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Horodnytsa

Horodnytsa

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Horodnytsa is a town in Novograd-Volynskyi district of the Zhitomir region. Its population was 5,470 in 2011.
Before the revolution of 1917, Horodnytsa was a small town in the Novograd-Volynskiy uyezd of the Volin gubernia.

Horodnytsa is situated on the River Sluch, 42 km northwest of Novohrad-Volynskyi and 121 km northwest of Zhytomyr. The small town initially belonged to the Korecki family and from 1651 – to Princes Chartoryski. In 1810 it passed to Princes Lubomirski, and in 1856 – to Waclaw Rulikowski.

We don’t know for sure when the Jews first arrived in Horodnytsa. We can only assume that it was sometime in the XVII century.

In the XIX century, the history of Horodnytsa was connected to the local faience and porcelain factory, which was established by Prince Jozef Chartoryski in Korets in 1799 but moved to Horodnytsia in 1807.

Horodnytsa entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Horodnytsa entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Throughout 1882-1907, while the factory belonged to succeeding owners, its leaseholder and manager was Aizik Fishl (Feliks) Sussmann from Lviv. Sussmann employed about 350 Jewish women to do various tasks in the factory. The Horodnytsa porcelain factory continued to function during Soviet times and was named “Komintern” (after the Communist International). It closed in the 2000s.

Jewish population of Horodnytsa:
1847 – 427 Jews
1897 – 1310 (57%)
1926 – 1126 (41%)
1939 – 1212 (24%)
1989 – 30 Jews
2017 – 5 Jews

The rest Jews worked as stallers, artisans, and traders. They mostly sold lumber and wooden products. However, their income was also connected with the porcelain factory. The town’s population included several prosperous families.
During the tsarist period, there wasn’t a state-appointed rabbi in the shtetl, only a spiritual rabbi. That’s why the state-appointed rabbi from Korets, Rabbi Gershgorn, used to come to the shtetl on official visits.

In the early XX century, a typhus epidemic broke out in the shtetl. Jews erected a “black chuppah” in the cemetery for the poorest Jewish man and woman of the shtetl in an effort to stop the epidemic.

In the late XIX century, according to memoirs published in 1947, the majority of Jews in Horodnytsa were Hasidim and they existed 5 synagogues and prayer houses and one Kloyz.

One of these was wooden Great Syangogue which was probably built around 1890 and mentioned in 1898, when a Zionist preacher delivered a eulogy on the death of the head of Hibat Zion movement Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever (1824-1898). The town was heavely damaged by fire in June 1903 and seemingly all houses of prayer were burnt down. At least some of them were probably rebuilt, but we know specifically of only two. Soon after the fire, the erection of a new masonry building for the Great Synagogue began, on the initiative of its gabai Yeshayahu Dov Aizenbarg. In spite of “conflicts and clashes”, which the project provoked within the community, the Great Synagogue was finished in 1913. The memoirist recounted that the erection of new synagogue caused jealousy among the Christian population, to the point that they convinced the local landowner to build a new Russian Orthodox church in Horodnytsa.

Big Synagogue before "repairment", 2014

Big Synagogue before “repairment”, 2014

In the late XIX century, the Bund party first appeared in the shtetl.
The first Zionist society, called “Gertsl,” was founded in 1904. Its membership exceeded 100 people, including many workers who became disillusioned after the 1905 Revolution and left the Bund.
By 1917, Zionists dominated Jewish society in the shtetl. They founded a public library, improved the cheder (where they taught Hebrew, mathematics, and Russian), and formed charity organizations.
Froim Kuperstein was a manager at the porcelain factory. He was a son-in-law of Rabbi Shloime Bolekhover’s Gaon. Jewish and Ukrainian workers, and all those who had had business with Froim, worshipped him. Everybody respected and appreciated him for his honesty and bravery. He was very generous in giving to charity and attending to social needs.
Melamed Volf Donder was a founder of the Zionist movement in Horodnytsa.

Big Synagogue after "repairment", 2017

Big Synagogue after “repairment”, 2017

During the pogroms of the Russian Civil War, a self-defense detachment was organized in the shtetl.

Between the Wars

After the peace treaty between the USSR and Poland, the shtetl was given to the Soviet Union. As a result, the majority of Zionist activists left the town to continue their work in Poland. Several activists remained and kept working illegally under the Soviet rule, especially in the area of Jewish culture. Two of them were sent to Siberia.
The gabbai of the Bolshaya [Large] synagogue Yeshayahu Dov Aizenbarg, was a respected person not only inside the synagogue but also among the authorities of the shtetl and district. He gathered money and organized the construction of the Bolshaya synagogue before the Bolshevik Revolution.

Former Jewish school in Horodnitsa, 2017. It was rebuilded several times during XX century.

Former Jewish school in Horodnitsa, 2017. It was rebuilded several times during XX century.

When Horodnytsa was incorporated into Soviet Ukraine, the Yevsektsiya (a Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party) was placed in charge of the Jews. The Yevsektsiya began to confiscate prayer houses in the shtetl, though they could do nothing with the Bolshaya synagogue because Yeshayahu Dov Aizenbarg did his best to oppose them. He sometimes convinced the local council to cancel Evsektsiya orders. If the 70-year-old rabbi failed to secure the local council’s support, he would travel all the way to Kharkiv, despite the lack of good roads, to complain to the state council about the Yevsektsiya. This is how orders to confiscate Bolshaya synagogue were cancelled several times. Eventually, his son-in-law was denounced for Zionist leanings. As a result, his son-in-law, daughter, and two small grandchildren were sent to Siberia. Finally, the Yevsektsiya managed to confiscate the only remaining synagogue in the shtetl. It was turned into a grain warehouse. Old and depressed, Rabbi Shae-Ber left the shtetl and moved to Zhitomir. He died there after several years of loneliness.

Verification letter of Yacob Hunovich Yasnobulko from local porcelain factory with signs of another 10 Jews

Verification letter of Yacob Hunovich Yasnobulko from local porcelain factory with signs of another 10 Jews

Between 1920 and 1939, Horodnytsa was a border village. The nearby Sluch River divided the USSR and the Republic of Poland.
In the 1920s-30’s, a Jewish national village council functioned in the shtetl.

Holocaust

I have not been able to find much information about the Holocaust in Horodnytsa. The number of Jews living in the shtetl before the war is also unknown.
According to one version of the story, a ghetto was formed in Horodnytsa. However, I have not been able to find its exact location or proof of its existence.
On the July 19, 1941 (Saturday, the 24th of Tammuz 5701), the Germans shot 21 local Jews three kilometers southwest of the village. According to other accounts, 89 people were shot that day.
A group of Jewish children was shot by the Germans near the village Ostrozhok (Baranovka district). There were children from the Horodnytsa district among them.

Holocaust mass grave in Horodnitsa Jewish cemetery

Holocaust mass grave in Horodnitsa Jewish cemetery

According to some unsubstantiated information, only three Jews survived the German occupation of Horodnytsa.

After the War

After the war, several Jewish families returned from the evacuation. Some of their houses had been destroyed or been occupied by their Ukrainian neighbors. As a result, they had to move to Novograd-Volynskiy.
In 1945, a detachment of Banderovtsy attacked the shtetl. As a result, one Jew was killed.
After the war, an unofficial minyan met in private houses. Zelik Trakhter, Yankel Zalts, Arvum Kovzalo (who moved to Lvov), Aharon Vainstein, Mikhail Goltsman, Yankel Leybovich (1882-1966), and Yankel Fishman were among the regular participants of minyan. Unfortunately, young Jews took virtually no part in religious life.
The local Jews had a Torah scroll that they moved from family to family. Its last known residence was with the Taller family, which later moved to Israel. No one knows what happened to the scroll.
Shmulik Peysakhovich Baraz was a last shoykhet in the shtetl.

Today, there is still a street named in honor of Sholom-Aleichem in Horodnytsa. After the war, the majority of the local Jews lived on that street. Mikhail Vladimirovich Goltsman (1906-2001) was the last Jew to live on Sholom-Aleichem Street.

 

 

 Sholom-Aleichem street, 2017

Sholom-Aleichem street, 2017

Former Jewish houses in Sholom-Aleichem street:

 

In the 1990’s, a Jewish community was officially registered in Horodnytsa. One room in the building of the former synagogue was allocated for the community’s use. The Jews made repairs there. Sergey Srulevich Sytner was the first chairman of the community. Because of mass emigration to Israel and Germany, the number of the Jews in Horodnytsa fell dramatically.

In 2017, there were about ten Jews living in Horodnytsa.

In 2017, the local council financed the erection of a fence around the Jewish cemetery.

Jewish cemetery

Cemetery locates on the picturesque bank of Sluch River.

In 1954, surviving local Jews transported the remains of Horodnytsa Jews who had been murdered during the war. The bodies were reburied in two mass graves in the Gorodnitsa Jewish cemetery. There are two monuments with Russian inscriptions, including the surnames of those killed. On the back of one of the monuments, there is an inscription in Hebrew that reads, “killed,” with the names and surnames of the victims. It is difficult to decipher the inscriptions. We could read only four surnames: Galperin and Krays on the lefthand gravestone; Shrayber and Feldman on the right one. During the reburial, one Jew was identified because of his red hair. However, in 2017, we were unable to ascertain his name.

River Sluch near Horodnitsia Jewish cemetery

River Sluch near Horodnitsia Jewish cemetery

Grave of local Rabbi:

Old part of the cemetery:

New part of the cemetery:

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