Russian fortified commercial and manufacturing town on the Don; formerly in the government of Yekaterinoslaf; since 1888 included in the district of the Don Cossacks. Jews settled there about 1827, and their number grew with the city's increasing importance as a commercial center. A large synagogue and a bet ha-midrash were erected in 1842; the foundations of a new bet ha-midrash were laid in 1863; and the synagogue Po'ale Ẓedeḳ was founded in 1886. In the days of the liberal Alexander II. the Jews had several of their own representatives in the city council, and eleven Jews were included in the commission which Mayor Baikov appointed in 1863 to investigate the needs of the city and propose the necessary improvements. In 1866 the Jews numbered 2,342 in a total population of about 39,000. In the following twenty years the city's population increased to more than 100,000, and the Jews, who helped to develop its enormous export trade in grain, increased to nearly 14,000. These prosperous conditions, however, did not continue through the reign of Alexander III. An anti-Jewish riot broke out there May 10 (22), 1883, in which three Jews were injured and property valued at 70,000 rubles was destroyed. Nearly two years passed before twenty-seven of the rioters were brought to trial, and then all were acquitted (see "Ha-Meliẓ," 1885), No. 84).
When the towns of Rostof and Taganrog (the latter had about 200 Jewish families) were to be ceded to the district of the Don Cossacks, to which even Jews who were privileged to reside in all other parts of the Russian empire were not admitted, a commission which was appointed by the minister of war decided to expel the Jews from both towns. The Jewish inhabitants were panic-stricken, and it was rumored that a large number of them applied for baptism (see "Jüdisches Volksblatt," pp. 466, 483, St. Petersburg, 1886). But Jacob Poliakov of Taganrog, on the advice of the hetman Sviatopolk-Mirski of the Don Cossacks (uncle of a later minister of the interior), induced representative Christian residents to inform the government that the towns would suffer irreparable loss by the expulsion of the Jews. It was finally decided that those Jews who lived there might remain, but that no more might be permitted to settle in either town. The material condition of Rostof was not improved by the change, for, although the population continued to increase (it was 119,889 in 1897), its trade and the importance of its great annual fair diminished. A large part of the population of Rostof consists of Armenians, who live on friendly terms with the Jews and frequently enter into business partnerships with them.
Shrage Feiwel Gniesin, a graduate of the rabbinical school of Wilna, became the government rabbi of Rostof in 1863 and remained such until 1889, when he was succeeded by Dr. Jampolsky, who later was succeeded by Lifshitz. R. Zlotkin was for a long time the Orthodox rabbi. Wolkenstein was president of the Jewish community for several decades, and held also the office of Danish consul. Jacob Ter, the Yiddish playwright, who finally removed to New York, was secretary of the community from 1880 to 1890. Ẓebi ha-Kohen Schereschewsky (b. Pinsk, 1840) lives in Rostof (1905) as a bookseller, andis the only well-known Maskil and Hebrew scholar of the town. A Rostover Handwerker Unterstützungsverein, composed of former residents of Rostof, exists in New York.
- Ha-Meliẓ, ii. 223, 237; iii. 205, 426;
- Encyc. Brit.;
- Semenov, Geografichesko-Statisticheski Slovar.