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ZELVA (Pol. Zelwa ), town in Grodno oblast, Belarus. Jews were accustomed to visit the Zelva fairs from the end of the 15th century. A Jewish community, under the jurisdiction of the Grodno kahal, was established in the late 16th century. During the 18th century Jews traded at the local fairs, dealing in horses and in furs imported from Moscow. The lay and rabbinical leaders of Lithuania met at these fairs, and after 1766, when the Council of the Four Lands (see *Councils of the Lands) was disbanded, Zelva became the customary meeting place for rabbis of the region. Excommunications against the Ḥasidim were publicized here in 1781 and 1796, and a plan of action was drawn up to suppress the movement. In 1766 there were 522 Jews who paid the poll tax. In 1793 Zelva was annexed by Russia. There were 864 Jews in 1847, and 1,844 (66% of the total population) in 1897. Between the world wars Zelva was part of independent Poland and possessed *Tarbut and Yavneh schools. In 1921 the Jewish community numbered 1,319 (64%). The community was annihilated in World War ii when Jews were executed by the Germans or sent to death camps, but dozens of young people managed to escape into the forest.


S. Dubnow (ed.), Pinkas ha-Medinah (1925), index; E. Ringelblum, in: Miesięecnik źydowski, 6 (1932), 516; I. Schiper, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937), index.

[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]