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MINSK (formerly Mensk): Russian city: capital of the government of the same name. Of the history of its Jewish community very little is known. In 1576 King Stephen Bathori granted the Jews of Minsk the privilege of engaging in trade or commerce of any kind. At the end of the sixteenth century the Minsk Jews, sharing the lot of their brethren in other parts of the country, were expelled from Lithuania. In 1606, however, Jews are again found in Minsk, owning shops. In the same year King Sigismund III confirmed the decree of expulsion; but within ten years (1616) he annulled it, and reestablished the privileges granted by Stephen Bathori. Moreover, in 1625 Sigismund granted the Jewish community permanent possession of the tracts of land occupied by the synagogue and the cemetery. Subsequently (1629) he permitted them to own stores: but they were not allowed to build houses. King Ladislaus IV, in response to a petition of the Minsk Jews, confirmed the privileges granted by his predecessors. In addition he allowed them to “acquire lots and to build shops on them, as well as to buy old shops.” They were still precluded from building houses, though they might own such if they came into their possession for debts. Lidislaus also left in their possession the brick-built synagogue, which he exempted from taxation; and he gave permission for founding a new Jewish cemetery.
In 1629 the superior of the Minsk Monastery of Peter and Paul brought before the civil court a complaint against the Jews of Minsk, charging them with having attacked the monastery during the baptism of a Jew. In 1648 another complaint of a similar character was made. On this occasion the waywode severely reprimanded the Jews, threatening them with prosecution if such a thing should again occur. In 1670 King Michael ordered the Minsk judicial starost not to allow unauthorized officials to judge the Jews and not to hinder the latter from appealing to the king or to the royal court, as they were subject only to the jurisdiction of the starost. During the second half of the eighteenth century the taxpayers of the Minsk Jewish community repeatedly sent representatives to the chief Lithuanian exchequer court in Grodno with complaints against the elders of the Minsk kahal. The elders were charged with depleting the public revenues and with defrauding the taxpayers among the middle classes.
On Jan. 1, 1896, the Jews of Minsk numbered 43,658. There were about forty synagogues and numerous houses of prayer. Five of the synagogues belong to the Jewish community, the others being controlled by separate congregations of belonging to private individuals. Among the numerous yeshibot the more important are: Blumke’s yeshibah, the Little Yeshibah, and the yeshibah at the Synagogue of the Water-Carriers. The personnel of the Talmud Torah consists of eight “melammedim” and four instructors in general subjects; out of the 334 pupils only 106 studied these subjects. The expenditure of the Talmud Torah amounted to 4,355 rubles (1885). In 1879 a Jewish trade-school was established in Minsk with locksmiths’ and carpenters’ departments; instruction was offered also in general subjects, in Hebrew, and in religion. In 1885 the school had 112 apprentices, and it expended 5,912 rubles. The Jewish hospital, founded in 1829, has accommodations for seventy patients; its expenses amounted in 1885 to 8,068 rubles. The Jewish poorhouse, with eighty beds, had an expenditure of 5,356 rubles in the same year. Besides, there are many charitable associations, of which the more important are: a society for the assistance of students of the Talmud, with an expenditure of 3,000 rubles (1885); a society for the assistance of the indigent sick, with an expenditure of 1,500 rubles (1885), and a society (founded about 1820) for the distribution of bread among the poor, with an expenditure of 3,310 rubles (1884).
The following are the names of Jews of Minsk who obtained particular prominence:
Moses Zeeb b. Judah, author of “Kol Yehudah.”
Menahem Mendel, son of the preceding.
Asher b. Lob, tosaflst.
Isaac Abraham (held office 1749-55; d.1776)
Raphael b. Jekuthiel Lifander (1756-66).
Samuel of Indur (held office till 1777, when the district rabbinate was abolished by the government).
Moses (d.1696), son of the martyr Mordecai, who was killed in Lublin Aug. 11, 1636.
Lob Ba’al ha-Tosefot (d. about 1708).
Lob b. Asher, author of “Sha’agat Aryeh.”
Jehiel b. Solomon Heilprin (d. about 1742), author of “Seder ha-Dorot.”
Moses b. Jehiel Heilprin, succeeded his father about 1744.
Joseph b. Simhah Rapoport.
Gershon Harif (1778-93).
Israel b. Lob Mirkes (d. about 1813).
Samuel Segal (d. Dec.27, 1818).
Israel b. Hayyim Heilprin (d. 1836)
Isaac b. Naphtali Hirz Pines (d. 1836), chief of the bet din.
Judah Lob de Boton, son-in-law of Isaac Abigdor, author of “Pardes Rimmonim.”
Zeeb Wolf b. Moses (dayyan; d. 1848).
Judah Lob b. Abraham (d. 1851)
David Tebele b. Moses, author of “Bet Dawid” (d. 1861)
Moses Zebi, appointed rabbi by the government.
Moses Samuel Pines (d. 1862), chief of the bet din.
Baruch b. Zebi, dayyanim.
Saul b. Solomon, dayyanim.
Hayyim Lipschitz, dayyanim.
Joel Harif, dayyanim.
Aryeh b. Jacob (d. 1866), chief rabbi; author of “Be’er Heteb.”
Moses Judah Lob (d. 1889), son-in-law of David Tebele.
