Rabbi Chaim Gutnick Z”L in 2000 at the 6th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

My videos of the Rabbi Chaim Gutnick Z’L, filmed at CHABAD House in Perth, Western Australia on 5 July 2000 on the 6th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

A definite “must watch” to mark the Rebbe’s 20th yahrzeit


Menachem Mendel Schneerson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the third Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch dynasty, see Menachem Mendel Schneersohn.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson2.jpg

Menachem Mendel Schneerson at the Lag BaOmer parade in Brooklyn, 1987.
Synagogue 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
Began 10 Shevat 5711 / January 17, 1951
Predecessor Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn
Personal details
Born April 5, 1902 OS (11 Nissan5662)[1]
Nikolaev, Kherson Governorate,Russian Empire (present-dayMykolaivUkraine)
Died June 12, 1994 NS (3 Tammuz5754) (aged 92[2])
ManhattanNew YorkUSA
Buried QueensNew York, USA
Dynasty Chabad Lubavitch
Parents Levi Yitzchak Schneerson
ChanaYanovski Schneerson
Spouse Chaya Mushka Schneerson
Semicha Rogatchover Gaon

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (April 5, 1902 OS[1] – June 12, 1994 NS), known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe or just the Rebbe,[3] was a prominent Hasidic rabbi who was the seventh and last Rebbe (Hasidic leader) of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He was fifth in a direct paternal line to the third Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. In January 1951, a year after the death of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, he assumed the leadership of the Lubavitch movement.

He led the movement until his death in 1994, greatly expanding its worldwide activities and founding a worldwide network of institutions to spread traditional religious practices among the Jewish people.[4] These institutions include schools, kindergartens, synagogues andChabad houses. He successfully built a network of more than 3,600 institutions in over 70 countries and 1000 cities around the world.[5]During his lifetime, some of his followers considered him to be the Jewish Messiah, but Rabbi Schneerson mildly discouraged such talk.[6]

He was recognized as a contributor to Jewish continuity and religious thought,[7] and recognized by both the Orthodox and Reform movements, as the pioneer of Jewish outreach.[8]

Early life

Birth and early years

Menachem Mendel Schneerson was born on Friday, April 18, 1902, equivalent to 11 Nissan, 5662, in the town of Nikolaev.[9] His father was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, a renowned Talmudic scholar and authority on Kabbalah and Jewish law.[10] His mother was Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson (nee Yanovski).

In 1907, when Menachem Mendel was six years old, the Schneersons moved to Yekatrinislav (today, Dnepropetrovsk), where Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was appointed Chief Rabbi of the city. He served until 1939.[11] He had two younger brothers, Dov Ber and Yisroel Aryeh Leib.[12] His younger brother Dov Ber, an accomplished Talmudist in his youth, had become mentally disturbed during his late teenage years, and spent time at an institution for the mentally disabled near Nikolaiev. He was murdered in 1944 in a mass shooting by Nazi collaborators.[13]

The youngest, Yisrael Aryeh Leib, was close to his brother, and often traveled with him. He was widely viewed as a genius and studied Talmud, Kabbalah and science. In the late 1920s together with his brother, he met Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe.[14] To escape the Soviet Union, he changed his name to Mark Gourary using the papers of Mr. Mark (Mordecahi) Gourary, who had been a friend of his father. He moved to Israel where he became a businessman. He later moved to England where he began doctoral studies atLiverpool University but died in 1952 before completing them. His wife died in 1996 and his children—Schneerson’s closest living relatives—currently reside in Israel.[12]

Early education

During his youth, Schneerson received a mostly private Jewish education. He was tutored by Zalman Vilenkin from 1909 through 1913. In 1977, he said of Vilenkin: “He taught me and my brothers ChumashRashi and Talmud. He put me on my feet. He was an illustrious Jew…”[15] When Schneerson was eleven years old, Vilenkin informed the boy’s father that he had nothing more to teach his son.[16] At that point, the boy’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, began teaching his son. He also taught him Kaballa. And Menachem Mendel was gifted in both Talmudic and Kabalistic study.[17] Yona Kesse, who in his youth frequented Schneerson’s home later recounted: “I witnessed his intense diligence in Torah study, I always found him learning in a standing position, never sitting down. I remember him as an extremely private person, an introvert; his entire being as I recall it, was Torah.”[18] He was considered anIllui and genius, and by the time he was seventeen, he had mastered the entire Talmud, some 5,894 pages with all its early commentaries.[19][20] Menachem Mendel learned far more from his father than just Talmud and Kaballa. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s courage and principles were a guide to his son for the rest of his life. Many years later, when he once reminisced about his youth, Schneerson said “I have the education of the first-born son of the rabbi of Yekatrinoselav. When it comes to saving lives, I speak up whatever other may say.”[21]

Schneerson later studied independently under his father, who was his primary teacher. He studied Talmud and rabbinic literature, as well as the Hasidic view of Kabbalah. He received separate rabbinical ordinations from both the Rogatchover Gaon, Yosef Rosen,[22] and from Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (also known as the Sridei Aish).[23]

Although Schneerson didn’t attend a Soviet school, he took the exams as an external student and did well on them,[24] and he immersed himself in Jewish studies while simultaneously qualifying for Russian secondary school.[12] Throughout his childhood Schneerson was involved in the affairs of his father’s office, where his secular education and knowledge of the Russian language were useful in assisting his father’s public administrative work. He was also said to have acted as an interpreter between the Jewish community and the Russian authorities on a number of occasions.[12]

Early travels and marriage

In 1923 Schneerson visited Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn for the first time. It was presumably at that time that he met Schneersohn’s middle daughter, Chaya Mushka.[12] He became engaged to her in Riga in 1923 and married her five years later in 1928, after being away in Berlin.[citation needed]

Chana Schneerson, the mother of Menachem Mendel, has noted in her memoirs that when Yosef Yirzchok was permitted to leave the USSR in 1927, “he submitted a list of those for whom he requested an exit visa to accompany him.” And that “the list included my son, M.M., long may he live”. She then notes that “for each one on the list individually, the Rebbe (Yosef Yitzchok) gave a reason for his request — a reason the Soviet government officials had to find satisfactory. When they came to his request for our son, however, they asked the Rebbe (Yosef Yitzchok) why he needed him. He replied that he wanted him as a son-in-law, to marry his daughter. “Do you really need to bring even a son-in-law from here?” they asked, to which the Rebbe (Yosef Yitzchok) replied firmly, “I won’t find such a son-in-law there!”[25]

Schneerson returned to Warsaw for his wedding, and in an article about his wedding in a Warsaw newspaper, “a number of academic degrees” were attributed to him. During the wedding celebration an elder Chassid asked Yosef Yitzchok “Tell me about the groom!”, to which he responded “I have given my daughter to this man. He is wholly fluent in the Babalonian and Jerusalem Talmuds; he knows the Torah writings of the Rishonim and Acharonim (the classic and modern commentators), and much, much more.”[26] Taking great pride in his son-in-law’s outstanding knowledge, Yosef Yitzchok asked him to engage the great Torah scholars that were present at the wedding in learned conversation.[27] Following the marriage, the newlyweds went to live in Berlin.[citation needed] The marriage was long and happy (60 years), but childless.

Schneerson and Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn are related through Tzemach Tzedek, the third Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch.



Schneerson studied mathematics, physics and philosophy at the University of Berlin for five semesters from mid-1928 through 1930.[28]His father-in-law, Yosef Yitzchok, paid for all the tuition expenses and helped facilitate his studies throughout.[29] Whilst there, he wrote hundreds of pages of original Torah discourses, subsequently published as “Reshimot”,[30] and corresponded with his father on Torah matters, which were published in the 1970s in the book “Likuttei Levi Yitzchak—Letters”.[31] During his stay in Berlin, R. Schneerson was assigned specific communal tasks by his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, who also requested that he write scholarly annotations to the responsa of Tzemach TzedekYosef Yitzchok Schneersohn also sought his annotations to various hasidic discourses. It was during this period, between 1928 and 1932, that there took place a serious interchange of halachic correspondence between R. Schneerson and the famed talmudic genius known as the Rogachover Gaon. This correspondence is indicative of Schneerson’s talmudic erudition at the time. In 1933 he also met with Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapiro, as well as with famed talmudist Rabbi Shimon Shkop.[32]During this time he would keep a diary in which he would carefully document his private conversations with his father-in-law Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, as well as customs he witnessed his father-in-law observing over the next fifteen years.[33]

