Jewish man as Mayor of shtetl Teofipol Imperial Russia #general #russia

Marilyn Levinson

Dear researchers
My grandmother was born in 1894 in Teofipol.  She emigrated to the United States in 1909.  She told my mother who was born in 1920 that her uncle was Mayor of her town.  Would it be possible for a Jewish man to be a mayor as we understand it today, or is it more probably a title given to him regarding the Jewish community.  Thank you for your help.
Marilyn Levinson
Spring Lake NC

Michele Lock

A similar question came up on a Facebook group a few weeks ago, which prompted me to look into this.

In 1906, an official in the US embassy in Saint Petersburg wrote a paper on the status of Jews in the Russian Empire, which is posted on the US State Dept's website at:

The relevant paragraph is about 1/3 of the way down the page:
"According to the law of 1870, the number of Jews in the village councils and in the councils of municipalities must not exceed one-third of the number of the Christian members of the said council. Mayors of villages must be Christians. According to the laws of 1890 and 1892, Jews can not take part in assemblies for election beyond the Jewish pale, and the same laws forbid them to hold office under the municipalities outside the pale. Furthermore, in courts of justice, whatever the religion of the plaintiff or defendant, there must be more Christians than Jews in the jury and the foreman of the jury must be a Christian."

So, it is was not possible for a Jewish person to be mayor of a town, if Christians also lived in the town.

It is possible that the uncle held a position on the Kahal, the committee of Jewish men who oversaw the Jewish community of the town.
Michele Lock

Lock/Lak/Lok and Kalon in Zagare/Joniskis, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Minsk gub., Belarus


By 1920, Russia had become the Soviet Union, where the Jewish Leon Trotsky, born Lev Bronstein, became foreign minister and head of the army.  Mayor of a town/city would have been no great shakes.
Yale Zussman


Dear Marilyn,
"Mayor" may be a very loose translation of the position the uncle held.  My great uncle Simon Schaeffler was the President or Chairman of the Jewish Kultesgemeinde (community organization) in Storozynetz, Bukovina (Austria before WWI, Romania between the wars, now in Ukraine).  His nephews, who I knew well here in the USA, called him "The Mayor of Storozynetz," for lack of a better term or translation.  When the Nazis arrived in Storozynetz, they shot and killed Simon Schaeffler on the first day.  His wife, my GM's older half-sister Clara Kantorczy Schaeffler died in the Czernowitz transit camp, according to Romanian government records.
Hope this helps,

Marc M. Cohen, Los Gatos, California, USA

BARAK/CANTORCZY: Khotin, Bessarabia; Strorozhinets, Bukovina, Ukraine
CHOMITZ/HAMETZ: Ionina (Janina), Greece; Ignatovka, Ukraine; Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine
COHEN: Dinovitsi (Dunayevtsy) Ukraine; Roman/Tirgu Frumos, Romania
KORNITZKY: Kiev Gubernia, Stepnitz/Stepantsy, Ukraine
RÎBNER: Storozhinetz, Costesti (Costyntsi), Drachinets, Cabesti, Bukovina, Ukraine
ROSENBERG: Tirgu Frumos, Roman, Romania; ISRAEL
WEININGER: Cabesti, Costesti, Drachinets, Czernowitz, Bukovina, Ukraine

Doug Cohen

According to the yizkor book of the town of Sierpc (now Poland), my ggf was the parnass -- which could easily be translated as the mayor, but only of the Jewish community in the town.

Doug Cohen
Sarasota, Florida
Lexington, MA

Jeremy Lichtman

As others have noted, after the revolution in 1917, there were Jewish mayors.

General David Petrovsky (aka Lipetz) was mayor of Berdichev for a period of time.


Jeremy Lichtman
Toronto, Canada


The family of Jewish Senator Jacob Javits from New York (1904 -1984) came from Zbarazh in Ukraine, and I recall reading that his grandfather had been a mayor of the town. In Zbarazah, the name was "Jawetz."

Susan J. Gordon
New York

Sherri Bobish


My ggf's shtetl of Ustrzyki Dolne did have a Jewish mayor, and he was mayor of the entire town.  This was in Galicia, in today's Poland, not in Russia though.

According to:
In the town of Dukla "the associate mayor used to be selected from among the Jewish population."


Sherri Bobish


I have a friend who is a Holocaust survivor.  His father was mayor of their town, though it was in Germany. 
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC