Berdichev

Barditchev (Yiddish), Berdyczow (Polish), Бердичев – Berdichev (Russian), Бердичів (Ukrainian)
Berdychiv is a historic city in the Zhytomyr Oblast.

How it all began

Jews were first mentioned in Berdichev in 1593. Towards the mid-eighteenth century, the city became one of the main Jewish centers of Ukraine, earning the esteemed title “Jerusalem of Volhynia.”
From 1785, Berdichev was home to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, a prominent Hassidic leader, as well as Rabbi Yitzhak Ber Levinzon, a famous advocate of Jewish Enlightenment.

In 1797, prince Radziwill granted seven Jewish cloth merchants the monopoly of the cloth trade in Berdichev. In 1798, a Jewish printing press was established in the city, one of the greatest in Russia.
The ideas of enlightenment (Haskalah) began to spread in Berdichev early in the 19th century, especially among the wealthier families. The Galician Haskalah pioneer and Hebrew author Tobias Feder Gutmann settled in Berdichev toward the end of his life. Influenced by Isaac Baer Levinsohn, a group of Maskilim was formed there in the 1820’s, in which the physician Israel Rothenberg was to be particularly active. Among the opponents of the Maskilim was the banker Jacob Joseph Halpern, who had great influence in Hasidic circles and was close to the government. With the economic decline of Berdichev, the wealthier Maskilim left for the larger cities.

Big Сhoral Synagogue. Pre revolution photo