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Chernobyl – Чернобыль (Russian), טשערנאבל (Yiddish) צ’רנוביל (Hebrew)

Chernobyl is a historic town located in Kiev region of northern Ukraine. Chernobyl is located on the Pripyat River, a tributary of the Dnieper. All population was evacuated in 1986 after nuclear disaster. Now in town located only few offices of “30km Exclusion Zone” and temporary stuff.

Chernobyl became a part of Russia Empire in 1793, in XIX – beginning of XX century it was shtetl of Radomyshl Yezd of Kiev.

Chernobyl is approx. 32 km from Radomyshl and in 280 km from Kiev.


It had one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the  Ukraine, dating from the end of the 17th century (first mention in documents dated by 1193). It was originally under the jurisdiction of the Lithuanian Council and attached in 1710 to the Council of the Four Lands. In 1691 a Cossack gang by colonel Iskrickiy killed many Jews and pillaged their property.  There were 695 Jewish poll taxpayers in Chernobyl and the surrounding villages in 1765.

In the late 18th century, Menahem Nahum (1730–1787), a disciple of Israel ben Eliezer Ba’al  Shem Tov, settled there. He was the author of Me’or Einayim and  Yismah  Lev, both printed in Slavuta in 1798. His son Mordecai founded a dynasty of  tzaddikim and made Chernobyl a  center of Twersky Hasidism family. Mordecai’s many  sons also founded hasidic courts, the most famous being rabbi Duvidl of Talnoye.

There were 5 synagogues in 1860’s.

The community numbered 3,482 in 1847  and 5,526 in 1897 (59.4% of the total). Many engaged in trade, in agricultural products and crafts. Three times a year in Chernobyl fairs were held, which attracts Jewish merchants from nearby towns and villages. There were a synagogue, several Jewish houses of prayer, Talmud Torah, the Jewish women’s private school and Jewish almshouse in the beginning of XX century.

In October 1905 rioters smashed Shepelich water station, robbed and beat coming down to the shore from ships Jewish passengers during few days. The pogrom was also attended by local farmers.

Deed of house transfer. From private collection of Chernobyl inhabitant, who didnt ressetle after nuclear disaster.

Deed of house transfer. From private collection of Chernobyl inhabitant, who didnt ressetle after nuclear disaster.

Entire Jewish population of Chernobyl suffered from pogroms during the civil war (the exact number of dead and injured is unknown). From April 7 to May 2, 1919 Chernobyl was in the power of the gang Stroock, at this time in the town and its surroundings did not stop looting and killing Jews. Ruffians forced Jewish to drove in river, forcing to jump into the water, or dumped them there, and if someone tried to swim, he was shot. Chernobyl survivors Jewish were need to pay huge “indemnity”. During the pogroms many Jews fled from Chernobyl in larger cities. Russian Red Cross opened in the summer of 1919 Children’s dining room for 550 children and food point for 800 people impacted by porgrom.

Chernobyl Jewish self-defence unit, 1919

Chernobyl Jewish self-defence unit, 1919

Russian Red Cross opened in the summer of 1919 Children’s dining room for 550 children and food point for 800 people impacted by porgrom.

Jewish population of Chernobyl:
1765 – 695 jews
1847 – 3,482 jews
1897 – 5,526 (59.4%)
1926 – 3,165 (39%)
1939 – 1,783 (21%)
1970 ~ 600 jews
1987 – 0

Twersky dynasty left town during the civil war in 1920, when the Tzaddik Shlomo Ben-Zion (1870-1939) and his family escaped from the Chernobyl to Kiev.

After Civil War

In 1921 big fire destroyed one hundred and twenty Jewish houses in Chernobyl.

With the establishment of the Soviet government in 1920, communal, social, and religious life came to an end. The Jewish population numbered 3,165 in 1926 (39% of the total), dropping to 1,783 in 1939 (total population 8,470).

In 1939 most of the Jews worked in eight artisan cooperatives. There were also two Jewish kolkhozes and a Yiddish school in operation.


The Germans occupied Chernobyl on August 25, 1941. November 19, 1941 about 400 Jews were gathered near the Synagogue (Spasskaya Str.). Jews are under convoy in organized columns were allocated to the administrative building of the Jewish collective farm “Nae Welt”, where they were stripped. The shooting of the Jews was carried out on the same day in the jewish cemetery (from the other source Jews were killed in the anti-tank trench near forge). After the war on this place was erected a small monument.

Way to monument on mass grave. Chernobyl Jewish Cemetery

Way to monument on mass grave. Chernobyl Jewish Cemetery

Jews returned to Chernobyl after the war. In 1965, when there was no synagogue and prayers had  to be held in private, Jewish private prayer groups were dispersed by the militia and religious articles were confiscated.  Ater the Jews complained to the central authorities in Kiev,  only prayer shawls were returned to their owners. The Jewish population in 1970 was estimated at 150 families.

All population of Chernobyl was resettled in May 5, 1986 after disaster on nuclear plant in 19 km from town.
In this day last 50 Jewish families were evacuated from Chernobyl…

In 2009 in Israel lived 1233 liquidators of Chernobyl accident.

Perfect movie was createdcreated by Andrew Mihailik about history of Chernobyl (with English subtitles)



 Tverski Tzadiks Graves on old Jewish Cemetery

Rabbi Menachem Nochum Twerski of Chernobyl (born 1730, Narynsk, Volhynia – died 1797, Chernobyl) was the founder of the Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty.He was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch. His yartzeit is on 11 Cheshvan. He and his descendants were burried on old Chernobyl Jewish Cemetery.

Five graves of Chernobyl tzaddikim including Rabbi Menachem were torn down and paved during school constructing in the 1970’s. I dont know what was a state of old Jewish Cemetery at this time but I can suppose that It was destroyed at this time.

In the beginning of 1990’s all 5 graves of Chernobyl tzaddikim were find and two ohels were build by Vinizza rabbi Laizer Syrkis. Keys from ohel you can take in local “Chernobylinterinform” office.

Location: see map above

Kagal House

As a Kahal house it mentioned in 1922. Before evacuation in 1986 it was House of Culture.

Kagal house

Kagal house

Chernobyl Synagogue

Year of construction, full name and other details are unknown :(  It became a recruitment office at Soviet period. According to film about Chernobyl on Youtube Synagogue was build on the place of Rabbi Menachem Nochum Twerski house.

At December 31, 1921 local authorities provide inspection of all religious institutions in Chernobyl and there were:

Wooden synagogue in Chernobyl by 1928. Photo made by P.Zholtovsky

Wooden synagogue in Chernobyl by 1928. Photo made by P.Zholtovsky

– The synagogue, which was at the Synagogue Square (wooden building which was covered by iron, 3 floors, 20 meters long and 20 meters wide)
– “Blacksmith” Jewish prayer school, located at Konnaya Square, 4 (stone building which was covered by iron, on stone base, 4 rooms)
– Jewish Prayer House of Yudko Mogilevich on Korogodskaya Str., 31
– Jewish prayer School of Tverskogo S.S., which was located on Zavalnoy st., 30 (old wooden building which was covered by iron, on stone base, 4-rooms)
– Jewish prayer school “Public”, located on Novaya Str.( building faced by brick, iron roof, 2 rooms – for men and for women).

According to book of local historian Chernigovec there were Kalal house and 5 synagogues:
– «Masaskyn» synagogue  (at this place in 1986 were Central Regional Library)
–  3 Synagogue on Proletarskaya Str. (Yudko Mogilevich prayer house among them)
–  Tailor Synagogue (at the region of modern сast iron factory)

According to testimony of Tetyana Libman big wooden Synagogue was destriyed by local communists. On this place was build a piblic toilet.

Chernobyl Jewish Cemetery

It was a second Jewish cemetery in Chernobyl. Grave with Holocaust victims locate there.



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