KONOTOP Jews Past and Present


The community had a religious school, Heder, where Jewish boys were taught God’s law, and the synagogue, where all of the people gathered to pray. Jews, who were more prosperous, sent their children, who graduated from Heder to study abroad.4 In spite of any animosity of Ukrainians towards Jews, Konotop’s Jewish community used to live in relative peace. There were no pogroms (massacres), neither at the end of 19th,nor at the beginning of the 20th centuries. There were some cases of hooliganism5 exercised by market boys and schoolboys, who were not Jewish.6 It was very popular to come into Heder or synagogue and scream wildly in order to interrupt the lessons or prayers. The fights between Jews and Ukrainian children were often. But Jewish youths could defend themselves.

A significant group of the Jewish population consisted of intelligentsia, such as the doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists. Most of the doctors were Jews, Marshov, Shapiro, Zimeev, and Apperbaum. Those were prosperous parents, who had the capability to give their children an education abroad. The Russian universities were closed to them. Jewish children didn't have the right to study in the universities. The same situation was applied to the lawyers, Paritskiy, Khrahovskiy, and Lazarev. Only Lazarev finished Odessa University and after that he was included in the rank of the honor citizen. In Konotop artists lived, worked, and contributed significant input to the cultural history of Ukraine: Alexander Imilievech Gofman (1861—1939) and Mark Grigorievich Vainshtein (1894—1952). But the majority of Jews were burgers [burghers].7 Merchants were the exceptions. They and honor citizens (people, who graduated from Russian universities or institutes) were free from some of the nationalistic lawful limitations for the first time from the prohibition to live outside of the “Pale of Settlement.”

The above-mentioned category of prosperous people was only a minority of the town's Jewish population. The majority were the poorer people:

craftsmen, workers in small shops, helpers of qualified workers, and lesser merchants. There were people of air, who didn't have stable earnings and they worked from time to time or resold the goods of others. There also were the professional beggars.


4 Under the Kahal system girls were usually schooled at home by their mothers. Heder

was for boys, who were taught religious subjects. The brightest of the boys were

promoted to the Yeshivot.

5 Anti-Jewish gangs or gangsters.

6 Street kids.

7 Burgher is an inhabitant of a borough or town; a member of the middle class; a

prosperous and solid citizen.



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