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The economic position of most of the Berdichev Jews was further impaired by the restrictions imposed on Jewish settlement in the villages by the “temporary regulations” (May Laws) of 1882 and other government restrictive measures.At the end of the 19th century, about half of the Jewish wage earners were employed in manual trades, mostly in tailoring, shoemaking, carpentry, metalwork, etc.
Berdichev became one of the foremost centers of the Bund.
Towards the mid-eighteenth century, the city became one of the main Jewish centers of Ukraine, earning the esteemed title “Jerusalem of Volhynia.” From 1785, Berdichev was home to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, a prominent Hassidic leader, as well as Rabbi Yitzhak Ber Levinzon, a famous advocate of Jewish Enlightenment.
In 1797, prince Radziwill granted seven Jewish cloth merchants the monopoly of the cloth trade in Berdichev.
In 1798, a Jewish printing press was established in the city, one of the greatest in Russia.
The ideas of enlightenment (Haskalah) began to spread in Berdichev early in the 19th century, especially among the wealthier families.
The Galician Haskalah pioneer and Hebrew author Tobias Feder Gutmann settled in Berdichev toward the end of his life.
Influenced by Isaac Baer Levinsohn, a group of Maskilim was formed there in the 1820’s, in which the physician Israel Rothenberg was to be particularly active.
Among the opponents of the Maskilim was the banker Jacob Joseph Halpern, who had great influence in Hasidic circles and was close to the government.
With the economic decline of Berdichev, the wealthier Maskilim left for the larger cities.
The first public school in Berdichev with instruction in Russian was opened in 1850.
Because of the poverty of the majority of the Jewish population a large number of children were even unable to attend Heder.
According to the 1897 census, only 58% of Jewish males and 32% of Jewish females were able to read or write any language.