Qesher: Jews of Belarus
From the Pale of Settlement to the USSR and Beyond:
The History of the Jews of Belarus
Belarus’ Jewish story is rich, vital, traumatic, fascinating and barely spoken of. The modern country of Belarus was formed in 1991 but it can trace its origins to Slavic peoples who entered the area in the early Middle Ages. The territory was ruled at different times by Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Jews are believed to have been active as traders in the region of Belarus from the 8th century. However it is only in the 12th century after the Crusades and increasingly difficult conditions in Germany, that a large influx of Ashkenazi Jews arrived in the area. They brought with them the Yiddish language, the traditions of Torah study as well as urban skills from the German cities.
The arrival of the Jewish merchants was a significant factor in the emergence of towns and cities in what had until then been a far more rural region. These Jews would not develop a distinctive Belarusian identity but rather be part of the emerging Lithuanian (Litvak) culture. Come on the journey through time and explore the story of Jewish Belarus across the centuries, its rich history with artists like Chagall and Rabbis like Gaon of Vilnius. Learn from the Jewish activists offering support, training and aid to Belarusian communities today, in order to help them being self-sustaining again.
Qesher, connection in Hebrew, is a project for an unusual time, in which physical borders have become stronger, but we are more in contact than ever.
There are Jewish communities all around the globe with their own unique history, culture, places, and most of all people and stories. All of them different, but sharing so much. We would like to invite you to a virtual journey to discover some of these Jewish stories from around the world.
Therefore every week we introduce speakers from different regions and communities to give you the chance to enrich and deepen your knowledge of our shared Jewish heritage from wherever you happen to be.
All you need is a free Zoom account and to sign up to any of our upcoming events.