Jewish Mogilev

Benjamin Belenky
3 min readJun 26, 2020

-- — online burials catalog.

Belarusian Mogilev has existed since the 13th century. The first mention of the Jewish community in the city dates back to the 16th century. From the moment of its appearance within Mogilev, the Jews developed difficult relations with the local population.

The decrees of the Polish kings of 1585, 1626, 1646, 1656 are known, which introduced certain restrictions on the residence of Jews within Mogilev, issued at the request of the local population.

The city has repeatedly become the center of pogroms. Therefore, in 1645, the burgomaster headed the pogromists. During the Khmelnytsky Uprising, Jews became victims of the Cossacks, and in 1654 of the Russian army. Local residents agreed to surrender the city, provided that all Jews were expelled, and Mogilev retained self-government.

According to local legend, the entire Mogilev community came from the only married couple who survived during the Khmelnytsky Uprising. In 1904, soldiers called up for the Japanese war organized a pogrom in the city.

In 1692, the first bloody libel against Mogilev Jews was recorded.

In the 70s of the XVIII century, Mogilev came under the rule of the Russian Empire. Over the next century, Jews changed their line of economic activity, moving from distilling, brewing, and buying state taxes into international and domestic trade and craft.

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were many Chabad supporters among the Mogilev Jews; the first Chabad synagogue appeared. In 1911, a third of the 38 city synagogues and houses of worship belonged to supporters of the movement.

Several urban legends are associated with the Mogilev synagogues. According to one of them, the grandfather of the famous artist Marc Chagall painted the building of the wooden synagogue, located in the Podnikolye region. Master from Slutsk was called Haim ben Yitzhak HaLevi Segal. In Hebrew, the surname sounds like Chagall and rumor attributed the kinship to the creators. According to the second legend, the cantor of the Mogilev choral synagogue was the inventor of the Kogel mogel dish, which he used as a means of restoring his lost voice.

In the second half of the 19th century, Jews were part of the city magistrate. By 1897, they accounted for almost 50% of citizens.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, in Mogilev, in addition to three dozen synagogues, there were 45 cheders, yeshiva, male and female Jewish schools, and 22 almshouses.

By the 30s of the twentieth century, most of the Jewish population was concentrated in the handicraft industry. By the end of the decade, the Soviet government closed almost all national educational institutions.

In 1939, 19.7 thousand Jews lived in the city. They accounted for 19.8% of citizens. From July 1941 to June 1944, the Nazis occupied the city. By the time of liberation, there were no living Jews in it.

By 1946, the Jewish population reached 8 thousand people. In the late 1950s, authorities closed the last synagogue. In the late 1970s, 7.7 thousand Jews lived in the city, accounting for 2.1% of the townspeople. Over the next decades, the population decreased and in 2009 amounted to 701 people or 0.2% of the townspeople.

Since 1990, the Jewish Culture Society was established in the city, a synagogue is operating. — online burials catalog.

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