Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine

 

Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine

 

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Dubno - guidebook

Ukr. Дубно, Yid. דובנע

Dubno - guidebook

Contracts

Dubno is one of the oldest towns in the Rivne region. The first written mention of the town comes from 1100. Since the end of the 14th century, the rural settlements of Dubno belonged to the Princes from the Ostrogski family. In 1498, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander granted Dubno the city rights, at the request of its owner Prince Konstanty Ostrogski. In that period, the wooden castle was rebuilt as a stone castle. In the first half of the 16th century, Dubno turned into a city-fortress. Thanks to these fortifications, it passed into history as the city which was never occupied during the Tatar invasions; also the Cossacks failed to seize the castle. The biggest lure for the enemy troops were treasures of the Dubno castle. According to the registry from 1616, it contained the biggeset treasury among all the estates of theOstrogski Princes.

In 1774, Dubno became an important centre of trade due to the establishment of contract fairs, held here until 1795. Later, it became a city with the largest Jewish community in the Volhynia region. The contracted profits allowed the owners of the town, the Lubomirski Princes, significantly expand the town's infrastructure. The streets were paved with stone and many brick buildings were built. The increase in commercial and cultural importance of Dubno meant that at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, it became the biggest town in Volhynia.

When the contract fairs were moved to other cities, the economic life of Dubno significantly declined. Since the second half of the 18th century, Dubno became a military town due to the 41st Selenginski infantry regiment and the 11th Czugujewski cavalry regiment stationing in the city. At the end of the 19th century, a fort was built near Dubno, which served as an important Russian military strategic site on the border with Austria-Hungary.

 
The Jews of Dubno

The first mention of Jews in the city dates from 1532. It reports that the Jews owned 300 steers. In the 16th century, the Jews from Spain and France came to Dubno. They began to settle in the town on a massive scale after signing of the Union of Lublin (1569).

 

A unique finding related to the Jewish community in Dubno is a mysterious marl object. Its base is visibly accentuated, flattened and has a shape similar to a square. The upper part is elongated, and at its end there is a plate with carved symbols, divided by a horizontal line. The heraldic shield bears vivid images of two hands, а over them – three letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Dimensions: height: 2.3 cm; length of the preserved base: 2 cm; dimensions of the plate: 1.6 x 1.8 cm. The inscription on the artifact can be translated as follows: "To the blessings of kohen". It is possible that this object was used as a stamp or a matrix for casting. It could have been also used as a cover or a decorative element of a tool or utensil. Found near the synagogue, the object dates back to the 16th century. Currently, it is the oldest item associated with the history of the Jewish community of Dubno. It is kept in the Historical and Cultural Reserve of Dubno.

In 1649, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, the Dubno castle was not seized by the Cossacks. When the troops of Buniak approached the city, the Voivode and 80 Polish soldiers locked themselves in the Castle. They decided not to allow the Jews to the fortress, and as a result, 1.1–1.5 thousand people were massacred by the Cossacks right in front of the castle. The Jewish community was reborn after this tragedy, as evidenced by the city map of 1671, showing the synagogue and the Jewish quarter.

 In 1716, a girl who converted from Christianity to Judaism to marry a Jew was tried by the local court. The court decided to burn her alive. The qahal which allowed for this wedding was punished by a fine; moreover, the Jews were banned from employing Christians. There were also many conflicts between the Jewish community and the monasteries. In documents from the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, we can find testimonies of disputes over ponds, breweries and taverns.

The Maggid of Dubno and others

One of the most famous 18th-century Jewish preachers Jakob ben Wolf Kranz (the Maggid of Dubno) worked in Dubno. Also Salomon ben Joel, translator of The Pentateuch, and writer Chaim Zvi Lerner, were born here.

Jacob ben Wolf Kranz (1740–1804) was a preacher in Mezhirichi, Zhovkva, Dubno (he lived here for 18 years), Wlodowa, Kalisz, and Zamość. He enjoyed enormous popularity. He also visited Germany, where he gave great sermons in the biggest communities. In Berlin, he met Moses Mendelssohn (Jewish-German philosopher, founder and spiritual leader of the Haskalah; Mendelssohn's ideas have had a huge impact on the development of the ideas of the Enlightenment and reformism in Judaism in the 19th century), who called Kranz "the Jewish Aesop", in recognition of his brilliance and passion for parables. He wrote commentaries to the Torah and later works of Jewish literature, adding parables and real-life examples. His jokes about the Hasidim (which Kranz did not loke so much) were characterised by folk humor. The Maggid of Dubno owed his unique popularity not only to his eloquency but also to his inquiring mind and a deep, clear understanding of life. His works were published posthumously by his son, Isaac.

Salomon (Shlomo) ben Joel Dubno (1738–1813) was the translator of the Pentateuch, philologist, and poet. Since 1767, he lived in Amsterdam and Berlin. He was a teacher of the son of Moses Mendelssohn, who highly valued his knowledge and became Dubno's protector and friend. It was Dubno who, when he saw the translation of the Pentateuch into German, which Mendelssohn was preparing for his son, insisted on its publication and wrote a commentary to the text. He died in Amsterdam.

In 1794, a Jewish printing house was opened in Dubno, which operated for over 40 years. In 1857, there were 15 synagogues and houses of worship, as well as 22 cheders. Since 1893, a group "Hovevei Zion" was active in the city.

Chaim Zvi Lerner (1815–1889) was a Jewish scholar, writer and columnist He was born in Dubno. With the support of the Jewish educational activists, he studied in a Jewish private school of Stern in Odessa. He worked in the Jewish school in Berdichev and since 1851, in the rabbi school in Zhytomyr. He became a figure of authority after publishing a handbook of the Hebrew grammar More Halashon, which had 6 editions during his lifetime and several more after his death. The handbook owes its popularity to a teaching system similar to the one used in teaching European languages, enabling easier mastery of each topic in comparison to previous manuals. Lerner was also a translator and lecturer.

 
In 1861, the population of Dubno amounted to 7,922 people, including 6,258 Jews; in 1897, the population of the city was 14,257, including 7,018 people with Jewish origins.

Avrom Ber Gotlober (1810–1899) was a Jewish poet, historian, journalist, and Haskalah activist. He was born in Starokonstantinov; in his youth, he studied the Bible and the Talmud; he was fascinated with the Kabbalah. In 1828, when he met a renowned Jewish educational activist J. Perl in Ternopil, he devoted himself to the study of secular sciences. Gotlober was under great influence of Jewish activists of the Haskalah – M. M. Lefin and I.B. Lewinsohn. He became one of the leaders and promoters of the ideas and hopes of the Maskilim (the Enlightened Jews). In his poems and prose, Gotlober fought for education; enthusiastically greeted the school reform launched by the government and criticized Orthodox Jews for their backwardness. He worked in public schools for Jewish boys in Kamianets-Podilskyi and Starokonstantinov. Since 1866, he taught the Talmud at the School of Rabbis in Zhytomyr. After it had been closed in 1873, he moved to Dubno and in 1876, he founded a magazine "Ha-Boker'or". Gotlober's memoirs and his autobiography are a valuable source of knowledge about the history of the culture of the European Jews in the first half of the 19th century. By then blind, the last years of his life he spent in Białystok.

Salomon Mandelkern (1846–1902): writer, lexicographer and translator. He was born in the town of Mlyniv in the Dubno Raion, in a Hasidic family. He came to Dubno at the age of 16 after the death of his father and continued his religious education under the supervision of the local rabbis and learned European languages. He graduated from the Faculty of Oriental Languages at the University of St. Petersburg and the Faculty of Law at the University of Odessa. In 1873–1880, he worked as an assistant to a rabbi in Odessa. He wrote a 3-volume history of Russia and Poland in Hebrew, and translated the chronicle of Nathan Hanower into Russian.

In 1880, he moved to Leipzig, where he became fascinated by the Zionism. He published two volums of poetry. He was one of the first poets writing in Hebrew who used the genre of a ballad. He translated songs by Goethe, Heine, Byron, Pushkin and Lermontov into Hebrew as well as W. Korolenko's stories into German. Mandelkern's major work, which brought him worldwide fame, was the Jewish-Aramaic concordance, released in 1896. (the last edition: 1967).


