Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jewish Life in Poltava, Ukraine

Nadene Goldfoot     1801-Jews Living in part of Pale of Settlement
                                     Poltava, Ukraine
"Despite its strong initial influence, there is little evidence that the Khazar Jewish population survived in Ukraine after the Tatar invasion of the 1200's." " Kiev in particular shows significant evidence of Khazar settlement, and the city may in fact have been founded by the Khazars as a trading outpost. Khazaria was strong in the 700's.  

In 1801 there were 18 Jewish merchants and 292 towns-men that were Jews or 1/5th of the small population of Poltava, Ukraine.

By 1847 there were 2,073 Jews.                          
Jewish man in home and Cossacks

Jews came to Poltava, Ukraine at the end of the 18th century.  In 1897 there were 11,046 Jews or 20.5% of the total population.  Many of them had come from Lithuania and Belo-russia (Belarus).  This is when so many Jews were immigrating to the United States from "Russia."

In 1881 by Spring, pogroms happened in the north of the province of Poltava.
In 1905 many porgroms swept across 52 shtetles of the province.  The most affected were Gadyach, Kremenchug, Romny and Zolotonosha.
Synagogue in Poltava, Ukraine
However, Poltava was one of the most progressive and best organized in Russia. It had 10 synagogues. Jews owned 4 large flour mills, most distilleries of which my grandfather was in the business of in Lithuania, some lumber warehouses,  and 2 printing presses.
The talmud torah was turned into an elementary school teaching both religious and general subjects with 300 children.   Alexander Sisking Rabinovitz and M. Haezrahi were teachers there.  They also had a girls' vocational school maintained by the Jewish Colonization Association.  There was a yeshiva.  Free services were offered in the community hospital and clinic.  They also had an old age home and a loan bank.  There was a Jewish library with 8,000 books.
Pogroms did not break out in Poltava because of the progressive Russian intelligentsia here.  This was led by author V Korolenko and prevented such things during the revolutions in Russia of 1905 and 1917.  Zionism was strong and the Po'alei Zion movement in Russia had its center here.  Several of the founders were born in Poltava and began here such as B. Borochov, I. Ben-Zvi, and V. Serubavel.  They published their ideology in 1906 in Poltava which was called Yevreyskaya Rabochaya Khronika.
Rabbis at a funeral
The rabbi of Poltava from 1893 to 1917 was E.A. Rabinowich, who was very Orthodox and strongly against zionism.  He also published a religious monthly from 1903 to 1906 and a another weekly from 1910 to 1915.  Elias Tcherikower, historian, was born in Poltava.

1914-1917 was World War I and thousands of refugees and Jews were expelled from the battle zone so came to Poltava and found refuge in the Jewish communities.

By 1926 there were about 93,000 Jews in the 5 districts of the former territory of the province of Poltava.

Until 1927, Poltava was the center for printing Jewish religious books like siddurim and calendars.
1926 Musicians in Ukraine
There were 18,476 (20.1%) Jews in Poltava in 1926.
In 1926 there were 9,000 Jewish workers of which this was found:
2,415 were white collar workers
1,862 were craftsmen
1,676 were simple laborers.  Many were occupied in the large sock factory making socks for all of the Soviet Union.

80% of the artisan union were Jewish.
Railway Station in Poltava
There were 2 Yiddish schools and the railroad school had a Yiddish section.

1939 saw a drop in the Jewish population because of the Nazi growth in Germany and had dropped to 112,860 which was now only 10% of the total population.  Some Jews had immigrated either to Palestine or to the USA.

Ukraine had 3 million Jews before WWII broke out.  Ukraine was then under Nazi rule, and if they couldn't escape to Russia, they were wiped out in 1941 and 1942 by the invading Germans and the home town Ukrainians.  .
1941, September 18th and the Germany entered the city.  Many Jews had already been evacuated or escaped.  Jews remaining had to register.
September 25th, 5,000 Jews were murdered.
November 23rd, another registration was ordered and 3,000 Jews were then executed.

Now Jews evaded registration or hid and were caught and executed.
Only Churches Are Seen 
Poltava in the late 1960s had a Jewish population of about 5,000.  No synagogue remained.  The only remainaing one had been closed in 1959 by the militia which broke into it and had confiscated all religious articles, chased out the people and kept the Jews from holding any more Sabbaths.  Since then they pray in private.

There still is the Jewish cemetery remaining in Poltava , and also 2 mass graves of martyrs murdered by the Nazis.  One holds 13,000 bodies and the other 7,000.  Monuments do not list all the victims nor does it mention that they were Jews.
Ukraine's Jewish population in 1970 was 777,126
1989 the Jewish population had dropped to 484,129.  

Poltava Jewish School in Vegetable Garden before 1917
Jewish surnames from Poltava are:
1.  1864 was Herman Rosenthal, who established a printing-office there in 1869, and organized a circle of Maskilim, 2.  Eliezer Schulmann
3. J. S. Olschwang
4. L. and M. Jakobovich, 
5. M. Silberberg (see Zederbaum, "Massa Ereẓ," in "Ha-Meliẓ," 1869, No. 1). 
6. Rosenthal published the first work of M. Morgulis 
7.  Rabbi Joseph b. Elijah Tumarkin, who died there in 1875. After his death the Mitnaggedim elected Meïr Löb Malbim as rabbi, but he died while on his way to assume the position (Sept., 1879), and the candidate of the Ḥasidim of Lubavich, 8. Hirsch Tumarkin, the brother and son-in-law of Meïr's predecessor, was elected to the position. The government rabbis were 
9. Freidus (1865), Mochan (1867-71), a son-in-law of Seidener of Melitopol, Ch. Berliner, and 
10. Freidenberg (who was reelected in 1899). 
11.  (1905) rabbi was Isaac Joel Raphalovich."

Alternate names: Poltava [Rus, Ukr, Yid], Połtawa [Pol], Poltawa [Ger], Pułtawa


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