Historical reference

The town of Stepan in Rivne region is located on the banks of the Horyn river. The first mention of the Jewish community in the town goes back to the early XVII century, and the first records about Stepan go back to 1290 [1]. In the XIV century the Jews were allowed to settle in the Volynian Polesye, following which they began to settle in numerous towns. When the Turks ruled the Crimea, many of the Crimean Jews had trade relations with the Volynian Jews, many of them moved to Stepan where they engaged in commerce, keeping barbershops, worked as tailors, etc. [2]. According to the Geographical Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom by the end of the XIX century the town had 3384 residents, of whom 47% were Jews. There is also a mention of one synagogue and three houses of worship [3]. In the search of the more accurate data authors of the book "Ayaratenu Stepan” turn to the tax registers that indicate, that in 1577 the town had 521 residents. According to these data there were 1717 Jews in Stepan in 1847, while in 1897 the total number of residents there attained 5137 persons, including 1854 Jews [2]. The Jews lived separately from the indigenous population, occupying the central part of the town. The above mentioned synagogue was built in about the XVII century. This was a two-storey building built in the Moorish-Gothic style. The synagogue was built on the remnants of an old castle. There were reports that the Jews bought these remnants from the Prince of Ostroh and turned them into their temple.

As remembered by ex-director of Stepan Folk Museum, Jewish communities of the Volynian Polesye called Stepan the "New Jerusalem” and the synagogue of Stepan was the place of pilgrimage for multitudes of Jews. A junior secondary Jewish school was opened in 1939 with instruction in Yiddish and with the obligatory course of the Ukrainian language taught by a local resident. There is a Jewish cemetery with graves of Tsadiks. There was a structure with the tin roof over their tombs in this cemetery.Before the Rosh ha-Shanah holiday people could come there and place kvitelach on the graves of the rabbis – pieces of papers in order to receive their blessings [2].

Stepan did not escape the political upheavals of that time’s Europe, and the town changed hands many a time. Thus, with the division of the Rzeczpospolita (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) in 1795 Stepan was lost to the Russian Empire where it stayed till 1918. Then the town became a part of the Ukrainian state. In 1921 the town was ceded to the Republic of Poland where it stayed till 1939. With the invasion of the Nazis Jewish population suffered great losses. The German occupation command rounded up all Jews of Stepan in the ghetto organized on the territory of the synagogue. On August 3, 1941 all inmates of the ghetto were deported under guard to Kostopil, where they were all massacred in the vicinity of Korchivye village. Over 560 Jews of Stepan were shot to death by the invaders near the village Kalynivka.


1. Androshchuk O. V., Stepan, town in Rivne region. // Electronic resource:

2. I Ganush and J. Peri. The history of Stepan and its Jewish population // Electronic resource: #Page 9

3. Geographical Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom and other Slavonic lands, volume XI // Electronic resource: