August 2022
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Ukrainian for beginners

V.Staryk. Jewish Chernivtsi

12ee22The first Jewish settlers resided in Chernivtsi from the middle of the 18th century. The above mentioned first census of town population (1774) registered 92 Jewish families among Chernivtsi inhabitants. Jewish settlers formed the majority of those city inhabitants, who had an exemption from the capitation tax (161 families); in total there lived 388 families in Chernivtsi at that time.
The life of medieval Jewish community was concentrated in the downtown around the present-day Barbusse St. All Jewish institutions were situated in this site – the first synagogue, Judaic confessional school, old Judaic cemetery. All these wooden buildings were destroyed by the fire in 1865.
The «Große Schil» (Great Synagogue) newly constructed in the classicism style in Barbusse St #31 became the chief sanctuary for the Orthodox Jews in Chernivtsi and the architectural dominant of the Jewish residential area. Not far from it in Barbusse St #23 a former Prayer House of members of the burial society «Chewra Tillim» is situated; it was also constructed in the classicism style. Jewish school «Safa Iwria», which was dedicated to the teaching of the Hebrew language, was situated across the road in Barbusse St #26. Former ritual Saturday House «Maxike-Sabbath» was situated a little farther on the same side of the street (Barbusse St #18). One more highly respected by Orthodox Jews private Prayer House «Schil Reb Chaim Czernowitzer» was constructed in Gagarin St #14. However the only Judaic synagogue, which remained open during the Soviet times, was the «Beit Tefilah Benyamin» (1923) with valuable oil murals; it is situated in Kobylytsya St #53.
Jewish religious community has maintained such traditional social institution as Jewish Hospital for the old and invalid members of community. The old Jewish Lazaretto (Hekdesch) was established at the end of the 18th century on the corner of present-day Gagarin and Barbusse streets. It was reconstructed in the years 1854-1855 thanks to the donations of Markus Zucker, a President of the Chernivtsi Chamber of Commerce. The new building of the Jewish Hospital was constructed in 1930th thanks to the donations of world known Bukovynian singer Joseph Schmidt.
Another exemplary social institution of Jewish community, the Jewish Orphanage in Bogun St #24 was established on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the reign of emperor Franz Joseph I in 1898; the festive opening of its building took place in 1904. Later 50 pauper children got asylum each year in this Orphanage.
Many famous Jewish musicians such as the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, singers Joseph Schmidt and Sidi Tal performed in Philharmonic Society; moreover the most important events in the life of Jewish community often took place in this building. For example, the first Yiddish Language Conference in 1908 took place in two significant buildings – first day in Ukrainian National House and the second day in the Philharmonic Society.
The specialized Chernivtsi School #41, focusing on studying Jewish ethno cultural component is situated in School St #2. It is the most important social institution for the present-day Jewish community.
If we walk a little bit farther to the Turkish Bridge, at the time of fair, we can see a micro district Sadgora (ancient name Sadagura) – the world centre of Chassidism (a mystic branch of Judaism) in the past, as well as a residence place of Hassid rabbi Israel Friedman who descended from Rhuzin dynasty.
A few steps away from the bridge through the bottle-neck road in Turkish St #10 we can see the «Toynbee Hall» (1912-1913), – an institution for the education of pauper members of Jewish community and a place for meetings of different Jewish organizations, an important centre of Jewish public life until 1940. In the years 1918-1919 the Jewish National Council was working in this building. «During times of danger this national body was protecting the Jews of Bukovyna against attacks by state and military authorities», – wrote an Israel historian Arie Leon Schmelzer.
A synagogue «Korn Shil», named in honour of the Mordko and Taub Korn family, is situated round the corner in Sadovskyj St #11. It was renovated from ruins a few years ago and nowadays cherishes a religious tradition of Chassidism.
Rose Ausländer, a Jewish German- and English language poet resided close by in Sahaydachnyj St #57 before World War II. She became one of the thousands of victims of Jewish Ghetto established by Romanian occupants in this residential area. The commemorative plaque on the building Sahaydachnyj St #2 as well as provisional monument on the same street remind of horrors of Holocaust.
Also the monuments of upper city narrate us about the achievements of formerly powerful Jewish community of Chernivtsi, which consisted of 28613 persons in 1910.
The Chernivtsi Magistrate (1847) is a witness of activity of numerous City Magistrate deputies, who represented the interests of Jewish community during the Austrian and Romanian periods. The two Jewish burgomasters Eduard Reiss (1905-1907) and Salo Weisselberger (1913-1914) left the especially deep signs in the history of local self-government.
One of the most influential deputies of Bukovynian Diet and Austrian Parliament Benno Straucher resided almost the whole life in his own house in Kobylyans’ka St #3. He was also one of the leaders of «Freethinkers’ Alliance», which prepared the electoral reform in 1907. Benno Straucher was founder of Zionists Jewish National Party and the most prominent leader of the Jewish National Council.
One of the most famous architectural monuments of Chernivtsi was the Great Temple (1877), situated in University St № 10; it served to satisfy the religious needs of the reformed part of the Jewish community. The Great Temple was parched at the end of June 1941 and finally lost its significance as a praying place forever in the middle of the 1950th after the communist power had transformed it into a cinema hall.
Jewish National House on the Theatre Sq was built in 1908. Having been transformed into a superstore and later into a textile workers club by Soviet power, the Jewish National House managed to restore its especial activity only at the time of independent Ukrainian state. The Chernivtsi Museum of the History and Culture of Bukovynian Jews as well as different Jewish public organizations works here.
The side facade of Jewish National House, looking over E. Steinbarg St, borders on the building of former Jewish school «Safa Ort». A well-known Jewish writer Eliezer Steinbarg resided in the building opposite in 1919-1932.
Chernivtsi State Jewish Theatre named after Sholem Aleichem was working in 1940-41 and 1944-1950 in the building of the former movie theatre «Scala» in Lesya Ukrainka St #14. Closing down of this theatre in February 1950 «because of its unprofitability» became the final chord of total destruction of Chernivtsi Jewish institutions by Soviet power. Since then to the end of the 1980th the life of Jewish community was smouldering only around the last functioning synagogue in Kobylytsya St…

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