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A Jewish Community in Hard Times

The years following the 1917 Russian Revolution were a time of great upheaval for the Jews of the western Soviet Union. In the village of Lyubavichi, best known today as the birthplace of Øabad (Lubavitch) Hasidism, the Jewish population declined from 1,302 to 967 in the years from 1921 to 1925. This excerpt is from a report written in 1925 which describes the economic deprivation and the severe changes wrought by war, revolution, and pogroms.


Before the revolution the economy of the village . . . . rested on two bases: flax and . . . . the rabbi. This was an important center for the preparation of flax, which was processed here and shipped by rail. It was also the residence of the famous Rabbi Shneyerson, and a center of Hasidism. Hasidim poured into the village of Lyubavichi every day from all sides, including a number of merchants, who supplied the local population. Artisanry and handicrafts flourished, despite the scornful attitude toward productive work on the part of the "court."

The imperialist and civil wars undermined the economic foundation of the village. Flax did not appear at the markets. The court of the rabbi and the nest of Hasidim were destroyed. Most of the population were deprived of their former sources of subsistence. The impoverishment of the population began.