Translated by Jerrold Landau
Since the tidings of Job regarding the bitter end of our townsfolk has reached us, we, the natives of Ruzhany in the Land, have set our heart to perpetuate our community that was wiped out, the memories of our parents, brothers and sisters who perished, the efforts of generations of this Jewish community of the Diaspora, tied to tradition and laden with burdens, upon which destruction has come.
For generation upon generation, the Hebrew letter has served as the vehicle of perpetuation, whether it is engraved on a gravestone monument or printed in a book. Since our dear ones have been turned to ashes without a grave and without a monument, it is clear that we must perpetuate the memory of those dear tortured souls by establishing an eternal monument for generations, a monument that is not bound to a specific location and that will stand forever that is, a monument written as a book.
The members of the Committee of Ruzhany Immigrants were the ones who aspired to realize this perpetuation though this means. However, there was nobody to take on the yoke of this large task. The editor realized that if nobody stands up to take action, even the little bit that could still be gathered would be destroyed; and that with every passing day, additional memories of that dear place where we grew up and where thousands of our dear ones lived are lost. He then started to undertake the work, which he has now being tending to for more than two years.
The members of the advisory committee displayed great astuteness and offered no small amount of assistance. These included: Yosef Abramovich, Elka Rubinowich-Ines, and Zeev Rushkin. They joined forced with him and significantly assisted him in choosing appropriate material from amongst the large selection for our town. An additional thank you is extended to the member Yosef Abramovich, who added a Yiddish chapter to the book.
Similarly, our friend Yosef Shimshoni (Shemshinowich) expended a great deal of effort in collecting the names of our martyrs. Our collective thanks is offered to him for this.
The book does not claim to be complete, for the ledgers of the community of Ruzhany were not before the eyes of the editor during the time of writing. He also did not possess many other sources, which were lost with the onset of the Holocaust. He was therefore forced to seek assistance from the town elders, in order to glean from their memories whatever they still recalled about their town from the early years; and from the younger folk, to record what took place in the town during the latter years, over and above what he knew as a native of the town. He utilized various sources such as newspapers and books from days gone by as well as from the latter years, to the extent that they existed and it was possible to obtain them.
From among the various articles published in the book, we see before us a picture of Jewish Ruzhany with its movements and institutions during its period of flourishing and decline. Not everything that was fitting of such was actually published in the book, and not everything that is published is presented in a complete fashion. This is very clear to the editor, who acted to the best of his ability to fulfill his faithful mission, as he ignited a memorial candle for the community of Ruzhany which was wiped out as if it never was.
|A Schematic map of Ruzhany as I recall it|
|1.||The Great Synagogue||7.||Pravoslavic Church|
|2.||Majar Beis Midrash||8.||Catholic Church|
|3.||Aguda Beis Midrash||9.||The headquarters of the Volunteer Firefighters|
|4.||Tehillim Synagogue||10.||The Tarbut Hebrew School|
|5.||Talmud Torah||11.||The palace|
|6.||Shops of the marketplace||12.||The hospital|
History of the City of Ruzhany
Ruzhany was an ancient Jewish city. It was already known from the time of the kingdom of Poland and the Duchy of Lithuania, and was the property of Duke Sapieha, who built a splendid palace on the hill.
A popular tradition states that the duke had two daughters, Roza and Anna, and that he named his town after both of them: Roza-Anna Ruzana which was known as Rozinoy by the Jews.
Ruzhany is located in Eastern Europe, in an area that is settled primarily by White Russians. It is close to the borders of Poland, Lithuania, and Russia, and on the border of the elevated Grodno District, and the flat, marshy Pulsia District.
We do not know the exact date of the founding of our town, for the town ledgers have been lost and no longer exist. However, we do know that a well-rooted Jewish community already existed in Ruzhany during the 16th century. Halevanon from 1875 (8) gives over the following information:
On the 12 day of Elul, 5635 (1875) a fire broke out from the house of the baker, and spread as a destructive angel. It went on without stopping for five hours, and Ruzhany turned into a valley of the shadow of death. The houses of worship, the Great Synagogue that was built magnificently and that stood in its splendor for 300 years, went up in flames.
If this large synagogue was 300 years old, this implies that there was a significant Jewish community in Ruzhany already in 1575, which had a large, splendid synagogue.
Clear information about the existence of this community at the beginning of the 17th century is given to us by the Ledgers of the Principal Communities in the State of Lithuania in the regulations of the committee from the year 5383 (1623). The Ledgers of the State of Lithuania, in the chapter of These are the boundaries and environs of the community of Brisk, includes a list of towns that are affiliated with this main community . One of them is Rozanik (Ruzinoy) as it is inscribed there in duplicate form.
In 1657, this town became well-known due to its tragedy the Ruzhany Blood Libel which will be described in later chapters.
The Hebrew Encyclopedia (written in Russian) tells us about this blood libel, as well as some facts about the population of this town, as follows:
In the year 1765, there were 154 Jewish souls
in Ruzhany according to the official count; according to the census of 1847, there were
1,556 souls; and according to the census of 1897, the population numbered 5,016 souls,
of which 3,599 were Jews. There was a Talmud Torah in the town (1910).
During the time of the Polish Republic, Ruzhany was a city in the district of Slonim, province of Nowogrudek. From the time of the partition of Poland and the establishment of the Czarist Russian government, the city was in the district of Slonim, province of Grodno. When Polish rule returned during the years 1920-1939, the city was declared as a city in the district of Kosowa, province of Pulsia.
The regulations of the committee from the year 5383 (1623), Pinkas Medinat Lita
And these are the boundaries and environs of the community of Brisk and its environs:
Miedzyrzec, Woryn (Wojan), Raszm (Rashi), Lomz (Lomaz), Biala, Beszcz,
Wlodowoj, Slawicz (Slowatice), Kodno, Wysaki, Amstybow (Amstibowoj), Kobrin,
Horodiec, Pruszna (Pruzhany), Mlatsza (Malcz), Sielec, Czernowicice
(Czernowice), Kamenets, Szerseszow, Roznik (Ruzhany), Slonim, Dwarc, Novhorodok
(Nowogrudek), Nieswiez, Slutsk, Minczsek, Mohlowony (Mahlowny), Orsza, the
settlements of Rus.
(Written in Polish)
Ruzhna, a city in the district of Grodno on the Zlawa River, is the property of the Sapieha family. A splendid palace of the Sapieha dukes existed there until the previous century, which was later designated by the purchaser as partly a textile factory, and partly a grain storehouse.
(Written in Russian)
During the era of the Polish Republic, Ruzhany was in the district of Slonim, province of Nowogrudek. In accordance with the decision of the Lithuanian committee from the year 1623, Ruzhany belonged to the region of communities of Brisk and its dependencies for internal Jewish matters. From this, we know Ruzhany already had a Jewish settlement in that year.
We know of the Ruzhany blood libel that took place a short time before
Passover, 1657. The body of a Christian boy was found in the Jewish quarter.
According to the indictment, he was a victim of the Jewish thirst for
blood. The masses prepared to fall upon the Jews and to execute judgment
upon them, but the Polish estate owner who also owned the town prevented a
pogrom by announcing that the suspect Jews would be brought to trial. Two and a
half years passed, and the court case did not take place. It is possible that
the Jews were exonerated in court. However, according to the author of the book
Daat Kedoshim, the Jesuits did not permit the Jews to approach the
courtyard of the kingdom and the royal Supreme Court, so they gave over the
case to the gentile residents of the town. According to another version, the
gentile residents of the city, whose hatred of the Jews was great, took
advantage of the absence of the estate owner in September 1657 to transfer the
case into their own hands.
Legend states that on the day of Rosh Hashanah, the masses attacked the Jews who were at prayer and threatened to murder them. The local judges accused the community of murder for religious purposes and advised the community to give over two honorable members of the community to be killed. The lot fell upon Reb Yisrael the son of Shalom and Reb Tovia the son of Yosef. (It is possible that both of them offered themselves up as sacrifices for the benefit of the Jewish people.) The martyrs were murdered on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Reb Shimon the son of the martyr Reb Yisrael described the tragic events with a special Selicha (penitential prayer) and memorial prayer (Kel Malei Rachamim). To this day, the natives of Ruzhany make mention of the memories of the martyrs with feelings of holiness. From days of yore, they light memorial candles on the second day of Rosh Hashanah for the elevation of the souls of the tortured martyrs. On Yom Kippur (according to Dubnow, at the time of Neila), they read the special Selicha which was written by the son of the aforementioned martyr.
According to tradition, the two martyrs blessed the Jews of Ruzhany before their deaths, and promised to pray before the Dweller On High that there be no more bloody events in the city of Ruzhany.
The grave of the martyrs is located in the cemetery. Its monument was renovated in the year 1875.
|Grave of the martyrs in the Ruzhany Cemetery|
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