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SMORGON (Pol. Smorgonie ), town in Grodno district, Belarus, passed from Poland to Russia in 1793; between 1921 and 1945 within independent Poland. From the 16th century until the second half of the 19th century, the town was the private property of the princes of Radziwill. Jewish settlement in Smorgon is believed to date from the early 17th century. From 1628 the Jews of Smorgon paid their taxes to the community administration of Grodno. In 1631 the community of Smorgon became the center of a galil (province) within the framework of the Council of Lithuania (see Councils of the *Lands). The autonomous status of the community was confirmed in 1651. In 1765 there were 649 Jews in the community of Smorgon who paid the poll tax. During the 1830s a Jewish agricultural settlement, Karka, with 30 farmsteads, was established near the town (on the eve of World War i, 40 Jewish families there worked on the land). In 1847 there were 1,621 Jews living in Smorgon. In the 1860s a tanning industry was begun in the town as a result of Jewish initiative. In addition to this, the Jews of the town earned their livelihoods from carpentry, the knitting of socks, the baking of bagels (which were famous throughout Russia), retail trade, and peddling. The *Bund gained many adherents among the workers in Smorgon. From 1899 a Zionist organization was active in the town and in 1905 a branch of the ss (Zionist Socialist Workers' *Party) was established. In 1897 there were 6,743 Jews living in Smorgon (76% of the population). On the eve of World War i, there were two battei midrash, seven synagogues, three elementary yeshivot, and a Jewish hospital in the town. A section of the town's Jewish population were *Ḥabad Ḥasidim. In 1915, during World War i, many of the Jews in Smorgon were expelled to the Russian interior. Jewish refugee tanners from Smorgon founded the tanning industries in Kharkov, Rostov, and Bogorodsk. When Smorgon reverted to independent Poland after World War i the Jewish refugees began to return to their destroyed houses. Between the two world wars, a Hebrew *Tarbut school, a drama circle (Bamati), sports clubs, Zionist youth circles, and branches of Po'alei *Zion, *He-Ḥalutz and *Betar functioned in the town.

The spiritual leaders of the community during the early second half of the 18th century included the rabbi of the community Ḥayyim Cohen. In 1827–28 the town rabbi was the renowned Manasseh b. Joseph of *Ilya, a native of Smorgon. Subsequently, a dynasty of rabbis descended from R. Leib Shapira established themselves in the town. From 1910 to 1917 Judah Leib Gordin, the author of Teshuvat Yehudah, held rabbinical office in the town. Nahum *Slouschz, the author Aaron Abraham *Kabak, the Yiddish poet Moshe *Kulbak, and David *Raziel, commander of the Irgun Ẓevai *Le'ummi, were natives of Smorgon.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

In September 1939 the Red Army entered the town and a Soviet administration was established until the outbreak of the German-Soviet war in June 1941, when the Germans occupied the town. The Germans established two ghettos in different places there. In the summer of 1942 some Jews were sent to Kovno (*Kaunas) and shared the fate of that community while the others were sent to Ponary near Vilna, and were killed there. After the war, the Jewish community of Smorgon was not reconstituted. An organization of former residents of Smorgon was formed in Israel.


Smorgon, Meḥoz Vilna: Sefer Edut ve-Zikkaron (1965); S. Dubnow, Pinkas ha-Medinah (1925), index; Y. Rivlin, in: Yahadut Lita, 1 (1959), 459; A. Tartakower, Toledot Tenu'at ha-Ovedim ha-Yehudit, 1 (1929), 36.