Anykščiai Jews were not only traders – they were the most active innovators in the town – it is them, who organized the first and only bus in interwar Anykščiai, the only petrol station of that period belonged to a Jewish man as well. During the interwar period, the local Jewish community was ideologically divided and it is well-seen by their educational institutions: there were few cheders, yeshiva and three secular Jewish schools (both in Hebrew and in Yiddish), also two big separate libraries were established – one for Yiddish and one for Hebrew literature. The ideological division was seen in religious matters as well – there were 6 Jewish prayer houses and one of them belonged to Hasidim. The colorful daily life of Anykščiai citizens during the interwar period was unimaginable without theater troupe, orchestra, sports organizations, and photo atelier owned by photographer Icikas Melnikas. The most economically significant institution for the Jews of that time was Jewish People`s Bank, which was established after the First World War to help those, whose were coming back home from exile, and later it proceeded as a major communal help organization. The extant building of this bank at Vilnius str. 5 reminds us today about the solidarity of the local Jewish community.
Historical Jewish Quarter in Anykščiai
Since the 19th-century Anykščiai town was famous in the Ukmergė district for its great weekly markets happening each Wednesday. Jewish community settled in Anykščiai at the end of the 17th century, and until the First World War and involuntary exiles related to it Jewish community was one of the biggest communities in town, majority of its members participated in a trade or were craftsmen unlike local people from other ethnic or religious groups, who were mostly landowners. Due to this reason market square in Anykščiai was usually referred to as the Jewish market square, it was also surrounded exclusively by small Jewish shops. The vast majority of people from Anykščiai Jewish community have lived in Žydų, Didžioji, Skiemonių, Kalamiesčio, and Įvažiavimo streets. One of the most popular Jewish shops in interwar Anykščiai was manufactory shop owned by two brothers – Mejer and Šepšel Rapports – its extant building stands to-this-day on A. Baranausko sq. 6.
THE CURRENT SITUATION:
Even though Jewish heritage in Anykščiai had been acknowledged and aimed to be preserved after Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, marks of destruction left on this heritage after the Second World War and following Soviet occupation are still apparent in the landscape of Anykščiai town – after the loss of Jewish community during the Holocaust the majority of buildings, which belonged to its members, were either reconstructed or demolished.
However, in the current Sinagogos str. (en. Synagogue str.) there is a memorial stone, reminding everyone, that until the fatal 1941 six Jewish prayer houses stood in the yard of this street. Only one actual synagogue building is extant at this street – it was re-purposed as a bakery during Soviet occupation. Nowadays the building stands unused, but it might be visited when its premises are being temporarily used as a venue for exhibitions related to Jewish culture and history. There is one more extant building of the synagogue at the current Daukantas str. 7 (which until the Second World War was called Palestinian str.), this building is being used for the town’s prosecutor’s office. On the same street in 2012 there was a memory bench built for the famous artist, political abstractionism painter Rudolfas Baranikas (1920-1998), who was born and raised in Anykščiai, but later lived and created in New York. One more extant synagogue building in Anykščiai can be spotted on Šaltupis str., now it belongs to private enterprise.
Jewish house with the Sukkah – more than 200 years old!
This building, at first sight, looks like an ordinary wooden building, which managed to survive the test of time. However, this building is one of the oldest residential houses, which was built at the end of the 19th century. A small wooden structure that is attached to the building is the sukkah, which is one of the most important attributes of sukkot, which is celebrated at the end of September.
Address: Žydų str. 2, Kėdainiai
The Great (Summer) Synagogue
The Great (Summer) synagogue was built in 1784, replacing a wooden synagogue that burned down during the fire.Once, in front of the synagogue, a butcher's house stood. A part of the synagogue was used as a custody place. The butcher's house and the synagogue once were connected by an arc with a sundial with Hebrew letters instead of numbers. During the Soviet times, the building experienced serious reconstructions, as the interior of the synagogue was redesigned. Now the synagogue houses an art school.
Kėdainiai has a synagogue complex, which consists of two synagogues: the great synagogue (also called summer synagogue) and the smaller synagogue (also called winter synagogue). Both synagogues were built in the 19th century. Winter synagogue was built in 1837, and in its facade, you can see some features of historicist architecture.Since 2002 the building of the winter synagogue is used as a multicultural center, where people have an opportunity to get acquainted with the history of the Jewish community and to attend various cultural events.
Address: Senosios Rinkos str.12A, Kėdainiai
The Old Market Square
Jews settled in Kėdainiai at the beginning of the 17th century, when in 1627, the town's owner Krzysztof Radziwiłł allowed the Jews to settle around the Old market square.
