November 19, 2019

ESJF fences the Jewish cemetery in Makhnivka

We finished fencing Makhnivka in Vinnytsia oblast in Ukraine. Around 400 tombstones preserved in the Jewish cemetery of Makhnivka, dating from the late 19th century to 1987. This is the first ESJF project where the cemetery we fence belongs to a community that is famous for a Hasidic court, the modern name of which is Merkaz Ha-Torah of Belz-Machnovke.

The Jews of Makhnivka (Makhnovka) were first mentioned in 1648, when during the Khmelnytsky uprising the Jewish community was destroyed together with the most of the town. A century later the town began to recover, and owner of Makhnovka, prince Potocki established his residence there. As the village grew into a small town, many Jews were attracted there from Berdychiv and other places. In 1797 in Makhnivka there were 896 male Jews of the burgess class.
However, as local trade grew, Berdychiv began to attract Jews back; as Berdychiv grew, Makhnovka was losing its status. In 1846, most of the administrative institutions were transferred to Berdychiv, and the significance of Makhnivka fell. When the railroad was constructed in second half of 19th century, it bypassed Makhnivka, causing the decline of the town.
The Jewish community counted ca. 2000 people from the mid-19th century, with a synagogue and four Jewish prayer houses. In the interwar period, the community grew, reaching 2,500 people. Before WW2, most of Jews left the town: only around 700 Jews remained in Makhnivka when Nazi occupation started. On 9 September 1941, 800 Jews were killed in the Zhezhelevsky forest near the town. Around a hundred of remaining Jews (mainly artisans) were gathered in the ghetto. They were killed between August and December 1942.

Makhivka is hugely significant for Hasidism due to a court established there in 1886, that exists today in Israel. In the early 20th century it was led by Avraham Yehoshya Twersky of Makhnovka, who stayed there until early the 1930s under Soviet rule, then moving to Moscow in the capacity of the Hasidic leader in Cherkizovo district, subsequently evacuated to Tashkent, and finally even in Siberian exile in Yeniseysk. Upon Stalin’s death in 1953, he returned to Moscow, leading a Hasidic group in Cherkizovo. He left the USSR for Israel only in 1963, where he re-established the Makhnovka Hasidism. The court today functions in Jerusalem.

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