Pinkas Pruzany and It's Vicinity
p. 5 - 8
PRUZANA IN THREE ENCYCLOPAEDIAS
A. Excerpt from the Jewish Encyclopaedia, a collection of information about Judaism and Jewish culture in the past and present, under the general editorship of S.A. Harkawi and Dr. L. Katzenlson. Part 13 with photos and maps. Publishers: the Jewish Sciences Publication Society and the Publishers Brokhauz-Efron, St. Petersburg.
PRUZANY-during Polish rule belonged to the district (Wojevovsxcwo) of Brisk, as a part of the "Lithuanian State Committee" in 1623 in the Brisk region. At the end of the 16th century, Rabbi Yoel Sirkis served it on the Rabbinate. Jewish merchants from Pruzana are mentioned in the Brisk registers of 1583. At the meeting of the Lithuanian State Committee which was held in Pruzana in 1628, it was decided to go on holding committee sessions there, but no more meetings were hold in Pruzana. In 1644, the Jews of Pruzana received from King,Wadyslaw, in addition to the rights approved in Lithuania, the following privileges: to buy houses and plots in the market square and town streets, sell wine, ale and mead, deal in workshops and trade and construct synagogues provided they were not like Christian churches. The Jews were also exempt from paying taxes for the land for synagogues and cemeteries. They also received extra privilieges. King Jan Kazimierz reaffirmed the main privileges in 1650, but banned the purchase of new land for building a synagogue. These rights were again reaffirmed by King Jan Sobieski in 1677 and Augustus II in 1698. The lists of head tax paid by Jews in the Brisk district in 1705, including the leasees in the villages, totalled 485 zlotys. In 1766, there were 641 Jews in the town, (according to lists I and II of the Lithuanian State Register, Vilna, Central Archive No. 3633 Berrzadskypapers).
At that time, Purzana served as a regional centre (Ujezd) of the Grodno Gubernja. According to the 1797 lists, there was no mention of Jewish or Christian merchants, but there were 2,213 Christian inhabitants and 1,285 Jews and Karaites. According to the count (Revizia) of 1847 there were in the Pruzana district: 2,583 Jews. In Bereza 515; in Malch 521; in Seltz 680; in Scherschew 3,773.
The 1897 register showed there were 139,000 inhabitants in the Pruzana area, including 17,826 Jews. At that time, there were 7,633 residents of Pruzana town, including 5,080 Jews. In settlements of under 500 inhabitants, the Jews formed the largest percentage of the population. In Bereza, the population was 6,226 including 2,623 Jews; in Bluden 780 inhabitants, of whom 210 were Jews; in Malch 2,159 including 1,201 Jews; in Narewka 1,004 out of 1,268 were Jews; in Seltz 866 out of 2,642. At Sosnovka 99 out of 627. In Scherschev Jews were 2553 out of 5079.
In 1910, there was a Talmud Torah in Pruzana and there were famous rabbis serving on its rabbinate more than once. In the middle of the 19th century, Rabbi Yeruham Yehuda Leib Perelman, Rabbi Eliahu Haim Maisels and Rabbi Eliahu Feinstein served in Pruzana.
B. Excerpt from"Encyclopaedia Judaica", Volume 13, P-Rec, issued by Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jerusalem, The Macmillan Company; page 1294;
Distinguished rabbis served in the town. At the close of the 16th century, R. Joel Sirkes, the renowned author of the Bah (Bayit Hadash), officiated as rabbi and rosh yeshivah for some time. R. David b. Samuel ha-Levi, author of the Turei Zahav (taz) also held the rabbinical office for a brief period. Among the last rabbis of the town, one of the most prominent was R. Elijah Feinstein (1842-1929) who was appointed in 1884. Active in the affairs of Polish Jewry, he wrote Sefer Halikhot Eliyahu ("Book of the Demeanors of Elijah," 1932), and a novella on Maimonides which was published in 1929. He was succeeded by his son-in-law R. David Feigenbaum, who perished in the Holocaust. (Sh.L.K.) Holocaust Period and After. Under Soviet rule (1934-41) the Jewish communal bodies were disbanded. Private enterprise was gradually liquidated as merchandise was sold and no new stock made available. Cooperatives were set up for the skilled craftsmen. Educational institutions were reorganized, and a Yiddish-language school set up. The Jewish orphanage was combined with its Christian-run counterpart and placed under the municipality.
On June 27,1941, after war broke out between Germany and the U.S.S.R., the Germans entered Pruzhany. They immediately exacted a fine from the Jewish community of 500,000 rubles, 2 kg. gold, and 10 kg. silver, to be paid within 24 hours. A Judenrat was set up, first chaired by Welwel Schreibman and later by Yizhak Janowicz, which tried to cope with the emergency. The Germans set up a ghetto on Sept. 22, 1941. Workshops were created in the hope that the economic utility of the Jews to the Germans would forestall deportations. The Judenrat combated the decrees against the Jewish inhabitants, gaining the confidence of members of the community. The ghetto swelled when four thousand Jews were brought in, 2,000 from Bialystok, and 2,000 from towns in the vicinity. In the latter half of 1942 an underground resistance organization was formed in the ghetto. Cells were established, arms acquired, and contacts sought with the partisans on the outside. On Jan. 27, 1943, two Jewish partisans approached the Judenrat to strengthen contact with the underground. Germans caught them by surprise, but with the help of some of the Judenrat members the partisans escaped. The Judenrat was then charged with collaborating with the partisans. The following day the Germans began the deportation of the 10,000 inmates of the ghetto, 2,500 being dispatched daily to Auschwitz. Within four days the community was destroyed. Some groups of Jews fled to the forests and joined the Jewish Partisans who operated in the vicinity. In the late 1960s there was a Jewish population of about 60 (12 families). The former Great Synagogue was turned into an electric power plant. A mass grave of Jewish victims massacred by the Nazis was repeatedly desecrated and a road was built through its site. (Ar. W.) Bibliography: Pinkes fun Funf Fartilikte Kehiles: Pruzhana, Bereza... (1958), 3-323, 599-690.
Extract from Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Supplementary Volume 2,
Bibliography: Pruzana Town Pinkes-1930, M. W. Bernstein (Editor) A Chronicle of the destroyed Jewish Communities of the towns P'... 1958; D. Kirshner The Destruction of Pruzana 1974.
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