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Arkady Shulman

M. Ryvkin, A. Shulman

K. Karpekin.

Arkady Shulman

Arkady Shulman

Raisa Kastelianskaya

Zoya Lomonosenik’s memories

Galina Zundelevich’s memories


Yanovichi used to be a place of rich Jewish tradition. When the revolution took place in 1917, the settlement had five synagogues. Each of them had a name, for instance “Vitebsk synagogue”, “Liozno synagogue”, etc. The state archive of Vitebsk region still has lists of Jews and community leaders that used to live in Yanovichi. These lists are dated mainly 1923 and contain information about the knowledge the religious people had and their age.

“Vitebsk” synagogue was attended by 19 craftsmen (tailors, butchers, glaziers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters), 16 unemployed (the unemployed were mostly old people), 5 farmers, 4 carriers, 3 people whose occupation was not mentioned, 2 unskilled laborers, a gardener and synagogue guard. Five people were elected community leaders: 2 farmers, 2 unemployed and a tailor.

Fourteen craftsmen attended the “Liozno” prayer house: the majority were merchants (13) (on the second place), then 10 unemployed people (the third place), laborers (5 people), carvers, farmers, an accountant, a private teacher and a carrier. The community leaders were 3 merchants, 2 carvers, a shoemaker and an unemployed member.

Most of the people, attending the “Unishevsky” prayer house were unskilled workers (18 people). There were also 11 unemployed members, 8 craftsmen, 5 tradesmen, 4 farmers, a fisherman, the prayer house guard and a person, whose occupation is not mentioned. Even a rabbi was a member of the community, even though it was not allowed by law at that time. The community was headed by 3 unemployed men, 2 tradesmen, a laborer and a guard. It was “the youngest” community, since it had the biggest number of people aged 20-39 (21 people).

“Smolenskaya” community consisted of the following members: 26 unemployed, 10 merchants, 8 craftsmen, 3 carriers, 2 farmers, a laborer and a barber. The leaders were 4 unemployed men and a merchant. It is not surprising the number of the unemployed is so high – 36 members of the community were aged 50-80.

And, finally “Bes-Medres” (the word was most probably derived from “Beit Midrash” (Hebrew), meaning a prayer house) community had a considerable number of craftsmen (19) and the unemployed (19), 11 tradesmen and a carrier. The community was headed by 5 unemployed, a miller and a tradesman.

Yanovichi on the map of the Red Army General staff. (June, 1941).
Yanovichi on the map of the Red Army General staff. (June, 1941).

The religious life of Yanovichi was headed by rabbis Alterman Leiba Davidov, Asrieli Samuil Izrailev, Bibin Zalman Abramov and Geroshik Levik Yeruhimov. In 1928 Yanovichi had only one rabbi – Gelman Berka Movshev.

Archive documents do not show any vigorous protests of Yanovichi Jews against either the Soviet system or the official political ideology of the country. Vice versa, there is information about special Jewish groups that criticized Judaism – the religion of their ancestors. They distributed anti-religious brochures, newspapers and magazines. They also gave public speeches, organized disputes and debates, trying to convert religious people into atheism. Such activities were organized among adults, schoolchildren and sometimes even in kindergartens. Various meetings and concerts were organized for teenagers.

These people invented “political trials” for rabbis, believers and… religious holidays. These trials would take place on the most significant Jewish holidays: Passover, Rosh-ha’Shana and Yom Kippur. On other days the anti-religious campaigns were not as active.

It took them a decade to turn the majority of official Jewish communities into underground minyans. Elimination of Judaism in the settlement continued in the 30s and then was finished by the Nazis. However, nothing can change the historic memory, which retains the past as an organic part of time.

Konstantin Karpekin,
Senior staff scientist,
State archive of Vitebsk region

Jewish settlements in Vitebsk region

Vitebsk Albrehtovo Babinovichi Baran Bayevo Begoml Beshenkovichi Bocheikovo Bogushevsk Borkovichi Braslav Bychiha Chashniki Disna Dobromysli Dokshitsy Druya Dubrovno Glubokoye Gorodok Kamen Kohanovo Kolyshki Kopys Krasnopolie Kublichi Lepel Liady Liozno Lukoml Luzhki Lyntupy Miory Obol Oboltsy Orsha Osintorf Ostrovno Parafianovo Plissa Polotsk Prozorki Senno Sharkovshina Shumilino Sirotino Slaveni Smolyany Surazh Tolochin Ulla Verhnedvinsk Vidzy Volyntsy Yanovichi Yezerishe Zhary Ziabki

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