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RUZHANY (Pol. Róźana ; Yid. Rozhanoy or Rozhinoy ), town in Brest district, Belarus; within Poland-Lithuania until the partitions of Poland and between the two world wars. The community of Ruzhany, which was placed under the jurisdiction of the community of Brest-Litovsk by the Lithuanian Council in 1623 (see *Councils of the Lands), existed before that date. From 1662 it is mentioned as an independent community. Following a *blood libel in Ruzhany in 1657, attacks on the Jews by the Christian populace were prevented by the owner of the town. However, agitators demanded that two of the community's notables be handed over to them, and as a result R. Israel b. Shalom and R. Tobias b. Joseph were executed on the second day of Rosh Ha-Shanah. A special seliḥah in their memory was written by the son of R. Israel, and it was read every year during the ne'ilah prayer of the Day of Atonement.

The Jews of Ruzhany suffered during the Polish civil war and the Russian-Swedish War (1700–10). In 1721 the Ruzhany community paid 1,100 zlotys in poll tax, the same amount as the Vilna community and only slightly less than Minsk. However, by 1766 their number had declined to 326 in the town and district (c. 154 in the town itself). By 1847 the Jewish population of the town had risen to 1,467; it numbered 3,599 (71.7% of the total population) in 1897; and 3,718 (66.2%) in 1921. Jews earned their livelihood from trade and crafts, mainly connected with the local fairs, industry and agriculture. Industries were established in Ruzhany from the beginning of the 19th century: there were six textile mills and a number of spinning mills employing about 2,000 Jewish workers, tanneries, and flour mills. Many families engaged in vegetable growing and cultivating orchards which they leased. In 1850 two Jewish agricultural villages were established near Ruzhany; some of their inhabitants were later among the founders of the moshavah *Ekron in Ereẓ Israel. Jews from Ruzhany were among the first to join the Ḥovevei Zion, sending a delegate to the *Kattowitz conference in 1884. In 1904 a Jewish *self-defense group was organized which prevented pogroms. In 1905 revolutionary activities were organized by members of various parties.

During World War i Jewish-owned factories in Ruzhany were burned down and the Jews were robbed by the retreating Cossacks. In 1918, after the withdrawal of the German occupation forces, Polish "legionaries," with the help of the local population, attacked the Jews; several died and many houses were looted. After the war Jewish trade and crafts were severely affected by the Polish government's antisemitic restrictions. The local Gemilut Ḥasidim society was expanded into a cooperative people's bank. In this period many Jews left.

In 1923 a Yiddish secular school was established (later directed by the Central Yiddish School Organization, cysho). There were also a Hebrew *Tarbut school, a private elementary school, a Hebrew and Yiddish public library named after Peretz, and a theatrical company. Zionist groups were active.

Ruzhany was a center of Jewish learning. There existed a ḥeder, a talmud torah, and a yeshivah. Notable rabbis of Ruzhany included R. Jonathan b. Joseph, author of Yeshu'ahbe-Yisrael (Frankfurt, 1720), a work on astronomy; Avigdor b. Samuel ("Ḥarif ") in the 18th century; R. Isaac Ḥaver, a leading Lithuanian rabbi (officiated 1819–1833); and Moredecai-Gimpel *Jaffe. Other Ruzhany personalities included the Zionist pioneer and author Jehiel Michael *Pines; I.T. Eisenstadt (d. 1893), author of Da'at Kedoshim (1897–98); A. *Luboshitzki (1874–1942), Hebrew author and poet; J. Krinski, pedagogue and author of educational textbooks; and Zelig Sher (Shereshevski), journalist active in the Jewish labor party in the United States.

[Dov Rabin]

Holocaust Period

There were about 3,500 Jews living in Ruzhany in 1939. During the period of Soviet rule (1939–41), Jewish community activities ceased. In April 1940 Jewish youth were drafted into the Red Army, and when the German-Soviet war broke out (June 1941) fought against Nazi Germany. Ruzhany was captured by the Germans on June 24, 1941. Twelve of the Jewish intelligentsia in Ruzhany were executed on July 12, and on July 14 another 18 Jews suspected of being Communists were killed. An open ghetto was established in August of 1941. On Nov. 2, 1942, the entire Jewish population of Ruzhany was deported to Volkovysk; about 500 stragglers were shot by guards on the way. There they were concentrated in a camp of underground bunkers for the Jewish population of the entire area. On November 28, 1942 they were deported to the *Treblinka death camp. Jewish life in Ruzhany was not reconstituted after the war.

[Aharon Weiss]


Rozhinoi-Sefer Zikkaron la-Kehillah ve-li-Sevivatah (1957); S. Dubnow, in: Voskhod, 13 no. 7 (1893); idem, Pinkas ha-Medinah (1925), 152, 164; G. Aronson et al. (eds.), Geshikhte fun Bund, 1 (1956); Yahadut Lita, 1 (1960), 696.