Bershad New Jewish Cemetery
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. Given the oldest preserved tombstone is dated 1897, it can be inferred it already existed in the late 19th century. It can be found marked on a map of the region from the 1900s, as well as a German map.
The cemetery is divided into pre-war and post-war sections, separated by the mass graves.
The post-war section is well-maintained.
The cemetery contains approximately 2,000 gravestones. The post-war section is also divided by gender. The pre-war cemetery is severely overgrown, and is inaccessible. The community used to keep the vegetation cut, but no longer has the funds to do so.
An ohel from 1906 was found. Unfortunately, its owner could not be determined. The head of the community indicated that homeless people are using the ohel as shelter. The fence was installed in 2001-2008.
The town of Bershad was first mentioned in 1459 as a private town in Poland, owned by the families of Zbaraski and Moszyński. Polish nobleman Piotr Stanisław Moszyński built a palace complex in Bershad. From 1569 the region belonged to The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Jews first settled there at the end of the 16t century. In 1648, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising under the Cossacks, Maksym Kryvonis conquered Bershad and slew many of the Catholics and Jews there. In the 17th century, many Jews were influenced by Sabbateanism and in the 18th century Hasidism was preeminent in Bershad. In 1793, after the Second partition of Poland, it came under the control of the Russian Empire, and became part of the Podolia Governorate (Podolskaya Gubernia). The Jewish community numbered 438 in 1765, 650 in 1787, 3370 in 1847, 6600, out of a total of 8885, according to the 1897 census and 7400 in 1910 which was 61% of the total population.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Bershad became celebrated for its tallit weaving industry which came to an end after many of the weavers immigrated to the United States. The majority of the factories for sugar refining and distilling, flour mills, and tanneries established in Bershad toward the end of the century were owned by Jews. Of the town’s 175 artisans, 163 were Jewish. In 1889, there were 8 synagogues and 7 prayer houses in Bershad. The Zionists and the Bund were active at the turn of the 19th century. In 1905, Jewish homes and stores were looted and burned in anti-Jewish pogroms.
During the civil war of 1919–20, 150 Jews in Bershad were massacred in pogroms.
After 1922, Bershad became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic within the USSR. In 1923-31, a Yiddish school, providing vocational training, with 621 students, was operating. In 1926 Jews numbered 7016, of a total population of 11,847, dropping to 4271 in 1939. During this period, under the Soviets, many Jews worked in artisan cooperatives, some of which later developed into factories.
In 1941, many Jews fled to the East but 800 remained behind. Bershad was occupied by the Germans and Romanians on July 29, 1941, and included in the Transnistria Governorate on September 1. A ghetto, containing 337 houses, was established in the town and 25,000 Jews, expelled from Bukovina and Bessarabia, were brought there later. Mortality in the ghetto reached a rate of 50-70% for adults and 80% for children. Many died of hunger and disease as up to 25 people were packed into a room. By August 1942, only 10,000 Jews remained. The situation improved after financial aid arrived from Jewish organizations in Romania. A hospital, pharmacy, soup kitchen, and orphanage were opened. In August 1943, 1203 Jews were mobilized for forced labor in the Nikolaev region; none of which returned. In late 1943, 400 were murdered in a ghetto Aktion. Jews from Bershad organized and led an underground resistance of 50 Jews. In late 1943, members of the underground joined a partisan unit operating in the area. The Nazis caught and murdered many prior to the liberation.
The Jews in Bershad numbered 2200 in 1959 and 553 in 1993, both a rabbi and kosher poultry were available. There still exists a tiny community and an active synagogue.
The New Jewish Cemetery of Bershad is believed to have been founded in the late 19th century. Today it contains more than 3000 graves and is well maintained.