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KOBRYN:

District town in the government of Grodno, Russia; situated on the Muchavetz and Kobrynka rivers. In 1902 it contained more than 8,000 Jews in a total population of about 10,000. A Jewish congregation was in existence there at the beginning of the sixteenth century; it is mentioned among the Lithuanian Jewish congregations to which in 1514 Sigismund I. renewed privileges granted to them by his brother Alexander. The city and its suburbs, where the Jews had the right of residence, covered considerable space in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The small town of Gorodetz, about five miles distant from Kobryn, once formed a part of the latter; but it was nearly ruined in 1653, when it was besieged by the Swedish army, the Jews and their property suffering greatly, especially at the hands of the Polish soldiers, who mutinied on account of non-payment of their salaries and compensated themselves at the cost of the Jews.

In 1766 Kobryn was officially reduced to the status of a village; but was restored in 1795 to the rank of a district town. The city was bombarded by the French army in 1812, and again suffered much, the Jews showing great courage.

In the old Jewish cemetery there are still legible some dates of the fifteenth century. The earliest known rabbi was Bezaleel b. Solomon Darshan (d. 1678). His successors have been: Jacob b. David Shapiro, or Spiro, the author of "Ohel Ya'aḳob," and founder of a yeshibah in Kobryn, where more than 400 pupils were instructed in his time (d. 1718); Minz (d. 1819); Shemariah, who was also a rabbi of the Ḥasidim of Riuboshow (d. 1835); Moses, rabbi of the Ḥasidim of Kobryn (d. 1858); Meïr Meïrim Shafit (d. 1873), author of the well-known work "Nir al-Yerushalmi"; Elijah, popularly known as "Rabbi Elinke Lider" (d. 1876); Saul Epstein (d. 1891); and last the present incumbent, Rabbi Meïr Atlas.

Kobryn has many charitable societies and institutions, a magnificent synagogue, two batte midrashot, and eleven houses of prayer of different Ḥasidic sects. Formerly the Jews were mostly engaged in agriculture and distilling; but in 1882, by a ukase of Alexander III., the renting of farms was prohibited to Jews, as was also residence outside the city limits. Further, in 1897 the distillery business was monopolized by the government. In consequence, the present economic position of the Kobryn Jews is very deplorable; and they are emigrating in large numbers to America and Africa.

Bibliography:
  • Duke Dimitri Sopiega, Revizia Kobrynskoi Ekonomii, 1563 (the ducal author was at the time supervisor under the government; the manuscript is now in the municipal archives of Kobryn);
  • Entziklopedicheski Slovar, St. Petersburg, 1895;
  • Regesty, vol. i. s.v., ib. 1899.
H. R. L. E.
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