Email Email   


Peninsula in the former Soviet Union, on the shore of the Black Sea. Jews first settled there during the time of the Second Temple, more than two thousand years ago, possibly even earlier. Their numbers grew under Roman rule. Old Jewish inscriptions discovered in Crimea indicate that a substantial and prosperous Jewish population existed there at the beginning of the common era. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Khazar Kingdom flourished in the Crimea. First a pagan nation, the Khazars embraced Judaism at an early period in their history. This period of an independent Khazar state ended in 1016, when the Russians and Byzantines united to defeat the Khazars. Jewish communities survived the Tatar invasions in the 13th century. In later periods, prosperous Jewish tradesmen from the Crimea opened routes of commerce to Turkey, Russia, and Poland. When Czarist Russia annexed the region in 1784, most of the Jews were artisans and small traders. In addition to the Jewish population, Crimea had substantial Karaite communities. This sect, founded by Anan ben David during the 8th century, rejected Talmudic tradition, adhering only to biblical law.

In 1924, the Soviet government set aside some of the land of this area for Jewish colonization. Jewish families who had lost their means of livelihood because of the government ban on private enterprise emigrated to the Crimea. A special organization, Komzet, the Commission for the Rural Placement of Jewish Toilers, supervised the colonization. The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) extended financial and technical help to the settlers through the Agro-Joint. Before World War II, there were about 80,600 Jews in the Crimea, out of a total population of more than a million. Twenty-five thousand Jews engaged in agriculture. During Nazi occupation, all the Jewish colonies were destroyed, and most Jews perished. Only a small number returned to their homes after the war.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email