Rommy, Romen, Ромни (Ukrainian), Ромны – Romny (Russian)
Romny is a city in the northern Ukrainian Oblast of Sumy. It is located on the Romen River and is the administrative center of the Romny Raion. The villages of Lutschky (438 inhabitants), Kolisnykove (43 inhabitants) and Hrabyne belong to the Romny city administration.
The beginnings of a Jewish community date from the 18th century. In 1803 there were 127 Jews in the town, and in 1847 the Jews numbered 759. The community developed rapidly after the opening of the Romny-Libava railway line (1874), which became one of the important trade arteries of western Russia.
From 1863 to 1901, Eliezer Arlosorof served as the local rabbi.
Tensions arising from economic competition between Jews and Christians resulted in pogrom in 1881.
In 1897 there were 6,378 Jews in Romny (28.3% of the total population); on the eve of World War I the number was estimated at 13,400 (43 percent of the total population).
Jewish population of Romny:
1803 – 127 jews
1866 – 1825 (34,7%)
1897 – 6378 (28,3%)
1910 – 13 401 jews
1923 – 9760 (33%)
1939 – 3834 (14,8%)
1959 ~ 1000 jews
2001 – 41 jews
In 1901 was founded Jewish Hospital, in 1903 was opened male Jewish secondary school. Since 1905 in Romny acted Mutual Aid Society of Jewish clerks.
At October 18–19, 1905 in Romny happened pogrom. Rioters burned all Jewish shops, pharmacies, two synagogues, two printing plants, several schools and the entire Jewish part of the market, 8 people were killed and 30 injured. All night robbers openly carried Jewish property. Newspaper “Poltava”, describing the events of October 18-19, states that “the City Administration did nothing to stop the outrages.”
Rabbi Trotsky sent a telegram to Prime Minister Witte and ask for protection.
During the Second Aliyah period, the “Romny Group,” associated with Trumpeldor, which figured in the early development of the kibbutz movement in Palestine, was organized in the city.
Among founders of Degania (first Kibbutz in Eretz Ssrael which was founded at October 28, 1910) were 3 emigrants from Romny – Tanchum Tanfilev, Joseph Bloch and Israel Elkin. They left Romny in 1907.
In 1910, there were nine synagogues, Talmud Torah, 2 Jewish male secondary schools, 2 Jewish females professional schools and 3 Jewish females secondary schools, Jewish cemetery.
Pre-revolution letter of Romny jews about official Rabbi election with 96 signatures/names. Photo taken from http://col.org.il
In 1912 there worked Jewish Savings and Loan Society, in 1913 – society benefits for the poor Jews. In 1914, Jews owned 2 pharmacies, 6 warehouses of pharmaceutical goods, bath, 2 bakeries, 4 hotels, 4 coaching inn, 2 photo workshop, the only cinematography, the only laundry, both clocks workshops, approx. 50 shops and stores (including 5 of 13 manufactories, all six notions, both jewelry, the only bookstore).
During the WWI, thousands of Jewish refugees from the battle areas led to Romny.
Pre-revolution postcard from Romny
In 1916, Jewish soldiers from the local garrison established trench partnership.
In 1916 Rabbi in Romny was Iehezkel Grinpres. In the same there was opened department of Lubavitch Yeshiva of “Tomhey Tmimim”. In 1917 there acted different Jewish parties, including “Tzeirei Zion” and “Ge-Halutz”. In 1917-1922 there worked Jewish national folk theater named by I.-L. Peretz (director – R.N.Zaslavsky). In 1918 “Culture League” opened in Romny folk primary schools (classes were conducted in Yiddish).
In 1919 Denikin’s troops organized a pogrom with loss of Jewish life and property.
Under the Soviet regime, Romny declined economically; many Jews went to work in textile factories (as a result 85% workers on factory was Jews) and on the railway.
By 1926 the number of Jews had declined to 8,593 (about 33% of the population) and dropped further to 3,834 in 1939 (15% of the total population). Jewish public life was stilled.
In 1920 acted courses for adults, department of “Evsekciya” (leader – B.I.Gordon ) , Jewish children house.
Groups of Zionists were arrested in September 1922 and in 1926.
