Community Stories

The Jewish Community in Christchurch, New Zealand

New Zealand was first settled by the Maori, a Polynesian people, about 1,000 years ago. In 1769 the British explorer Captain James Cook circumnavigated the country, mapping and describing it. The country was then visited mainly by sealers and whalers and gradually settled. It was largely at the instigation of Joel Samuel Polack (1807–1882), the first Jewish settler in New Zealand (1831), that the British decided to establish sovereignty over New Zealand and in 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between representatives of the British crown and Maori chiefs.


The...

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The Jewish Community in Shiraz, Iran

Capital of the former province of Fars, south Iran.

 

The existence of a Jewish community in Shiraz is attested by Persian and Arab geographers from the tenth century. The funeral of a great Sufi leader in Shiraz (981) was attended by Muslims, Christians, and Jews. The Jerusalem-born medieval Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi (tenth century) states that there was a smaller number of Jews than Christians in the province.

 

The Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela (c.1162) described Shiraz as a large city with a Jewish population of about 10,000. With...

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The Jewish Community of Zelechow

Peter Reich

The author is a retired journalist and a volunteer tour guide at Beit Hatfutsot

 

Early History


Zelechow is a town located in the Masovian Province (Voivodship) of Poland equally distanced from both Warsaw and Lublin. It seems that the village of Zelechow was founded in the 14th century. Due to the fertile land in the area the village developed and became an important centre controlled by the church and wealthy aristocrats. The town also developed a name for the production of high quality leather footwear produced by...

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Jews of Afghanistan

Dr. Irena Vladimirsky

A historian and researcher with the Department of History, Achva College of Education, Israel, specializing in the history of Central Asia.
 

 

Traditionally, the Jewish communities of modern Afghanistan trace their beginnings to the Assyrian Exile (720 BCE) and the Babylonian Exile (560 BCE). Although there is little archaeological evidence supporting this traditional belief, various findings have provided material evidence to indicate a continuous Jewish presence on the territory of Afghanistan since the 8th century CE until the...

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Ashkenazi Jews in Amsterdam

Edward van Voolen

The author is Curator of the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam.

 

“And Israel shall dwell in safety” is the biblical quotation that the Amsterdam rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657) used in the first Hebrew book (a siddur) that came off his printing press in 1627. The citation (Deuteronomy 33:28) set the tone for the annals of the Jews in the Netherlands in the three centuries that followed. Menasseh himself was a Sephardi, part of the first wave of Portuguese Jewish refugees to return to Jewish tradition in the Dutch Republic. They were soon followed by Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe, who began to find their way in even greater numbers to the far-famed city of Amsterdam.

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The Jewish Community of Ancona, Italy

Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman

Jews were living near Ancona in 967. By 1300, there was an organized Jewish community in the city on whose behalf the poet Immanuel of Rome sent a letter to the Rome community, intimating that as the Ancona community was in economic straits and suffered from persecution, it should not be subjected to heavy taxation (Machberet 24). Jews probably engaged in money lending in Ancona in the first half of the 14th century. In 1427 the Franciscan Giacomo Della Marca, an enthusiastic disciple of Bernardino of Siena, tried to force the Jews in Ancona to wear the Jewish badge and to restrict Jewish residence to a single street. Apparently this attempt was unsuccessful. In 1492 refugees from Sicily began to arrive in Ancona, to be joined after 1510 by others from the Kingdom of Naples. An order to wear the badge was again issued in 1524, but was revoked four years later. Solomon Molcho visited the community in 1529 and stimulated messianic enthusiasm there.

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The Jewish Community of Antwerp, Belgium

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

Antwerp (Antwerpen, in Dutch, Anvers, in French), the second largest city of Belgium and a major port and industrial center, is the home of the second largest Jewish community of Belgium and one of the most observant Jewish communities in Western Europe.

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The Jewish Community of Baghdad

In recent years Jews in Iraq were permitted to live in two cities only - Baghdad and Basra. They numbered about 500 in total. The community in Baghdad was founded in the mid-eighth century and from the 9th-11th centuries was the seat of the Exilarch (Resh Galutah). During the Gaonate the Jews lived in a special quarter ("Dar Al-Yahud") and the "Jewish Bridge" connected them to the rest of the city. The Yeshivot of Sura and Pumbedita were established in Baghdad at the end of the 9th century. The city was an important center for the Karaite movement.

 

In the 12th century...

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The Jewish community of Budapest

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, became a city in 1872, following the union of the historic towns of Buda, Obuda, and Pest. Each town had a separate Jewish community until the 1950’s.

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Jewish Community of Cape Town

Founded in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company as a victualing station at the Cape Of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of Africa, on the sea route to India and the Far East. The town had Jews among its early settlers. The rules of the company, however, allowed only Protestants as settlers; two Jews were converted to Christianity in Cape Town as early as 1669. After the British occupation of the Cape in 1806, a steady flow of Jewish immigrants came from Central Europe and England and later, in larger numbers, from Eastern Europe.

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Photo: Joel S. Granoff, U.S.A.
Jewish Community of Chicago

Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837 and had at the time a population of some 5,000 inhabitants. Between 1840 and 1844 about twenty Jews settled in the city, most of them immigrants from the German regions of Bavaria and the Palatinate. On October 3, 1846, fifteen Jews founded the first Jewish congregation in the city, Kehilat Anshe Maarav (The Congregation of the People of the West), subsequently referred as K.A.M. They practiced the traditional Minhag Ashkenaz and worshiped in a room above a clothing store. By the middle of the century, ten additional community organizations...

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Jewish Community of Dubrovnik

After the Spanish expulsion in 1492 many refugees passed through on their way to the Balkan cities under Turkish rule. They settled in Dubrovnik and others joined them from the southern Italy expulsions in 1514-15. Their success in commerce caused repeated expulsion orders, which were revoked on the intervention of the Sultan. The Jews dealt mainly in fabrics, silk, wool, leather, and spices. In 1546, a ghetto was established which was enlarged 40 years later when there were 50 Jews, some with their families. Among them were doctors in state service who needed special permission from...

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Jewish Community of Cairo

Jews first came to Egypt at the time of the First Temple. A Jewish military settlement existed in the town of Yeb (Elephantine) on the border of the Nile in the 7th century BCE. Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, Jewish settlement in Egypt increased. Many refugees from Eretz Israel came to Egypt during the Ptolemaic period (322 BCE to 30 AD) and at the time of the persecutions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

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Bene Israel of Mumbai, India

Dr. Shalva Weil

The Bene Israel are probably the only Jewish community in the world today which did not experience anti-Semitism. Living in harmony with their Indian neighbors for two thousand years, they were free to practice Judaism and develop as a community.The Bene Israel were fully absorbed into Indian society, yet still retained a separate sense of identity; however, they remained isolated from the mainstream of Judaism for centuries. The process of rapprochement with world Jewry culminated in the recognition given in 1964 by the Israeli Rabbinate that the Bene Israel are “full Jews in every respect”.

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Jews of Harbin

Dr. Irena Vladimirsky

The city of Harbin is the capital of Heilung Kiang province in northern Manchuria, northeast China.

 

In the 19th century, Harbin was not a city, but only the general reference to a cluster of small villages on the banks of the Songhua River. Harbin’s development began with the start of the Russian invasion of Manchuria towards the end the 19th century. The Russo-Manchurian treaty of 1897, granted Russia the concession to build the Chinese Eastern railway and Harbin then became its administrative center with a 50 km. wide zone along the...

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Dedication Ceremony of the synagogue in Ville Nouvelle (New Districts), Fez, c.1960. Beit Hatfutsot, the Visual Documentation Center.
The Jewish Community of Fez, Morocco

Jews were among the first settlers of the town at the end of the 8th century. The Jewish Community rapidly became influential and commanded great respect. They lived in their own quarter (Al-Funduk Al-Yahudi). Fez became a cultural and commercial Centre of prime importance, largely as a result of the Jews' presence. Such scholars as David B. Abraham Alfasi and R. Solomon B. Judah - who became Head of the Jerusalem Academy - went on to Palestine, and Grammarians of the stature of Dunash B. Labrat and Judah Hayyuj went to Spain. During the Golden Era in Fez, three grave events occurred: a...

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Jewish Community of Hong Kong

Erica Lyons

Hong Kong has long been established as a great port and financial center of world importance. From 1842 until June 30 1997 it was a British crown colony. It is now, along with Macau, one of two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. The HKSAR falls under a governmental policy of “one country, two systems”.


