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Odessa (also known as Odesa; Ukrainian: ???´?? [??d?s?]; Russian: ???´??? [??djes?]) is the third most populous city of Ukraineand a major tourism center, seaport and transport hub located on the northwestern
Sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko
Park zone at Primorskiy prospekt in Odessa
Chornomorets Stadium renovated in preparation to the Euro 2012
Jewish Odessa ( from YIVO)
Founded in 1794 on land conquered from the Turks on the site of the Black Sea fortress town of Khadzhibei, Odessa received its name the following year. Within a few decadesit was already a sizable city and soon commanded an international reputation as the preeminent Russian grain-exporting center. However, it would retain the aura of a new place: transitory, irreverent, neither cosmopolitan nor urbane.
Boulevard Liestnitsa (now Potemkin Stairway), Odessa, nineteenth century. (Slavic and Baltic Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations)
Négociants et marchands Israélites (Jewish Traders and Merchants). Denis Auguste Marie Raffet. Print depicting Jewish merchants in Odessa, from Voyage dans la Russie by Anatole Demidoff (Paris: Ernest Bourdin, 1840). (Gross Family Collection)n the next decadJews represented the fastest-growing commercial group in the city. Greeks and Italians owned the bulk of the real estate and, until mid-century, dominated the grain trade. By 1851, however, of the 5,466 individuals engaged in trade, 2,907 (53.2%) were Jews (by then, 17,000 Jews lived in the city). Following the Crimean War and its disruptive impact on Black Sea trade, Jews achieved primacy in grain export; by 1875, more than 60 percent of the city’s commercial firms were in Jewish hands. By the early twentieth century, 89 percent of the grain export from Odessa was controlled by Jewish-owned firms, with Jews owning half of the city’s factories and 888 of its 1,410 smaller workshops.
At the core of Odessa Jewry’s commercial and cultural elite in the 1820s were emigrants from Galicia—mostly from Brody—who first opened branch offices and then moved to Odessa, working mainly as middlemen in the grain trade. Some emerged as leading grain exporters. About 300 Galician Jewish families settled in Odessa in the 1820s and 1830s; the Rafalovichs and Efrusis, as well as a small cluster of other families of Galician origin, eventually represented the apex of local commercial life. Galicians soon assumed communal leadership, overseeing local synagogue life and launching the city’s first modern Jewish school. Its director, Betsal’el Stern (appointed in 1829), and many of its first teachers were followers of the Galician Haskalah. Traditional Jews exerted only limited influence: “Seven miles around Odessa burn the fires of Hell,” a saying widely used among Russian Jews, may well have originated as early as the 1820s.
Beginning with the establishment in 1826 of a modern Jewish school for boys, with one for girls following in 1835, and the subsequent consolidation of modernized synagogues in the 1840s and thereafter, Odessa Jewry was recognized as an important center of Russian Jewish institutional innovation; by the 1860s, it was agreed that there was no more influential center within the empire. Odessa was among the first Jewish communities in Russia where synagogue reform was a matter of communal consensus, not debate. Though the interplay of economic, social, and cultural modernization was not altogether unusual in Russian Jewish life, the impact of such forces in Odessa was immeasurably greater than in other cities. The presence of influential Haskalah institutions (schools, synagogues, newspapers and journals, clubs, and, by 1867, the largest branch of the Society for the Promotion of Culture [or Enlightenment] among the Jews of Russia [known by its initials in Russian as the OPE] outside Saint Petersburg) provided substantial ideological buttressing.
Moshe Shertok (second from left), later Moshe Sharett, the second prime minister of the State of Israel, with his parents and sister, Odessa, 1890s. (Beth Hatefutsoth, Photo Archive, Tel Aviv)
In the 1860s, Odessa became the empire’s center for Jewish periodical publication. Razsvet, Sion, and Den’ appeared in Russian-language editions between 1860 and 1871; Ha-Melits and Kol mevaser were issued in Hebrew and Yiddish in the same period. By the late 1860s, major Jewish book publishers opened for business, promoting maskilic books.
Some 2,500 students had graduated from Odessa’s modern Jewish school by 1852. By 1877, at one of the city’s commercial high schools 77.9 percent of students were Jewish; in other schools in the city the number was as high as 71.6 percent, with such rates not infrequently found highest in girls’ schools. As early as the late 1850s, a second generation of Russian-speaking Jews—among them budding writers and physicians—had emerged.
By mid-century, Odessa began to attract some of Russia’s most ambitious Jewish writers in several languages: Hebrew (Sim?ah Pinsker, Perets Smolenskin, Eliyah Werbel), French (Joachim Tarnopol), and Russian Jewish (Osip Rabinovich, Menashe Morgulis, Il’ia Orshanskii). Local Jewish-born intellectuals included Mark Wahltuch, who in 1855 published the first Italian translation of Pushkin. Another was Maria Saker, a longtime resident and one of the most innovative liberal Jewish educators in Russia; in 1869 she became the first woman to have her work published in the Russian Jewish press. Yiddish writer Yisroel Aksenfeld, author of Dos shterntikhl (The Headband; 1861), lived in the city from 1824 to 1864. The Yiddish literary luminary Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh (who wrote under the name Mendele Moykher-Sforim) lived there for most of his adult life. Yiddish theater was first consolidated in Odessa, with Avrom Goldfadn, a leading pioneer, settling there in 1858 after some years spent in Romania. The Yiddish actor Yankl Adler was born in 1870 into an Odessa grain merchant’s family. Local cabarets staged Yiddish plays. Odessa’s lively bars and public halls influenced the creation and diffusion of klezmer music.
Odessa was a singularly musical place, with its theater and, later, its opera house perhaps its most revered cultural institutions. From the city’s earliest years, Jews made their presence known as devotees of music as well as musicians. Already in the 1830s and 1840s, Jews were attending the theater in large numbers. Local violin teachers attracted many Jewish students early in the century; for example, the careers of Mischa Elman and David Oistrakh were launched there. Cantorial music thrived in this atmosphere, and Odessa’s cantors—notably Pin?as Minkowski in the years just prior to the revolution—were among the most famous in Russia.
Yiddish writers (left to right) Mendele Moykher-Sforim (Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh), Alter Druyanow, Yehoshu‘a ?ana Ravnitski, ?ayim Na?man Bialik, and Yits?ak Dov Berkowitz, Odessa, ca. 1910. (Beit Bialik, Tel Aviv)
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Odessa lost its Jewish press to Saint Petersburg. In addition, many Jewish university students left to attend higher institutions abroad, as a result of quotas introduced under Alexander III. Notwithstanding these losses, the city’s stature as a Jewish intellectual hub was strengthened in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1897, Odessa boasted the second largest Jewish population (after Warsaw) in the empire, numbering 139,984, or 34.6 percent of the city’s total population. Its modern Jewish schools as well as its literary and philanthropic associations attracted maskilimfrom smaller towns. By late century, it was the home of Ahad Ha-Am, Mosheh Leib Lilienblum, Simon Dubnow, ?ayim Na?man Bialik, El?anan Leib Lewinsky, and Yehoshu‘a Ravnitski. However, in Odessa the Enlightenment belief that the prime task was to invigorate Judaism with European norms was viewed—not infrequently by more acculturated, Russified local Jews—as tepid, even passé. Resentment at the hands of local, secularly educated Jews was a key ingredient in the making of the cultural nationalist agendas for which these intellectuals—dubbed “the sages of Odessa”—became best known.
Jewish communal institutional life in Odessa was rich and varied. Wealth, prominence in municipal affairs, geographical distance from traditional Jewish centers, and (eventually) a long history of institutional innovation created a receptive atmosphere. Odessa’s local Talmud Torah (headed for many years by Mendele Moykher-Sforim) was widely lauded. The Jewish hospital (which served non-Jews as well) occupied four city blocks by the turn of the century. The local Jewish clerks’ association boasted one of the finest lending libraries in the Pale of Settlement (its holdings in Hebrew and Yiddish were cataloged by Ahad Ha-Am and Dubnow).
The Odessa branch of the Society for the Promotion of Culture among Jews had between 1,000 and 1,500 members by the turn of the century; its debates concerning prerequisites for modern Jewish culture helped recast the agenda of Russian Jewish life. The artisanal school, Trud, praised throughout the empire, was a model of cutting-edge, technical education. The local club Beseda, started in 1863, was widely viewed as an exemplar for middle-class Jewish conviviality and intellectual discussion.
Activists of He-?aluts, the Zionist pioneering movement, Odessa, 1923. (The Ghetto Fighters’ Museum/Israel)
Until his death in 1891, the Odessa Committee of ?oveve Tsiyon, the nerve center of Russian Zionism, was headed by Leon (Lev) Pinsker, local physician and author of Autoemancipation.Beginning in 1905, it was in the hands of Avraham Mena?em Mendel Ussishkin. Odessa’s central role in Zionism was consolidated, in part, because it was the main port of exit to the Ottoman Empire and consequently served as the departure point for many Jewish immigrants to Palestine.
Jews held a prominent place among Odessa’s free professionals, especially its doctors. In 1881, half of those who practiced medicine in Odessa—including dentists, midwives, and pharmacists—were Jewish. The city’s Jews also had a major voice in the local Russian press. By the 1890s, two of Odessa’s three dailies were owned by Jews. All three liberal newspapers—Odesskie novosti (by far the most popular among Jewish readers and others), Odesskii listok, and Uzhnoe obozrenie—were staffed by Jewish writers, including the young Vladimir Jabotinsky. Despite the prominence of Jewish nationalists such as Ahad Ha-Am, most members of the local Jewish intelligentsia were acculturated, skeptical of Jewish nationalism, and liberal (or, in some instances, politically radical) in their inclinations. Perhaps the best-known local liberal Jewish voice in the late imperial period was the Cadet leader Osip Pergament. Still, the assimilationist profile of the Jewish community, including its best educated and youngest, should not be exaggerated. In 1911–1912, a mere 34.5 percent of the city’s Jewish students said Russian rather than Yiddish was spoken in their parents’ homes; only 16.1 percent said they had no interest in Jewish matters; and 40.6 percent claimed a good knowledge of Hebrew.
Despite Odessa’s (not wholly undeserved) reputation for comfort, there were numerous poor in this port city. About one-third of the city’s Jews at the turn of the twentieth century registered for Passover relief. Although constituting more than one-third of the city’s population in 1881, Jews owned barely one-eighth of the homes. The Jewish poor were concentrated in the Moldavanka district near the port, an area of unpaved streets that was popularized in the early 1920s in Isaac Babel’s Odessa stories. By the turn of the century, some 26,000 store clerks, including women, worked in Odessa—many of them Jews and nearly all poorly paid. Jews were prominently represented among the city’s underworld. As of 1908, 30 of the 36 licensed brothels in Kherson province—most of them in Odessa—were owned by Jews.
Cantor Pin?as Minkowski (back row, sixth from right) and the boys’ choir in the Brody synagogue, Odessa, ca. 1910. (YIVO)
Immigrants, both Jewish and non-Jewish, poured into the city in increasingly large numbers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and found jobs in its numerous workshops and at the port. Odessa was viewed—not without justification—by the government as a center for the smuggling of radical literature; censorship in this remote part of the empire tended to be lax, with illegal literature more accessible. The presence of a large, rootless population with a disproportionate number of men without families, widespread poverty, and the circulation of an ample supply of illegal literature contributed to the growth of political radicalism. Jewish students were prominent in local populist circles in the 1870s, with the Trud school emerging by the 1890s as a magnet for radical politics. The Odessa Committee of the Social Democratic Workers Party, founded in 1894, was made up mostly of Jewish artisans and workers. Concurrent with Odessa’s economic downturn in the late nineteenth century were increases in political tensions and ethnic strife.
Interethnic disagreements frequently erupted in violence. Tension, especially between Greeks and Jews, periodically escalated into pitched battles (in 1821, 1859, and 1871), typically during Easter, a by-product of religious suspicion, nationalist sentiment among Greeks, and competition between the groups in the local grain trade. The 1871 incident, which lasted for three days, was later seen as a precursor to the far more widespread pogroms of 1881. The latter, part of a wave of attacks against Jews in some 200 localities in the southern provinces of the Pale of Settlement, was mostly thwarted in Odessa by local authorities, but the devastating wave of pogroms of 1905 led to the murder of 300 Jews in Odessa, including more than 50 members of Jewish self-defense groups. Tens of thousands of Jews were left homeless.
Jewish self-defense unit during the Russian Civil War, Odessa, 1918. This unit was better organized and had a larger arsenal than most such groups, most of whom did not have uniforms or machine guns. (YIVO)
During the revolution and the civil war, Odessa did not experience widespread violence comparable to that which convulsed much of Ukraine. The city passed back and forth nine times between Russian “Whites,” Ukrainian nationalists, the French, and Communists. Soviet control was consolidated in 1920. Soon Jewish schools, synagogues, and other religious groups, including nearly all non-Bolshevik cultural institutions, were closed. The Evsektsiia and Komsomol waged vigorous campaigns against recalcitrant Hebraists (Bialik and many other leading writers who wrote in Hebrew left Odessa, with official permission, in 1921), as well as against persistent ritual customs such as circumcision.
Between 1917 and 1919—an exceptionally fertile period for Hebrew-language publications in Russia—Odessa had produced 60 percent of all Hebrew books published in Russia and Ukraine. This situation changed rapidly. As of 1923, there were a total of 12 officially sanctioned Yiddish-language schools in Odessa (none in Hebrew). A Jewish vocational school continued to function throughout the 1920s; and despite widespread unemployment, most of the city’s Jews remained concentrated in their standard prerevolution occupations. The city’s many first-rate Jewish libraries were combined into one, the Mendele Moykher-Sforim library. A museum by that name, which opened in Odessa in 1924, closed in 1933. One Yiddish-language newspaper appeared three or four times a week in Odessa as of 1935. As late as 1940, Sha’ul Borovoi, perhaps the last active Jewish historian of Russia, continued laboring in Odessa on an ever-shrinking range of acceptable Jewish scholarly topics; he lived for another four decades, consigning the remainder of Jewish scholarly work to his personal papers.
In 1925, Odessa’s Brody Synagogue was turned into the Rosa Luxemburg Workers Club. This and other workers’ clubs in the 1920s became a focal point for Jewish camaraderie and socialist propaganda. Yiddish theater continued to exist in the city in the 1930s. The city’s Jewish population as of 1939 numbered approximately 180,000.
Toolmaking course at the Agro-Joint Evrabmol trade school, Odessa, USSR, 1934. Evrabmol is a Russian acronym for Jewish Working Youth. (YIVO)
By the 1930s, the city’s Jewish educational system had disappeared, and Jews had lost prominent positions in the city’s bureaucracy. With the exception of the local Yiddish theater, nearly all visible Jewish communal life ceased. Beginning in the mid-1920s and continuing until World War II, most of what had been a variegated, institutionally rich, highly innovative local prerevolutionary Jewish culture was increasingly reduced. Nonetheless, an especially vibrant use of language set Odessa and its Jews apart. A medley of Ukrainian, Russian, and especially Yiddish resonated on the city streets and—as was widely commented upon at the time—in the literary work of Isaac Babel and the songs of Leonid Utesov (L. I. Vaisbein). Both incorporated the mythology of Odessa—its underworld types, debaucheries, and vitality—into their work. Il’ia Il’f and Evgenii Petrov, also from Odessa, drew on this vein of sardonic humor for their popular comic novels Dvenadtsat’ stul’ev(Twelve Chairs; 1928), and Zolotoi telenok (The Little Golden Calf; 1931).
Following a siege lasting two months, on 17 October 1941 the Romanians and Germans occupied Odessa, which was officially declared part of Romanian Transnistria. Jews were immediately registered separately, with some 8,000 slaughtered during the few first days. Many Jews had fled the city during the siege; there were between 80,000 and 90,000 Jews residing there at the time it was invaded. By war’s end, only 5,000 remained alive.
Less than two weeks after the Romanian occupation, approximately 19,000 Jews were burned to death in a square beside the harbor. Thousands were transported to nearby camps in Berezovka, Domanevka, and Bogdanovka. As of late 1941, only 30,000 Jews remained in two ghettos in Odessa; by February 1942 nearly all had been deported and killed. In 1943, just 54 Jews were listed as residing legally in Odessa. Soviet troops recaptured the city on 10 April 1944. Statistics on the city’s immediate postwar population are imprecise, but as many as 180,000 Jews were living in Odessa—the vast majority recent arrivals—as of the late 1950s. In 1970, the Jewish population was officially listed as 116,087, representing 13 percent of the total.
Postwar Odessa was known for its particularly blatant forms of antisemitism, which many claimed was more prevalent than in other large cities in the Soviet Union. As of the mid-1950s, the bakingof Passover matzot was expressly forbidden in Odessa and a handful of other cities. The anti-Zionist campaign of the 1960s was singularly vicious, involving trials of accused Zionists and attacks against Israeli diplomats in the local press. In 2000, out of a total population of 1.1 million, approximately 40,000 Jews lived in Odessa—some claim the number was considerably higher—with an equal number having immigrated, beginning in the 1970s, to the United States (most visibly to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York) and to Israel. In the 1990s, with the help of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), as well as considerable local initiative, new Jewish organizations were established, including schools, libraries, synagogues, two newspapers, a People’s University (with some 100 students), and extensive welfare projects for the elderly and needy. The city continues to inspire contemporary Russian-language fiction about its Jewish life, instilling a lingering nostalgia among its former residents.
Ra?el Arbel, ed., Me?evah le-Odesah (Tel Aviv, 2002), in Hebrew and English; Saul Iakovlevich Borovoi, Vospominaniia (Moscow, 1993); Maurice Friedberg, How Things Were Done in Odessa: Cultural and Intellectual Pursuits in a Soviet City (Boulder, Colo., 1991); Guido Hausmann, Universität und städtische Gesellschaft in Odessa, 1865–1917 (Stuttgart, 1998); Patricia Herlihy, Odessa: A History, 1794–1914 (Cambridge, Mass., 1986); I[gor] Kotler, Ocherki po istorii evreev Odessy (Jerusalem, 1996); Dan Miron, Bodedim be-mo‘adam (Tel Aviv, 1987); Mikhail Polishchuk, Evrei Odessy i Novorossii (Jerusalem and Moscow, 2002); Michael Stanislawski, Zionism and the Fin-de-Siècle: Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism from Nordau to Jabotinsky (Berkeley, 2001); Steven J. Zipperstein, The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History, 1794–1881 (Stanford, Calif., 1985); Steven J. Zipperstein, Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism (Berkeley, 1993).
The Jews of ODESSA from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/odessa
Short general history of the area; In the 19th century Odessa became the industrial and commercial center for southern
Russia. In 1865 a university was founded. Odessa was an important center of the Russian revolutionary movement.
Under the Soviet regime it lost some of its importance. In October 1941 Odessa was occupied by the German and Romanian
armies and was under Romanian military rule until its liberation in April 1944.
The Jewish History
From the 1880s until the 1920s the Jewish community of Odessa was the second largest in the whole of czarist Russia
(after *Warsaw, the capital of Poland, then within czarist Russia) and it had considerable influence on the Jews of the
country. The principal characteristics of this community, and responsible for its particular importance, were the rapid and
constant growth of the Jewish population and its extensive participation in the economic development of the town,
the outstanding "Western" character of its cultural life and numerous communal institutions, especially educational and
economic institutions, the social and political activity of the Jewish public, the mood of tension and struggle which was
impressed on its history, and the Hebrew literary center which emerged there.
Beginnings of the Community
The Russians found six Jews when they took the fortress of Khadzhi-Bei in 1789; the oldest Jewish tombstone in the
cemetery dates from 1793. Five Jews were among those who in 1794 received plots for the erection of houses and shops and
the planting of gardens. The Gemilut ?esed Shel Emet society (?evra kaddisha) was founded in 1795. In 1796 Jews
participated in the administration of the town. The kahal (community administration) was already in existence in 1798, when
the first synagogue was built; the first rabbi to hold office, in 1809, was Isaac Rabinovich of Bendery.
Growth of the Jewish Population
There were 246 Jews (out of a total population of 2,349) in 1795, 6,950 (out of 41,700) in 1831, 51,378 (out of 193,513) in 1873,
138,935 (out of 403,815) in 1897. During the Soviet period the Jewish population continued to grow: in 1926, 153,243
(of a total population of 420,862), and 200,981 in 1939 (out of 604,217). It was then the second largest Jewish population in
Ukraine, after Kiev. After World War II 108,900 Jews lived in Odessa (12.1% of the total) in 1959, and 86,000 (8.4% of the total)
From the start, the Jews of Odessa engaged in retail trade and crafts. Their representation in these occupations remained
important. In 1910, 56% of the small shops were still owned by Jews; they also constituted 63% of the town's craftsmen.
Jewish economy in Odessa was distinguished by the role played by Jews in the export of grain via the harbor,
in wholesale trade, banking and industry, the large numbers of Jews engaged in the liberal professions, and the existence
of a large Jewish proletariat in variegated employment.
During the first half of the 19th century, the participation of Jews in the grain export trade was limited to the purchase of grain
in the villages and estates, and to brokerage and mediation in the capacity of subagents for the large export companies,
which were Greek, Italian, and French. By 1838 Jews were well represented among the officials of the exchange, and as
classifiers, sorters, weighers, and even loaders of grain. From the 1860s, however, Jewish enterprises won a predominant
place in the grain export and succeeded in supplanting the export companies of foreign merchants from their monopolist
positions. During the early 1870s, the greater part of the grain exports was handled by Jews, and by 1910 over 80% of grain
export companies were Jewish owned, while Jews were responsible for almost 90% (89.2%) of grain exports. This success
in Jewish trade was not only due to greater efficiency in the organization of purchases and rapidity in their expedition, but
was also connected with the constant rise of grain prices and the decline of commercial profit rates, which resulted in a
tremendous increase of the grain exports which passed through the port of Odessa.
Jews also held an important share of the wholesale trade; about one-half of the wholesale enterprises were owned by Jews
in 1910. During the 1840s most of the bankers and moneychangers were Jews, and at the beginning of the 20th century 70% of
the banks of Odessa were administered by them. Among the industrialists, Jews formed 43%, but their manufactured
products amounted only to 39%. In 1910, 70% of those engaged in medicine were Jews; about 56% of those engaged in law,
and about 27% of those engaged in technical professions (engineers, architects, chemists, etc.). About two-thirds of the
Jewish population were engaged in crafts and industry, in transportation and services, and in other categories of labor.
More than one-half of these (about one-third of the Jewish population) belonged, from the social point of view,
to the proletariat – industrial workers, apprentices in workshops, and ordinary laborers. During the 1880s these formed a
considerable part of the Jewish proletariat (about one-third), and their standard of living, as that of the poorer classes, was very
low. With the progress of industrialization in Odessa, many of them were integrated in new enterprises and the number of
unskilled workers decreased.
The October Revolution of 1917 brought a decline in the commercial status of Odessa as well as the process of socialization.
While this affected the means of livelihood of the majority of Jews, much of their experience and skills were utilized in the
new social and economic structure under different designations. In 1926 Jews formed the overwhelming majority of the
commercial clerks (in government stores and cooperatives), about 90% of the members of the tailors' union, 67% of the
members of the printing workers' union, about 53%
of those employed in the timber industries, about 48% of the municipal workers (which also included drivers, electricians, etc.),
and about 40% of the members of the free professionals' union. Thousands of Jewish workers found employment in heavy
industry (metal industry, sugar refineries, ship building), in which Jews had formerly been absent, and of which only 27% were
members of the trade unions: during the same year, the Jews formed up to 64% of those engaged in the smaller private
industries which occupied some of those thousands who had remained unemployed and had not been successfully integrated
within the new economic regime.
From the cultural aspect the Odessa community was the most "Western" in character in the *Pale of Settlement. Its population
was gathered from all the regions of Russia and even from abroad (particularly from *Brody in Galicia and from Germany,
during the 1820s–30s), and the throwing off of tradition became a quite familiar occurrence. This situation was expressed by a
popular Jewish saying: "The fire of Hell burns around Odessa up to a distance of ten parasangs." The low standard of Torah
learning within the community and the general ignorance and apathy of the Odessa Jews in their attitude to Judaism were
depicted in popular witticisms as well as in literature (Y.T. *Lewinsky). Linguistic and cultural Russianassimilation encompassed
widespread classes and thus formed a social basis for the community's role as an active and organized center for the
spread of Russian education among the Jews of southern Russia. The social and economic position of the maskilim of
Odessa (the "Brodyists") drew them closer to the authorities and enabled them to gain considerable influence within the
community and the shaping of its institutions. Odessa was thus the first community in Russia to be directed by maskilim,
who retained their control over its administration throughout its existence: the "Council of the Wealthy and Permanently
Appointed Jews" and later the "Commission of the Twenty" (which also included the delegates of the synagogue officials),
which was organized as an opposition to the leadership of the community after 1905.
