Back from the 9th to 12th century, there was a state called Rus" that existed in Eastern Europe where Slavs lived. It was the cradle of Kievian Rus'. It was in existence where today's Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Poland now exist.
It was also referred to as White Russia or Belorussia, a Republic. Jews went there originally from Poland and were living in Grodno by the 12th century; at Brest-Litovsk by the 14th century and in Pinsk from 1506 onward.
"Some believe that the earliest Belarusan immigrants in America settled in the Colony of Virginia in the early 1600s. The reason is that Captain John Smith, who became the first Governor of Virginia in 1608, had visited Belarus in 1603. In his True Travels, Captain Smith recalls that he came to "Rezechica, upon the River Niper in the confines of Lithuania," and then he narrates how he traveled through southern Belarus, as Zora Kipel related in her article ( Zapisy, Volume 16, 1978). Thus, it is possible that Smith brought Belarusans with him to Virginia, together with Polish or Ukrainian manufacturing specialists. The question is, were they Jewish Belarusians? I doubt it. We had a boat of Sephardic Jews try to enter New York in the 1600s and were turned away except for the fact that they were connected with the Dutch Trading company. However, Virginia was settled by business people more than religious people, so it is possible they allowed Jews to enter.
Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin was one of the most highly esteemed Russian poets before Alexander Pushkin, as well as a statesman.
After he had visited White Russia, he suggested that the Jews must be indoctrinated with crafts and given a general education and then be resettled in Southern Ukraine.
|By 1897 the Pale of Settlement was the only area in the Russian Empire where Jews were allowed to live. |
This map shows where Jews were living by 1933, the start of WWII, at least in Germany. " In 1897 there were 724,548 Jews in Belarus, i.e. 13.6% of the total population. Some 800,000 Jews—90% of the Jewish population—were killed in Belarus during the Holocaust."
By 1939, at the beginning of WWII, the entire area fell under Russian rule and many of the educated Jews and wealthier classes were exiled. The area was under German occupation from 1941-1944. Those Jews who did not escape into Russia were almost entirely exterminated by the Germans in cooperation with Belorussians and Lithuanians. Those that escaped fought with the partisans.
The official 1989 Jewish population was 111,789. " A few Belarusans, mainly the children of Jewish Belarusan marriages, came to the United States between the late 1930s and the end of 1941.
|Haim-Moshe Shapira (Hebrew: חיים משה שפירא, 26 March 1902 – 16 July 1970)Born to Zalman Shapira and Rosa Krupnik in the Russian Empire in Grodno in what is today Belarus|
"In 1936 he was elected as a member of the Zionist Directorate and a Director of the Aliyah department of the Jewish Agency, a role he filled until 1948. In 1938 he was sent on a special mission to try to save Jews in Austria following the takeover by Nazi Germany." (My uncle from Germany was one of the last to get out in 1939 after being held in Dachau.) His family could only manage to save him while his mother, father and young 16 year old sister stayed behind because of the difficulties in getting out.)
In the following Israel coalition governments, he served as Minister of Immigration, Health from 1948-1949, The Interior from 1949 to 1952, and since 1959, Religious Affairs and Social Welfare from 1952 to 1958, and Minister of Health from 1961 to 1970.
"78,859 Belarusian immigrants made aliyah to Israel (in the years 1989-2013).
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia