Izyaslav (formerly Zaslavl) city in Khmelnitski region (former Kamenets-Podolski), Ukraine. Situated on the Horyn river, the city dates back to the 11th century. It is one of the oldest cities in Volhynia. As of 2009, the population of Izyslav was 17,232.
The first evidence about the Jewish community there dates back to the first half of the 16th century. Most of the Jews fled to the neighbouring cities (Ostrog, Mezhirich and Dubno) during the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648. Among them was Nathan ben Moses Hannover who described these tragic events in his book “Yeven Mezulah” (Venice, 1653). Approximately 200 Jews who had remained in Izyaslav were killed on the Old Jewish cemetery and then set on fire. The synagogue was destroyed and converted into a stable.
Jewish population of Izyaslav:
1765 — 2807
1857 — 6138
1897 — 5998 (47,6%)
1912 — 6365 jews
1926 — 3820 (32,6%)
1939 — 3208 jews
1950 ~ 2000 jews
2014 – 9 jews
After the massacres, the community was rebuilt. A the start of the Haidamack movement in 1708, the community was destroyed again and most of its members killed.
In 1747 five Jews from a nearby village were put to death in the city as a result of a blood libel. The same tragedy happened again in 1830.
At the start of XVIII century a famous cantor and Besht’s disciple rabbi Mordehai lived in Izyaslav. A Hebrew printing press was active there from 1807 to 1808 and five books, three of which were liturgical, came out during this period.
Towards the end of the Polish rule, Izyaslav was a centre of Hasidism. Due to the influence of Leib Bolekhovski (?-1883), the rabbi, the community was culturally prominent compared to other settlements in the area.
In the XVIII century Daviv Tevle was the rabbi in Izyaslav. After his death, his son-in-law Yakov Shimon Shapiro (1772-1811) stepped in who founded his hasidic dynasty. The rabbis following him in this post were his son Iskhor Doyv-Ber and Iskhor’s son Pinhos-Yosef Shapiro Dehner (? -1874).
Pre-revolutionary period postcards of Izyaslav:
Between 1834 and 1888 the head of rabbinical Court in Izyaslav was Arie-Leib ben Eliyahu. At the start of XX century, this position was taken by Eliezer Kharif (1845 -?).
In 1857 there were 14 synagogues, in 1886 — 9, in 1889 — 10, and in 1902 — 11.
In 1886 in Izyaslav there was a Jewish hospital, an almshouse, Mark-Boruh Feld’s library and his bookstore.
In 1897 Izyaslav was home for 6,000 Jews (almost 50% of the total population).
Here is Izyaslav enterpreneurs’ list from the Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913:
In 1913 there were the following Jewish institutions: Talmud Torah (closed in 1913); a school for boys, a school for girls and a mixed secondary schools.
Most Jews lived in the center of the Old and the New city.
Former Talmud Torah. Photograph by Miriam Wainer.
Tzadik Abraham-Yeshua Rozenfeld lived in Izyaslav at the start of XX century.
In 1915, a hospital building was constructed by the engineer David Goldshteyn. Now this building is used as a surgery department.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Zionist movement flourished in Izyaslav.
Civil War pogroms
The information below was taken from the archive of Kiev Oblast (Fond 3050/1/406). The documents describe pogroms in different Ukrainian shtetls:
Before the first pogrom total shtetl population was about 17,000 (was it 170,000), after all it decreased to 110,000 (11,000).
During the pogroms, 40% of the Jewish houses in Izyaslav, were destroyed.
Ukrainian intellectuals actively took part in the agitation of the local populace against the Jews.
During the course of the civil war, several pogroms occured in Izyaslav, however it was the first pogrom of April 1919, organized by soldiers of the directorate under the command of Ataman Bedenko, which was the most brutal.
Ataman Bedenko organized the pogrom on Pasha (it isn’t clear from the records whether this was a reference to the gentile Paskha (easter) or the Jewish Passover). Izyaslav was briefly liberated by the Red Army providing the Jewish population from temporary respite. However the pogroms continued again 8 days later when the city changed hands again. Local gentiles aided by troops of the directorate beat, killed, raped, and robbed Jews. The pogroms stopped only after the Soviet troops entered the shtetl again. After the final liberation of the city, Jews began to emerge from their hiding places and saw the terrible ruin the pogroms had wrought. Most Jewish property was looted and many Jewish buildings and homes were destroyed. In following months an epidemic started spread in Izyaslav.
In total 15 Jews were killed and 4 injured.
The situation in Izyaslav is very difficult. Many Jews don’t have means of subsistence.
Self defence groups were not established in Izyaslav.