The Jewish quarter

The Jewish quarter was located in the southern part of the city. An increase of the Jewish population forced a compact urban setting with many narrow streets and alleys. These peculiarities of the spatial arrangement of the district have been preserved until today.

When Jews settled in Dubno, they were allocated to the southern part of the city, adjacent to the swampy banks of the Ikva River. In 1782–1795, a wooden synagogue was replaced with a large stone synagogue, which has been preserved until today. The construction was founded by the qahal, with the financial support from Prince Michał Lubomirski. That is why, over the entrance door to the synagogue there is a plate with the coat of arms of the Lubomirski family, the Prince's initials and the inscription: "We shall go to the House of God, regardless of the lightning, thunder, rain, and snow", as well as the date according to the Jewish calendar: 5554 (according to the Gregorian calendar: 1794–1795). In all synagogues in the region, the Jews mentioned the name of the generous Prince in their prayers.

 

The synagogue in the city of Dubno is a very beautiful stone building, its height is about thirty cubits (21 meters), and its dome rests on sixteen pillars that were built in four rows. Its construction lasted approximately twelve years, from 5543 to 5554, when – as it written in the community ledger - they started to pray there. Its builders worked hard to find the large sums of money they needed to spend on it, and without the aid of Prince Michael Lubomirski, the city's leaders couldn't carry out their good ideas and all their hard work were in vain if this good master hadn't come to their aid. He sent his peasants' servants to work in this building for very small wages, and for the stones,bricks, sand, raw material and the lime that they bought from him for this building, he only took half of the asking price. He helped them every day with everything that he could, and directed them with his advice. Twenty five years have passed since a reliable man, an old man of about seventy years, told me that he had heard in his youth from his father, who was eighty years old at that time that he was there when the cornerstone was laid for the synagogue's building. He saw with his own eyes how the townspeople, their chiefs and notable persons sat around the tables, which were made of wooden planks that were placed on top of empty wine and brandy barrels, and glass of brandy and honey cakes before them, and in their company was also this prince, a great respected minister of the Polish Kingdom and one of the military leaders, who drank a glass with them after he told them a few things and after he blessed them: 'That they'll finish successfully what they have started to build, and they'll pray in this synagogue to God who created the heavens and the earth, and all living things upon the earth.

Dubno Rabati (hebr. Dubno the Great) by Rabbi Hayim Zev Margaliyot, Warsaw 1910

 

World War I and its aftermath

During World War I, the city's economy greatly declined. Dubno was destroyed and deserted. Moreover, smallpox and typhus epidemics broke out. The soldiers stationed in the city used every opportunity to rob the local population. They used many "contributions" as well as open robbery, hostage-taking and ransom demands. In July 1919, the Jews of Dubno had to face yet another challenge – the Bolshevik authorities issued the order of liquidation of the qahal, which for centuries served as the centre of social life for the local Jews.

Isaac Babel (1894–1941) was a Russian writer of Jewish descent, mainly known for his volume of short stories Red Cavalry. In 1920, as a soldier of the 1st Cavalry Army of Voroshilov and Budyonny, he stayed in different places of the Rivne Oblast; his observations were reflected on the pages of his later works. The events in Dubno served as inspiration for detailed descriptions of the realities of the "liberation mission" carried out by the Bolsheviks. He was victimized by the NKVD.

In 1921–1922, the Jewish community began to gradually rebuild its structures, e.g. institutions supporting the needy. The funds were very limited, therefore, they appealed for help to the Jews from abroad. In the first place, a hospital was established. In the early years, in the hospital there was no surgeon, and the sick who needed operation had to go to Lviv (sometimes arriving too late). It was not until 1925, that the Rojtmans, a couple of surgeons, moved to Dubno. They received at the disposal large operating room and X-ray equipment.

The Jewish education

Like in other shtetl, the education of the Jews in Dubno was initially purely religious. The half of the 19th century brought changes in this field: in 1876, the first Jewish private school was founded аnd in 1890 – another. When in 1907, at the expense of the Countess Shuvalova, a middle school for women had been opened, also Jewish girls enrolled аnd two Jews were members of the Board taking of care of this educational establishment. In the same year, a middle school for boys was founded. Out of 310 students, 230 were of Jewish origin. The curriculum of the School of Trade in Dubno, in addition to maths, economics and commodity science, included also advertising and Esperanto. The city had a "Tarbut" middle school which promoted Hebrew. The Jews wishing to leave for Palestine gained professional experience working in craft workshops, while agriculture could be learnt working in a hachshar located in the forest called "Palestine". Part of the Jewish youth belonged to "Hashomer Hatzair". There was also a sports club "Makadi".


World War II and the Holocaust

In September 1939, Dubno was annexed to the Soviet Union. On 25 June 1941 the German forces entered Dubno. They began persecutions and murdered the Jews of Dubno; approx. 12 thousand Jews lived in the city at that time. In April 1942, a ghetto was created (apart from the Jews, also the Romani people were detained there). On 27 May 1942, at the old airport near the city, the Einsatzgruppen carried out a mass execution of approx. 3.8 thousand Jews. The last inhabitants of the ghetto were murdered in October 1942. Only several dozen of the Jews of Dubno have survived the Holocaust.


Traces of presence

Nowadays, Dubno has approx. 38 thousand inhabitants. There is no registered Jewish community. The architecture of the former Jewish quarter has been preserved. South of the market square, there is the abandoned building of the former synagogue. Behind the bus station, there is a destroyed Jewish cemetery from the 16th century. Only pieces of matzevahs have remained. There is also a monument and a plate reminding of the purpose of this place. The museum in the castle is one of the most important regional tourist attractions; part of the exhibition is devoted to the history of the Jewish community of the city.

Worth seeing

  • Synagogue (16th century), Kyryla i Mefodiya 23

  • Ostrogski Castle: the complex includes the Palace of the Ostrogski Dukes from the 15th–16th century, the gate from the 15th century and the Princes' Lubomirski Palace from the 18the century, Zamkova 7a

  • Bernardine Monastery (1629), Danyla Halyckoho 28

  • Lutsk Gate (1623), Danyla Halyckoho 32

  • Orthodox Church of St. George and the bell tower of the Orthodox Church of St. George (1700), Sadova 10

  • Church and monastery of the Carmelite Convent (1630–1686), Tarasa Shevchenky 51

  • House of Dąbrowski (19th century), Mykhaila Hryhzevskoho 156

  • Cathedral of St. Elias (1908), Danyla Halyckoho 13

  • Merchant houses (19th century), Kyryla i Mefodiya 6, 10

  • House of Elbert (19th century), Tarasa Bulby 4

  • House of Grynberg (18th century), Svobody 1

  • Parish church (1832), Ostrozkoho 18

  • Trading and residential tenements (19th century), Svobody 8–18, Mykhaila Drahomanova 1, Kyryla i Mefodiya 12, hop manufacture (19th century), Svobody 48

  • Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration (Spaso-Preobrażeńska) (17th century), Ivana Franky 30

  • The Shuvalov Manor (19th century), Mykhaila Hryhzevskoho 104

 

Surrounding area

Tarakaniv (6 km): fortified town (19th century)

Mlyniv (20 km): Jewish cemetery (18th century); palace (1791), now a museum; Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God (1840)

Mizoch (30 km): Jewish cemetery (18th century); Church of John of Nepomuk (1795)

Zdolbuniv (42 km): Jewish cemetery (18th century) with over 100 matzehavs; Church of St. Peter and Paul (1908)

Rivne (45 km): the capital of the region; Jewish cemetery (16th century); 2 synagogues (19th century, Szkilna); Museum of Local History; churches, parks, theatres

Klevan (64 km): Jewish cemetery (18th century); former synagogue (19th century); the Czartoryski Castle (15th century); Church of the Annunciation (1630), Orthodox Church of the Birth of the Mother of God (1777); green train "tunnel of love"

Author: Yuriy Pshenichnyi

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