Moyshe Khone Yekls, a water carrier, Równe (now Rivne, Ukraine), ca. 1924. He was also a celebrity in local sports circles as a prizefighter. (Forward Association / YIVO)

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City in Ukraine; capital of the Rivne region. Before 1793 and between 1920 and 1939, Rivne (Pol., Równe; Rus., Rovno) belonged to Poland. Its first Jews, and probably the town’s earliest organized Jewish community, appeared there in the mid-sixteenth century.

During the time of the Khmel’nyts’kyi massacres, Rivne suffered greatly. In 1649, there were six Jewish homes in the town; in 1654 the number had fallen to two. However, by 1700 the Jewish community revived and was paying 1,000 zlotys in poll taxes. The town began to flourish in 1723 after it had passed into the possession of the Lubomirski family. In the 1730s, the Council of Four Lands granted the Rivne community’s request for a reduction in taxes imposed upon it by the community in Ostróg. In 1749, the town’s owner ratified the charter of the burial society, and in 1765 he granted the Jewish community a charter of privileges. In 1786 he gave permission for the construction of a synagogue and allotted land for expanding the cemetery.

Gentile wet nurse and Jewish child, Równe, Poland (now Rivne, Ukr.), 1921. (YIVO)

Dov Ber, the Magid of Mezritsh, lived in Rivne from 1760 to 1772. In 1772, the town hosted a gathering of Hasidic leaders who had been called to deal with the ban on the Hasidim at the behest of the Gaon of Vilna. According to the 1765 census, 881 Jews were living in Rivne, while 541 Jews were recorded in nearby villages. As a result of the second partition of Poland in 1793, the town was annexed to Russia and became a district center in Volhynia guberniia.

At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, Rivne developed rapidly, due in large part to the construction of two railroad lines (in 1870 and 1885) that passed through the town. Its Jewish population grew from 3,788 in 1847 to 13,780 in 1897 (representing 56% of the town’s population); to 19,791 in 1913 (56.7%).

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Rivne was the economic hub of Volhynia guberniia. Many Jews engaged in commerce and the free professions; Jews also owned significant numbers of industrial enterprises. Jewish public and religious life developed vigorously, and various charitable and cultural institutions were established. A Ḥoveve Tsiyon (Lovers of Zion) group was established in 1884 and became a Zionist organization in 1897.

During the 1905–1907 Revolution, the Bund and the Zionist socialist parties were active in Rivne, and a number of Jewish trade unions were formed, though they disbanded after the revolution. The elections to the Second Duma at the beginning of 1907 were sharply contested, with Zionists opposing Jewish liberals. The trade union movement revived in 1912 and a bureau was established that united all the unions of the town. Historian Mark Wischnitzer, linguist Nokhem Shtif, and socialist Moyshe Zilberfarb were born in Rivne; Yankev Morogowski (Zeydl Rovner) acted as cantor there before 1914.

After the 1917 Revolution, a democratic community organization was established, but during the Civil War, Jews of Rivne suffered from the passage of power from one side to the other. In January and May 1919, Petliura units carried out pogroms in the town. In the summer of 1920, Rivne became part of Poland. Although the community was not a provincial administrative center, it continued to be the largest town and economic center of Volhynia.

Doctors and nurses from an antityphus team sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Równe, Poland (present-day Rivne, Ukr.), posing with disinfection equipment, 1921 or 1922. (YIVO)

In the 1920s and 1930s, the majority of Rivne’s industrial enterprises, handicraft shops, and commercial establishments belonged to Jews, who also constituted three-quarters of the free professionals. In 1921, 21,702 Jews lived in Rivne (constituting 71% of the general population), and in 1931 the numbers reached 22,737 (56%). The town was a center for Hebrew education, with a Tarbut high school (for which a new building was constructed in 1936), two elementary schools, and three kindergartens. In addition, there were two Jewish high schools in which the language of instruction was Polish, as well as a Yiddish-language Sholem Aleichem School (until 1934). In 1925, a Hasidic yeshiva moved to Rivne. Two Yiddish newspapers were published in the town.

In 1939, Rivne became part of Soviet Ukraine and was designated as a district center. German troops occupied the town on 28 June 1941, and in July and August about 3,000 Jews were murdered. The Judenrat leaders, Moisei Bergman and Yakov (Leon) Sukharchuk, committed suicide before the end of the year. On 7–8 November 1941, approximately 21,000 Jews were executed by shooting squads in a wood about 6 kilometers from the town. The remaining 5,000 Jews were forced into a ghetto, which was liquidated on 13 July 1942. Some Jews were able to escape and join partisan units, taking part in the liberation of Rivne on 5 February 1944. Survivors began to gather in the town, and by the end of 1944 about 1,200 Jews had settled there.

A community organization was reestablished and a synagogue opened (only to be closed by the authorities in 1957). Former partisans organized groups to promote illegal emigration to Palestine, and Rivne became a center for this work in 1944. In 1945–1946, the majority of Jews in Rivne who had survived the Holocaust emigrated. However, newcomers from the interior of the Soviet Union replenished the town’s Jewish population. In 1959, a total of 1,311 Jews lived there (making up 2% of the general population); in 1970, the numbers totaled 1,787; and in 1989, there were 1,230. In 1989, the Osher Shvartsman Jewish Culture Society was established, with its headquarters in the small synagogue building of the Trisk Hasidim that had survived the war. About 600 Jews remained in Rivne after the mass Jewish emigration of the 1990s, organized into two religious congregations. The Great Synagogue is used as a sports center.

Suggested Reading

Aryeh Avtiḥi, ed., Rovnah: Sefer zikaron (Tel Aviv, 1956); Yitzhak Brat, “In Volhynia and Polesie,” in The Jewish Press that Was: Accounts, Evaluations and Memories of Jewish Papers in Pre-Holocaust Europe, trans. Haim Shachter, ed. Arie Bar, pp. 242–246 (Jerusalem, 1980); Menahem Gelehrter, Ha-Gimnasyah ha-‘ivrit “Tarbut” be-Rovnah (Jerusalem, 1973); Avraham Klevan, “Rovnah / Równe,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Polin, vol. 5, Vohlin ve-Polesieh, pp. 192–200 (Jerusalem, 1990); Y. Margulyets, Z. Finkelshteyn, and Y. Shvartsapel, eds., A zikorn far Rovne (Daytshland Amer. Zone, 1947), pp. 21–22.



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson