Known for 1986 Nuclear disaster, Chernobyl also has a deep Jewish Legacy

Jewish kids and teacher in Ukraine 1941. Image Source:

Chernobyl’ is small city located in keiv oblast in Ukraine where lot of big things have happened in the past. Chernobyl is city where 1986s catastrophic nuclear accident happened. This nuclear accident happened due to flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.


But before all that Chernobyl was use be place Rabbinic Dynasty lived. It said that Markham Markham Twersky is the first twersky of the Dynasty. He was born around 1730 and came to Chernobyl in 1770s as preacher. Later Markham Markham became Chernobyl’s Rebbe.

“He wrote a book called ‘the light of the eyes’ is the foundation of the Hasidic ideology in those days” said Yitz Twersky, descendant of Twersky.

Markham Markham had 8 sons each then went to different Ukraine rabbinic chords there. This was the begging of the great rabbinic dynasties.

Until the middle of 20th century through the times of holocaust there was always a Twersky presence in Ukraine.

“My grandfather was the rebbe of a city in southern Ukraine. In 1941 when the german’s came in the city was bombed and everyone was gathered into a school” said Yitz Twersky

Entire jewish population was target by the Nazis including all the rebbe’s, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, leaders. They were told that they will be moved into labour camps but instead they were massacred. Mass killing like these wiped out entire families. The twersky family in southern Ukraine also lost many members of their family.

Yitz twerksy’s father rebbe Yacob Josheph Twersky moved to the United States after surviving the second World War, the death of his parents and years in concentration camps.

“When I was in college , I was taken to rebbe’s funeral  then one led to another and I started researching who my family was , who were the people at the funeral, how we are related and that started a 30 years of introspection, learning lot of things about myself and twersky family. So I started at the New York public library where in those days they had phonebooks and I actually withdrew manually every phonebook, wrote down every twersky’s name and started making calls. And Started making family tree’s and searching other record books.” Said Yitz Twersky.

Over the last 30 years Yitz has been gathering his family history and searching for other descendants. According to Mr.Twersky’s estimate there are about 50,000 people wh belong to the twersk family.

“I have documented 25,000 people 15 years ago, I have stopped the documentation of the rabbenical  descendants. I kind of decided to marry and have five kids.” Said Yitz.

What unites all the known twersky descendant is their strong connection Chernobyl no matter how far they live.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha