18 March 2011

Mayn shtetele Soroke

Soroca (Сороки in Russian, Сороки in Ukrainian, Soroki in Polish, םאָראָקע in Yiddish) is the district capital and namesake port on the Dniester River in present-day Republic of Moldova. The first documentary reference to the town dates from 1499. It was home to one of the oldest Jewish communities of Moldavia. The most ancient Jewish tombs are from the 16th century. The main synagogue was built in 1775. In 1772, a dozen Jewish families (of a total of 170 families) lived in Soroca, which belonged to the Principality of Moldavia till 1812.

Situated in one of the most fertile areas of the world, Soroca - which from 1812 belongs to Russia as part of Bessarabia - became a center of rapid growth of Jewish settlements since the creation of the first Jewish agricultural colonies in 1836. In 1817, 157 Jewish families lived in Soroca, in 1847 there were 343; in 1864 they were 4135 and, in 1897, 8783 (representing 57% of the population). In 1861, already considered a major center of Jewish farming in Russia, Soroca and its peripheral agricultural settlements produced tobacco, grapes and various fruits.

In 1900, at the point of utmost prosperity of Jewish life in Soroca, the city had 17 synagogues [in the picture, the Tailors' Synagogue ca. 1920]. Emigration, however, mainly to the United States and Argentina, began with the adoption of restrictive laws in May 1882 by the Tsar Alexander III and the resulting economic hardship. With the end of II WW, Soroca and all of Bessarabia will make part of Romania. In 1930, the city had 5,462 Jews (36% of the population).

When German forces entered Romania and Soroca in July 1941, the systematic annihilation of the Jews began. A concentration camp was established in the vicinity, in Vertujeni, where 26,000 Jews were arrested. From September until late December 1941, the survivors were deported on foot to camps in Transnistria. Many were killed or died from hunger and exhaustion during the journey. Few survived the war.

It is estimated that, after the war, perhaps there were 1000 Jews in Soroca. About 200 Jews lived there in 2004.

In the 1990s, Arkady Gendler, a native of Soroca, wrote the song Mayn shtetele Soroke.

Source: Soroca article, written by Wolf Moskovich, published in YIVO.

No comments:

Post a Comment