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      Date Last Updated: 25-Feb-2022

Vitebsk History Appendicies


 Map of Grand Duchy of Lithuania (WIKI)



Map of Belarus Today (LS)



Map of Vitebsk Area (Minsk Gubernia Map of 1834, JGM)

map_minsk.jpg (405957 bytes)


Table 1: The Jewish Population of Vitebsk

                 Year                           Jewish Population                          Percentage of Total Population

                  1772                                1227                                             25 %  (1)

                  1811                                 5490 (2)

                  1847                                 9417 (3)                                      About 50% (4)

                  1861                                14,774 (5) 

                  1897                                34,420 (6)                                    52.4 % (7)

                  1923                               39,714                                          43.7 % (8)

                  1926                               37,013 (43,180) [9]                      37.5 % (10)

                  1937                               37,000 (11)

                  9/1939                            41,000 (12)

                  1937                               between 45-52,000 (13) or 50-60,000 (14)

                  1940                               50,000 (before WW2) [15]

                  1941                               16,000 (in ghetto)  [16]

                  1944                               (after WW2) [17]

                  1937                               500 (18)                    148,000 (19)

                  1960+                             20,000 (20)

                  2007                               5000 (21) or 3500 (22)             15 % (23)


Table 2:  Jewish Merchants of Vitebsk (24)

Product                                                           Merchants

Flour                                                                  Gregory Gerschman (25), Zalman Markovitz

Sugar                                                                  Meir Gerschman (26)

Food                                                                   Israel Meckler

Paper                                                                  Shamaria Meckler, Katzelbogen

Kerosene and oils                                             David Yachnin, Gregory Glazer

Iron and leather                                                Vitenberg, Moshe Pesrovsky, Nachman Parnes, Setronsky

Manufactured goods                                         Trinan

Dried fruits                                                         Nutkin

Salted fish                                                           Yachnin,  Mindlin


Table 3: Jews of Vitebsk at the turn of the century (27)

·         Total population of Vitebsk gubernia: 1,489,246 (of those, 215,919 living in cities)

·         Jews and Karaims: 175,635 (113,848 in cities)

·         Yiddish as mother tongue: 174,240 (112,455 in cities)

·         Total population of Vitebsk: 33,345 men; 32,374 women

·         Jews in Vitebsk: 15,897 men; 17,555 women

·         Religious affiliation among Jews: Judaism 99.94%, Russian Orthodox 0.03%,
          Catholics 0.01%, Protestants 0.01%, others 0.01%

·         Age distribution of Jews of Vitebsk guberniya:

                                     Age            Male             Female

                                     <1              2,558            2,474

                                    1-10           20,647         20,910

                                   10-20          19,656         23,552

                                   20-30          13,800         16,465

                                   30-40            8,637           9,777

                                   40-50            7,328           8,370

                                   50-60            4,972           5,492

                                   60-70            3,173           3,140

                                   70-80            1,361           1,161

                                   80-90              316                256

                                   90-100             35                   46


Consecration Speech



Shalom, chaverim!  I am so very happy to be here with you today!  I have dreamed of this journey for almost three years.  Finally, I get to stand here with you all, my brothers and sisters in Progressive Judaism.  Let me tell you the story of how today came to be, and how my fellow Jews from Temple Beth-El in New Jersey decided to send Rabbi Gluck and me here with this sefer Torah for your Vitebsk community.

In early 2004, our temple board of trustees agreed that our congregation would take responsibility for transmitting Torah to future generations.  Part of our efforts to be shomrim Torah, we met by fulfilling the 613th and last commandment in Torah: with the help of a sofer or scribe, we wrote our own sefer Torah.  And, as many of you know, we had the honor of hosting Rabbi Abramovich at our siyyum celebration last September as he helped us complete our scroll.

At the same time we decided to write our own Torah, we also resolved to take seriously the principle 3  (kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh) that says as Jews, we are all responsible for one another.  What we hoped to do was raise enough money to acquire a sefer Torah that we would donate to a Progressive Jewish congregation in the FSU.

But of the many communities in need, why Vitebsk?  It could only have been God’s will!  One day, Rabbi Gluck was on the phone with a woman in Los Angeles from the World Union for Progressive Judaism asking her if she knew of a congregation in the FSU that needed a Torah.  At the very time they were speaking, she received an e-mail from Rabbi Abramovich asking if anyone could possibly get a sefer Torah to Vitebsk.  We were told that your community had been waiting over 12 years for a Torah of your own.  How privileged we are at Temple Beth-El to gift you this sefer Torah today.

Although many Jews in America have roots in Eastern Europe and Russia, most of us have lost our connection to this part of the world.  I know that, in the 20th century, Jews from this region endured unspeakable hardship and oppression.  And, in the past few days, this lesson has been burned into my memory, as I visited places in Minsk and Vitebsk where the Angel of Death slaughtered our Jewish brothers and sisters.  Yet, after all this, we Jews endure!  I see the proof of this here in Vitebsk: in your beautiful kindergarten children, in being warmly welcomed into the Frumin family home and learning from their sons Philipp and Gleb that they want to become Bar Mitzvah, and in seeing you all here today.

I believe in our continuity as a people for one reason above all others:  Because we Jews embrace Torah and its teachings as our way of life.  Because Judaism demands that we learn and live the words that Adonai gave to Moishe Rabbenu at Sinai.  And because the great truth about life that exists as Torah is what will sustain our people in America, in Belarus and around the world.

So, chaverim, on behalf of my friends and fellow congregants from Temple Beth-El, accept this gift of Torah, given with full hearts and best wishes for you all.  And as we say whenever we conclude the reading of one of the five books of Torah, “Chazak Chazak V'Nitchazek” - Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened!


Photo Album


A Sketch of Old Vitebsk in 19th century (29)



Old Vitebsk (30)


Modern Vitebsk – The City Center (31)

City view

The Bridge Today (32)

Appendix Footnotes

1. BH, p. 1; EH, V.16, p. 76; EJ, V. 16, p. 191.

2. EH, V.16, p. 76.

3. VT, p. 4.

4. EH, V.16, p. 76.

5. VT, p. 4.

6. BH, p. 1; VT, p. 4.

7. BH, p. 1; EH, V. 1, p. 76; EJ, V. 16, p. 191, SV.

8. BH, p. 2; EJ, V. 16, p. 191.

9. VT.p.444.

10. BH, p. 2; EH, V.16, p. 76; EJ, V. 16, p. 191.

11. YV, p. 1.

12. YV, p. 1

13. VT, p. 444.

14. This is according to Nazi sources, and may not be correct. VT, p. 444.

15. HO, p. 403.

16. EH, V.16, p 76; EJ, V. 16, p. 192.  This was according to the list made by The Jewish council. VT, p. 447.

17. HO, p. 403.

18. HO, p. 403; VT, p. 452.

19. EH, V. 16, p. 75.

20. EH, V.16, p. 76; HO, p. 403.

21. TCA, TCV.  The population may be 10-15,000. Some don’t list themselves as Jews. RF

22. FJC

23. RF

24. VT, p. 134.

25. My Grandfather (Z’L)

26. My Great-Uncle (Z’L)

27. This data comes from the data of The First All-Russia Census of 1897 for the Vitebsk gubernia. VS,

LDS microfilm 1732226 SV

28. WUPJ

29. VWIK

30. The Jewish quarter was located at the right of the bridge. SV

31. Moscow Ave. This avenue stretches for nearly 4km in the southern part of Vitebsk. It ends at the entrance of the road to Moscow. The Vitebsk State University and the Vitebsk Technological University are situated here. W3

32. VC