Jews. 1899. Krymchaks and Hakham Medini: Story of one Album




The album was created as part of the REM project – the winner of the Second Competition of Museum and Exhibition Grants of the Russian Jewish Congress for the development of projects in the field of Jewish culture. In the territory of Taurida Province, the Krymchaks engaged in commerce and crafts lived mostly in cities: Simferopol, Karasubazar, Feodosiya, Kerch etc. In the late 19th and early 20th century Karasubazar (its name originating from the Biyuk-Karasu river flowing across the town, and meaning “black river’s bank” or “market on the black river”) became the main center of the Krymchaks greatly due to the activities of Hakham Medini, who was their spiritual leader during the last third of the XIX century. In 1866, Chaim Hezekiah Medini (1832–1904), a famous scholar and wizard, arrived in Karasubazar upon invitation of the Krymchaks, to become their Hakham, or spiritual leader, and the founder of a seminary where he taught and instructed several generations of Krymchaks for 33 years. He had immense authority not only among the Krymchaks. This is evidenced by an episode related to the campaign of eviction of Jews of foreign nationality from Russia in 1889. Medini was also intended for eviction, but the local authorities, including the General Governor of Odessa, succeeded in canceling this decision. In 1899 he left for his birthplace in Palestine. Hakham Medini’s departure from Crimea erupted into an immense triumphant parade; a great number of people came to see him off. They were representatives of various ethnicities of the town, local authorities (policemen and marshals), residents of Crimea. A part of the Krymchak community followed him to the holy land of Israel. One of them was Nisim Levi ben Mordechai Chakhchir with his family (Hakham daughter's husband), who stood at the origins of the Crimean community in Palestine (he served in a synagogue in Tel Aviv). The “Album of Memories of the Hakham of Karasubazar. Scenes and views before his departure for Jerusalem in 1899” was released by photographer Ya.L. Tiraspolsky to commemorate this event The album was presented by B.Y. Smirnova to museum in 1963. Currently, the only known copy is kept in the museum's photo archive.


Karina Solovyeva, Head of Photography Department, curator