The History of the Mir Community Before the Holocaust
In the earliest days, the small community of Mir was subordinate with regard to taxation to the nearby community of Nieświeź. In 1662, the name Mir was first recorded in the registry of the "Lithuanian Committee." In 1761, Mir was afforded the status of an independent community as a result of its local trade fairs and the increase in its population. Before this, Mir had already held gatherings and meetings of its community leaders – not only on taxation matters but also regarding other economic, religious, customs and ordinance matters that were imposed on communities across Lithuania.
By the 18th century, Mir had already established its importance among the Jewish communities of Lithuania, and well-known rabbis were situated there. In 1815, the Mir Yeshiva was established, which attracted students from around the world. The town's rabbi sometimes also served as the Rosh Yeshiva.
To read about the Rabbis of the Mir Community, click here.
Zalman Shazar (Rubashov), the third president of the State of Israel, wrote about Mir, the town of his birth:
"A town filled with relations and ancient roots, renowned for its extolled yeshiva, and formerly a fortress for Lithuanian-style Torah learning… the fountain of Torah never dried up there even during the years of descent. I found the yeshiva deafening with the sounds of the Torah day and evening. And students – brilliant and diligent – surged towards it from afar, from the furthest flung and newest places of exile." Zalman Shazar (Rubashov), Grandfather’s Farewell Gift,” Mir, p. 144
Religious life in Mir centered around the Shulhoif (synagogue courtyard), where most of the synagogues were situated, including the "White Synagogue" (White Shul), Talmud Torah, Beit Midrash of the Poalei Tzedek (laborers) and the "Cold Synagogue" (Di Groyser Kalte Shul, where services were held only during the summer months). In order to frighten the children, they were told that ghosts flew around the Cold Synagogue during the winter.
The only synagogue situated outside of Shulhoif was the Zuchowicz Shul. The town was a sanctuary for the Misnagdim, but Hassidim also resided there: Slonim Hassidim – who had a shteibl in the town – Koidanov Hassidim and Chabad Hassidim.
Some 70 scribes lived in Mir, more than any other community in Poland or Lithuania. Alongside them were parchment producers, proofreaders, correction-makers and more. Approximately 100 families made their living producing holy books.