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Ekaterinoslav Yizkor book
Table of Contents Index

Section 1: This is the History

Large Synagogue in Ekaterinoslav

This section was translated by David Chapin and Mike Meiberg. It is included here with their gracious permission. Copyright, 2006, David Chapin. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Page 21

The Jews in Yeketerinslav-Dneiperpetrovsk

A The first half of Nineteen Century

1. The city Yeketerinslav, as it is known by its native "Katerinslav", the name was changed in 1926 to Dneiperpetrovsk after the name of Petrovsky who was the chairman of the Soviet Movement in the Ukraine -- a worker who worked in the factories of Yeketerinslav. It was founded in 1778 by the prince Potemkin, a relative of the queen Catherine II, after whom the city was named. In the beginning the city was erected in a different place and only in 1783 was it moved to where it is today -- on the eastern side of the large river Dneiper. The founder wanted to make it the capital of the land which was conquered at that time from the Turks and whose name was "Novo-Russia" (New Russia). And therefore, he planned the city very beautifully. He created wide streets and gardens and parks, etc. The land is very rich in agriculture because the land is very fertile and brings in large yield. In addition to this, in the area were found mines of iron ore and also coal mines. In addition to the coal and iron ore mines, commerce in timber and wood added to the area and it was the reason why it developed and the population grew very fast And because there were no limits to establishment of the Jews, the number of the Jews grew very fast and it grew into one of the largest Jewish communities in Russia.

2. Population of Jews in Yeketerinslav

  (Year)   % of Population (Source)
  1802 376   According to government
  1825 880   same
  1847 1,699   same
  1857 3,565   According to Lachinski, a Ukrainian scientist
  1897 40,971 37% Census
  1910 69,000   Jewish statistical source
  1926 62,100 27% Census
  1939 100,000 20% Estimate
  1959 52,800 8% Census

3. It is to assume that the Jews started to settle in the city with its establishment. Prince Potemkin tried to do everything to develop and make it grow. He concentrated all the government offices there and he built there his palace. And it is to assume that the Jews who worked for him as contractors and tradesmen, or that were close to him and the government, were some of the first that settled in the city. In addition to this, the Jews with needed professions were invited to come and live in the city and sometimes they were even promised assistance to do so.

Novo-Russia attracted Jews because of possible enriching livelihoods. In 1776, a Jewish group from Balta requested permission to live in Novo-Russia and also requested aid. That was even prior to such time that this area was declared as open and free to the settlement of Jews according the law of 1791, and that gave an additional incentive to move there from other overcrowded Jewish places.

The first Jews that came to Yeketerinslav came from Westem Ukraine, and after that they also came from Lithuania and from Byelorussia. One of the first ones was Moshe Stanislavskv, who started a family in the city. The largest contingent of the people that came elected to live in the part of town closest to the river Dneiper. That river then served as a very important method of transportation for the transportation of goods, especially lumber that came from the north, and also for passengers. The income of the Jews of Yeketerinslav was from collecting taxes, various commerce, supplying the military and various government offices, and also industry. Many of the Jews there became wealthy due to their involvement in supplying the government needs and also with the lumber industry. As Yeketerinslav served as the station for the convoys from the north, the Jews took a large role and also in lumber mills.

The majority of the Jews kept the Yiddish language, sometimes mixed in with Russian words. The children were educated in Chaders. The teachers were mostly from Lithuania. The matters of the community were managed by the Kahal, until it was abolished in 1844. The community leaders saw to the cemetery, Kashrut, employment of the Rabbis and the judges, and also their job was to collect taxes and draft for the military. After the Kahal was abolished, the community leaders represented the community through the "Jewish Brotherhood" "Evreyskoe Obtsestvo", in it was a Rabbi and some of his grandchildren that handled the needs of the community.

The income for the community, like in other places, were from taxes on the meat that was sold to private people. From this, the salary was paid to the Rabbis and the Judges. Also, the support for the synagogues, for the mikvah, for the Talmud-torah, help for the poor, etc. Because the income from the meat tax was insufficient for all the needs, in addition they collected donations for the remainder. The first cemetery for the community was in the suburb of Novya Kaydoki, and there it remained until the 1840' s. Up until then, about 1,000 people were buried there. One of the earliest tombstones that can still be recognized was from 1821.
During the first half of the 19th century, and during the 30 year reign of the reactionary Nicholas I, the community developed very slowly. This was part because of the natural birthrate and part because of immigration of the people who left Latvia and Byelorussia. Also at the expense of the Jews of south Russia that started their establishment in 1846 when they were unable to be acclimated in their own villages and they migrated to other villages like Yeketerinslav.

With the active participation in the life of the city, and the proximity of the population, and because it was possible to enroll Jewish children into the public schools, some of the local Jews (especially from the well-to-do section) started to enroll their sons and daughters into the the public high schools ("gymnasia"). The first student entered the high school in 1851. Their number grew and reached 39 in 1865, and during the school year 1881-1882 the number grew to 153. One of the first ones to finish the high school in Yeketerinslav, and later on was accepted to the university and there achieved the title of "Doctor" was Eliezar Eingorn, who later became the doctor of Berdichev. The Jewish students were usually among the best ones and they received many letters of commendation. Many of the parents that did not send their children to the high school because of the fear that the negative influence of the surrounding and it would distance the children from the Jewish tradition. Therefore, they elected to invite private teachers to come to their houses and after a few years of studying, they entered their children into their businesses. The Jewish daughters got their education partly in the government schools and partly at home. The children that did believe in the Jewish tradition, learned in the private Chaders, in the Talmud-torah that was established in 1857, and the government Jewish schoo"Kazennoe Evreyskoe Ucheletse" that opened up at the beginning of the 1850's.

B. In the Days of Alexander II

4. With the ascension of Tzar Alexander II to the throne, several of the restrictions on the Jews were eliminated. All these brought a new age to Russia. They contributed to the large-scale development of the area in general, and the Jewish community of Yeketerinslav in particular. The Jews participated a lot in the life of the population. In addition to the previous professions that were mentioned, the commerce grew and part of it was in the direction of export out of the country, and the Jews were very active in the export business. With the development of the wheat business, they started to build flour mills. The largest were owned by Jews. In the begining of the 1870s the country started the development of the railroad, it also , added to the general development of Yeketerinslav, and the Jews were also involved in the railroad trade.
During the 1860s and 70s some of the important organizations were created and among the important ones . . . . (missing a line of text)

. . . . Synagogue with a permanent cantor and choir. Also, the Jewish Hospital that started out with 20 beds that then later on expanded and became a old age home (in 1880), thanks to the donation of Yitschak Stanislavsky; it also became a guest house. In 1871 the organization "Mashkil Al-dal" whose purpose it was to support the poor and especially those that arrived from other areas in order that they not become street people. Also some Jewish private schools were established.

The neighborhood where most of the Jews of Yeketerinslav lived was an area of new settlement. It was free from previous prejudices, it was an area where you could success to achieve material things. The Jews that arrived here were mostly very up-and-coming and wanted to succeed. They adjusted quickly to their new conditions and their general financial situation kept improving. They developed a new type of Jew which was very proud, was self-reliant, that kept their ties to Judaism but at the same time assimilated somewhat with the rest of the world and the Russian culture. The new merchants that grew on this fertile ground showed an interest in the public workings of the community and they introduced some changes and improvements in the work ethic, in the education process, in the Talmud Torah and the Chaders, in the help for the poor, etc. Among these merchants we have to mention Y. Barzovsky, A. Tragovisky, Ch. Livanda, M. Mydonsky, Y. Stanislavsky, P. Shtyn, etc. and especially Eliahu Orshensky that during his short life became one of the biggest merchants of the Jews in Russia. These merchants, in addition to their involvement with their community, were also involved with others where help was needed in other places and they also collected money from the Jews of Yeketerinslav. So for instance, in 1860 donations were gathered for the assistance of the people that were hurt in the riots, for the Jews that suffered from hunger in various places in Russia during 1869, etc. And so according to the word of that generation, the Jewish community of Yeketerinslav was one of the most progressive Jewish communities in the south of Russia. The wind of freedom was within it.

Some of the major concerns of the community was the education of the children and help for the poor, and to those two they gave special attention. They worried about the improvement of lessons in the Chaders and also in the private schools that opened. In the Talmud Torah, where the poor people send their children, to provide the children with clothes and shoes. The number of the poor was very pronounced, there were many of them because they continued to come from Lithuania and Byelorussia to look for and find jobs. Not all of them had luck, therefore they went to the Jewish organizations for assistance. In 1878, 429 families were helped, and those families consisted of 2,051 people, and the numbers in 1882 swelled to 500 families that had 2,625 people, and much effort was devoted to this cause.

The relationships between the population and the government in those days was, in general, pretty good. And a few government officials had a good relationship with the Jews. The Jews of Yeketerinslav sent their representative to the town management council and they also sat in the courts as ombudsmen. The first leader of the community was Mr. Gabriel Sapransky, he did not have a formal education and was not very active in his duties. After he passed away in 1877, someone else, Mr. Zev Nachum Shachor, was voted to this post (he was the assistant to his predecessor) and he served in that position until 1898. He was more involved in the life of his community that during his time grew and reached (at the beginning of the 1880s) approximately 10,000 people. The leader of the town's Ashkenazim was Rabbi Benyamin Zeev Zakhyn (1872-1913). The leader of the Chasidim was Rabbi Dov-Zeev Koziniwinikov (died 5688 - 1928). The number of the official synagogues, including the plain Synagogue was eight. The income from the tax of the meat on 1880 was 15,000 rubles.

(end of this translation)

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