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(Pol., Niemirów; Rus., Nemirov), town on the Ustia River, a tributary of the Southern Bug, the district center of the Vinnytsya region of Ukraine. From 1569, the town belonged to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, from 1649 it was within the region of Cossack autonomy, and from 1678 to 1699 it was under the rule of the Turkish governor-general, who resided in the city in 1678–1681 and 1683–1685. From 1793, it belonged to Russia and from 1920 to the Soviet Union.

Jews settled in Niemirów at the end of the 1500s, and by the first half of the next century, the Jewish community was one of the largest and most influential in Bracław province. Yom Tov Lipmann Heller served as rabbi from 1631 to 1634.

Niemirów was one of the first towns to be attacked during the Khmel’nyts’kyi uprising. Cossacks seized the fortified city and castle on 10 June 1648 (20 Sivan on the Hebrew calendar), murdering Jews who had sought refuge there, including Rabbi Yeḥi’el Mikhl. The massacre was described repeatedly in Jewish chronicles and became a tragic symbol of the Khmel’nyts’kyi depredations. The Council of Four Lands soon declared the anniversary as a day of public mourning and fasting.

Jewish life in Niemirów was renewed in the 1670s under the rule of Polish (from 1674) and Turkish (from 1678) governors-general (it is said that in 1685 Governor-General Hetman Iurii Khmel’nyts’kyi executed the wife of a Jewish merchant named Aharon because the merchant had failed to declare a son’s marriage). When the peace agreement of 1699 returned Bracław province to Poland, Jews began to settle in Niemirów in large numbers, once again developing a significant community. By 1765, there were 602 Jews living there, owning 151 residences. In 1779, eight annual fairs were started in the town, giving new impetus to development. By 1787, the Jewish population had risen to 1,215, and according to the Russian census of 1799, some 858 Jews owned 254 homes and 95 shops in the center of town. By 1850, a vast majority (165, or 87%) of the town’s artisans were Jewish.

Table: The Jewish Population of Nemyriv

The first proponents of Hasidism came to Niemirów in the 1760s and 1770s. They were among the Ba‘al Shem Tov’s closest associates, and included his scribe Aleksander (d. 1773) who became a ritual slaughterer, and Ya‘akov Yosef ha-Kohen (1710–1784), author of Toldot Ya‘akov Yosef, who became a rabbi there. The Bratslav Hasidim were led by Natan Sternhartz of Nemirov (1780–1844) after the death of Naḥman of Bratslav in 1810; Sternhartz lived there between 1810 and 1812 and again from 1835 to 1838. Maskilim were present as well; among the first was Iakov Abra[ha]mson, a physician who introduced smallpox vaccinations in 1805 and distinguished himself in 1831 during a cholera epidemic.

In 1853, the town contained a Great Synagogue and three prayer houses (seven by the beginning of the twentieth century). A Jewish hospital was founded in 1830 and was renovated in 1880. In 1881, 63 Jews were pupils at Nemirov’s gymnasium, out of a total enrollment of 444. Before the outbreak of World War I, the local Talmud Torah was reorganized, with Hebrew becoming the language of instruction.

In 1897, the number of Jews in Nemirov had grown to 5,287 (representing 57% of the total population). By the beginning of the twentieth century, both Zionist and Bund parties were active, and during the 1917 Revolution Rabbi Refa’el Finkelshtein—who had served as crown rabbi under the old regime and was universally respected—was elected rabbi of the newly established “democratic” community. At his initiative during beginning of the civil war, an armed unit was formed, with leadership made up of the different nationalities living in Nemirov. This organization was able to prevent pogroms during the period of numerous changes of power in the city.

After the civil war, the Jewish population of Nemirov was bolstered by the arrival of refugees from neighboring settlements, reaching 4,176 in 1926. In 1923–1924, Jews formed three agricultural collectives, two of which were in Ekaterinoslav guberniia. In 1922 Evobshchestkom (the Jewish Public Committee) organized a children’s home and hospital and in 1924 a children’s educational colony was established for pogrom victims of the region (there were 240 children in 1929). In 1923 Yiddish became a language of instruction in a Jewish school that had been established in 1921 with the support of the Kultur-lige. In 1926, a Russian school, 98 percent of whose pupils were Jews, was converted into a Jewish school. In 1939, there were 3,001 Jews living in Nemirov (37% of the total population).

The German occupation of Nemirov during World War II lasted from July 1941 until March 1944. The Nazis forced the Jews to perform labor for German military units from the outset. After a month, three side streets were fenced off to create a ghetto. In September and November 1941, in a trench by the local brick factory, the Nazis shot several hundred Jews who were unable to work. On 26–27 June, surviving Jews were forced into the Great Synagogue, where the Nazis shot about 1,500 of them and sent some remaining young people to a work camp. On 8 May 1943, the Nazis murdered the final 250 inmates of the camp, leaving just 360 Jewish artisans in Nemirov; they were shot during the summer of 1943. The total number of Jews murdered in the town was about 3,500.

Several dozen Jewish families returned to Nemirov after its liberation, many of whom worked in medical services and education. As a result of natural decrease and mass emigration in the 1990s, the Jewish population of the town practically disappeared. In 1989 it numbered 96, and in 2001, just 2 Jews remained.

Suggested Reading

Hirsch Horowitz (Tsevi ha-Levi Ish Horovits), “Nemirov,” in Le-Toldot ha-kehilot be-Polin, pp. 392–395 (Jerusalem, 1978); Mendel Osherowitch, “Nemirov,” in Shtet un shtetlekh in Ukraine, vol. 1, pp. 22–33 (New York, 1948); Johanan Pograbinsky, “Nemirov,” in ‘Arim ve-imahot be-Yisra’el, ed. Judah Leib Fishman (Maimon), vol. 2, pp. 270–283 (Jerusalem, 1948); Johanan Pograbinsky, “Tipusim me‘ulim me-‘ir Nemirov,” He-‘Avar 6 (1958): 65–69.   



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson