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Kupel, Ukraine Virtual Shtetel

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Coordinates: 49°36' N, 26°31' E
Modern Region: Khmelnytski (Khmel’nyts’ka Oblast’)
Country: Ukraine

Kupel (aka Kupil, Kippel) – Shtetl (village) located in Wolyn province of western Ukraine, 187 miles W/SW of Kiev. Population 4,333 in 1897 (2,727 Jews = 63%); app. 2,200 in 2012. Known to have had Hebrew publications as far back as 1796. “Many of the Jews in Kupel made their living by buying grain or other produce, as well as livestock and fowl, from Ukrainian peasants who would come to Kupel from the surrounding villages every Tuesday, which was the market day. The Jews would then sell these goods in larger cities. Other Jews had grocery stores or dry goods stores; they would buy goods from wholesalers in Proskurov (now Khmelnytskyi with a population of 290,000 in 2005), 25-30 miles SE of Kupel. Others were tailors or shoemakers, or other artisans. The tailors would get orders from the wealthy landowners; as well as from the local people. Although no one in Kupel was very wealthy, the most well off were the owners of dry good stores, who sold cloth by the yard. Lamb's wool was especially prized. Other store owners and merchants were also considered middle class. Very few Jews owned land. Tailors and shoemakers were less well educated in religious studies. The lowest in status were the horse traders; it was assumed they had stolen the horses they sold.” Kupel had six synagogues, one of which was “big”; of the six one was for shoemakers and one was for tailors.

Legend of the founding of Kupel: “Once the daughter of a wealthy landowner was to be married and as the news of the wedding spread, the poor from far and wide began streaming with their wives and children to the place of the festivities. As the mass of humanity was on the move, a sudden storm caught them exposed on the open road. Driving rain pounded down on them and the poor people sank into the mud with no hope of extricating themselves. Since the opportunity to partake in the festive wedding meal vanished, they decided to settle right where they were. The name they chose for their new abode was “Kupel” (Hebrew word for mud is kipel – per one source), because all the mud of the world had been placed under their feet.”

Kupel was controlled by Russia from the late 18th century until the end of World War I. During the inter-war period between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II (roughly 1919-1939), Kupel was considered to be part of the newly reconstituted Poland. At the beginning of World War II, however, it became part of Ukrainian (USSR), now simply Ukraine after the 1991 dissolution of the USSR.

Time Line
1897: 2,727 Jewish residents

Nina Bolshakova's wonderful Jews of Kupel the Shtetl
Ukraine Special Interest Group Kupel Town Page
JewishGen Records include the following:

  • Family Tree of the Jewish People: 31
  • Family Finder: 159
  • Vsia Rossiia 1895 Business Directory: 2
  • Birth/Death/Marriage Records: many, multiple sources

Same name, different town: There is a Kapyl in Belarus. If it is unclear which town your family came from, you may wish to examine additional source documents for references to Volhynia, including alternate spellings like Vohlin, Wolen, Volyn, etc., which would indicate Kupel, Ukraine. See the web links below for additional information about the town.

Kupel Bibliography: