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Jews in Berdychiv, Zhytomyr region, Ukraine

Berdychiv is the center of the eponymous district of the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine. It is mentioned in written sources since the XIV century. In the inventory description of the owner of the city Fyodor Tyshkevich under 1593, a Jewish tenant of the mill is mentioned.

Since 1712, it has been known about a stable Jewish population. Then the kagal appeared in the city. Since 1765, fairs up to 10 per year have been regularly held in Berdychiv. This attracted the attention of Jewish merchants. Jews settled not only in the city itself, but also in nearby villages. If in 1765 the population of the city was 1.2 thousand, then three decades later their number increased to 4.8 thousand.

For a long time Berdychiv retained the status of the unofficial “Jewish capital” of the South-Western Territory. In the first half of the 19th century, eight Jewish banking houses of Berdychiv played an important role in the economy of the Right-Bank Ukraine. According to the census of 1897, the city was the sixth in Ukraine in terms of the number of merchants and ranked second in the empire in terms of the number of Jewish merchants, who accounted for 91.8% of the local merchants.

In the last quarter of the 18th century, Berdychiv became one of the centers of the spread of Hasidism in Ukraine. Since 1785, one of the famous preachers of the teachings, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Ben Meir, preached here. He is also considered the author of one of the best books in Hasidic literature, Kdushat Levi. In 1850, the Choral Synagogue appeared in the city, which could accommodate more than 1,000 believers.

By 1795 the city had become one of the major craft centers. A Jewish printing house worked here, which printed religious literature in Hebrew. It was closed in 1836 by a tsarist decree and resumed its activities in 1885.

By the end of the 19th century, the city was predominantly Jewish. 41.6 thousand Jews lived here, who accounted for 80% of the population.

In the 1920s, there was a network of schools in Berdychiv with teaching in Yiddish, several newspapers in Yiddish were published, and in 1924, the first state court in Ukraine appeared in which the proceedings were conducted in Yiddish. According to the 1926 census, 28.5 thousand (92.7%) of the 30.8 thousand Berdychiv Jews spoke Yiddish.

In the 1930s, all Jewish organizations were closed. Only an underground Hasidic yeshiva operated. By the end of the 1930s, 37,500 Jews lived in the city. They accounted for 37.5% of the townspeople. With the start of the Nazi invasion, no evacuation took place. Only on July 4, 1941, the townspeople began to spontaneously leave the city. 10 thousand people left, one third of them were Jews.

The Nazis killed about 38.5 thousand local Jews. In January 1944, after the liberation of Berdychiv, 15 Jews remained in it. By 1989, there were 3.5 thousand Jews in the city (3.9% of the city dwellers), and by 2001 only 401 people remained. Since 1991 there is a community in Berdychiv.