The ESJF are pleased to announce completion of the fencing project at Makhnivka Jewish cemetery in Vinnytsia oblast in Ukraine. The cemetery is home to around 400 preserved matzevot, dating from the late 19th century to 1987. This is the first ESJF project in which the cemetery fence belongs to a community famous for its Hasidic court, the modern name of which is Merkaz Ha-Torah of Belz-Machnovke.
References to the Jews of Makhnivka (Makhnovka) can be found as early as 1648, when the Khmelnytsky uprising led to the destruction of the Jewish community along with most of the town. A century later, the town began to recover, and the owner of Maknivka, Prince Potocki, established his residence there. As the village developed into a small town, many Jews moved there from Berdychiv and other towns. By 1797, Makhnivka was home to 896 male Jews of the Burgess class.
However, as local trade grew, many Jews were attracted back to Berdychiv, which continued to grow as Makhnivka’s status slipped. In 1846, most of the towns administrative institutions had transferred to Berdychiv, and Maknivka’s significance diminished. When the railroad was constructed in the latter half of the 19th century, it bypassed Maknivka, marking a major point in the town’s decline.
The local Jewish community numbered around 2,000 in the mid-19th century, with a synagogue and four Jewish houses of prayer to accommodate their worship requirements. In the interwar period, the community grew, reaching a peak of 2,500 people. In the build up to WWII, the majority of the town’s Jewish community left, leaving only 700 Jews in Makhnivka at the beginning of the Nazi occupation. On September 9th, 1941, 800 Jews were murdered in Zhezhelevsky forest, near the town. Around 100 of the remaining Jews, mostly artisans, were then forced into the ghetto. They were then killed between August and December, 1942.
Makhnivka is hugely significant to Hasidism due to the court established there in 1886, which exists today in Israel. In the early 20th century it was led by Avraham Yehoshya Twersky of Makhnivka, who remained there until early the 1930s under Soviet rule, before moving to Moscow in the capacity of Hasidic leader of the Cherkizovo district. He was subsequently evacuated to Tashkent, and finally exiled to Yeniseysk in Siberia. Upon Stalin’s death in 1953, he returned to Moscow, leading a Hasidic group in Cherkizovo.
In 1963, he left the USSR for Israel, where he re-established Makhnovka Hasidism. The court still functions in Jerusalem to this day.