Romny hospital. Pre-revolution postcard
In the first years of Soviet Union authorities attempted to expand involvement of Jewish population in agriculture activity and it was next impact on Romny:
– in 1923 was organized Jewish agricultural county (46 men and 15 women)
– in 1925 was created Jewish frontiersman collective “Rekord” (13 families)
– Jews from Romny resettled in Kherson district and organized few agriculture farms – “Novo-Ramenka”, “Joint Work” and others
– in 1925-1926 176 Jewish families from Romny resettled in different agriculture commune.
In 1925 with the support of the Joint in Romny worked Jewish almshouse. In 1920’s in Jewish school enrolled 600 children. In Russian school 87% of children were Jewish; in school was organized group with the teaching on Yiddish . In 1928, 90 children were studying in heders. In 1925-1928 in Romny operated illegal Lubavitch yeshiva under management of Jacob Gurari who was arrested in 1928. All synagogues in Romny were closed in 1930’s; the last one was closed in 1938.
Memorial on the Holocaust mass grave near Peski village
Romny was occupied by the Germans on September 10, 1941. Most Jewish families managed to evacuated and only 30% of pre-war Jewish population leave under Nazi occupation. During a whole period of occupation Romny was ruled by German military administration. They created administration and Police with local Ukrainians. The Jews were ordered to register, wear yellow Stars of David on their sleeves. Jews were often forced to hard labor.
In the end of October 1941, the Jews were evicted from their homes and sent to a remote two streets of the town that was fenced in with barbed wire. At November 9, 1941 Ukrainian police forced to move all Jews of Romny and Zasul’e village to 2-storey casern building on Mayakovskigi Street. On next days all Jews were escorted to Peski bowery in 2 km from city and executed in 3 ravines by members of 1st motorized infantry SS brigade (total number of victims is 1233 Jews ). Members of mixed families weren’t killed at this day and stay alive more than 1 year. In February 1942, they were arrested and killed at June 6, 1942 in gypsum quarry near Zasul’e village. Execution was performed by members of SD “Plath” command. Only few Jews managed to escape. One Jewish girl was saved by her Ukrainian relative Olga Kirichenko.
Romny was liberated by Red Army in August 16, 1944.
Post-war Jewish community was registered in 1947 and synagogue was opened on Lunacharskogo Str.,13.
On ordinary days in synagogue were going 12-15 people and 60-70 in Holidays. Rabbi in 1947 became Berko Berkowitz Gerchukov (1881 – ?), in 1952 – Moses Davidovich Rovinskii (1883 – ?) , in 1958 – Kotlyar. Community organized matzo baking.
1959 there were about 1,100 Jews (about 3% of the total population) living in Romny.
Since 1951 prayers were held in a rented private Aronov’s house in Second Kirov bystreet. Since 1959 Jewish community existed as unregistered.
Community was registered again in 1999 ( in 2003 Head of Community was Elena Vadimovna Goryainova). “Heseda” department was opened here in 2001. Now Head of Romny Jewish Community is Triger Lev Semenovich (Phone +380544821815).
Monument on mass grave near Peski village was erected for cost of local authority, no jewish organisations helped to local community. Here you can find video from this place. Many bones still on the bottom…
Abram Ioffe (1880, Romny –1960, Moscow) was a prominent Russian/Soviet physicist. He received the Stalin Prize (1942), the Lenin Prize (1960) (posthumously), and the Hero of Socialist Labor (1955). Ioffe was an expert in electromagnetism, radiology, crystals, high-impact physics, thermoelectricity and photoelectricity. He established research laboratories for radioactivity, superconductivity, and nuclear physics, many of which became independent institutes.
Haim Arlozorov (1899, Romny – 1933, Tel-Aviv) was a Zionist leader of the Yishuv during the British Mandate for Palestine, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, and head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency. In 1933, Arlosoroff was assassinated while walking on the beach in Tel Aviv.
Pinhas Rutenberg (1879, Romny – 1942, Jerusalem) was a Russian-born Zionist, businessman, and Jewish Nationalist in Mandatory Palestine. He played an active role in two Russian revolutions, in 1905 and 1917. During World War I, he was among the founders of the Jewish Legion and of the American Jewish Congress. Later, through his connections in the British Mandate of Palestine, he managed to obtained a concession for production and distribution of electric power and founded the Palestine Electric Company, currently the Israel Electric Corporation. A vocal and committed Jewish Nationalist, Rutenberg also participated in establishing the Haganah, the main Jewish militia in pre-war Palestine. He subsequently served as a President of the Jewish National Council.