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SLONIM

SLONIM , city in Grodno district, Belarus; passed to Russia in 1795 and reverted to Poland between the two world wars. Slonim is mentioned in 1583 as one of the communities which were declared exempt from the special tax called "srebshzizna." Jewish merchants from Slonim traded with Lublin and Posen. By decision of the Lithuanian Council (see *Councils of the Lands) in 1623, the Jews of Slonim were placed under the jurisdiction of the *Brest community. From 1631 Slonim appears in the accounts of the pinkas of the Council of Lithuanian Jews as an independent community. A magnificent stone synagogue was erected there in 1642. In 1660 the Jews suffered persecutions by the armies of Stephan *Czarniecki. In the latter part of the 17th century the Jews of Slonim traded in wheat and timber with *Koenigsberg; later on wealthy merchants traveled to the *Leipzig fairs. Others earned their livelihood in contracting, manufacturing alcoholic beverages, and crafts. In 1764, after danger to the community from the advancing Russian armies had been averted, the day of deliverance, the 26th of Sivan, was subsequently commemorated in the community. The Jewish population numbered 1,154 in Slonim and its surroundings in 1766; 5,700 in 1847; 11,435 (78% of the total population) in 1897; 6,917 Jews (71.7%) in 1921; and 8,605 (52.95%) in 1931.

During the 19th century Jews engaged in wholesale trading in timber, furs, and hides, in transport and supplying the army, iron foundries, agricultural machinery, matches, tanneries, sawmills, and brick kilns. Jews also operated steam mills. The first textile factory in Slonim was founded in 1826 by a Jew, employing 35 workers, of whom 20 were Jewish. In the late 19th and early 20th century Jews engaged in the manufacture of woolen scarves, curtains, yeast, matches, agricultural machinery, and Jewish ritual articles.

Many Jewish homes were burned as a result of anti-Jewish hooliganism in 1881. Due to expulsions from nearby villages in 1882 the Jewish population in Slonim increased. In 1897 Jewish workers in Slonim began to organize in trade unions, and between 1902 and 1906 the *Bund, *Po'alei Zion and the *Zionist Socialist Workers' Party (SS) were influential. They established *self-defense groups to protect Jews against attacks, especially in the stormy period after the *Bialystok pogrom of 1906. In 1913 Jewish workers staged a strike to protest against the *Beilis case.

Traditional spiritual leaders of Slonim included Moses b. Isaac Judah *Lima, author of Ḥelkat Meḥokek, who served the community in the 1660s; Simeon b. Mordecai (officiated 1735–69); and Joshua Isaac b. Jehiel *Shapira, author of Naḥalat Yehoshu'a (1851), in the 1830s. In the mid-19th century Abraham b. Isaac Weinberg (1804–1884) founded a new branch of Ḥasidism and became the first of the *Slonim dynasty. The Slonim yeshivah, one of the oldest and most honored Lithuanian yeshivot, came under the influence of this ḥasidic trend.

All Jewish parties were active in Slonim between the two world wars, in independent Poland, including a hakhsharah farm of the He-Ḥalutz movement. The community had schools of the *Tarbut, cysho, and Taḥkemoni. A Yiddish quarterly, Unzer Zhurnal, was published from 1921 to 1925, and the weekly Slonimer Vort from 1926–1939.

[Dov Rabin]

Holocaust and Contemporary Periods

Immediately after the outbreak of World War ii (Sept. 1, 1939), Slonim was inundated by thousands of Jewish refugees escaping from the advancing German army. Under the Soviet-German agreement the city passed to Soviet rule. In 1939–41, all Jewish community life was repressed, though Zionist groups attempted to function underground. Young people sought ways to reach Vilna, then under Lithuanian control, in an effort to reach Palestine from there. On April 12, 1940, about 1,000 Jewish refugees were exiled to Russia, among them Yiẓḥak Efrat, head of the community and the Zionist federation before the war.

On June 25, 1941, after war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union, Slonim fell to German troops, who began to attack the Jews. On July 17, they carried out an *Aktion in which 1,200 Jewish men were rounded up and murdered on the outskirts of the city. The German authorities exacted a fine of 2,000,000 rubles from the Jewish community, and set up a *Judenrat, first headed by Wolf Berman, but its members were murdered when they showed resistance to Nazi demands. The second chairman of the Judenrat was Gershon Kwint. At the end of August 1941 a "Jewish quarter" was allocated, but not sealed off immediately. On Nov. 14, 1941, in a second Aktion, Germans, Lithuanians, and Belorussians murdered 9,000 Jews in nearby Czepielow. A very few managed to escape from the death pits, returned to the ghetto, and received aid in its hospital. When the Germans found out, they were seized and murdered at the pits. Following this Aktion the ghetto, which now contained about 15,000 Jews, including refugees from the vicinity, was closed off. In the ghetto the Jews began to build hideouts in expectation of another raid. On June 29, 1942, the Germans and their collaborators surrounded the ghetto and set it on fire. In this Aktion, which continued up to July 15, many Jews perished in the flames; those who escaped and were caught were murdered in the fields of Pietralewicze. The Germans met with armed resistance from some of the youth who managed to wrest their arms from them and escaped to the forests. Only 800 Jews remained alive at the end of the attack, most of whom fled to the forests. About 300 of the remaining Jews were murdered in December 1942. Those who survived in the forests joined partisan activities. A group of Jews from Slonim became active members of the Schorr's partisan unit. In the struggle against the Germans they reached the swamps of the Pinsk area. On July 10, 1944, when the city was taken by Soviet forces, only 80 Jews were found there. Former Jewish partisans joined the Soviet army to continue the fighting against the Germans until the end of the war. In 1946 there were about 30 Jews living in Slonim.

bibliography:

Regesty i nadpisi, 1 (1899), 203, 473; Halpern, Pinkas, index; S. Dubnow (ed.), Pinkas ha-Medinah (1922), index; Pinkas Slonim, 2 vols. (Heb. and Yid., 1962); I. Schiper, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937), index; H. Korobkov, in: Yevreyskaya Starina (1910), 23–24; A.S. Kamenetski, in: Perezhitoye, 4 (1913), 311; B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 80, 82, 84, 91, 202; J.S. Hertz, Geshikhte fun Bund, 2 (1962), 129; Haynt (July 25, 1939); M.A. Shulwass, in: Beit Yisrael be-Polin, 2 (1953), 13–35; Yahadut Lita, 3 (1967), index.

[Aharon Weiss]

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