ROSTOV , capital city of the Rostov district, Russian Federation. The town was founded in the middle of the 18th century, and Jews started to settle there in the early 19th century; their population reached 5,000 in 1880, in a total population of 100,000. Rostov's development dates from the close of the 19th century, when Jews actively participated in the development of its commerce. In 1887 the town was transferred (together with the town of *Taganrog) to the region of the Don Cossacks and was thus excluded from the *Pale of Settlement. After the plans to expel the Jews (with the exception of merchants and owners of real estate) were nullified, only Jews who had lived there before 1887 were authorized to reside in the city. In 1897 there were 11,838 Jews (about 10 percent of the total population) in Rostov. Jews, particularly the Poliakov brothers, were an important factor in developing Rostov as a transport center. Some Jews were grain wholesalers, others operated banks, and about 80 percent of the city's doctors were Jews. Between 1899 and 1910, Moses Eleazar *Eisenstadt held the position of government-appointed rabbi (*kazyonny ravvin) in Rostov. He was very active in the strengthening of Judaism and the propagation of Zionism within the community, after Russian assimilation had influenced its members.
In October 1905, pogroms accompanied by looting and the murder of about 150 Jews broke out in the town, lasting three days. During World War i, many refugees from the battle areas arrived in Rostov. These included the ẓaddik of Lubavich, R. Shalom Dov Schneersohn (see *Schneersohn) family, the leader of Chabad Ḥasidism, who died in Rostov in 1920. Under the Soviet regime the Jewish public life of the town was suppressed, the Chabad followers were brought to trial, and many members of the He-Ḥalutz movement were arrested and tried. There existed a Yiddish elementary school and club, but they were closed in the mid-1930s. In 1926 there were 26,323 Jews (8.5 percent of the population) living there, and their numbers grew to 27,039 in 1939 (5.4 percent of the total population). The town was occupied twice by the Germans: November 21–29, 1941, and from July 24, 1942. On August 11, 1942 about 13,000 Jews were murdered by the Germans near the village of Zmiyevka three miles from town. All Jews discovered later were executed at the Jewish cemetery; altogether about 15,000–18,000 were killed in Rostov and its environs.
According to the 1959 census, about 21,500 Jews were again living in the Rostov oblast (district), 1,395 of them having declared Yiddish as their mother tongue; but the actual number of Jews was probably closer to 30,000. From 1959, matzah baking in the synagogue was stopped for reasons of "sanitation"; matzah is brought yearly from Tbilisi. In 1970 there was no synagogue, rabbi, or cantor in Rostov.
Though many Jews left during the 1990s, Jewish life already revived in the late 1980s and an active community center was inaugurated, as well as a Jewish day school, yeshivah, kindergarten, and Sunday school. Chief Rabbi Chaim Fridman conducts varied religious activities at the synagogue. In the early 21st century the Jewish population of the city was around 10,000.
Merder fun Felker (1944); Die Judenpogrome in Russland, 1 (1909).
[Yehuda Slutsky /
Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]