Belaya Tserkov

views updated


BELAYA TSERKOV (Heb. שָׂדֶה לָבָן; "White Field"), ancient town in Kiev district, Ukraine, center of a fertile agricultural region. A community was formed there toward the end of the 16th century; 100 houses in Jewish ownership out of a total of 800 are recorded in 1646. The community was destroyed during the *Chmielnicki rising in 1648, and again suffered at the beginning of the *Haidamack rising in 1703. Subsequently, Jews again began to settle there, in 1765 numbering 1,876 poll-tax-payers in the town and its vicinity. After Belaya Tserkov had been attacked by the hordes under Cossack general Gonta (1768), only 223 Jewish inhabitants remained. The community increased to 1,077 in 1787; 6,665 in 1847; and 18,720 in 1897 (54% of the total population). The grain trade and sugar industry contributed to the growth of the town during the 19th century. In 1904, Jews owned 250 workshops and 25 factories engaged in light industry employing 300 Jewish workers. The Jews there suffered from pogroms in 1905. During the civil war of 1919–20, about 850 Jews were massacred in Belaya Tserkov by Ukrainian troops, bands of peasants, and soldiers of the White Army. The religious and cultural life of the community, which numbered 15,624 (36.4%) in 1926, came to an end with the establishment of the Soviet government. Under the Soviets in 1929, 240 artisans were organized in cooperatives and 3,628 were unemployed. Of these, 2,655 were sent to the local sugar refinery and 847 went to work in the nearby kolkhozes. Two Yiddish schools operated in Belaya Tserkov, one of them a vocational school. In 1939, Jews numbered 9,284 (20% of the total population). The town was occupied by the Germans on July 16, 1941. They confiscated all Jewish belongings in October, and later they assembled 6,000 Jews from Belaya Tserkov and its environs in prisoner-of-war camp No. 334, and murdered all of them. There were 5,600 Jews listed as residents in Belaya Tserkov in the 1959 census. Its sole synagogue was closed in 1962 and thereafter Jews conducted private prayer services. During the 1965 High Holidays, militia broke into such minyanim, arrested participants and confiscated religious articles. In 1970, the Jewish population was estimated at 15,000. Most left in the 1990s. In Jewish folklore Belaya Tserkov is also referred to as the "Black Abomination" (Yid. Shvartse Tume), a play on its name in Russian ("White Church").


S. Ettinger, in: Zion, 21 (1956), 107–42; Die Judenpogrome in Russland 2 (1909), 406–8; A.D. Rosenthal, Megillat ha-Tevaḥ 1 (1927); 78–81; Eynikeyt, no. 24 (1945). add. bibliography: pk Ukrainah, s.v.

[Yehuda Slutsky /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Belaya Tserkov

Updated About content Print Article