In the beginning there was an organization called CPSA (Children of Pruzhany and the Surrounding Area), started by a group of people, interested in learning more about their ancestors and their Pruzhany Uyezd heritage. They developed the CPSA web site, and an Internet Discussion Group, for the exchange of information using e-mail. In time they came to realize that there was much information available in the official Archives in Grodno, Belarus and in Moscow, Russia. To obtain this information it was necessary to hire researchers. In 1999 three of the CPSA group formed a test organization called PRP (Pruzhany Research Project) headed by Herbert J. Maletz, New York, as the project leader, and team members, Jay Lenefsky (Israel) & Yehoshua Serlin (Argentina). PRP obtained sufficient contributions to fund the cost of a limited amount of research. They have had some success not only in obtaining important information from the Belarussian and Russian Archives but also in developing a group of volunteers for English translation of Yizkors and Russian documents. 

The PRP experience proved that there was a great amount interest in our accomplishment to date by the descendants of Pruziners and there was a clear indication that a more formal approach was necessary. This led to the formation of the Pruzhany Uyzed Research Society, PURS, a 'Not for Profit' membership Society, by the PRP team who will serve as non-paid volunteers. The Society members would add greatly to our goals through their commitment to help us through fund raising, their contribution of personal documents, pictures, stories, etc., by volunteering and assistance in developing a web site. 

PURS will be devoted to research and as a teaching facility for the benefit of the descendants of victims of the holocaust so that they can learn pieces of the history of their ancestors and their heritage. Our membership application form provides further details. PURS will be associated fraternally with CPSA and will not have its own discussion group as it now exists in CPSA. After a period of project cost recovery, PURS will donate information for general public viewing to CPSA. 

Approach to genealogical research

Jews began arriving in the PURS area starting about 1380. They came from Poland and Germany where Jewish culture was greatly influenced. "Ashkenaz" is the name in the Bible for Germany; this is why our ancestors were called "Ashkenazim". They were also called "yekes", which means "Germans" in Yiddish. About one century before, "Yiddish", a form of German dialect, appeared in the area surrounding Frankfurt. When the Great Dukedom of Lithuania captured the area, they were also called "litvaks". 

Pruziners never had a strong Polish influence in culture or in language. Polish Yiddish sounds different from Litvak Yiddish. In Pruzhany Jews used a version of Litvak Yiddish strongly influenced by their "yekes" past. Nevertheless, some of our ancestors claimed to be Polish, as Poland captured the area between both Wars. They also claim to be Russian, as it was a part of Russian Empire until the revolution of 1917. In 1991 for the first time in history, Belarus became an independent State. Pruzhany is now part of Belarus, in Brest Oblast (administrative section).

Jews first settled in Grodno and Brest, later in Pinsk and still later in Minsk, Mogilev, and elsewhere. Traditionally Jewish people were wanderers and they subsequently arrived in Pruzhany during the 1400's. The first synagogue was built in the Jewish quarter during 1463. A reconstruction of Jewish settlement in Pruzhany in the early 1500's can be seen in Section 01-A of this web site in "Pruzhany from 1400's to WWII"

Massive immigration came after the third partition of Poland in the years 1772-1795. The first records that were found for Pruzhany Jews are from the year 1795. They lived there until WWII. The only Jewish people that lived in Pruzhany after WWII were returnees. This was because the German army, during its retreat, made absolutely sure no Jews were still alive in this territory. After five centuries the history of Pruzhany Jewry ended after the Holocaust. You can find a list of survivors and returnees and stories of their life in Section 02 E " Survivors of the Holocaust". 

As a result, the only resources we have now are in writing, such as an historic book written in Pruzhany in year 1930 which reconstructs Pruzhany's history, memories of returnees, and memories of survivors, as they were told in Yizkor books, small books filled with personal testimonies and memoirs. We must also depend upon archival collections of documents created by the czarist Russian Empire primarily before the Revolution. As far it is known most documents of Jewish vital statistics, such as birth, marriages and death records, which were stored in synagogues either were destroyed or disappeared during the Holocaust.

You will find lists of names in the following subsections of "02 PEOPLE OF PRUZHANY" A) Main records, B) Business Directories, C) Voting Lists, F) People in Other Documents . 

The Holocaust is documented in Section 02 - D "People Murdered to Honor His Name" (Kedoshim) 

The reconstruction of Pruzhany's life in pictures and documents is shown in Section 03 IMAGES. Pictures were obtained from different sources; in Yizkor Books, in YIVO (Argentina and USA), from Pruzhany, donated by people whose ancestors lived there and some we purchased. 

Some of the sources of our information are:

Pruzhany Yzkor Book.  Bereza Yzkor Book YIVO Argentina.  YIVO New York
United States Holocaust Museum NYPL (New York Public Library)
University of California at Los Angeles Russian Central Archives in Moscow
Grodno Archives Pruzhany's Archives
Argentine-Polish Association GGG  (Grodno Genealogy Group)
United Pruziner Relief Committee Authorizations by David Forer
Gifts of Amy Levinson, Racket Family, Serlin Family, Leah Watson, Celia Demov Bell and others

In surveying the PURS Web Site Index, we hope that our accomplishments over the past 18 months reflected therein will impress you. We fully commit ourselves to continuing to build on these accomplishments now and in the ensuing months. We solicit your help in providing us with items of historical significance, in volunteering your help in many aspects, and in providing financial support.



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