Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Jews Who Lived in Crimea

Nadene Goldfoot                                               

Crimea is in the news today as being part of Ukraine.  It has been a Russian peninsula in the Black Sea.  Jews have lived there since the 1st century BCE.  Several Jewish inscriptions were found from succeeding centuries, discovered from the 7th century to 1117.  The eastern Crimea was controlled by the Khazars, it is thought.  Crimea was included in the Pale of Settlement, the land Catherine II ALLOWED Jews to live in.  She didn't allow Jews in Russia.  

A large Karaite population lived there from the 12th century, centered at Eupatoria.  At Theodosia , Kaffa, the Jewish community preserved the Byzantine rite of prayer.

At the end of the 13th century, the Tartars ruled, forcing many Jews to become Muslims.

The Genoese, who ruled southern Crimea in the 15th century, prevented interference with internal Jewish affairs.

The Turks ruled from 1475 to 1783.  Chufut-Kale became the Jewish center then.  Many Jewish captives from the Ukraine were sent to Crimea after 1648.

The Russians conquered the land in 1783 and then many Ashkenazi Jews settled there.  In 1863, the Russians allowed the Karaites, Jews who had rejected the Oral Torah,  equal rights as the Russians, but  Jews continued to be punished from  anti-Semitism until the 1917 Revolution.

"The Krymchaks (Krymchak: are an ethno-religious community of Crimea derived from Turkic-speaking adherents of Rabbinic Judaism. They have historically lived in close proximity to the Crimean Karaites. At first, krymchak was a Russian descriptive used to differentiate them from their Ashkenazi Jewish coreligionists, as well as other Jewish communities in the former Russian Empire such as the Georgian Jews, but in the second half of the 19th century this name was adopted by the Krymchaks themselves. Before this their self-designation was - literally "Children of Israel". The Crimean Tatars referred to them as ("Jews with pe'ot") to distinguish them from the Karaites, who were called ("Jews without pe'ot")."  Pe'ot are the sideburns that are not cut.  Most Jews had curly hair, so the pe'ot were curls hanging where men of other nations wear sideburns.  

By the late 1920, thousands of Jews were living in Crimea under a plan to establish an autonomous Jewish agricultural center.  In 1939, the Jewish population was 50,000 including 40,000 Ashkenazim, 6,000 Krimchaks, and 4,000 Karaites.  These were just about wiped out by the Germans in 1941.  Only a few people, including some 300 Karaites, survived.

The Jewish population of Crimea in 1980 was 25,614.
70,000 Jews live in the Ukraine today.  Unfortunately, many Ukrainians are anti-Semites.  "leaders of Ukraine’s own Jewish community have alleged that recent anti-Semitic provocations in the Crimea, including a swastikas and graffiti on a synagogue in Crimea’s capital that read “Death to the Zhids (Jews),” are the handiwork of pro-Russian Ukrainians" 
Rabbi Michael Kapustin has a Reform synagogue in Simferopol,  Crimea.  It was vandalized Thursday night, most likely by Russian aggressive vandalizers.  He warned his people not to become targets. Evidently he's saying this so the Jews will  remain passive.   He sent his wife and 2 small children to Israel for safety.  What was sprayed on the walls of the synagogue?  Death to the Jews.  Whatever happens to  people causes them to turn against the Jews first, no matter what they have or haven't done.  It doesn't matter.  We instantly become the scapegoats.  
The Jews of  Crimea don't dare back anyone but the Ukraines in this matter and back a Russian withdrawal."Crimean Jews suffered greatly from the Russian Civil War (1918–1920), which reduced the Jewish population from 60,000 to 30,000."   "Earlier this week, firebombs hit the Chabad-run Orthodox Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, located 250 miles southeast of Kiev, which is in Ukraine.    

Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia; Crimea

1 comment:

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