, the princes Radziwill. Within the structure of the Councils of the Lands Slutsk was at first subject to the community of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk), but it became independent from 1691 and was granted jurisdiction over the surrounding villages. From that date until 1764, Slutsk was one of the five leading Lithuanian communities which sent delegates to the Council of Lithuania, and the last session of this council was held there in 1761.

Slutsk declined in the 19th century, becoming a township whose principal income came from retail trade, craftsmanship, and vegetable-and fruit-growing, the latter being renowned throughout Russia. From 1,577 in 1766, the number of Jews increased to 5,897 in 1847 and 10,264 (77% of the population) in 1897.

At the end of the 18th century, Slutsk was one of the centers of the struggle against Ḥasidism, remaining a stronghold of the Mitnaggedim. The rabbis who held office in the community included Joseph Peimer (1829–64) and Joseph Baer Soloveichik (1865–74). In 1897, Isser Zalman Meltzer founded a yeshivah which attracted students from throughout the Pale of Settlement. Several Hebrew writers and scholars came from Slutsk (Y. Cahan, Y.D. Berkowitz, J.N. Simchoni, and E.E. Lisitsky), as did the promoters of Haskalah and Ḥibbat Zion (Z. Dainow and Ẓ.H. Masliansky).

Under the Soviet regime the Slutsk community shared the fate of Russian Jewry. Government schools in which the language of instruction was Yiddish were opened and remained in existence until the late 1930s. Yehezkel Abramsky was rabbi of the community.

In 1926, there were 8,358 Jews (53.3% of the total population) in Slutsk. When the town was occupied by the Germans in 1941, local Jews were massacred; those who remained alive were confined to a ghetto. On Nov. 11, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. Ghetto prisoners were burned alive in their homes, and those who tried to run away were shot to death. Only several persons managed to survive these events. Three months later, the remaining useful Jews were exterminated.

Only a very few Jews lived in Slutsk in 1970 and there was no semblance of Jewish life.

In 2005, the general population of Slutsk numbered 63,439. Members of the Jewish community raised money to construct a Holocaust memorial in the center of the town, on the site where the Slutsk ghetto was located during World War II. The project was spearheaded by the Falevich brothers, Boris and Friedrich, who were two of the few survivors.


S. Dubnow, Pinkas ha-Medinah (1925), index; Z. Gluskin, Zikhronot (1946), 17–19; E.E. Lisitsky, Elleh Toledot Adam (1951), 12–59; Pinkas Slutsk u-Venoteha (1962).

[Yehuda Slutsky /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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