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Smela

Smela

Smela (Yiddish), Smela – Смeла (Russian)

Smela is a city in the Cherkassy region. It is situated on the left bank of the Tiasmin river. The population of Smela was 69,000 people in 2005.
The first settlement on the Tiasmin river dates back to 1542 and was called Yatskovo, later it was called Tiasmino. The shtetl of Smela was founded in 1633 with the support of magnate Stanislav Kontsepolskiy.

In 1650, Smela Jewish community was first mentioned. In 1773, at the request of then-owners of the town the Liubomirskys, the Polish king gave the town the Magdeburg Right. In 1795, Smela became a part of the Russian Empire. It was a shtetl of Cherkassy uezd, Kiev gubernia.

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In the XVIII century, Smila was often subject to pogroms by Haidamaks, especially in 1768, when Zheleznyak entered the city with a detachment of rioters and, as described by Pohilevich: “the detachment of 300 people, under the leadership of Zheleznyak himself, killed the Polish nobles and the Jews.” As a result of the pogroms, the Jewish community disappeared and it was only revived in the mid-XIX century.

Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 1

Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 1

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Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 2

Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 2

Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 3

Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 3

Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 4

Smela entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 4

In the 1830’s, its industrial development began.

Market in Smela, beginning of XX century

Market in Smela, beginning of XX century

 

Jewish population of Smela:
1765 927 (in kagal)
1847 – 1270 Jews
1897 – 7475 (50%)
1925 – 5881 Jews
1939 – 3428 (10%)
1990’s ~ 600 Jews
2018 ~ 50 Jews

Count Alexey Bobrinskiy played an important role in the town’s development. He founded a sugar factory in 1838 and a mechanical plant in 1840.

In 1863, there were 6,906 Jews in Smila, or 40%). Among the 23 local merchants of the Third Guild, 18 were Jews.

The railway line from Fastov to Znamenka was started and went through Smela in in 1876. It accelerated the economic development of the shtetl.
On May 3-4 1881, a pogrom was committed in Smela. It was quelled by newly arrived troops. During the pogrom in Smela two male and one female peasant were killed by the troops; three male and one female Jews were killed, 19 Jews were wounded by the bandits. Soon one of those Jews died.

Leather factory of Abraham Moishi on the bank of Tyasmin river, beginning of XX century:

In the early XX century, there was a synagogue and two other houses of worship in the town as well as one boys’ and two girls’ private Jewish schools.

Shop for the workers of Bobrinsky's sugar factory in Smela, 1911

Shop for the workers of Bobrinsky’s sugar factory in Smela, 1911

A list of the synagogue of Smela in the late XIX-early XX centuries which I found in another source:
– Big synagogue
– Big Bes-Hamedrash
Rotmistrovsky kloyz
– Litvis kloyz
– Bes-Hamedrash on Politseyska street
– Bes-Hamedrash in Kovalivka
– Prayer house in Olexandrivska square
– Bes-Hamedrash behind Yakhnova hreblia
– Old kloyz in a common house

“Zhovta” (Yellow) synagogue was located in Sverdlov street, 97 (now Soborna street, 97). Currently, there is a shop in this building.

“Zhovta” (Yellow) synagogue was located in Sverdlov street, 97 (now Soborna street, 97). Currently, there is a shop in this building.

There was a prayer house in Kuznechna street, 7. Now these are private houses.

Smela postcards from beginning of XX century:

In 1904, a Jewish pogrom was committed. As a result, 150 Jewish shops and 300 Jewish houses were looted.
Men’ ( his name and patronymic unknown) was a state rabbi in 1904.
In 1910, there was a private technical school for men and two for women in Smela.

There was a Jewish hospital n Michurin street. Building doesn't exist

There was a Jewish hospital n Michurin street. Building doesn’t exist

In 1914, the Jews of Smela owned all eight shops of pharmaceutical products, the only bathhouse, five bakeries, all four hotels, all three cement plants, all eight forest warehouses, sewing workshops, both creameries, the only mead factory, the only binding, canteen, a factory of exercise-books, two printing houses, all five clock workshops, more than 230 stalls and shops. All three dentists in Smela were Jewish.

Old PreRevolution building in the center of Smela

Old PreRevolution building in the center of Smela

Photos of Smela market shot by German Kaiser soldiers in 1918:

Civil War pogroms

In May 1919, the Jews suffered from pogroms by Grigoriev’s gang with 61 people killed and 20 injured. Over a thousand homes and 300 commercial and artisanal establishments were looted.
In August and December 1919, Denikinists carried out a series of pogroms with numerous victims. Their four-months rule in the shtetl was like one large pogrom. A mass grave of the victims of the pogrom has been preserved at the local Jewish cemetery till nowadays.

Pogrom victims in Smela, 1919

Pogrom victims in Smela, 1919

Testimony of Smela’s pogroms witnesses:

As a result of the pogroms there was a large amount of Jewish refugees in Smela. In fall 1919, an epidemic of typhus began. Six thousand Jews became ill with typhus. There were thousands of houses where whole families were ill, from the first till the last. There were days when people buried 40 Jews and even more. People sometimes had to wait four-five days for their turn to bury body. Several hundreds of people died because of typhus.

Grave of 1919 pogrom victims in Smela Jewish cemetery, 2015

Grave of 1919 pogrom victims in Smela Jewish cemetery, 2015

Details of pogroms in Smela (Rus):

The Jews tried to escape from the town and about 400 people from Smila fled to Odessa.
From the reference of 1921:” the amount of Jews in Smela increased by 25 percent. There was very little space in the flats. The refugees had no underwear, warm clothes and shoes. There were seven-eight of them living in one room.”

After the Soviet troops arrived in the town in April 1920, there existed a Jewish self-defense detachment of 50 people. This group of people tried to purchase guns. The center promised to support the self-defense in Smela. There were 600 armed people who were ready for protection to protect the town. The detachment also had machine guns. During this period, the Jewish community of Smila was recorded at 6,867 people (according to other data, 3,500).

Former synagogue in Smela, 2017

Former synagogue in Smela, 2017

In the 1920’s-1930’s, there was a Jewish school in Smela. It was closed in 1939. Now school #3 is in this building. A Jewish school used to be where the market is today.
3,428 Jews (10.12 % of the population) lived in Smela in 1939.

Narrow streets of former Jewish neighborhood in Smela near modern market:

Pupils in Smela school №7, 1941 (few months before the War). Photo provided by Bella Lvovna Koshitskaya (with ink mark). Tanya Uditskaya (sitting in the first row by left) was killed in 1941

Pupils in Smela school №7, 1941 (few months before the War). Photo provided by Bella Lvovna Koshitskaya (with ink mark). Tanya Uditskaya (sitting in the first row by left) was killed in 1941

Holocaust

The shtetl was occupied on August 4, 1941. Following the Nazi occupation of the town in August 1941, 400 Jews were shot in the forest near the village of Belozirye.

In February 1942, 512 people were shot. Jew Gertsen was a member of a clandestine organization.

In January 1942 two ghettos were formed on the territory of Smela. The first ghetto included approximately 1,000 people and was situated outside the town; the second had almost 5,000 people and was situated in the center of the town.

Jews from the whole Gebiet were gathered in Smela: Cherkassy, Rotmistrovka, and Petrovskiy districts.In February 1942, they all were shot. There were 512 people.

The first ghetto was destroyed in May 1942, the second – on February 8, 1943.

The Jews who had been hiding but revealed were shot in the garden of the House of Pioneers and near the theater in the center of the town.

Killed in Smela:

A partisan detachment named after Pozharskiy was acting in the territory of Smela district. Leonid Berenstein was its head since the fall of 1943.

Smela was freed on January 22, 1944.

Victor Dikiy, Righteous among the nations from Smela

Victor Dikiy, Righteous among the nations from Smela

List of Jewish soldiers from Smela who was killed in action between 1941 and 1945:

Aftert the WWII

After Smela was liberated a part of the Jews returned to the shtetl. In most cases they lived in the center of the town.

The Jews who had come back bought a house and organized a synagogue without the authority’s permission.

List of Jewish WWII veterans in Smela in 1990’s:

When the USSR fell apart the majority of Jews left for Israel and the USA.
A community was officially formed in the 1994. Nina Lozovatskaya is a head.

 

Famous Jews from Smela

Natan Fidel (Smela – ?) , a publicist, a playwright.

Yuriy Isaakovich Kharkats (1941, Smela), a physicist, a chemist.

Shloyme Mikhelevich Shlifer (1889, Smela – 1957, Moscow), a rabbi. He got Jewish religious education from his father Mikhel SHLIFER (1865-1907). Since 1889 has been a spiritual rabbi of Alexandriya, Kherson guberniya. In 1913, he passed an exam and became a real rabbi. In 1913-1922, he was the rabbi of Alexandriya. In 1922-1929, a secretary, in 1929-1931, a member of Makovskiy rabbinate. In the 1930’s, he worked as an accountant. Since 1944, he has been a rabbi of Moscow choral synagogue. A member of Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. In 1956 Shlifer started publishing a Jewish religious calendar and a prayer book “Sidur ha-Shalom”. These were the first religious editions in the USSR in 30 years. In 1957, he formed and headed yeshiva “Kol Yaakov”.

Shloyme Shlifer

Shloyme Shlifer

Grigoriy Mikhaylovich Shtern (1900, Smela – 1941, Kuybyshev), a commander, Colonel General (1940). Hero of the Soviet Union (1939). Had been in the Red Army since 1919. Was arrested in June 1941. In Fall 1941 was driven to Kuybyshev and shot.

Grigoriy Shtern

Grigoriy Shtern

Petr Moiseyevich Bialik (1893, Smela – 1986, Kiev), a military doctor, Major General of medical troops (1943).

Chaim Meyerovich Krasnokutskiy(1904, Smela – 1982, Kiev), a Hero of the Soviet Union (1940).

Chaim Krasnokutskiy

Chaim Krasnokutskiy

Yefim Moiseyevich Lepskiy (1879, Smela – 1955, Kazan) , a pediatrician, an organizer of healthcare in Kazan.

Avrom Revutskiy (1889, Smela – 1946, New York), a publicist, an activist.

Genealogy

Many records regarding Smela Jewry were digitalised. Different online documents and link to them you can find here.

List of Jewish families in Smela, end of XIX century:

 

Destroyed oldest Jewish cemetery

It was situated on the bank of the river and marked as “closed” on the map by 1893. Territory of cemetery builds up by private houses.

 

New Jewish cemetery

The cemetery is located behind the bridge, near the railway station on Sverdlov Street. There is a separate entrance to a Jewish section: the second gate from the keeper’s house, next to the fence there is a stop sign and six cement columns dug into the ground. It is in use from 1968.

Old Jewish cemetery

It was in use from XVIII century till 1968.

Rabbi Isaiah from Dinovitsy (Dunaevtsy) — a student of the Baal Shem Tov (? — 1794, Smila) is buried at the cemetery.
A student of both the Besht and the Maggid of Mezhyrizh, Rabbi Isaiah played an important role in the spread of Hasidism and the preservation of its history. According to Hasidic tradition, he was born in Berdychiv, and was an important disciple of Rabbi Lieber from Berdychiv. According to a legend, he prayed for the gift of being an accomplished singer and subsequently received a good voice.
Inscription on the gravestone:
Here buried
Is the holy rabbi
Isaiah from Dinovitsy
A disciple of the righteous Baal Shem Tov
Died on Iyar 22, 5554
May his soul be bound in the bond of life

Rabbi Isaiah from Dinovitsy

Rabbi Isaiah from Dinovitsy

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