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KERTCH:

Russian seaport at the eastern extremity of the Crimean peninsula; the ancient Panticapæon. A Greek inscription on a marble slab found in Kertch and preserved in the Imperial "Ermitage" in St. Petersburg shows that a Jewish community and synagogue existed in Kertch in 80-81 B.C. A number of tombstones unearthed near Kertch in 1867 bear the representation of a "menorah," with Greek inscriptions, showing that they belonged to Jews. In a message of the patriarch Fotius to Archbishop Antony of Kertch (858-891), the former thanks the archbishop for his efforts to convert theJews of Kertch. In a letter of Joseph, king of the Chazars, to Ḥasdai ibn Shaprut (c. 960), Kertch is mentioned as among the possessions of the Chazars. The presence there of Jews in the seventh century is confirmed by inscriptions found in the earliest Christian catacomb known in that region (Brun, "O Raznykh Nazvaniakh Kertchi," etc., p. 13, Odessa, 1877).

With the addition of Kertch to the territories of the Chazars the condition of the Jews there was markedly improved. The Chazars established a military post there to guard against the attacks of the Russians and Uzes. In 1318 Kertch was ceded to the Genoese, but in 1340 it was compelled to acknowledge the supremacy of the Mongols, who offered the Venetians the privilege of settlement in Bosporus under the same conditions that the Genoese were offered in Kaffa. In the fifteenth century Kertch was taken by the Turks; in 1773 it was added to the territory of Russia. During the Crimean war it was destroyed by the French and the English.

Kertch has a total population of 28,982, including 2,650 Jews, about 40 of whom are Karaites. Its Jewish community is well organized, and possesses a large synagogue and a number of charitable institutions. Its members are prominently connected with the oil-refineries and with the salt and dried-fish industries.

Bibliography:
  • Regesty i Nadpisi.
H. R. J. G. L.
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