The first synagogue in Kėdainiai was mentioned in 1655, which stood in the Northern part of the Old market square.The town of Kėdainiai was home to a famous Kacenelenbogen family, which made the town of Kėdainiai a center of Talmudic studies.
The famous Vilna Gaon (Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman) studied here when he was young. It is believed that he was a student of a famous rabbi Moses Ben Simeon Margoliot (1710-1780). Another famous Jewish scholar and proponent of the Haskalah movement - Moshe Leib Lilienblum (1843-1910), was born in Kėdainiai.
It is known that in 1877 about 400 houses belonged to the Jews. High-density living space formed favorable conditions for fires that often ravaged the town. At that time, most of the buildings were built from wood, which was the cheapest and most available building material.
At the end of the 19th century, Jews constituted about half of the total town population.
The majority of the Kėdainiai Jews engaged in certain crafts and small trade.
Historical Jewish Quarter of Molėtai
The Jews settled in Moletai at the beginning of the 18th century when they received the privilege to build a synagogue in town. In the 18th century Jews of Moletai mostly leased inns, which usually stood on the crossroads of the important trade routes. At the end of the 19th century, the Jewish community blossomed, as they constituted more than 80 percent of the town’s total population. Jews remained the ethnic majority in Moletai till the beginning of the Second World War.
Towns economy mostly relied on Jews, thus the majority of buildings, that stood in the central part of the town (Vilniaus and Turgaus streets) belonged to the Jews. In this part of the town Jewish businessmen had 4 restaurants, various crafts workshops, the Jewish folk bank, and various other Jewish-owned small business. The red brick building, which can be seen in Vilnius street, once had about the dozen of small shops, that belonged to the Jews.
Towns economy mostly relied on Jews, so the majority of buildings, that stood in the central part of the town (Vilniaus and Turgaus streets), belonged to the Jews. In this part of the town, Jewish businessmen had 4 restaurants, various crafts workshops, the Jewish folk bank, and other Jewish-owned small businesses. The red brick building, which can be seen in Vilnius street, once had about the dozen of small shops, that belonged to the Jews.
Moletai Jewish community also had 4 prayer houses, 5 Jewish schools, a library, various sports, and cultural organizations.
Printing house of Naftalis Feigenzonas and the area around.
Naftalis Feigenzonas was an active Jewish businessman who opened the first printing house in Panevėžys in 1880.
This printing house printed various prints: books, receipts, business cards. Next to the printing house, N. Feigenzonas also opened a bookstore, where people bought newly printed books. Currently, this building houses a public library.
Address: Respublikos str. 16
Synagogue of Pakruojis
Pakruojis is a unique example of Lithuanian shtetl – to this day there are still many extant wooden buildings, which changed so little since the interwar years, and now stand as reminders of diverse Jewish community, that lived in Pakruojis since the end of the 18th century. A little bit further from the previous Jewish shops, on the hill at the south bank of river Kruoja there is an extant oldest wooden synagogue in Lithuania (built in 1801), which has been restored in 2017. Before the Second World War there were two other prayer houses in the same yard, but they did not survive until today. The extant synagogue was the biggest of the three prayer houses and it`s functions have changed for a few times – during the interwar period the building has been used as both a prayer house and a primary school, during Soviet times it was a local cinema theatre, and after that – a sports hall, and since Lithuania regained independence it has been waited to be renovated. Now refurbished building of synagogue functions as a place for cultural activities in Pakruojis. In the balcony, which used to be women`s section of a prayer house, there is an exhibition about Jewish history in Pakruojis. Also, authentic synagogue wall paintings with nature motives has been revived during the restoration, so the building itself without official declarations functions as a wooden synagogue museum.
Adress: Kranto g. 8, Pakruojis
Historical Jewish Quarter in Šeduva
The Jewish community settled in Šeduva at the beginning of the 18h century.
In the 1880s, Jews constituted about 60 percent of the town's residents. The majority of Jews engaged in small trade, crafts, and agriculture. The synagogue was a center of communal life, and at the end of the 19th century, the newly established yeshiva became a point of attraction for Jews from neighboring Jewish communities.
Town and the Jewish community heavily suffered during the First World War. The fires ravaged the town several times, and the members of the Jewish community were deported to the Russian wilderness, under the Tsar's order.
During the interwar period, Jews played an important role in the town's life. There were many Jewish doctors, dentists, photographers, who provided important services to their neighbors. Most of the shops in towns were owned by the Jews as well.
It is worth visiting Šeduva, as it is one of the best examples of how the Jewish shtetl looked 100 years before. From 2013, the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation (http://lostshtetl.com/) initiated various projects, restoring signs of the Jewish past in Šeduva. It is scheduled to open the "Lost Shtetl" museum in Šeduva in 2024, which would offer its visitors to learn about the history and culture of Jews through telling of stories of Jews who lived in Šeduva. Museum is being built by Old Jewish cemetery.
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Šeduva.
The old Jewish cemetery in Šeduva was restored in 2013-2014. The Jewish cemetery was used until the beginning of the Second World War. Throughout the restoration works, more than 1300 tombstones were found in the territory of the Jewish cemetery. Only part of them was restored, while about 400 of them were identified. The oldest found tombstone date back to the 1780s. Heavily damaged fragments of Jewish tombstones were placed together, forming the Star of David.
Address: Žvejų g. 19
Joniškis Synagogue Complex
In 1797 The Jewish community of Joniškis received permission to build a synagogue. However, the first synagogue was built only in 1823.
Currently, there are two synagogues in Joniškis - the White synagogue and the Red synagogue.
The white synagogue was built in 1865. Its exterior has features of classicism and romanticism architecture styles.
The Red synagogue was built after the fire of 1911, which burnt down the former wooden synagogue.
After the end of World War 2, both synagogues were used for non-religious purposes. The Red synagogue was turned into a warehouse and later into the youth center, while the white synagogue was transformed into a sports facility.
Currently, both synagogues are reconstructed, and they regained part of their former beauty. Both synagogues are now used for various cultural events.
Address: Miesto a. 4A, 4B, Joniškis
Synagogue of Alytus – newly reopened museum of modern art.
For a very long time, this beautiful building was abandoned. However, now it regained almost all of its former beauty. This synagogue was built at the end of the 19h century, in a place where the wooden synagogue stood. The Jewish community settled in Alytus at the end of the 16th century. During the interwar years, the Jewish community had more prayer houses as more than 2000 Jews lived in Alytus. During Soviet times, the synagogue was used for other purposes. For some time, this building was used as a warehouse, later - a chicken farm. As a result, extensive damage was done to the building's exterior and interior.
In recent years, the synagogue of Alytus went under massive restoration. Specialists even managed to restore and preserve some of the original wall paintings and bring back the colors into the interior of the synagogue. You can see it with your own eyes as Synagogue of Alytus is open to visitors.
Address: Kauno str. 9, Alytus.
70 Years On: Address by Abel Levitt at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Plungyán (Plungė)
On this Memorial Wall we read the names of the people of Plungė, or as they knew it in the Yiddish language, Plungyán.
With the help of Jacob Bunka and with the determination of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and helped by researchers, 1200 names, the names that appear on the Memorial Wall, the tombstone to our martyrs.
Historical Jewish Quarter of Plungė
In the 19th century, under the initiative of the Oginski family, a brick building was built at the Plunge market square, that the local merchants could sell their goods. Such actions had been done to reconstruct the town and revive its commerce after devastating fires, which many times destroyed the town's center. These small shops were often leased to poor Jewish merchants.
Active members of the Plunge Jewish community took a huge role in the town's modernization during the interwar period. Mendel Zaks opened the first electric station in town. The Jewish quarter of Plunge is not only famous for their small shops, but also by their innovative business decisions. Jewish businessmen even sold petroleum in the town's market square.
Now only one building remains that reminds us about town Jewish past – Jewish Hebrew gymnasium and Jewish library building, located in S. Nėries street. Iconic Jewish shops at the market square were destroyed just after the end of the Second World War. Now in their place stands new commercial buildings.
Synagogue of Žiežmariai
A Little Bit of History:
Since the 16th century both Rabbinical Jews and Karaite Jews communities have settled in Žiežmariai. However, gradually Karaites left the town and Rabbinical Jews remained the only non-Christian minority in Žiežmariai. During the interwar period there have been secular Jewish school, theatre and Macabi club in Žiežmariai shtetl. A large and active Jewish community could not have existed without prayer house – already in the middle of the 19th century the first wooden synagogue has been built in town. Although the synagogue has suffered from several fires, each time it has been rebuilt and after the Second World War it was used as a storage house. Due to the initiatives of heritage lovers and protectors in Lithuania after 1990s this extant wooden synagogue building has been reconstructed respectfully to its historical meaning and in 2019 it opened the doors to visitors.
Adress: Vilniaus g. 6, Žiežmariai