With his brother

His brother, Yisroel Aryeh Leib joined him in Berlin in 1931, traveling with false papers under the name ‘Mark Gurary’ to escape the Soviets. He arrived and was cared for by his brother and sister-in-law as he was seriously ill with typhoid fever. Leibel attended classes at the University of Berlin from 1931 to 1933. In 1933, after Hitler took over Germany and began instituting anti-Semitic policies, Mendel and his wife helped Leibel escape from Berlin, before themselves fleeing to Paris.[28] Leibel escaped to Mandate Palestine in 1939 with his fiancee Regina Milgram, where they later married.[34]

Encounters with Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik

Rabbis Herschel Schacter, Sholem Kowalsky, Julius Berman, Rabbi Menachem Genack, and Rabbi Fabian Schoenfeld (all students of Soloveitchik) have asserted that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik met for the first time while they both studied in Berlin. They met many times at the home of Hayyim Heller in Berlin, and remained close even after the two left Germany.[35][36][37]

According to Soloveitchik’s son Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik, Rabbi Soloveitchik only saw Rabbi Schneerson pass by in Berlin and they did not meet while there.[38]

In 1964, Soloveitchik paid a lengthy visit to Schneerson while the latter was mourning the death of his mother. Their conversation during this visit lasted approximately two hours. Soloveitchik afterwards told his student Sholem Kowalsky, who accompanied him: “the Rebbe has a ‘gewaldiger’ (awesome) comprehension of the Torah.”[39] Soloveitchik later visited again following the death of Rabbi Schneerson’s mother-in-law.[35] In 1980, accompanied by his student Herschel Schacter, Rabbi Soloveitchik visited Rabbi Schneerson at Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn on the occasion of a celebration marking the 30th anniversary of his leadership. The visit lasted close to two hours after which Soloveitchik told Schacter his opinion of Schneerson; “He is a gaon, he is a great one, he is a leader of Israel.”[40]


In 1933, Rabbi Schneerson moved to ParisFrance. He studied mechanics and electrical engineering at the École spéciale des travaux publics, du bâtiment et de l’industrie (ESTP), a Grandes écoles in the Montparnasse district. He graduated in July 1937 and received a license to practice as an electrical engineer. In November 1937, he enrolled at the Sorbonne, where he studied mathematics until World War II broke out in 1939.[41] Schneerson lived most of the time in Paris at 9 Rue Boulard in the 14th arrondissement, in the same building as his wife’s sister, Shaina, and her husband, Mendel Hornstein.[citation needed] His father-in-law, Yosef Yitzchok, also recommended that Professor Alexander Vasilyevitch Barchenko consult with Menachem Mendel regarding various religious and mystical matters.[42]

During his time in Paris, Schneerson oversaw and edited the “Hatamim”, a scholarly rabbinic journal that was published periodically from 1935 until 1938.[43] Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, wrote to his daughter, Chaya Mushka: “although other names will appear in print, the entire work of “Hatamim” is that of my dear and beloved son-in-law, the Rabbi.”[44]

Prominent Rabbis, such as Yerachmiel Binyaminson and Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler turned to Schneerson with their queries regarding the reconciliation of different rabbinic and kabalistic opinions.[45] His response has been published in Igrot Kodesh.[46]

On June 11, 1940, three days before Paris fell to the Nazis, the Schneersons fled to Vichy, and later to Nice, where they stayed until their final escape from Europe.[47]

