Yiddish in Ukraine


Shmuel Menachem Tubul



A 19-year-old Israeli Breslov Chasid man, Shmuel Menachem Tubul, visiting Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s grave on 200th anniversary of rabbi’s passing, was murdered in Uman, Ukraine, by local Ukrainian. He was stabbed to death and his brother was lightly injured in a brawl between several local residents.

Shmuel Tubul recently got engaged, and was about to get married in two months.

According to eyewitnesses, a few locals hurled stones and smashed the windshield of a car owned by Jews, which was parked on one of the central streets in town. The two brothers, from a well known family in Breslov, heard the clamor and rushed down from their house, only to discover their vehicle has been damaged.  Shmuel started chasing the perpetrators, and when he caught up with one of them, the man turned around and stabbed him in his chest with a knife. Shmuel collapsed and died in the hospital shortly after. His brother, who came to his help, was lightly injured in a brawl that took place at the scene. An hour before his was killed he was singing and dancing. The incident was clearly an anti-Semitic one.

Members of the local Breslov community in Uman says that the attackers were looking to provoke local Jews and “settle the score” with them, after a Jewish man stabbed and lightly injured a local resident during Rosh Hashana.

Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi Moshe Asman says: “There were incidents in the past that the police tried to cover up.”




Medieval Ukrainian lands were a loosely knit group of principalities. By the late 1300s, most Ukrainian lands were controlled by either the Grand Duchy of Lithuania or the Mongolian-Tatar Horde. In 1569, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Poland controlled Western Ukrainia while Eastern Ukrainia was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1772, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at which time several Ukrainian areas became part of Galicia, a province of Austria.

By 1795, Austria controlled Western Ukrainia and Russia controlled Eastern Ukrainia.

During the 1930s, all of Western Ukrainia was governed by either Poland and/or Czechoslovakia.

By the end of WWI, Ukrainian territory was divided into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania.

In 1939 the Jewish population of Ukraine was 1.5 million (1,532,776) or 3% of the total population of Ukraine. One half to two thirds of the total Jewish population of Ukraine were killed, evacuated or exiled to Siberia. Ukraine lost more population per capita than any other country in the world in WW II.

After WWII, the borders of the Ukrainian SSR expanded west, including those Ukrainian areas of Galicia. At the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state.

You can use the JewishGen’s ShtetlSeeker references to find border changes of a given town –

and JewishGen ShtetLinks for more information on Ukrainian towns.





Lviv planned restoration of historic Jewish neighborhoods

In the Lviv city council have initiated three development projects within the Jewish historical district. Among the topics are, the old Jewish quarter, the central Square Synagogue, the ruined synagogue Turay Zahav “Golden Rose” (1586), Metro Lviv (1555 – 1801), the Beit Midrash (1902) and a former Jewish cemetery (old cemetery XV century).

Among the organizers of the project are the executive committee of Lviv city council, the management of the city department of Culture and Tourism, Office for Protection of Monuments, Centre for Urban History of East Central Europe, the Municipal Development department and the Union of Architects.




The first kosher hotel in Western Ukraine

In Ivano-Frankivsk the first kosher “museum-hotel” in Western Ukraine have opened in June 2010, named “Under the Temple”. It is located next to the main synagogue of the city.

The hotel is small, it has only 11 rooms, but it has already passed CE certification and has received three stars. The hotel is oriented not only towards Jewish pilgrims and tourists, but also businessmen and those who visit Ivano-Frankivsk for other purposes. All rooms have wireless Internet, cable television and other conditions for what is considered a comfortable rest and work in a modern civilized society.

The title emphasizes the word “museum”. In the hotel is included artifacts of Jewish culture and life, in fact, Stanislav – the historically Jewish city, for example, was here  until 1939 with the residence of seven Hasidic tzaddikim.

The food served is  “fleyshig” and under the supervision of the Chief Rabbi Moshe-Leib Kolesnik of the region. The meat is served as cold appetizers – mincemeat, hummus, salads and a variety of pancakes with fillings, and other hot dishes. Another specialities are culinary products as strudels, Lake and much more.

Around the city there are many interesting Jewish towns – Galich, Kolomyia, Bolehov and others, as well as the famous resorts of the Carpathian Yaremcha and Bukovel. There is kosher Holiday catering from the lobby bar, as one of the features of this resort.









Jews of Ukraine have started to study Yiddish

in the Jewish Community Center of Donetsk

The Donetsk Jewish Community Center have opened a new studyclub – that study Yiddish. Members of the club have a special passion for Yiddish songs. Songs they have known and loved since their childhood, almost all of them in Yiddish. However, the meaning of their words are for many of them unknown or misunderstood. Members of the club do want to understand for instance the texts of “Tumbalalayka”, “Mayn Yiddishe Mama”, “Oyfn pripechek” and other popular songs. The new Yiddish Study Club from now on meets every Thursday 14.00 at the community center.


The Yiddish spoken by Jews living in Ukrainian ethnolinguistic territory is clearly distinguished from the northeastern dialect (characteristic of Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia) and the central dialect (characteristic of Poland and west Galicia).

Often referred to as the southeast dialect, Ukrainian Yiddish is profoundly marked by the influence of the Ukrainian language . In terms of grammar, for example, Yiddish shows evidence of a form of the Ukrainian aspect, which is absent from Middle High German ( ikh hob geshribn ‘I have written’ versus ikh hob ongeshribn ‘I have completed writing’). Yiddish also has absorbed a multitude of Ukrainian conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs, such as i … i, take, nu ‘both … and, indeed, well’.  The rich variety of Ukrainian diminutives was adapted to Jewish names (eg, Moyshenyu, Khayimke, diminutive of Moyshe and Khayim ), and Ukrainian names were sometimes given to Jewish children, particularly girls (eg, Badane, from Bohdana ). The Yiddish vocabulary has also been enriched by countless Ukrainian words, such as khrayn (from Xrin, ‘ horseradish’), zayde (from did, ‘grandfather’), and nudnik (from nudnyj, ‘boring’). Although several attempts have been made to classify the areas of human activity in which Ukrainian words penetrated Yiddish, the influence extended perhaps too widely to allow such classification, from the profane ( paskudne, from paskudnyj ‘loathsome’) to the sacred ( praven, from pravyty ‘to perform [a religious ceremony]’).


The flowering of Yiddish literature in Ukraine is exemplified by one of the greatest writers in this language, Sholom Aleichem (1859–1916). He legitimized the Ukrainian dialect by writing almost exclusively in that medium. The years he spent in the townlet of Voronkiv have been immortalized in his characters of the fictional Kasrilevke in Fiddler on the Roof.

With the establishment of Soviet Ukraine, Yiddish was made the official language of the Jewish proletariat to the exclusion of the classical Jewish language, Hebrew. A Yiddish press and theater briefly flourished in the 1920s, but the alphabet was ‘modernized’ by the removal of terminal forms of five letters, and great effort was expended to remove all Hebrew and Aramaic ‘bourgeois’ influences from Yiddish. Beginning in the 1930s, Yiddish was increasingly proscribed by Soviet authorities. With the loss of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews in the Holocaust , and the postwar harassment of Yiddish writers, Ukrainian Jewry turned increasingly to Ukrainian and Russian as vernacular languages. As a direct result of the most recent changes, a handbook of Yiddish (including rudiments of morphology, an anthology of literary work , short biographies of famous authors, and a brief history of Jews in Ukraine) was published in Kyiev in 1991.

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