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The Museum of the History of Odessa Jews

The Museum of History of Odessa Jews “Migdal -Shorashim” was opened in November 2002 by the Jewish community center “Migdal”. The need to create of such museum due to the fact that the history of Jews of Odessa was very poorly reflected in the expositions of Odessa state museums. Meanwhile, to the end of 19th century Jewish population of the city was about 35% and in 1900–1910s Odessa had the third largest Jewish population in the world (after New York and Warsaw). During this period the city served as a home to numerous Jewish writers and poets including Mendele Moicher Sforim, C.- N. Bialik, Sholem Aleichem and S. Chernikhovsky. Great historians such as S. Dubnov and I.- G. Klauzner lived in the same city. Early founders of the Zionism movement M. Lilienblum and L. Pinsker along with world known Zionist leaders V. Jabotinsky, A. Ginsburg (Ahad ha-Am), M. Usyshkin, M. Dizengoff and others also spent their days in Odessa.

In the 1910s, Jews play one of the leading role in the arts and cinematography of Odessa, appears abrilliant group of writers ( I. Babel and others).

At the beginning of the 1920’s Jews comprised the largest ethnic group in the city (over 40%) and some ten years later they are still ranked among the top three ethnic groups in the city (over 30%).

About 120 thousands of Odessa Jews were massacred in the territories of Odessa region during the occupation of 1941-1944y. And, although, the part of Jewish people of Odessa in the period of 1950-80’s continues to decrease (less than 20%), it is fair to say that the overall influence of Odessa’s Jewish community on developments in science, arts and the overall culture of the city stays rather weighty.

Starting with 1960’s we can observe the growth of the Jewish resistance movement in Odessa otherwise known as the struggle of the “refugees”. Alongside these events in the city and the later developments of Perestroika Jewish migration out of the USSR and the simultaneous rebirth and revival of the Jewish community define the 1990’s period in post-Soviet Odessa.

Despite the small parameters of the museum, at the moment, museum-apartment “Migdal-Shorashim” serves as one of the most authoritative Jewish museums in Ukraine. There are about 14000 units in the museum-fund (including documents, photographs, books, newspapers, postcards, religious and household goods, music instruments and other pieces of art). Approximately, 1500 units from the entire collection of the museum are represented at its permanent exposition.

The majority of our exhibits are the part of “family funds”, that has created some specific, non-linear type of exposition: family stories combine different historical periods and geographical locations. Among the donators there are numbers of ordinary citizens of Odessa, as well as members of the city’s large Diaspora community, who continue to cherish their native city and also a lot of well-known collectors and cultural figures.

Annually, thousands of visitors of all ages are coming to our museum, hundreds of tours are held (including the groups of professionals and students from around the globe). Exactly here you can touch this Odessa atmosphere, understand and feel the peculiarity of multi-ethnic and multi-cultural city, known all over the world.

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