Information about the post-pogrom epidemic is confirmed from another source. Also it shows the active attempt to help for pogrom victims from JDC:
In Zaslav, a city with a population of about 17,000 (Jews and Christians), there were in February, 1920, 2600 persons afflicted with spotted typhus.
A Jewish Children’s hospital was created in Zaslav with funds provided from the JDC.
With the establishment of the Soviet rule in 1920, the life of the Jewish community in the city declined. In the 1920s most of the city’s Jewish children were enrolled in Hebrew kindergartens and schools. By 1926, 3,820 Jews (one third of the population) remained there, falling further to 3,208 (28% of the total) in 1939.
Red Cross training courses in Izyaslav, 1928. In the first row 2 sisters – Shiva and Sonia Sosna. Courtesy Victoria Frenkel
With the Nazi invasion looming, Izyaslav local authorities provided a lot of transport for evacuation, and many Jews succeeded in leaving the town and avoiding their inevitable destruction.
Former Jewish school in Izyaslav
The Germans captured Izyaslav in July 5, 1941. On August, 24 (Shabbath) the local police and the Germans surrounded the city and ordered the Jews to gather for “ressetlement to Palestina”. On this day 1,000 Jews were murdered in 10 antitank caponiers on the western outskirts of the town.
A ghetto was set up near the building of the Old Synagogue in the Old city and the Jews from the neighbouring towns were brought there. The ghetto was surrounded with barbed wire and wooden fence, guarded by the local police and no Jews were allowed to leave. The Jews in the ghetto were used for hard labor. Many of them died during the construction of the dam on Gorin river and were buried inside it.
On August 17, 1942 (Shabbath) the ghetto was surrounded by the Germans and the local police. The Jews were moved out to pre-made ditches near Sochenki village and then killed. On that day about 2,000 of the ghetto inhabitans were murdered. The soil on the grave kept moving for several days… A group of essential workers was put into a local labour camp and executed on January 20, 1943.
The memorial on the mass grave near Sochenki village
Only a few teenagers succeded to escape from the ghetto and join different partisan detachments. We know only three names: S.U. Shider, Sonya Finkel and Rosa Zigelboim.
Below are interviews with them:
Izyaslav was liberated by the Soviet Army on March 5, 1944, during Proskuriv-Chernovetsky operation of the First Ukrainian front.
During WWII, hundreds Jews from Izyaslav fought with the Nazis in the ranks of the Red Army. We know only the names of 94 perished soldiers. In his articles in the local newspaper, Aleksandr Berenboim supplied the names of Ruvim and Natan Vinokurovy, Grigoriy Dorfman, Isaak Vertman, S. Goldshtein, Boris Fridman, Pinya Gorel, brother and sister Armil.
This hand-written list of Jewish soldiers from Izyaslav region which were killed during WWII was created in 1990’s by somebody from local Jewish community. There are 88 names…
All family members of many soldiers were killed and nobody could be notified about their death in the war.
The list of Holocaust victims wasn’t created by Izyaslav Jews after the war…
After the end of WWII many local Jews returned to Izyaslav. The community was boosted by Jews from nearby shtetles of Belogorodka, Kunev etc. That is the reason why the number of Jews in Izyaslav after the war was assessed as several thousands.
After demobilisation from the Army, the veterans A. Nahmanzon (a bank officer), brothers Iosef and Shloma Shusters, brothers Anatolii and Uhim Kreplik, Iosef Chotirbotskiy, U. Halypskiy, U.Kirzhner, L. Kornblit, M.Shafir, Fanya Geler and Genya Roitman returned to Izyaslav.
In the postwar period the remaining Jews of Izyaslav collected funds and erected two monuments at the two murder sites of the town’s Jews without any support from the local authorities. Over the years local Jews visited the monuments to honor to their dear ones. The monuments were desecrated several times with antisemitic graffiti. Toward the end of the Soviet rule the two monuments had inscriptions in Russian.
A building of a former synagogue. Now it’s an evening school.
In 1999, the veterans Iosef Geler, N. Domeshek, U. Vertman, L.Kats, B. Goldengur, S.Zavtra and Oleksandr Berenboim lived there.
Most Jews emmigrated from Izyaslav to Israel, USA and Germany in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the Jewish community was registered in the early 90s. The first chair was Verman Aaron (? – 1997), Leonid Sergeevich Lys (1933-2007) followed him. Now Boris Tzadikovich Tuzman is the chair of the Jewish Community.
In 1999, Aleksandr Berenboim put together a brief outline of the history of the Izyaslav Jewish community in a series of publications in a local newspaper. The publications may be found here (in Ukrainian):
In 2013 there were only nine Jews left.
Some valuable documents related to Izyaslav Jewish community were destroyed during a fire in Kamenets-Podolskiy Archiv in 2003.
Famous Jews from Izyaslav
Bill Mazer (1920, Izyaslav – 2013), was an American television and radio personality. He won numerous awards and citations, including three National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association’s Sportscaster of the Year awards for New York from 1964–66. Considered a New York institution in sports reporting, Mazer was inducted into the hall of fame for the Buffalo Broadcasters Association (1999), Buffalo Baseball (2000) and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum (1997). He is also recognized as the host of the first sports talk radio show in history that launched in March 1964 on WNBC (AM).
Nathan ben Moses Hannover
Nathan ben Moses Hannover (? – 1663), was a Jewish historian, Talmudist, and kabbalist. Hannover lived for a time at Izyaslav and when this town was attacked by the Cossacks he fled from Poland. Hannover is chiefly known for his work entitled Yeven Mezulah (Venice, 1653), describes the course of the Khmelnytsky Uprising in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from a Jewish perspective. Hannover in this work gives a brief description of the Polish government of the time and of the relations between the Poles, Jews and Cossacks, and the causes which led to the uprising. He also gives a very vivid picture of Jewish life in Poland and the yeshivot.
Leonard Simon Nimoy (1931 – 2015), was an American actor, film director, poet, singer and photographer. He was known for his role as Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series (1966–1969), and in multiple film, television and video game sequels.
Leonard Simon Nimoy was born on March 26, 1931 in the West End of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav. His parents left Iziaslav separately — his father first walking over the border into Poland—and reunited in the United States. His mother, Dora (nee Spinner), was a homemaker, and his father, Max Nimoy, owned a barbershop in the Mattapan section of the city.
Isabella Laskos (1830, Izyaslav – 1877, St. Petersburg), was the russian writer.
Tzvi Tzur (1923, Izyaslav – 2004), was an Israeli officer who served as the IDF’s 6th Chief of Staff.
The Old Synagogue
The synagogue was built in XVII century and was intended to be used exclusively by the men of the community. Its southern wall was adjoined directly to the city walls and was a part of the fortification system. In the second quarter of the XVII century, rabbi Nathan Hannover started his tenure in Zaslavsky synagogue.
According to rabbi Nathan Hannover, during Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s uprising, Zaslavsky “churches and synagogues were devastated and turned into stables.”
The building was reconstructed in XVIII century by the architect Paolo Fontana. A famous Jewish ethnographer Simon An-sky visited Zaslavskiy synagogue several times in 1910s and recorded the Jewish folklore of the area.
Inside Izyaslav synagogue. Photo by An-sky expedition
Izyaslav panoramic view-synagogue in a background on left. Photo by An-sky expedition
The synagogue was badly damaged by fire in 1924. In 1927 the synagogue was visited by the delegation from the Ukrainian Museum of Jewish Culture named after Mendel Moyher-Sforym. The synagogue was closed in 1930s.
In the second half of the XX century the building was turned into a boiler room which was a part of the musical instruments factory “Octava”. Now the building of the synagogue is abandoned and unused.
Holocaust mass graves
In August 1941, according to one testimony on the Sabbath, early in the morning the Jews, mainly women, children, or elderly, were driven out of their homes by Ukrainian auxiliary policemen. The Jews were told to take all their valuables with them on the pretext that they were going to be sent to Palestine. After being collected, the people were loaded onto trucks and taken to anti-tank trenches on the Poboy tract in the forest near the town. There the victims were made to strip naked and taken in groups to pits. They were made to lie face down in the pits and shot to death in the back by members of Police Regiment South and some Ukrainian policemen. Each group was forced to lie on top of the previous victims and killed the same way. The shooting lasted until nightfall. After the shooting the pits with the bodies were covered with earth.
Apparently in June 1942, Ukrainian auxiliary policemen surrounded the ghetto and ordered its inmates to come out of their homes. 137 specialists – artisans and craftsmen, with their families – were allowed to remain in the town. The rest of the Jews were loaded onto trucks and taken to the forest near the village of Soshnoye, several kilometers west of the town. There they were shot to death in several large pits by a German unit and some Ukrainian policemen. In October 1942 several Jews who had managed to hide during this murder operation and who had been living in the town along with the specialists, were taken in the morning by Ukrainian policemen and shot to death at the same site. On January 1 or 2, 1943 the artisans and craftsmen who had been held in one building were surrounded by Germans and Ukrainian policemen. Those who tried to run away were shot to death on the spot. The others were taken by truck to the same site and shot to death with sub-machineguns.
The Old Jewish Cemetery
The New Jewsih Cemetery
The cemetery was founded at the end of XIX century and is still in use.