Rabbi Schneerson learned to speak French, which he put to use in establishing his movement there after the war.[citation needed] The Chabad movement in France later attracted many Jewish immigrants from AlgeriaMorocco, and Tunisia.[citation needed]

America and leadership

Escape from Europe

In 1941, Rabbi Schneerson escaped from Europe on the Serpa Pinto, which sailed from Lisbon, Portugal. It was one of the last neutral passenger ships to cross the Atlantic before the danger from U-boats became too great.[48] He joined his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Upon his arrival in New York, Yosef Yitzchak dispatched a delegation of respected members of the Chabad community to greet him at the harbor. Yosef Yitzhok told them, “you will be greeting my son-in-law; he is fluent in all of TalmudTosafotThe Rosh and Ran, as well as all the published Chassidic books”.[49] Seeking to contribute to the war effort, he went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, drawing wiring for the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63),[50][51] and other classified military work.[52]

Rise in America

In 1942, his father-in-law appointed him director of the Chabad movement’s newly founded central organizations, Merkos L’Inyonei ChinuchMachneh Israel and Kehot Publication Society, placing him at the helm of the movement’s Jewish educational, social services, and publishing networks across the United StatesIsraelAfricaEurope and Australia. Over the next decade, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok referred many of the scholarly questions that had been inquired of him to his son-in-law Menachem Mendel.[53] At his father-in-law’s request, Schneerson would speak publicly once a month, delivering talks to his father-in-law’s followers,[12] and he became increasingly known as a personal representative of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok.[53]

During the 1940s, Rabbi Schneerson became a naturalized US citizen. For many years to come, he would speak about America’s special place in the world, and would argue that the bedrock of the United States’ power and uniqueness came from its foundational values, which were, according to Rabbi Schneerson, ‘”E pluribus unum‘—from many one”, and “In God we trust.”[54] In 1949, his father-in-law would become a U.S. citizen, with the Rebbe assisting to coordinate the event.[55]

Succession as Rebbe

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn died in 1950, leaving behind two sons-in-law. Rabbi Shemaryahu Gurary and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Chassidim began rallying around Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, persuading him to succeed his father-in-law as Rebbe. Although Rabbi M. Schneerson was reluctant, and actively refused to officially accept leadership of the movement for the entire year after Rabbi Y. Schneersohn’s death, he was eventually cajoled into accepting the post by his father-in-law’s followers.[56] Although there was no election, he was the natural candidate on dynastic grounds and on the basis of his scholarship and personal qualities.[57] On the first anniversary of his father-in-law’s passing, 10 Shevat 1951, he delivered a Hasidic discourse, (Ma’amar), spontaneously at the suggestion of someone in the crowd at a gathering, and formally became the Rebbe.[58]

Activities as Rebbe


From the beginning of his leadership, Schneerson put a strong emphasis on education and often spoke of the need of a true moral educational system.[59] He said that education infused with godliness is the bedrock for a true moral society for all mankind regardless of religious faith,[60] and that we cannot rest until every child, boy and girl, receives a proper moral education.[61] Seeking to promote awareness for educational matters, Schneerson proclaimed 1977 as a “Year of Education” and urged Congress to do the same. He stated: “Education, in general, should not be limited to the acquisition of knowledge and preparation for a career, or, in common parlance, ‘to make a better living.’ We must think in terms of a ‘better living’ not only for the individual, but also for the society as a whole. The educational system must, therefore, pay more attention, indeed the main attention, to the building of character, with emphasis on moral and ethical values. Education must put greater emphasis on the promotion of fundamental human rights and obligations of justice and morality, which are the basis of any human society, if it is to be truly human and not turn into a jungle.”[62] Following which, the Ninety-Fifth Congress of the United States issued a Joint Resolution designating April 18, 1978, as “Education Day, U.S.A.“.[63] Since then, every President has issued a proclamation, proclaiming Schneerson’s birthday as “Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.[64] In 1982 Ronald Reagan also proclaimed Schneerson’s birthday as a “National Day of Reflection”.[60]


