Yeshiva Ahavas Torah Baranovich was founded in 1997 to give life and continuity to the important Jewish Community of Baranovich, fifty-five years after the complete annihilation in 1942 of that large and vibrant community.
Baranovich (Baranovici), White Russia, took shape in the latter part of the 19th century on a strategic intersection of important railway lines.
Both the Warsaw – Bialestok – Minsk – Moscow and the Cracow – Lublin – Brest – Minsk – Moscow trains passed through Baranovich, as well as the Rovno – Vilna – Riga line.
Originally that area was part of the Russian Empire, but following the First World War it was annexed by Poland.
Today it is part of the independent country of Belarus. The city of Baranovich began as an offshoot of the nearby Jewish shtetl (village) of Musch.
First came a rail side inn run by a Jew called Reb Shaike Baranovich (perhaps the city owes its name to him), followed by many who took advantage of the new commercial opportunities occasioned by the railways.
Following the First World War, Polish independence, and the incorporation of Baranovich into Greater Poland, Baranovich experienced intense growth, with several new streets being added every year.
Due to its rapid expansion, precise population figures are not available, but two things are clear: Baranovich was a city of tens of thousands of people, and its population was overwhelmingly Jewish. According to holocaust survivors, Baranovich was home to as many as 35,000 Jews before the Second World War.
They also say that as many as 20,000 Jews were murdered when the ghetto was liquidated in late 1942, although the memorial stone erected several years ago at the cemetery (not the place of the massacres) reads: 12,000 Jews.
Obviously, during times of murder and mayhem, nobody was compiling statistics.