Religious life in Izyaslav reflected historical events in Volhynia.
Expansion and consolidation of Jewish life in Volhynia during the mid 16th century made this area a ‘center of Jewish culture.’ Many Jewish scholars flourished, as recounted in the Encyclopedia Judaica. “The golden era of Volhynian Jewry was the period between the annexation of the area to the Polish Crown in 1569 and the massacres of 1648 (B).” In 1648, “there were 46 Jewish settlements in Volhynia with a population of 15,000.” Four Jewish communities in Volhynia worked together independently and supported leading Jewish personalities, enumerated in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
The rebellion of the peasants and Cossacks in 1648 ended this Golden era of peace and prosperity. This assault on the Jews was led by a particularly evil individual, from the Jewish point of view, named Bogdan Chmielnicki (Khmelnitski) (1595-1657). Ironicially Izyaslav is now located within Khmelnitski district. Chmielnicki was branded by Jewish historians as “Chmiel the Wicked.” The Chmielnicki Massacres are described in the History section.
After the Haidamacks revolts (1734-1768), Volhynia, together with neighboring Podolia, saw a rise & spread of Hasidism. Several members of Israel Baal Shem Tov’s movement were of Volhynian origin. The Jewish Encyclopedia enumerates many of the well known Hasidic personages. The Hasids acted as administrators of the communities.
The first partition of Poland in 1772 led to the separation of Volhynia from Galicia, which had a considerable effect on the social and economic structure of the region. “In the 2nd (1793) and 3rd (1795) partitions of Poland, sections of Volhynia were annexed by the Russian empire, and the province of Volhynia was created from them in 1799.” (B). Jews in the border region maintained a healthy trade with Austria, but they were later barred from doing so. In 1847 there were 174,457 Jews in Volhynia. Jews prospered in the alcohol beverage industry and were members of numerous guilds.
In the early 1800’s Haskalah was created in Volhynia. Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, was a movement among European Jews in the 18th–19th centuries that advocated adopting enlightenment values, pressing for better integration into European society, and increasing education in secular studies, Hebrew language, and Jewish history (Wiki). This presaged the first Jewish political movements and striving for Jewish emancipation. This led to efforts by the Russian government to encourage education amongst the Jews, and Hebrew presses (1845) and a rabbinical seminary (1848) were founded. Practitioners of this philosophy opened a modern Jewish school in Uman’ in 1822 and a 2nd one in Odessa in 1826.
Around the end of the Polish occupation in 1920, Izyaslav was center of "Hasidism," and after the Russian revolution of 1917, Zionism flourished. Most of the Jewish children there were enrolled in local Hebrew schools and kindergartens. However, with the establishment of Soviet rule after 1920, Jewish community life in the city declined.
“In the early 1930’s the last synagogue in Izyaslav was closed and the building was turned over to a cooperative of tailors. A government school taught in Yiddish. “
Presently there is a Jewish community of Izyaslav of about 60 members, a small Jewish community center, a Jewish Cemetery, and a Jewish War Memorial.