Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Beaver and the Jew: Reunited As in Days of Yore

Its fur is dark brown. It has a rounded head, a large flat paddle-shaped tail and webbed hind feet.

For hundreds of years, the Berezina River was filled with blissful beavers nibbling on water-lilies awash in their river lodges. Beaver-trappers settled the region 500 years ago and started hunting the beaver for its meat and fur, drastically altering the beaver’s harmonious lifestyle. As more beaver-trappers settled along the riverbanks, they decided to call their new dwelling place “Bobruisk,” named after their source of income, the babyor, Russian for beaver.

As Bobruisk grew in size and affluence, traders and smiths were drawn to the area to establish themselves. Many of those that stayed in Bobruisk were Jewish because they thrived as trades and craftsmen in the region. This in turn, attracted more Jews and more Jews, until the city became over 60% Jewish.

By the end of the 19th century, the beaver and the Jew were considered the 2 lucky charms of Bobruisk, because both attracted prosperity and both dominated the region. However, by the start of the 20th century, lives of the beavers and Jews were wholly disrupted. World War II demolished the majority of the Jewish population of Bobruisk, and due to hunting and industrialization, the beaver has been brought to the brink of extinction.

Many of the surviving Jews emigrated to Israel or the United States, but many remained because of not wishing to relinquish their “Bobruisker” identity. Today, there is a small community of a few thousand Jews, but Jews living there still tell people that they live in the Jerusalem of Belarus.

Bobruisk Trivia

-Babruisk is mentioned in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the episode "Family" the character of Worf is waiting for his parents to teleport up to the Enterprise from "Earth station Babruysk" in the year 2367.

-Babruysk was mentioned to be the origin of Valentin Mironov in The Good Shepheard

Above Photo:
In a warm embrace, Eritchka and the Bobruisk-city-beaver pose for the camera. The Jew and the beaver are still considered to be the foundation of Bobruisk.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

My grandparents both came from Bobruisk, and I have been researching their families for years. I envy you your trip to Bobruisk!