Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


UMAN (Pol. Human), city in Kiev district, Ukraine; in Poland-Lithuania until the 1793 partition. In 1749 the *Haidamacks massacred many Jews of Uman and burned part of the town. Count Potocki, the landlord of the city, rebuilt it in 1761, held fairs there, and otherwise stimulated its development. In 1768 Haidamacks annihilated the Jews of Uman, together with the Jews from other places who had sought refuge there. On June 19, 1788, the peasant revolutionary, Maxim Zheleznyak, marched on Uman after he had butchered the Jews of Tetiyev. When the Cossack garrison and its commander, Ivan Gonta, went over to Zheleznyak (despite the sums of money he received from the Uman community and the promises he had made in return), the city fell to Zheleznyak, in spite of a courageous defense in which the Jews played an active role. The Jews then gathered in the synagogues, where they were led by Leib Shargorodski and Moses Menaker in an attempt to defend themselves, but they were destroyed by cannon fire. The remaining Jews in the city were subsequently killed. The massacre lasted three days and did not spare old men, women, or children. Gonta threatened death to all Christians who dared to shelter Jews. The number of Poles and Jews who were killed in the "massacre of Uman" is estimated to be 20,000. The anniversary of the commencement of the massacre, Tammuz 5, hereforth known as the "Evil Decree of Uman," was observed as a fast and by a special prayer. Naḥman of Bratslav settled in Uman and before his death there he said, "the souls of the martyrs (slaughtered by Gonta) await me." After his death in 1811, the Ḥasidim of Bratslav used to come to Uman in large numbers to prostrate themselves on his grave.

Uman had the reputation of being a city of klezmerim ("Jewish musicians"). The grandfather of the violinist Mischa *Elman was a popular klezmer in the city, and the tunes of Uman were widely known. It was also known as one of the first centers of the *Haskalah movement in the Ukraine. The leader of the movement was Chaim (Ḥaikl) *Hurwitz. In 1822 "a school based on Mendelssohnian principles" was established in Uman several years before the schools in *Odessa and *Kishinev. The founder was Ẓevi Dov (Hirsch Beer), the son of Chaim Hurwitz and a friend of the poet Jacob *Eichenbaum; the school closed after a few years.

In 1842 there were 4,933 Jews in Uman; in 1897, 17,945 (59% of the total population), and in 1910, 28,267. During the Bolshevik Revolution, the Jews of Uman endured great suffering. In the spring and summer of 1919, a number of troops passed through the city and perpetrated pogroms; there were 170 victims in the first pogrom and more than 90 in the subsequent one. This time the Christian inhabitants helped to hide the Jews. The Council for Public Peace, most of whose members were prominent Christians, with a minority of prominent Jews, saved the city from danger several times; in 1920, for example, it stopped the pogrom initiated by the troops of General A. Denikin. In 1926 there were 22,179 Jews (49.5% of the total population).

During World War II, the Nazis exterminated the Jews of Uman. In 1959 there were 2,200 Jews (5% of the total population). In the late 1960s the Jewish population was estimated at about 1,000. The last synagogue was closed by the authorities in the late 1950s, and the Jewish cemetery was badly neglected. A monument to the memory of 17,000 Jewish martyrs of the Nazis bears a Yiddish inscription. Jews still visit the tomb of Naḥman of Bratslav.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, pilgrimages to Rebbe Naḥman's grave were renewed, with thousands arriving from all around the world on Rosh ha-Shanah.


Ḥ.J. Gurland, Le-Korot ha-Gezerot al Yisrael, 1–3 (1887–89); YIVO, Historishe Shriftn, 1 (1929), 27–54; S. Bernfeld, Sefer ha-Dema'ot, 3 (1926), 290–302; A. Druyanow (ed.), in: Reshumot, 3 (1923), 132–40; M. Osherovich, Shtet un Shtetlakh in Ukraine, 1 (1948), 165–73; M.N. Litinsky, Sefer Korot Podolya ve-Kadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim Sham (1895); E. Bingel, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 3 (1959), 303–20.

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