Kolomea (or Kolomyya; Pol., Kołomyja; Ger., Kolomea), city on the Prut River in Ukraine. Jews first settled in Kołomea, then part of Poland, at about the turn of the sixteenth century. Although many were murdered and the community was destroyed during the Khmel’nyts’kyi massacres of 1648–1649, the Jewish population quickly reestablished itself and numbered more than 1,000 residents by 1772, when Austria wrested the city from Polish control and made it part of the new province of Galicia.
Kolomea’s Jewish population grew considerably during the nineteenth century, rising from about 2,033 in 1812 to 12,002 in 1880 (totaling 51.9% of the town’s population) and to 18,930 in 1910.
- While Jews were involved in virtually all aspects of trade and industry, the lumber industry was particularly important.
- The community retained its Orthodox character throughout most of this period, largely due to the prevalence of Hasidism.
- Traditional heders dominated the educational landscape, although a modern Jewish school was launched by the Israelitische Alliance zu Wien in 1886 and was later incorporated into the network of Jewish schools established by the Baron de Hirsch Fund. Hillel Lichtenstein served as the community’s rabbi from 1863 to 1891.
With its high percentage of Jewish residents, Kolomea had a major impact on Jewish politics in the half century following Jewish emancipation in 1867–1868. In 1873, the combined district of Buczacz-Kolomea-Sniatyn elected Oskar Henigsman to the Austrian parliament; he was one of three Jewish candidates who had opposed the powerful Polish faction and joined the German Liberals instead.
In 1879 the district elected (on a pro-Polish platform) Rabbi Shim‘on Schreiber, president of the traditional Orthodox Makhzikey ha-Das Party and son of Mosheh Sofer of Pressburg. Following his death in 1883, Schreiber was succeeded by Yosef Shemu’el Bloch, who also joined the Polish faction but unlike Schreiber became an outspoken advocate for Jewish issues during his 12-year tenure.
Partially as a result of Bloch’s victories, Kolomea emerged as the center of the nascent Yiddish press during the 1890s, including such papers as the Yidishe folks-tsaytung, Der folksfraynd and Ha-Am–Dos folk, all edited by one of the region’s most popular Yiddish journalists and speakers, Leybl Taubes (1863–1933).
- Taubes also cofounded the city’s first Jewish nationalist association in 1894 (Bet Yisra’el) and helped turn Kolomea into a center of the Galician Zionist movement. In 1892, Kolomea also witnessed one of the province’s first (ultimately unsuccessful) Jewish labor strikes when several hundred Hasidic prayer-shawl weavers struck against their similarly Hasidic employer. In 1907, the Jewish deputy mayor, Józef Funkenstein, successfully prevented Zionist leader Ozjasz Thon from winning election to parliament through electoral chicanery. The pro-Polish Jewish industrialist Heinrich Kalischer won instead in 1907 and again in 1911.
Kolomea’s Jews suffered during the Russian occupation following the outbreak of World War I.
- As throughout Galicia, many fled to Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, and Vienna. In 1919, Polish forces captured the city from the short-lived West Ukrainian Republic and it remained under Polish jurisdiction until 1939.
- Jewish life in interwar Kołomea typified the interwar Polish experience, with economic conditions steadily deteriorating for its roughly 15,000 Jews, while cultural and political life thrived.
- Following Soviet occupation in 1939, all of these organizations were dissolved. Hungarian and German forces quickly conquered the town in the summer of 1941, and most of its Jews were murdered by February 1943 at the Szepariwice forest outside the city and the Bełżec death camp.
- Few survivors returning from hiding or the Soviet Union remained after the war, although the town still had about 200 Jewish families in 1957 and 70 in 1969.
Shlomo Bickel, ed., Pinkes Kolomey (New York, 1957); Dov Noy and Mark Schutzman, eds., Sefer zikaron li-kehilat Kolomeyah veha-sevivah (Tel Aviv, 1972); Aharon Weiss, “Kolomiyah / Kołomyja,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Polin, vol. 2, Galitsyah ha-mizraḥit, pp. 463–476 (Jerusalem, 1980).
'Author: Joshua Shanes'