Educational and Communal Institutions
The cultural character of the community was reflected in its educational institutions. At the beginning of the 20th century,
there were still about 200 ?adarim, attended by about 5,000 pupils, in Odessa; 97% of these pupils came from the masses of
the poor, and the ?adarim were generally not of high standing. At the same time, about 6,500 pupils (boys and girls) attended
40 Jewish elementary schools (of which three were talmudei torah and 13 of the *Society for the Promotion of Culture among
the Jews of Russia) of public, governmental, or semipublic categories. The language of instruction in these schools
was Russian, while Jewish subjects held an insignificant place or were hardly studied at all. Many Jewish pupils studied at the
government municipal schools (in 1886, over 200 pupils – 8%) and government secondary schools (about 50% of the male and
female pupils in 1910), about 2,500 pupils in private secondary schools, and about 700 pupils in Jewish vocational schools
(for boys and girls); there were also many hundreds of Jewish students at the university (the maximum figure in 1906 was 746). In addition, Jews studied at the governmental college for music and arts (60%) and the advanced private professional colleges (for dentistry, midwifery, etc.).
There were also numerous evening classes and courses for adults. Of the Jewish schools, noteworthy was the
vocational school Trud ("Labor") which was founded in 1864 and was the best of its class, and the yeshivah (founded 1866)
which after 1906, when it was headed by Rav ?a'ir (?ayyim *Tchernowitz) and its teachers included ?.N. *Bialik and J.
*Klausner, attracted excellent pupils and achieved fame.
The educational institutions of Odessa became examples and models for other communities from the foundation of the first
Jewish public school (in 1826), in which an attempt was made to provide a general and modern Hebrew education (with modern
literature as a subject of study) under the direction of Bezalel *Stern; it had considerable influence within the
Haskalah movement of Russia. Other institutions which also served as models included the synagogue of the "Brodyists,"
where a choir and modern singing were introduced during the 1840s, and in 1901, an organ; orphanages; agricultural training
farms; summer camps for invalid children; and a large and well-equipped hospital.
Social and Political Activities
The prominent social and political activities of the Jews of Odessa had considerable influence on the rest of Russian Jewry.
The community leaders and maskilim showed considerable initiative and made frequent representations to the authorities to
obtain improvements in the condition of the Jews and their legal equality with the other inhabitants during the 1840s, 1850s,
and 1870s, and called for the punishment of those who took part in the pogroms of 1871, 1881, and 1905 (see below).
They were the first in Russia to adopt the system of publicly and courageously defending the Jews in the Russian-Jewish press
which they had established (*Razsvet (1860), of Joachim H. Tarnopol and O.A. *Rabinovich; Zion of E. Soloveichik and
L. *Pinsker; Den (1869), of S. Orenstein with the permanent collaboration of I.G. *Orshanski and M. *Morgulis),
while the criticisms they published of internal Jewish matters were also sharp and violent in tone. The Hebrew and Yiddish
Haskalah press (*Ha-Meli?, 1860; *Kol Mevasser, 1863) which had been born in Odessa (under the editorship of A. *Zederbaum)
also adopted this "radical" attitude to some extent. Jews of Odessa contributed largely to the local press, where they also
discussed Jewish affairs. At the beginning of the 20th century, a style of Jewish awareness became apparent in discussions of
Russian-speaking and Russian-educated Jews (V. *Jabotinsky and his circle) which was widely echoed within the Jewish public,
particularly in southern Russia. The social and political awakening of the Jewish masses was also widespread in Odessa.
Odessa Jews played an extensive and even prominent part in all trends of the Russian liberation movement. The Zionist
movement also attracted masses of people.
This social and political awakening of the masses arose in the atmosphere of strain and struggle surrounding the life of the
community. Anti-Jewish outbreaks occurred on five occasions (1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, 1905) in Odessa, as well as many
attempted attacks or unsuccessful efforts to provoke them. Intensive anti-Jewish agitation shadowed and accompanied
the growth of the Jewish population and its economic and cultural achievements. Almost every sector of the Christian
population contributed to the agitation and took part in the pogroms: the monopolists of the grain export (especially the
Greeks in 1821, 1859, 1871) in an attempt to strike at their Jewish rivals, wealthy Russian merchants, nationalist Ukrainian
intellectuals, and Christian members of the liberal professions who regarded the respected economic position of the Jews,
who were "deprived of rights" in the other towns of the country, and their Russian acculturation as "the exploitation of
Christians and masters at the hands of heretics and foreigners" (1871, 1881). The government administration and its
supporters favored the *pogroms as a means for punishing the Jews for their participation in the revolutionary movement;
pogroms were also an effective medium for diverting the anger of the discontented masses from opposition to the
government to hatred of the Jews (1881, 1905); the masses, the "barefoot," the destitute, the unemployed, and the embittered
of the large port city were always ready to take part in robbery and looting.
The severest pogroms occurred in 1905, and the collaboration of the authorities in their organization was evident. In this outbreak,
over 300 Jews lost their lives,
whilst thousands of families were injured. Among the victims were over 50 members of the Jewish *self-defense movement.
Attempts to organize the movement had already been made at the time of the pogroms of the 1880s, but in this city inhabited by
Jewish masses it had formed part of their existence before then and on many occasions had deterred attempted pogroms.
After the Revolution, during 1917–19, the Association of Jewish Combatants was formed by ex-officers and soldiers of the Russian
army. It was due to the existence of this association that no pogroms occurred in Odessa throughout the Civil War period.
Zionist and Literary Center
From the inception of the *?ibbat Zion movement, Odessa served as its chief center. From here issued the first calls of
M.L. *Lilienblum ("The revival of Israel on the land of its ancestors") and L. Pinsker ("Auto-Emancipation") which gave rise
to the movement, worked for its unity ("Zerubbavel," 1883), and headed the leadership which was established after the
*Kattowitz Conference ("Mazkeret Moshe," 1885–89). The *Benei Moshe society (founded by *A?ad Ha-Am in 1889),
which attempted to organize the intellectuals and activists of the movement, was established in Odessa. Odessa was also chosen
as the seat of the settlement committee (the *Odessa Committee, called officially The Society for the Support of Agricultural
Workers and Craftsmen in Syria and Palestine), the only legally authorized institution of the movement in Russia (1890–1917).
Several other economic institutions for practical activities in Palestine (Geulah, the Carmel branch, etc.) were associated with it.
Jewish emigration from Russia to Ere? Israel also passed through Odessa, which became the "Gateway to Zion."
The social awakening of the masses gave rise to the popular character of the Zionist movement in Odessa. It succeeded in
establishing an influential and ramified organization, attracting a stream of intellectual and energetic youth from the townlets
of the Pale of Settlement to Odessa – the center of culture and site of numerous schools – and provided the Jewish national
movement with powerful propagandists, especially from among the ranks of those devoted to Hebrew literature. The group of
authors and activists which rallied around the Zionist movement and actively participated in the work of its institutions included
M.L. Lilienblum and Ahad Ha-Am, M.M. *Ussishkin, who headed the Odessa Committee during its last decade of existence, and
M. *Dizengoff, Zalman *Epstein and Y.T. Lewinsky, M. *Ben-Ammi and H. *Rawnitzky, ?.N. Bialik and J. *Klausner, A. *Druyanow
and A.M. Berakhyahu (Borochov), ?. *Tchernowitz, S. Pen, M. *Gluecksohn and V. Jabotinsky. These had great influence on this
youth, who were not only initiated into Jewish national activity, but were enriched in Jewish culture and broadened in
general education. Important literary forums were established in Odessa (Kavveret, 1890; Pardes, 1891–95; *Ha-Shilo'a?,
1897–1902; 1907–17; *Haolam, 1912–17); their editors (A?ad Ha-Am, Y.H. Rawnitzky, ?.N. Bialik, J. Klausner, A. Druyanow, and
M. Gluecksohn) not only succeeded in raising them to a high literary standard but also won considerable influence among the
public through the ideological integrity of their publications. The publishing houses established in Odessa (Rawnitzky, Moriah;
?.N. Bialik and Y.H. Rawnitzky, S. *Ben-Zion and Y.T. Lewinsky, *Devir, founded by Bialik and his circle, from 1919) were also
systematic in their standards and consistently loyal to their ideology. A Hebrew literary center and "Hebrew climate" was created in
Odessa. It united the Hebrew writers by an internal bond more closely than in any other place; it attracted toward Hebrew
literature authors who had become estranged from it or who had never approached it (Mendele Mokher Seforim, S. *Dubnow,
Ben-David, M. Ben-Ammi, S.S. *Frug, V. Jabotinsky); it produced new authors who were to play an important and valuable
role in literature (S. *Tchernichowsky, J. Klausner, N. *Slouschz, etc.); it attracted talented young authors (S. Ben-Zion,
Y. *Berkowitz, J. *Fichmann, Z. *Shneour, A.A. *Kabak, E. *Steinman, and many others) who sought the benefit of this congenial
literary meeting place refecting the spirit of its distinguished founders (A?ad Ha-Am and ?.N. Bialik). The arguments between the
leaders of the national movement (A?ad Ha-Am and S. Dubnow, M.M. Ussishkin and V. Jabotinsky) and its opponents, grouped
around the local branch of the Society for Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia who stood for "striking civic roots,
linguistic-cultural assimilation, and general ideals" (M. Morgulis, J. *Bikerman, etc.), were published at length and grew in
severity from year to year, their influence penetrating far beyond Odessa. With the advent of the Soviet regime, Odessa ceased to
be the Jewish cultural center in southern Russia. The symbol of the destruction of Hebrew culture was the departure from
Odessa for Constantinople in June 1921 of a group of Hebrew authors led by Bialik. The *Yevsektsiya chose *Kharkov and *Kiev as
centers for its activities among the Jews of the Ukraine. Russian-oriented assimilation prevailed among the Jews of Odessa in the
1920s (though the city belonged to the Ukraine). Over 77% of the Jewish pupils attended Russian schools in 1926 and only 22%
Yiddish schools. At the University, where up to 40% of the student role was Jewish, a faculty of Yiddish existed for several years
which also engaged in research of the history of Jews in southern Russia. The renowned Jewish libraries of the city were
amalgamated into a single library named after Mendele Mokher Seforim. In the later 1930s, as in the rest of Russia, Jewish
cultural activity ceased in Odessa and was eventually completely eradicated. The rich Jewish life in Odessa found vivid expression
in Russian-Jewish fiction, as, e.g., in the novels of *Yushkevich, in Jabotinsky's autobiographical stories and his novel Piatero
("They Were Five," 1936) and particularly in the colorful Odessa Tales by Isaac *Babel, which covered both the pre-revolutionary and
the revolutionary period and described the Jewish proletariat and underworld of the city.
Eshkol, Enziklopedyah Yisre'elit, 1 (1929), 809–26; B. Shohetman, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 2 (1948), 58–108 (incl. bibl.); J.
Lestschinsky, Dos Sovetishe Yidntum (1941; Heb. tr. Ha-Yehudim be-Rusyah ha-Sovyetit, 1943); A.P. Subbotin, V cherte yevreyskoy
osedlosti, 2 (1888); J.J. Lerner, Yevrei v Novorossiyskom kraye-istoricheskiye ocherki (1901); A. Dallin, Odessa 1941–1944… (1957);
Litani, in: Yedi'ot Yad Vashem, no. 23–24 (1960), 24–26; idem, in: Yad Vashem Studies (1967), 135–54; A. Werth, Russia at War,
1941–1945 (1964), 813–26; S. Schwarz, Jews in the Soviet Union (1951), index, I. Ehrenburg et al. (eds.), Cartea Neagr…, 1 (1946),
92–107; M. Carp (ed.), Cartea Neagr… 2 (1948); 3 (1947), indexes; Procesul Marii Tra
City in central Poland, capital of Poland since 1596, with a Jewish population of 375,000 in 1939, representing 29 percent of the total city population. All Jewish institutions were destroyed by the Nazis and Allied bombing. Site of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto.
(Heb. To Cross Over). The Israelite nation and language.
(Heb. congregation, gathering). Used to refer to the corporate Jewish community of medieval Europe. See also synagogue.
(Greek for “gathering”) The central institution of Jewish communal worship and study since antiquity (see also bet midrash), and by extension, a term used for the place of gathering. The structure of such buildings has changed, though in all cases the ark containing the Torah scrolls faces the ancient Temple site in Jerusalem.
(Heb. my master; adj. rabbinic) An authorized teacher of the classical Jewish tradition (see oral law) after the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE. The role of the rabbi has changed considerably throughout the centuries. Traditionally, rabbis serve as the legal and spiritual guides of their congregations and communities. The title is conferred after considerable study of traditional Jewish sources. This conferral and its responsibilities is central to the chain of tradition in Judaism.
(Heb. Yitzchak) One of the Israelite patriarchs, the son of Abraham and father of Jacob in the accounts in the book of Genesis.
(from Latin, “free [thinker]”). A general term used in religion discussions to indicate a person or view that breaks significantly from the conservative traditional position(s). See also modernist.
Place of punishment for the departed dead who do not attain heaven, especially in Christian eschatology. (See also sheol).
(Heb. teaching, instruction) In general, torah refers to study of the whole gamut of Jewish tradition or to some aspect thereof. In its special sense, "the Torah" refers to the "five books of Moses" in the Hebrew scriptures (see Pentateuch). In the Quran, "Torah" is the main term by which Jewish scripture is identified.
Oldest of the three primary monotheistic faiths; Judaism traces it's philosophy and tradition through the Torah and cultural roots to the Land of Israel.
The process of becoming incorporated into mainstream society. Strict observance of Jewish laws and customs pertaining to dress, food, and religious holidays tends to keep Jewish people separate and distinct from the culture of the country within which they are living. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86), a German Jew, was one of the key people working for the assimilation of the Jews in the German cultural community.
(Heb., "the enlightened ones"). Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Jews who engaged in secular rationalistic studies and facilitated the acculturation of Jews to Western society; members of the haskalah.
(Heb. Enlightenment) Jewish rationalistic “enlightenment” in 18th and 19th century Europe. (See also maskilim, Mendelson, reform).
The State of the Jewish people, founded in 1948. Also; a name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob according to Genesis 32.38. In Jewish biblical times, this name refers to the northern tribes, but also to the entire nation. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the true continuation of the ancient Israelite national-religious community. In modern times, it also refers to the political state of Israel.
(Greek form representing Philistines, for the seacoast population encountered by early geographers) An ancient designation for the area between Syria (to the north) and Egypt (to the south), between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan; roughly, modern Israel. The name refers to the Land of Israel during the years of the Jewish exile.
(Heb. orchard) Also an anacronym for the four fundamental branches of Torah study: Pshat (Simple meaning), Remez (Hinted-at meaning), Drash (Derived meaning), and Sod (Secret meaning).
Israeli authority and museum for commemorating the Holocaust in the Nazi era and Jewish resistance and heroism at that time.
Goodbye Odessa - Yiddish Song