Серия препринтов и репринтов: Выпуск 24
© М.И.Носоновский
Москва, 1996 г.

Носоновский М.


The only Karaite community in Podolia existed in the town of Derazhnia of Letichevsky powet. However, the sources on its history are very scarce. It is known that the community was formed in the late 1500-s - early 1600-s [1], it was harmed hardly by Chmielnicki [2] and, obviously, it did not revive. At least, in the documents of the 18-th century the Karaites in Derazhnia are not mentioned [3].

There is a manuscript in the Russian National Library (St. Petersburg), which includes a poetic narrative about destruction of the Karaite community of Derezhnia by Bogdan Chmielnicki's army. The MS' number in the catalogue Eвp. I / 854, I +1 f., paper, 16.2 x 10.5 cm, no watermarks, ink, the smallest West-Karaite semi-cursive, which can be read with difficulty, the text is on the both sides, the leaf 1 is damaged. A. Firkovich's description on the page I tells, that the author of the poem, Josef ben Jeshuca, had escaped after the destruction of the community by Chmielnickiy, Nechay [4] and Nebaba [5] and he wrote this poem in 1650.

Elegies on destruction of communities by the Cossacks were popular among the Ukrainian Jews in the seventeenth century. Derazhnia is not mentioned in the poem itself and there are no specific features which show that it is spoken about a Karaite community and not a rabbinical one. The author is called (? - )е"цй усей ш"шд - " r. Josef, let his days will continue (?)" (the further text is damaged), the use of the eulogy shows that the MS is not an authograph. However, there can be no doubt in the Karaite origin of the document and there are no reasons to oppose the statements of A. Firkovich who relied on the Karaite tradition. The year 5410 is repeated twice by a small handwriting following the author's name and in the end of the poem. In the latter case it is duplicated by the Cristian era: 1650.

The Karaite poet Josef ben Jeshuca is known as an author of several liturgical poems, two of them were included into Karaite prayer books while the others are in MSS [6]. A fragment of the poem (three stanzas) was published by A. Neubauer who used the same copy [7]. The complete poem consists of 14 stanzas, each one is followed by the refrain: "But a day of revenge, of anger, of wrath and of retribution will come". The rhyme is AA BB CC. Each stanza includes 11 - 13 sillables. An extreme cruelty of Nechay's, Nebaba's and Chmielnicki's bands is discribed in the poem. They destroied the community killing "women and virgins, children and oldmen", tring to baptise the Jews. The community did not manage to ransom. "All the synagogues of Israel, all Torah scrolls snd holy books" were desecrated. Josef ben Jeshuca curses the pogrom-makers and counts on the divine revenge, which, as he sure, will find them. In the three last stanzas he speaks, possibly, about military losts of the Cossacks in 1650, before their final defeat in the battle at Berestechko in 1651. But by the year 1650 all of the three enemies had been alive yet and there exists an opportunity that the poem was written later.

Another source which tells about the Karaites in Derazhnia - the MS "ъерешлжд шфс" ("The memorial book") is also in the Russian National Library. No. Eвp.-I / 759, no binding, I + 14 ff, paper whithout watermarks, 16.5 x 10.7 cm, 8 o (a paper of the same sort and format as the one of Josef ben Jeshuca's MS), text 14.5 x 7.5 cm, ink, the smallest West-Karaite semi-cursive, up to 37 lines on a page. In the library catalogue the MS is dated begining of the XIX century. The sheet I includes an annotation:

- "The memorial book by which names of the Karaite wisemen who lived in Africa, Asia, the Crimea, Lithuania and Poland are read by western communities in Russia and Austria every year in the Days of mercy between a trumpeting and an atonement at the cemetery." A Neubauer, who published a fragment of this MS, consider its author Aharon from Luck [8].

It is told about the Karaite community of Derazhnia on ff. 6b - 7a. The author of "The memorial book" had several documents from the archive of Derazhnia community. He mentions separately four groupes: the leaders of the community, its founders, the members who settled in Derazhnia later and those who are mentioned among the donators in the book of regulations. It is possible to conclude that the Derazhnia community existed during a period of life of more then one generation. Josef ben Jeshuca is mentioned among the leaders of the community as 'khakham" and "khazan".