With respect to the earliest Jewish residents, the Sassoon family arrived at Hong Kong when it was ceded to Great Britain by China in 1842. They transferred their offices from neighboring Canton to Hong Kong and helped...

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Jewish Community of Indonesia

Dr. Ayala Klemperer-Markman *

 

(English Translation by Julie Ann Levy)

 

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, recognizes officially six religions: Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholic Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Judaism is not one of the principal religions in this island-country, although Jews were present there constantly during the last four hundred years, at least. However, notwithstanding the long history of Jewish presence in the archipelago, after World War II most of the Jews left Indonesia and today they number only about twenty...

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Jewish Community of Izmir

by Haim F. Ghiuzeli

 

Izmir (historically Smyrna) is the principal seaport of Western Anatolia on the coast of the Aegean Sea and provincial capital of the Turkish Vilayet (province) of Aidin, the third largest city in the Republic of Turkey.

 

The city had a Jewish population in the antiquity, as mentioned in the New Testament (Rev. 1:11; 2:8). Apparently, the Jews had some influence on the local pagan population with some of them converted to Judaism; however, the appearance of Christianity had reduced the power of the Jewish community, although only a minority of the...

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Jews of Kyrgyzstan

Dr. Irena Vladimirsky

The Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan achieved its independence in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. With two thirds of its territory covered by mountains and only one third suitable for agriculture, it used to be one of the smallest republics of the Soviet Union yet inhabited by people belonging to more than eighty different nationalities.

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Rabbi Josef Tajar, Malta
Jews of Malta

Aline P'nina Tayar

Early History
Two thousand years ago, when the disciple Paul (still a Jew called Saul) was shipwrecked on a tiny rock off the coast of Malta, he dismissed the local inhabitants as being nothing more than pagans. But a carved menorah in the catacombs of Rabat as well as a Phoenician inscription discovered at the Ggantija temple in Xaghra point to a Jewish presence, which is thought to date back to the Hebrew seafaring tribes of Zebulun and Asher, some one and a half millennia before the future saint's shipwreck.

 

That presence remained...

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The Ultman Family
The Jews of New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven, Connecticut, was settled by European immigrants in 1638. The first Jews, brothers Jacob and Solomon Pinto, arrived in New Haven in 1758. In 1772 President Ezra Stiles of Yale College recorded in his diary the arrival of an unnamed Venetian Jewish family who observed the Sabbath in traditional Jewish manner, "worshiping by themselves in a room in which were lights and a suspended lamp." He noted that this was purely private Jewish worship, since the Venetians were too few to constitute a synagogue quorum, "so that if thereafter there should be a synagogue in New...

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Native Mexican Jews

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

 It is widely assumed that small groups of descendants of crypto-Jews who fled the persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition during colonial times and sought refuge in remote regions of Mexico, where they lived among the native people of the country continued for many generations to keep alive in secret, the remembrance of their Jewish origins. Living and intermarrying with local population brought about their full assimilation, and only rarely a few old Jewish practices and beliefs persisted while their significance was totally forgotten.

 

The origins of the...

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Crypto Jews in Mexico during Spanish Colonial Era

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

The day in March 1519 when the Spanish expedition led by Hernan Cortes landed on the coast of the American mainland constituted a turning point in the history of Mexico. The arrival of the Europeans coincided with a time of crisis in the Aztec Empire. Driven by reports of the fabulous wealth of the realm and taking full advantage of their superior weaponry and the assistance offered by local native peoples who decided the time had arrived to settle their accounts with the Aztecs, the Spanish invaders accomplished in a few years one of the most astonishing conquests in history. When on...

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Ritual Slaughter Tokens. Rome, 19th century.
The Jewish Community of Rome

 

The Jewish Community of Rome is probably the oldest in the world, with a continuous existence from classical times down to the present day. The first record of Jews in Rome is in 161 BCE, when Jason b. Elazar and Eupolemus b. Johanan are said to have gone there as envoys from Judah Maccabee. The Roman Jews are said to have been conspicuous in the mourning for Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. On the death of Herod in 4 BCE, 8,000 native Roman Jews are reported to have escorted the Jewish delegates from Judea who came to request that the Senate abolished the Herodian monarchy....

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Jewish Community of Singapore

The first Jews to settle in Singapore were of Baghdadi origin, mainly from India, who migrated to Singapore in 1840 when the Sassoon Family established business interests. Prayers were first held in a house in the street still known as "Synagogue Street." The Maghain Aboth Synagogue was opened in 1878; it possessed a number of Torah Scrolls in beaten silver cases brought from Baghdad. Another synagogue, Chased El, was built in 1904 by Sir Manasseh Meyer, reputed to be the richest Jew in the Far East. He also endowed a Talmud Torah. Local custom sanctioned conveyance to...

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Ida Nudel
Jewish Settlement in Siberia

Dr. Irena Vladimirsky

A historian and researcher with the Department of History, Achva College of Education, Israel, specializing in the history of Central Asia. She contributed this article to the website of Beit Hatfutsot.
 

 

Siberia, which means "Sleeping Land" in Tatar, and "The Edge" or "The End" in Ostyak - one of the local languages of the region - is a vast territory. It spreads eastward from the Ural Mountains to the highlands bordering the Pacific Ocean and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the borders of Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia in the south. The Russian Far East region has also been traditionally considered a part of Siberia.

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Jewish Community of Turnu Severin, Romania

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

The Jewish community of Turnu Severin, a town today called Drobeta Turnu Severin, flourished mainly during the late decades of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. In 1899, the number of Jews in Turnu Severin reached its high of 899 individuals constituting almost five percent of the town's general population. Typically for a Danubian port town at the time, Turnu Severin, which was situated before WW1 at the western most part of Romania, harbored various nationalities: Jews made up the fourth largest ethnic group, after Romanians, Germans, and Serbs, in a town that...

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Jewish Community of Tbilisi

The city of Tbilisi, Georgia, was founded 1,500 years ago. It is the capital of the Republic of Georgia, a former Soviet republic. It is thought that the first Jews arrived in Western Georgia in the 6th century, which at the time was ruled by the Byzantine Empire. Part moved to the Eastern Georgian regions, ruled by the Persians, where Jews were tolerated, as opposed to the suppression Jews suffered under the rule of the Byzantine Empire.

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Jewish Community of Marseilles

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

Archeological evidence suggests a Jewish presence in the region already in the first century CE; however the earliest documentary presence of Jews in Marseilles can be traced to late sixth century CE. In a letter dated 591 sent by Pope Gregory the Great to Theodore, the bishop of Marseilles, a mention is made of an attempted conversion by force of a group of Jewish refugees from Clairmont (now Clermont-Ferrand, in central France), who fled similar persecutions from the local bishop some twenty years earlier. Jewish settlement in Marseilles continued through early Middle Ages when...

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Jewish Community of Maui, Hawaii

Prof. Bernard Katz

A retired Professor of Marketing and Advertising. Prof. Katz contributed this article to the website of Beit Hatfutsot.

 

Mention to friends that you would like to visit the Hawaiian Islands and they will probably have the typical image in their minds: tropical breezes, palm trees, girls in grass skirts dancing the Hula, white beaches and young men and women on surfboards in thirty foot (nine meter) waves. Tourism, one of the major industries in the Hawaiian Islands, thrives on such images. What most people will miss, especially the many Jews from the...

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The great synagogue, Oran 1957. Beit Hatfutsot, the Visual Documentation Center. Courtesy of Dr. Noah Aminach
Jewish Community of Oran, Algeria

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

A seaport on the Mediterranean, Oran is the second largest city in Algeria and a major trading and industrial center. Called Wahran (also spelled Ouahran) in Arabic, Oran is located in Western Algeria near the border with Morocco at a point where Algeria is closest to the Spanish coast. Founded in the 10th century by Andalusian merchants, Oran was incorporated into the Kingdom of Tlemcen and served as its main seaport after 1437.

 

The Beni Zian rulers of Tlemcen, unlike the Almohads that preceded them, displayed a more favorable attitude towards the Jews and...

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Jewish Community of Recife

Jews arrived in Recife after the year 1500, when the Portuguese landed at what is now Brazil. Recife, capital of the State of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil, became a prosperous center for sugar production in the 16th and 17th centuries. Part of Recife's population consisted of New Christians (Jewish converts to Christianity).

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Jewish Community of Resistencia, Argentina

Julio Mazo

 

The city of Resistencia is located in the Chaco Province in northeastern Argentina, close to the country's borders with Paraguay and Brazil. Resistencia was founded in 1878 by Italian immigrants who were soon followed by Spanish, Bulgarian, Czech, Yugoslav and other European immigrants, who gradually settled the province. The development of the timber industry at the end of the 19th century and the growth of cotton plantations in the early 20th century attracted an additional work force from other areas in Argentina as well as from neighboring Paraguay, seasonally...

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Jewish Community of Samara, Russia

Dr. Irena Vladimirsky

A historian and researcher with the Department of History, Achva College of Education, Israel, specializing in the history of Central Asia.

 

The city of Samara is situated on the lower Volga Region of European Russia. Between 1935-1991, the city was known as Kuibyshev. The territory of Samara came under the influence of the Khazar Khanate in the 7th century. It was crossed with major trade routes, which connected Khazaria with China. Khazar rule was brought to an end in the late 10th century when the troops of the Kievan prince Svyatoslav defeated the...

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Jewish Community of Varna, Bulgaria

by Haim F. Ghiuzeli

The city of Varna, Bulgaria, is the country’s largest port city on the Black Sea. Its history can be traced to Odessos, a 6th century BCE Greek colony. The town was then controlled by Thracians, Persians and Romans and it was eventually incorporated into the Byzantine Empire.

 

Varna is the name given to the settlement founded by Slav tribes in the 6th century CE. An integral part of the medieval Bulgarian state after the 8th century, Varna was captured by the Ottomans in 1399 and remained under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for almost 500 years. Along with...

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Inside the Choral synagogue, Vilna
Jewish Community of Vilna

The first information of an organized Jewish community in Vilna dates from 1568, when it was ordered to pay the poll tax. In February 1633 the Jews of Vilna were granted a charter of privileges permitting them to engage in all branches of commerce, distilling, and any crafts not subject to the guild organizations, but restricting their place of residence in the city. During the first half of the 17th century the Vilna community was augmented by arrivals from Prague, Frankfort, and Polish towns, who included wealthy emigrants and scholars. In this period about 3,000 Jewish residents are...

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Jewish Community of Zamosc

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

The town of Zamosc (also known as Zamostie, Zamotch, Zamoshtch), located in the Lublin province of eastern Poland, was established at the end of the 16th century on the grounds of a former village by Jan Zamoyski (1542-1605), a Polish statesman, general, and grand crown chancellor of Poland during the reign of Stephen Bathory (1576-1587). Jan Zamoyski, who was educated in Italy, was instrumental in introducing into Poland humanist ideas reflected in his policies at both the national and the local level. Zamosc, sometimes labeled "Padua of the East", was designed by the Italian...

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THE LEMBA TRIBE
The Myth of the Ten Lost Tribes

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

 

After the death of King Solomon (d.928 BCE), his realm was divided into the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judea. The territory of the Kingdom of Israel covered most of the central and northern Land of Israel and was inhabited by descendants of ten of the original twelve tribes that conquered the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua: Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulon. The Kingdom of Judea centred on Jerusalem and the Judean highlands and comprised the remaining two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Kingdom of...

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The Jewish community of Polaniec

(In Jewish sources Planch)

A small town in the district of Kielce, central Poland.


Polaniec is situated near the town of Staszow, on the river Wistula. After the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, the area became part of Tsarist Russia. The manifest Polaniecki (Polaniec Manifesto) proclaiming the victory of the Polish uprising of 1794, under the leadership of general Tadeusz Kosciuszko, originated there.

 

Jewish inhabitants are documented in Planch in the year 1579. In 1765 Jews were given the right of permanent residence in the town, and permitted to open...

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The Jewish Community in Vancouver, Canada

Haim F. Ghiuzeli

Vancouver, a city in the Province of British Columbia, is the third most populous city in Canada. It is home to Canada's third largest Jewish community with approximately seven percent of the Canadian Jews living in Vancouver metropolitan area.   

 

The south-west region of the modern Province of British Columbia started to attract large numbers of immigrants after the 1850's. Among those early settlers, many driven to the region by the prospect of gold rush, others by various commercial opportunities, were several Jewish...

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