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Jewish Zvenyhorodka

Zvenyhorodka is a small regional center in the Cherkasy region. In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was a district town in the Kyiv province of the Russian Empire. According to the census in the mid-19th century, 2 340 Jews lived in the town. Almost all trade and small industrial enterprises were in their hands: a candle factory, a tobacco factory, a distillery, steam and water mills, a cement plant, and a printing house. There were 35 Jewish merchants in the city. Most Jews were engaged in trade and handicrafts, but there were also those who worked in agriculture.

At the end of the 19th century, there were five synagogues, a mikveh and a printing house. The Jewish population of Zvenyhorodka increased to approximately 6,000 (about 40% of the inhabitants). In 1913, the city already had seven synagogues, a Talmud Torah, three Jewish schools for boys, a private boys' school, a Jewish hospital and a charitable society.

During the civil war, Zvenyhorodka suffered from three Jewish pogroms. In 1918, as a result of the first pogrom, 27 Jews were killed and 50 wounded. The second attack occurred in August 1919. The pogrom was organized by units of the Volunteer Army. In January 1920, the troops of Ataman Tuz defeated Zvenyhorodka.

In the 1920s, there were three synagogues in Zvenyhorodka, and they were attended by the majority of the Jewish population. According to archival data, in 1926 the Jewish population of Zvenyhorodka numbered 6,584 people (36.5%). In 1931, there was also an agricultural school teaching in Yiddish. Two Yiddish elementary schools and a vocational school were opened. In 1927, a school for low-income children was opened, as well as an orphanage. The Jewish school operated in Zvenyhorodka until 1939, but then it was closed and reconstructed into a Russian one.

Following the processes of industrialization and urbanization in the USSR, many Jews left the city in the 1920s and 1930s, and on the eve of World War II, about 2,000 Jews remained in the city.

Zvenyhorodka was occupied by the Wehrmacht at the end of July 1941. At the end of September, a special detachment shot about 100 Jewish men in Zvenyhorodka, and in November a ghetto was organized. In May 1942, Jews from nearby villages and towns were driven to Zvenyhorodka. In June, most of them - 1,375 people - were shot, and approximately 100 Jews were sent to a camp located in the village of Iskrene. In Zvenyhorodka itself, approximately 80 Jewish artisans were left, who after some time were also killed by the Germans.

The city was liberated by the Red Army in January 1944. Many Zvenyhorodka Jews who survived the war returned to the city. With the beginning of the “thaw” in the USSR, the majority emigrated to Israel or Western countries. In 1993, the Jewish community was restored in Zvenyhorodka, and in 1999 the building of a pre-revolutionary synagogue was transferred to it. Its reconstruction was financed by Zvenyhorodka Jews from the USA.