Last updated September 23, 2012
The Founding of Shchedrin
The following is excerpted from Tzemach Tzedek and the Haskala Movement, by Joseph Schneersohn, ca. 1962, pg. 10.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel [Schneerson] was systematic and an excellent organizer. It was his policy to carry on all his communal activities covertly; only those directly involved were aware of his work. For example, when the Conscription Laws were applied to Jewish youths in 1827, Rabbi Menachem Mendel arranged to have people at the conscripts assembly points, to care for the spiritual needs of the recruits, to encourage them. and inspire them to observance of Judaism, and to resist the blandishmens of conversion they would soon face.
He was deeply interested in the material welfare of his people, and encouraged his followers to engage in agriculture; assisting them financially when necessary. Because of the difficulties resulting from official restrictions on Jews, he decided to purchase a large tract of land in the Pale of Settlement, in Minsk province, where Jewish families could settle near existing Jewish communities.
It was about the year 1844 that he purchased some 3600 desiaten (about 9700 acres) of forest and farm land laced with brooks, from Prince Schtzedrinov, in Minsk. He invited over 300 Jewish families to settle in the new colony of Schtzedrin, under the supervision of a special board.
The land was distributed to the settlers at no cost, every family receiving enough land for a home and farm buildings, and several acres for cultivation and pasture, besides farm equipment. Some 1700 desiaten were thus distributed. The other 1800 desiaten of forest were sold to one Efraim Holodetz of Bobruisk, a condition of the sale being that lumber be supplied for homes and stables for the colonists.
The settlers were granted special government privileges, among them a long term loan of 200 rubles, by the Provincial treasury, to be repaid with farm produce. The settlers prospered and were soon able to devote several periods of the year to Torah study. The purchase money paid by Holodetz was used to defray the expenses and debts of colonization. Part of the down-payment was sent by the Rabbi to the Holy Land, and the rest contributed to his regular Charity Fund.
The establishment of the Schtzedrin colony impressed Russian Jewry and Government officials alike. The Governors of Minsk, Vitebsk, and Mogilev provinces wrote laudatory letters to the Minister of the Interior in regard to the officially sanctioned colony. The Governor of Minsk noted the beneficial effects of the colony in diverting Jews from unstable and insecure petty trading activities.
Though not relevant to Schedrin, the conclusion of this section in Rabbi Schneerson's account is as follows:
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