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 held 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 bv 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 1 and II of the Lithuanian State Register, Vilna, Central Archive No. 3633 Berrzadsky papers).

At that time, Pruzana 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 Perelknan, 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;

PRUZHANY (Pol. Pruzana), city in Brest oblast. Belorussian S.S.R. Situated on the road which leads from Brest-Litovsk to Moscow, it was under Polish rule until 1795: in the third partition of Poland it was incorporated into Russia. and in 1919 regained by Poland until 1939. Jews lived in Pruzhany during the middle of the 15th century and around 1450 there was a heva kaddisha (burial society) which noted its activities in a register. In 1463 the first synagoue (destroyed by fire in 1863) was erected near the center of the Jewish quarter. In 1495 the Jews of Pruzhany were included in the general expulsion of Jews from Lithuania, but they returned after a few years. In 1563 there were 11 Jewish families and 276 Christian families. Both Christians and Jews earned their livelihood primarily from agriculture and livestock, although there were some engaged in commerce and crafts. In 1588 the town was granted autonomous rights according to the Magdeburg Law. The rights of the Jews were formally drawn up and ratified by Ladislaus IV in 1644 and subsequently, on several occasions, by his successors. According to these rights Jews were authorized to reside in Pruzhany, to practice their religion and engage freely in their occupations. At the close of the 17th century there were 571 Jews (42% of the population); in 1868, during the period of Russian rule, there were 2,575 Jews (61% of the total). By the close of the 19th century the Jewish community, enjoyed a vigorous social and cultural life in which all trends and parties were active. In 1921 the Jewish population was 4,152 (about 57% of the total). With the establishment of independent Poland, Jews also participated in the municipal government. In 1927, 16 of the 24 delegated elected to the administration were Jews. In the elections of the Jewish community in 1928, M. Goldfein, a delegate of the merchants, was elected president.

Distinguished rabbis served in the town. At the close of the 16th century, R. Joel Sirkes, the renowned author of the Bach (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 Malmonides 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, 3,000 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 tile vicinity. In the late 1960's 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'Jewisli victims massacred by the Nazis was repeatedly desecrated and a road was built through its site. (Ar. W.)

Bibliography: Pinkes fun Futif Fartilikte Kehiles: Pruzhana, Bereza... ( 1958), 3-323, 599-690.



C. Extract from Encyclopaedia Hebraica, Supplementary Volume 2, Encyclopaedia Publishing Co., Jerusalem 1982-pp. 961-2.

Pruzana, a town in the Brisk district of the Soviet Union. Until 1795, Pruzana was under Polish rule and since then (apart from the 1919-39 period) it has been under Russian control. Jews have lived in Pruzana since the 15th century. The first synagogue in Pruzana was built in 1463 and destroyed in 1863. In 1568, the right of Jews to live in Pruzana in accordance with their religious tenets was confirmed. Since that time, their numbers increased continually and in 1921 there were 4,152 Jews or 57% of the population.

Rabbi Joel Sirkis (see Habah-according to the initials of his book Bail Hadash (New home) and Rabbi David Ben-Shmuel Halevi (see Hataz-according to the initials of his book Turei Zahav (Golden Columns)) were active in Pruzana and so was Rabbi Eliyahu Feinstein (1842-1929), one of the last rabbis and the author of Halichot Eliyahu. There was widespread Jewish-Zionist cultural activity in the town. There was an elementary school, Tarbut institutions, the Y.L. Peretz Yiddish school and two Yiddish weeklies.

In 1941, the Germans entered Pruzana and imposed a high ransom on the Jews. In September, the ghettto was established and about 3,000 Jews from. Bialystock and 2,000 more from nearby settlements were brought into the ghetto. In the second half of 1942, an anti-Nazi underground was formed and when it was detected all 10,000 Jews ill the ghetto were sent to the death camps in four days; only a few were saved. In the 1960s, there were about 12 Jewish families in Pruzana.

Bibliography: Pruzana Town Pinkas- 1930,. M. W. Bernstein (Editor) A Chronicle of the destroyed Jewish Communities of the town P'... 1958; D. Kirshner The Destruction of Pruzana 1974.