Jeroham Judah Lob Pearlman ben Solomon, Russian rabbi; born in Brest 1835; died in Minsk 1896. He was one of the greatest rabbis of his time, and was surnamed Gadol” (great one) on account of his prominence in the world of Talmudical scholarship. At the age of thirty he became rabbi of Seltz, near Brest, where he remained till 1871, when he was called to occupy the office of rabbi in Pruzan, government of Grodno. After the death of the two rabbis of Minsk, R. Gershon Tanhum and R. Aryeh of Umen, the congregation of that city decided to appoint him as its rabbi (1883); and he occupied the rabbinate till his death (Benzion Eisenstadt, “Rabbane Minsk wa-Hakameha,” pp.24,62, Wilna, 1899).
Eliezer Rabinowitz, chief rabbi.
Isaac b. David Tebele, assistant rabbi.
Jacob b. Meir, assistant rabbi.
Abraham Haneles, appointed by the government.
Presidents of the Yeshibot
Aryeh Lob b. Zebi Horwitz, author of “Margenita Taba.”
Aryeh Lob b. Asher, author of “Sha’agat Aryeh.”
Raphael b. Jekuthiel.
Joshua Heshel, author of “Mazimiah Yeshu’ah” and “Yushu’ be-Rosh”; died in Jerusalem.
Dob Isaac b. Sebi Meir (d.1851).
Israel Michael Jeshurun (d.1851).
Abraham b. Joshua Evenzik (d.1859).
Issachar Bar, surnamed “the diligent” (“Masmid”; d.1879).
Gershon Tanhum b. Elijah Benzion (d.1881).
Solomon b. Saul Levin.
Mandel, instructor at the yeshibah
Ber of Krasni, instructor at the yeshibah
Abraham b. Asher Anshel, author of “Ammude ha-Yemini.”
Moses b. Judah, author of “Eben Shoham,” who was later (1764) appointed preacher in London, where he published that work.
Israelit, Israel Asher b. Ozer, Russian preacher; born about 1806; died in Minsk June 6, 1896. He was popularly known as the “Grodnoer Maggid” and was the preacher of the Jewish community in Minsk for more than fifty-five years. Besides being an able preacher he was an indefatigable communal worker and very charitable. His simple life and his untiring exertions in behalf of the poor endeared him to all classes of the population. Numerous stories are still related in Minsk about his merciful exertions to release men who were unjustly impressed for military service in the last years of the reign of Nicholas I. as “poimaniki” or substitutes for others (“Ahiasaf,” 5696, p.312).
Abraham b. Zechariah Hamburg.
Joshua Isaac b. Jehiel, author of “Emek Yehoshua’.”
H.R. P. WI.
Authors, Scholars, and Others
Bampi, Issachar, author of a book “on Jewish customs.”
Broyde, Aaron (d.1897), one of the directors of the Government Bank at Minsk; he was honored with various medals.
Eliasberg, Judah Bezaleel (d.1845).
Eger, Samuel, son of Akiba Eger.
Jolles, Isaiah Zechariah (d.1853), author of “Et le-Dabber” and “Dober Mesharim.”
Kaplan, Jacob, corrected and added notes to the “Erez Kedumim.”
Levanda, L., Hebrew-Russian writer.
Luria, Jacob Aaron, honored by Nicholas I. with a medal for useful work in the Jewish community.
Luria, David, son of the preceding; conributor to the Hebrew periodicals of his time.
Libowitz (1758-1853), the miracle-worker; an intimate friend of Elijah Wilna.
Maskileison, Abraham b. Judah Lob (d.July 19, 1848), author of “Maskil le-Etan” and other works.
Maskileison, Naphtali (d.1898), son of the preceding; publisher of the “Seder ha-Dorot,” with his own critical notes and additions.
Menahem Eliezer b. Levi (d.1817), author of “Ya’ir Kinno.”
Rabinowitz, Eliezer Lipman (d.1887), an eminent Talmudic scholar, and owner of a famous library.
Rapoport, Jekuthiel Sussel (d.1872), member of the rabbinical committee appointed by the government.
Solomonov, Mordecai (d.1897), author of many novellae on Talmudical subjects.
Solomon, Menahem b. Elijah, author of novellae on all parts of the Talmud.
Pioneers of “Haskalah”
Brill, Joseph, Hebrew writer.
Haneles, Abraham, rabbi appointed by the government.
Kaplan, Israel, author of “Le-Torah we-Da’at.”
Nofet, J. Zeeb, superintendent of the Jewish trade-school.
Sirkin, Joshua, prominent Zionist.
Sirotkin, Abraham, author.
Wohlman, Israel Mendel, ex-editor of the “Ha-Kokabim.”
Blimowitz, Bar; Eliasberg, Lipman; Eliasberg, Samuel Jonah; Ettinger, Hillel; Goldberg, David; Jolles, Zusman; Luria, Hayyim; Luria, Samuel; Pollak, Benjamin; Pollak, Moses; Ragovin, Uriah; Rapoport, Akiba; Simhowitz, Mordecai; Sliasberg, Solomon; Solomonov, Moses Zebi; Zeldowitz, Bar; and Zeldowitz, Baruch.H.R. N.T.L.
typing courtesy of Allyson Shames