The Jewish Odessa phenomenon is well-known far outside the borders of Ukraine. The book, which greatly contributed to the city’s fame is The Hare with Amber Eyes. This is just one of many beuatiful descriptions of Odessa in this book: “Odessa was a city within the Pale of Settlement, the area on the western borders of imperial Russia in which Jews were allowed to live. It was famous for its rabbinical schools and synagogues, rich in literature and music, a magnet for the impoverished Jewish shtetls of Galicia. It was also a city, which doubled its population of Jews and Greeks and Russians every decade”… (a quote from the best-seller The Hare with Amber Eyes”). Below are old photos of the Brodsky and Main Synagogue, Odessa’s port and Jewish street. #odessa #jewish #history #heritage #tour
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Odessa’s Jewish history is a fascinating story to tell. Opportunities provided by the fast growing city and port both for the poor Jews from the shtetls and rich Galicia Jews were plentiful. In hundred years Odessa boasted Jewish bankers and traders, architects and doctors. The city became home to the Jewish intellectuals, housed the Haskalah movement and Odessa’s Palestine Committee. The “Star in Exile” to a Jew in the Russian Empire during the first half of the nineteenth century, Odessa evolved into the “Gates of Zion” several decades later.
“Lebn vi Got in Odes!” went a traditional Yiddish phrase. “Live like God in Odessa”. Indeed, a 19th century Odessa in Isaac Babel’s words was a “star in exile” for a Jewish person. Why was it so?
The nineteenth-century Odessa
Odessa’s Jewish heritage comes as no surprise to most of the city’s guests. But even those, who have heard of “Little Odessa” in New York’s Long Island and are well aware of the numbers of the “Soviet Jews” in Israel, whose roots are firmly imprinted to Odessa, get genuinely surprised when they see this house on an inconspicuous two-block lane in Odessa’s historic quarter.