According to H. Graetz's opinion, the destruction of Derazhnia by the Cossacks took place in the year 1648 and not in 1650, because "there was an armistice that year" [9]. However H. Graetz does not take into account that dispite the armistice - the Zborow peace treaty of 1649's autumn, many of Cossack's commanders continued their attacks on the Poles and the Jews, they did not recognised the treaty and even considered Chmielnicki a renegate [10]. One of such "irreconcilable" was D. Nechay - ййацр, whos name Graetz misreads following Neubauer as йшацт (in A. Firkovich's annotation; this reading is meaningless. In the poem H. Graetz tries to read it айрв Gania), however it can be readen very clearly in the MS. As D. Nechay is known as a Cossacks leader only from 1649 [11], therefore, the destruction of the Karaite community in Derazhnia must more probably be dated the year 1650. The Karaites who survived moved to other places (as Josef ben Jeshuca who settled in Luck) and never returned to Derazhnia.



F. 1а

This is a song, r. Josef, let his days continue , composed it.

The year 5410.

My congregation, my home, poor and disturbed, intoxicated with the wine

of exile, profaned and desecrated !

But a day of revenge, of anger, of wrath and of retribution will come.

For those who stand against you for evil and destruction.

Their hand will be broken, their backbone [12] is week. But a day...

For they shed innocent blood in vain,

desecrated you and made many crimes and wickednesses. But a day...

And they did not take a ransom to leave alive dear

souls, who are pure and saint in everything. But a day...

And they desecrated all the synagogues of Israel,

and the Torah scrolls and the books of God-fearers. But a day...

But enemies and haters of Israel did not know

when their legs will stumble because of their sins according to a Divine will.

But a day...

And why the dishonourables and means did not think

about a time, when they will be sorrounded and killed. But a day...


And they took [ ... ] [13] virgins with women,

and converted from the faith children and oldmen. But a day...

After this the blood shed to

punish those who serve the inharited faith. But a day...

And if he was angry and ... [12] on his people,

but they exterminated it and destroyed its essence. But a day...

And now - the Lord's hand will be on their people,

to give them poisoned water, to rout them up to a man. But a day...

With a good omen the power of Nechay the villain is cut off,

his force rush for his grief and he don't know where. But a day...

And the son of Khmel[nitsky] [14] also returned whith shame and disgrace,

his intention is destroyed and the beating of his heart quieten down.

But a day...

And Nebaba with his great force disgraced himself,

his wick intention collapsed and an eternal shame is for him. But a day...

5410 - 1650 г. Let there will be a [Lord's] will.



And now I shell record for the memory of the souls of our community members who are buried in graves of the town of Derazhnia, who lived there from the earliest times, and, for our great sins they were killed and the rest of them was scattered by cursed Khmel the villain. Since nobody knows all who lies in these graves, there are exist only parts from records of this community, I've rewritten it in a possible measure and I've asked to rewrite it for me, in order to remember them...

...our teacher r Josef the khazan, the son of r. Jacob,... his son, our respectable teacher r. Samuel, and his son, our respectable teacher r. Josef, khakham, our respectable teacher r. Josef, the old, the khazan, the son of our respectable teacher Jeshuca... and his son, the khakham, our respectable teacher, r. Simkhah the pious, and his son our respectable teacher r. Moses the pious and the modest, the khazan, and his son, our lord and teacher, the perfect khakham, our respected teacher r. Simkhah Isaac, the head of the academy on the Crimean peninsula, the author of "Siakh Yizkhaq" and "Be'er Yizkhaq" and other books [15].

And this is the first class of the members of the holy congregation of Derazhnia, who... by the right and permission to establish a synagogue, which a shot time before today was standing ... [and now] the rabbinical Jews have established their synagogue on its place... (12 names).

And this is the second class of those, who have come later to live in the named town... (14 names).

And this is the donators of objects to the synagogue, as they are mentioned in the book of regulations, which is in my hands... (8 names, one of them belonges to a woman).

And the others, who buried in those graves with their wives, sons and doughters, their seed and the seed of their seed, and all members of their families, they are the deads of our exile and the members of our families, those whom we mentioned and whom we did not mention by name, only generally, the memery of all of them is for blessing and for life.