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Bidding Information
Lot #    20002
Auction End Date    2/19/2008 11:19:30 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Constitution of the Mohilev on Dnieper Benevolent
Title (Hebrew)   
Author    Mohilev on Dnieper Benevolent Assn.
City    New York
Publication Date    1941
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   Only edition. 48, 58 pp. octavo 130:76 mm., light age staining. A very good copy bound in contemporary boards.
   Bi-lingual Yiddish-English constitution of the Mohilev on Dnieper Benevolent Assn., organized in 1900. Its purpose, according to this constitution, exists to aid its embers in good standing, in cases of distress, sickness and death. The title page is followed by the names of the members of the constitution committee, of which the chairman is O. Joroff. There is a table of contents, which includes the name and purpose, meetings, business transactions, nominations and elections, officers and their duties, proposed candidates, duties of members, sick benefit, distress benefit, death benefit which includes reserved graves, consumption benefits including chronic diseases, suspension night, resigned and reinstated members, rules and regulations, concluding with loan relief fund. Within the text each of these articles is detailed in numbered paragraphs. The first paragraph of the first article states that the organizations name can never be changed. The Yiddish section, which reads from right to left includes the same information.

Mohilev, known as Mogilev is a city in Mogilev oblast, Belorus; from the middle of the 14th century until 1772 Mogilev was part of Poland-Lithuania; under czarist Russia, it was the chief town of the province of Mogilev. One of the largest and most important in Belorus, the Mogilev community was founded during the 16th century by Jews who leased the collection of customs duties; the first of these was Michael Jozefowicz (1522). During the 1580s one of the most prominent Jewish merchants of Lithuania, Ephraim b. Jerahmeel (Afrash Rakhmaelovich) lived in Mogilev and leased the customs duties. In 1585 the Christian population requested King Stephen BFthory to prohibit the settlement of Jews in Mogilev. Although the king agreed, the order was not carried out and Jews continued to live in the town. A synagogue existed from the beginning of the 17th century. The struggle between the townspeople and the Jews of Mogilev continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1626 King Sigismund III Vasa granted letters patent to the town (confirmed by King Ladislaus IV in 1633) in which it was stipulated that all the Jews must move into the street where the synagogue stood, beyond the city walls. On Rosh Ha-Shanah 5406 (1645) the townspeople, led by the mayor, attacked the Jews. In 1646 the municipality decided to forbid the Jews to live in lodgings rented from the townspeople or to acquire these lodgings. This too was confirmed by King Ladislaus IV. When Mogilev was occupied by the invading Russian armies in 1654, on the request of the townspeople Czar Alexis Mikhailovich ordered the expulsion of the Jews. Their houses were to be shared equally between the municipality and the Russians. The order was not immediately carried out, but as the Polish army approached Mogilev in 1655, the Russian commander drove the Jews out of the town and ordered their massacre. Those Jews who remained became apostates. After the end of the war the community was renewed and most of the apostates returned to Judaism. In 1656 John II Casimir granted letters patent to the town according to which the Jews were forbidden to live within the walls of the city and to build houses or maintain shops there. There was a blood libel in Mogilev in 1692. In 1736 King Augustus III confirmed the earlier letters patent of John II Casimir, adding further anti-Jewish restrictions. Restrictive orders on settlement and occupations were later reissued, but were not applied in practice.

In spite of opposition, the community continued to develop. By 1692 there were two synagogues. In 1748 the municipality reprimanded the townspeople because they themselves had helped the Jews to settle in the center of the town and to engage in commerce. In 1766, 642 poll tax paying Jews were registered within the community of Mogilev and the surrounding villages. In the Councils of the Lands Mogilev was subordinated to Brest-Litovsk. The community developed to a considerable extent after Mogilev was annexed by Russia. The Jews of the annexed region were granted judicial autonomy, and the community of Mogilev was designated as the central community of the whole province, its bet din being given authority to hear appeals against the legal decisions of the province's communities. The Jews played a principal role in Mogilev's extensive trade with Riga, Memel, Koenigsberg, and Danzig (Gdansk) and later with southern Russia. In 1847 there were 7,897 Jews registered in Mogilev. The Jews were greatly influenced by Habad Hasidism, but by the end of the 18th century there were several maskilim among the wealthy merchants. In 1783 one of them, Jacob Hirsch, addressed a memorandum to the Russian government in which he suggested that the hadarim and talmud torah schools in both the district of Mogilev and the town itself be converted into schools where secular studies would also be taught. During the 1860s and early 1870s Pavel (Pesah) Axelrod, who had studied at the local secondary school and later spread the ideas of the Haskalah among Jewish youth, lived in Mogilev. In 1870 the Malbim (Meir Leib b. Jehiel Michael) was invited to become rabbi of Mogilev, but was soon compelled to leave the town after the maskilim denounced him to the authorities as disloyal to Russia. In 1897 there were 21,539 Jews in Mogilev (about 50% of the total population). In October 1904 pogroms were initiated by soldiers mobilized for the war against Japan. Mogilev was one of the important centers of the Bund, and of the Zionist Movement. Following World War I and the establishment of the Communist regime, the number of Jews decreased and by 1926 only 17,105 (34.1% of the population) remained. During the 1920s a violent struggle occurred between the religious circles and the Zionists on the one hand, and the Yevsektsiya on the other, which terminated with the liquidation of Jewish communal life in the town. Mogilev was the birthplace of Mordecai b. Hillel Hakohen, Nachman Syrkin, and Jacob Mazeh.

When Mogilev was occupied by the Germans during World War II (1941), those Jews who did not escape were massacred. It was estimated that there were about 7,000 to 10,000 Jews in Mogilev in 1959. The last synagogue was closed down by the authorities in 1959 and turned into a sports gymnasium. There was a Jewish cemetery.

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Listing Classification
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica