Members of the Jewish community in the Great Synagogue, Soroca, ca. 1920. The chair hanging from the chandelier was deposited there by the waters of a flood that engulfed the town. (YIVO)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the


Town, district center, and port on the Dniester River, now in the Republic of Moldova. The first reference to a settlement in Soroca (Rus., Soroki; Yid., Soroke) dates from 1499. The town was home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in Bessarabia, mentioned by the Swedish preacher Conrad Jacob Hildebrandt in 1653. The oldest Jewish tombstones are from the sixteenth century and the first notations in the local pinkas (communal record book) are from 1770. The main synagogue was built in 1775. In 1772, a dozen Jewish families (out of a total of 170 households) lived in Soroca.

Bride being led to the ḥupah during a wedding, Soroca, Romania (now in Moldova) ca. 1920. (YIVO)

Situated in a fertile, black-earth area, Soroki (which belonged to Russia from 1812), became a fast-growing district center of Jewish settlement from the establishment of its first Jewish agricultural colonies in 1836. In 1817, 157 Jewish families lived in Soroki; in 1847 there were 343; in 1864 there were 4,135; and in 1897 there were 8,783 (representing 57.2% of the population). Noted in 1861–1862 as one of the five major centers of Jewish agricultural activity in Russia, Soroki and its outlying farming settlements produced tobacco, grapes, and various other fruits (the area included the towns of Alexăndreni, Capreşti, Coloniţa, Dombroveni, Mărculeşti, Vertujeni, and Zgurița). A nearby nursery and vineyard served as a training ground for Zionist pioneers.

At the beginning of the 1800s, David Shelomoh Eibenschütz served as a rabbi in Soroki. The writers and educators Noah Rosenblum and Kadish-Isaak Abramovich-Ginzburg developed secular Jewish education programs at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1900—a highpoint of Jewish life in Soroki—the town had 17 synagogues. Emigration (mainly to the United States and Argentina) had begun, however, after the passing of the restrictive May Laws of 1882 and the resulting economic difficulties. In 1930 the town had 5,462 Jews (36% of the population).

Entrance to the Tailors’ Synagogue, Soroca (now in Moldova), ca. 1920. (YIVO)

When German and Romanian forces entered Soroki in July 1941, they systematically began to annihilate its Jews. A concentration camp was established in adjoining Vertujeni, where 26,000 Jews were imprisoned. From September to the end of December 1941, those who survived were deported on foot to camps in Transnistria. Many were shot or died of hunger and exhaustion on the roads. Few survived the war.

It is estimated that after the war perhaps 1,000 Jews were in Soroki. The town’s only synagogue functioned until 1961, when Soviet authorities closed it; a matzo bakery survived until 1966. Jewish culture began to revive in 1989, and in February 1991 the Soroca Society for Jewish Culture started to publish a page in the local newspaper Realitatea. Approximately 200 Jews were living there in 2004, and branches of the Association of Jewish Communities of the Republic of Moldova and the American Joint Distribution Committee operated in the town.

In his novel Ha-Keramim (The Vineyards; 1930) Shelomoh Hillels wrote a colorful description of Jewish life in Soroca, and the Yiddish poet Zelik Berdichever evoked the world of ordinary Jews there in his poems. In the 1990s, Arkady Gendler (1921– ), a native of Soroca, wrote the song “Mayn shtetele Soroke” (My Shtetl Soroca).

Suggested Reading

Jean Ancel, “Marculeşti,” in Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, ed. Israel Gutman, vol. 3, pp. 942–943 (New York, 1990); Jean Ancel, “Vertujeni,” in Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, ed. Israel Gutman, vol. 4, pp. 1563–1564 (New York, 1990); Arkadii Mazur, Stranitsy istorii sorokskikh evreev: Vtoraia polovina 19 veka–20 vek (Chişinău, Moldova, 1999); Haim Toren, Sefer Dombroven; Ner-zikaron la-moshavah ha-ḥaklal’it ha-yehudit ha-ri’shonah be-Besarabyah (Jerusalem, 1974).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1232, David Seltzer, Papers, 1930-ca. 1980; RG 816, Bershader Benevolent Society, Records, 1937-1949; RG 832, First Soroker Bessarabier Mutual Aid Society, Records, 1910-1950s.