In 1953, Schneerson established the Lubavitch women’s organisation. And in a marked departure from an entrenched tendency to limit high-level Torah education to men and boys, he addressed his teachings equally to both genders.[65] Schneerson would describe the increase in Torah study by women as one of the “positive innovations of the later generations”[66]

Jewish outreach

Rabbi Schneerson was the first person to put priority on what today is called ‘kiruv’, and drawing Jews closer to their religion,[8] and he believed that the American public was seeking to learn more about their Jewish heritage. Speaking to an American journalist in 1951, he stated: “America is not lost, you are not different. You sincerely crave to know, to learn. Americans are inquisitive. It is Chabad’s point of view that the American mind is simple, honest, direct—good, tillable soil for Hassidism, or just plain Judaism”.[67] Rabbi Schneerson believed that Jews need not be on the defensive, but need to be on the ground building Jewish institutions, day schools and synagogues. Rabbi Schneerson said that we need “to discharge ourselves of our duty and we must take the initiative”.[68]

Rabbi Schneerson placed a tremendous emphasis on outreach. He made great efforts to intensify this program of the Chabad movement, bringing Jews from all walks of life to adopt Torah-observant Judaism, and aggressively sought the expansion of the baal teshuva movement. His work included organizing the training of thousands of young Chabad rabbis and their wives, who were sent all over the world by him as shluchim (emissaries) to promote Jewish observance and education.

He oversaw the building of schools, community centers, youth camps, and “Chabad Houses”, and established contacts with wealthy Jews and government officials around the world. Rabbi Schneerson also instituted a system of “Chabad mitzvah campaigns” called mivtzoim to encourage Jews to follow Orthodox Jewish practices. They commonly centered on practices such as keeping kosher, lighting Shabbat candles, studying Torah, putting on tefillin, helping to write sifrei Torah, and teaching women to observe the laws of Jewish family purity. He also launched a global Noahide campaign[69] to promote observance of the Noahide Laws[70] among gentiles, and argued that involvement in this campaign is an obligation for every Jew.[71]

Today there are Chabad Shluchim, emissaries of Rabbi Schneerson, in over 70 countries and 1000 cities around the world, totaling more than 3,600 institutions.[72] Chabad is very often the only Jewish presence in a given town or city and it has become the face of Jewish Orthodoxy for the Jewish and general world.[73]

Political activities

Although not a political lobby, Schneerson had great influence on numerous politicians, many of whom would seek his advice. During his years as Rebbe, he was visited by Presidents, Prime Ministers, Governors, Senators, Congressmen and Mayors. Many politicians came to him during their campaigns, courting his blessing and endorsement. Notable among them are prominent American politicians such as John F. KennedyRobert KennedyFranklin D. Roosevelt, JrJacob JavitsEd KochRudy GiulianiDavid Dinkins and Joe Lieberman.[52][74]


Rabbi Schneerson always took an interest into the affairs of the state of Israel.[75] Although he never was in Israel, he had many admirers there, and many among Israel’s top leadership made it a point to visit him.[76] One of Israel’s presidents, Zalman Shazar, who was of Lubavitch ancestry, would visit Schneerson and corresponded extensively with him.Menachem Begin,[77] Ariel Sharon,[78] Yitzhak Rabin,[79] Shimon PeresMoshe Katzav, and later, Benjamin Netanyahu[80] also paid visits and sought advice, along with numerous other less famous politicians, diplomats, military officials, and media producers. In the elections that brought Yitzhak Shamir to power, Schneerson publicly lobbied his followers and theOrthodox members in the Knesset to vote for the Likud alignment. It attracted the media’s attention and led to articles in TimeNewsweek, and many newspapers and TV programs, and led to considerable controversy within Israeli politics.

Rabbi Schneerson did whatever was in his power to support the infrastructure of the state, and advance its success.[81] He was concerned with the agricultural,[82] industrial and overall economic welfare of Israel,[83] and sought to promote its scientific achievements, and enhance Israel’s standing in the international community.[84] He consistently expressed enormous recognition for the role of the Israel Defense Forces and stated that those who serve in the Israeli army perform a great Mitzva.[85] Schneerson publicly expressed his view, that the safety and stability of Israel were in the best interests of the United States, as Israel is the front line against those who want the anti-west nations to succeed.[86]

Just before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, Schneerson instructed his followers in Israel and throughout the world to initiate an active Teffilin campaign, to see that Jews observe the Mitzva of Tefillin as a means of ensuring divine protection against Israel’s enemies.[87] Speaking to a crowd of thousands of people on May 28, 1967, only a few days before the outbreak of the war, he assured the world that Israel would be victorious.[88] He said Israel had no need to fear as God was with them, quoting the verse, “the Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers.”[89]

After the Operation Entebbe rescue, in a public talk on 16 August 1976, Schneerson applauded the courage and selflessness of the IDF, “who flew thousands of miles, putting their lives in danger for the sole purpose of possibly saving the lives of tens of Jews”. He said “their portion in the Hereafter is guaranteed”.[90][91] He was later vilified by ultra haredi rabbis for publicly praising the courage of irreligious, Zionist soldiers and suggesting that God chose these people as a medium through which he would send deliverance to the Jewish people.[92]Schneerson protested vehemently against those elements within the ultra haredi society who sought to undermine the motivations and actions of the soldiers.[93][94][95]

He lobbied Israeli politicians to pass legislation in accordance with Jewish religious law on the question “Who is a Jew?” and declare that “only one who is born of a Jewish mother or converted according to Halakha is Jewish.” This caused a furore in the United States. Some American Jewish philanthropies stopped financially supporting Chabad-Lubavitch since most of their members were connected to Reform and Conservative Judaism. Controversial issues such as territorial compromise in Israel that might have estranged benefactors from giving much-needed funds to Chabad.[96]

United Nations

Benjamin Netanyahu said that while serving as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1984, Schneerson told him: “you will be serving in a house of darkness, but remember, that even in the darkest place; the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide…” Netanyahu later retold this episode in a speech at the General Assembly, on Sept 23, 2011.[97]


Schneerson greatly encouraged the Jewish community who were living in the Eastern Bloc, sending many emissaries on covert missions to sustain Judaism under Communist regimes.[98] At the same time, he opposed public demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jews, stating that he believed quiet diplomacy would be more effective than loud protests when it comes to rescuing the Jews of Russia.[99]

Schneerson spoke passionately about the Jews in Russia. He said: “Behind the Iron Curtain, there are Jews who are in an extremely precarious position, to the extent that they must have self-sacrifice for every aspect of fulfillment of Judaism. Nevertheless, they do not worry about their physical wants…There are Jews who do not have tefillin! They cannot go to the synagogue, for if they get caught they will lose their employment… Despite all this, they make no calculations regarding what the next day may bring; their whole desire is to be able to put on tefillin…”[100]

Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Schneerson called for efforts to rescue children from Chernobyl and founded a special organization for this purpose.[101] The first rescue flight occurred on August 3, 1990, when 196 children were flown to Israel and brought to a shelter campus. Since then, thousands of children have been rescued and brought to Israel where they receive housing, education and medical care in a supportive environment.[102]

Natan Sharansky, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency said that Chabad Lubavitch was an essential connector to Soviet Jewry during the Cold War.[103]


Beginning in the winter of 1979, during the tumultuous days of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Rabbi Schneerson directed his emissaries to make arrangements to rescue Jewish teenagers from Iran and place them in foster homes within the Lubavitcher community in Brooklyn.[104] This mission, while not political in nature, was originally started as a secretive quest in order not to jeopardize the safety of the Iranian Jewish community at large. Many of Rabbi Schneerson’s followers in Brooklyn were asked to open their homes to these Jewish children and help save their lives from another potential Holocaust in the making. The new Islamic government in Iran was vocally opposed to the existence of Israel and created a genuine concern in world Jewish circles by accusing many in the Jewish community of being Zionists. The execution of the leader of the Iranian Jewish community, Habib Elghanian, had made this a tangible threat to the very existence of the community. Ultimately, while more than a dozen members of the Jewish community were executed by the new Iranian government, Jews were allowed to continue to live in Iran and there would be no Holocaust. Hundreds of Jewish children from Tehran and other major cities in Iran were flown from Tehran to New York with the help of Schneerson’s emissaries, placed in foster homes in Crown Heights and educated in Chabad schools. Many would adopt the Lubavitcher lifestyle and later, some even served as Chabad emissaries and religious leaders. Many others would later reunite with their biological parents after their parents and other family members emigrated to the United States.


Rabbi Schneerson is known for his scholarship both in the Talmud and hidden parts of the Torah (both Kabbalah and Chasidus). Rabbis and Rosh Yeshivas, as well as scientists and professors who would meet him or correspond with him would marvel at his wisdom and knowledge, of both Torah and secular subjects.[105] Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former chief Rabbi of Israel, has said regarding one of his meetings with Rabbi Schneerson: “The conversation covered all sections of the Torah: the Talmud, Jewish law, Kabbalah, etc. The Rebbe jumped effortlessly from one Talmudic tractate to another, and from there to Kabbalah and then to Jewish law… He was clear in all the subjects discussed and organized in his delivery. It was as if he had just finished studying these very topics from the holy books. The whole Torah was an open book in front of him”.[106] His collected writings and speeches are gathered in more than a hundred volumes in Hebrew and Yiddish. They include Torah expositions, halakhic analysis, Talmudic discourses, explorations of Jewish mysticism and letters of guidance to Jews throughout the world.[107] He also penned tens of thousands of replies to requests and questions. The majority of his correspondence is printed in Igrot Kodesh, partly translated as “Letters from the Rebbe”. His correspondence fills more than two hundred published volumes. These detailed and personal letters to many thousands of people offer advice and explanation on a wide variety of subjects, including spiritual matters as well as all aspects of life.[108]

He is also especially renowned for his original insights and unprecedented analysis of Rashi‘s Torah commentary, which were delivered at the regular public Farbenegens. Many of these talks were later published in the 39 volume set of Likkutei Sichos. In halachic matters, he would normally refer to local orthodox rabbis, and advised the movement to do likewise in the event of his death.[109] While Rabbi Schneerson rarely chose to involve himself with questions of halakha (Jewish law), some notable exceptions were with regard to the use of electrical appliances on Shabbat, sailing on Israeli boats staffed by Jews, and halakhic dilemmas related to certain religious observances which may arise when crossing theInternational Date Line.

Public addresses

Rabbi Schneerson was known for delivering regular lengthy addresses to his followers at public gatherings in precise Yiddish and without a text or even any notes open in front of him the entire time.[110][111][112] These talks usually centered on the weekly Torah portion and on various tractates of the Talmud, during which he demonstrated a unique and amazing approach in explaining seemingly different concepts by analysis of the fundamental principle common to the entire tractate.[113] These talks were then transcribed by followers known as choizerim and distributed widely. Many of them were later edited by him and distributed worldwide in small booklets, later to be compiled in the Likkutei Sichot set. Listening to these talks, which sometimes went for eight or nine hours straight, was an unparalleled spiritual experience.[108] Following his attendance at one such talk with his son-in-law Rabbi Yisrael Lau, the then Rabbi of Tel-Aviv, Yitzchak Yedidya Frankel said “I have witnessed the magnificence of Polish Jewry…and I have known most of the great scholars of recent generations. But I have never seen such command of the material. That is genius.”[114]

Yechidus and “Sunday Dollars”

Beginning in 1951 when he accepted the leadership, Schneerson would receive visitors twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays. These meetings, called yechidus, would start at 8pm and often continue until five in the morning. Anyone would have the chance to meet Schneerson privately for a discussion and to receive his advice and blessings.[57][115] These meetings had to be booked in advance with Mordechai Hodakov, Schneerson’s chief secretary.[115] At such private audiences he would meet over three thousand people.[116] The sessions were so popular that reservations were required—often months in advance. It was at these sessions, that Schneerson met with mayors, senators, presidents and every prime minister of Israel.[52]

Aside from a brief period of two months, after Schneerson suffered a heart attack in 1978, these meetings lasted weekly until 1982 when it became impossible to facilitate the large number of people. These meetings were then held only for those who had a special occasion, such as bride and groom for their wedding or a boy and his family on the occasion of a bar mitzvah.[116]

In 1986, Rabbi Schneerson again began to regularly greet people individually. This time, the personal meetings took the form of a weekly receiving line in “770”. Almost every Sunday, thousands of people would line up to meet briefly with Schneerson and receive a one-dollar bill, which was to be donated to charity. People filing past Schneerson would often take this opportunity to ask him for advice or to request a blessing. This event is usually referred to as “Sunday Dollars.”[117] Beginning in 1989, these events were recorded on videotape. Posthumously, hundreds of thousands of these encounters have been posted online for public access.[118]


Main article: 770 Eastern Parkway

770 Eastern Parkway.

Rabbi Schneerson rarely left Crown Heights in Brooklyn except for frequent lengthy visits to his father-in-law’s gravesite in Queens, New York. A year after the death of his wife, Chaya Mushka, in 1988, when the traditional year of Jewish mourning had passed, he moved into his study above the central Lubavitch synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway.

It was from this location that Rabbi Schneerson directed his emissaries’ work and managed the movement’s development. His public roles included celebrations called farbrengens (gatherings) on Shabbats, Jewish holy days, and special days on the Chabad calendar, when he would give lengthy sermons to crowds. In later years, these would often be broadcast on cable television and via satellite to Lubavitch branches around the world.

Later life


In 1977, Rabbi Schneerson suffered a massive heart attack while celebrating the hakafot ceremony on Shemini Atzeret. Despite the best efforts of his doctors to convince him to change his mind, he refused to be hospitalized.[119] This necessitated building a mini-hospital in his headquarters at “770.” Although he did not appear again in public for four weeks, Rabbi Schneerson continued to deliver talks and discourses from his study via intercom. His chief cardiologist, Dr. Ira Weiss, later stated that despite his own protestations against the Rebbe’s being treated in 770, in retrospect, it had turned out to be the correct decision, and “the Rebbe, in fact received better medical care in 770 than he would have had we taken him to the hospital.”[120] On Rosh Chodesh Kislev, he left his study for the first time in more than a month to go home. His followers celebrate this day as a holiday each year.


Schneerson was opposed to retirement, seeing it as a waste of precious years.[121] In 1972, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, Schneerson spoke at length about his opposition to retirement, and instead of announcing a retirement plan, he proposed the establishment of 71 new institutions to mark the beginning of the 71st year of his life.[122] In the mid 1980s, when Schneerson was already in his late 80s, he remarked to Rabbi David Hollander who was contemplating retiring at the time “I am older than you are, and I am taking on additional burdens, by what right do you retire?”[123]

Death of his wife

On February 10, 1988 Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson died. Following her death, Schneerson greatly increased his public functions. For example, whereas previously he had led Shabbat gatherings once a month, he now began holding these gatherings every Shabbat.[124] He later edited these addresses, which have since been published in the 10 volumeSefer HaSichos set.

Final illness

In 1992, Schneerson suffered a serious stroke while praying at the grave of his father-in-law. The stroke left him unable to speak and paralyzed on the right side of his body. Nonetheless, he continued to respond daily to thousands of queries and requests for blessings from around the world. His secretaries would read the letters to him and he would indicate his response with head and hand motions. During this time, the belief in Schneerson as the Messiah (Moshiach) became more widespread.[125]

Despite his deteriorating health, Schneerson once again refused to leave “770”. Several months into his illness, a small room with tinted glass windows and an attached balcony was built overlooking the main synagogue. This allowed Rabbi Schneerson to pray with his followers, beginning with the Rosh Hashanah services, and to appear before them after services either by having the window opened or by being carried out onto the balcony.

His final illness led to a split between two groups of aides who differed in their recommendations as to how Schneerson should be treated, with the two camps led by Leib Groner andYehuda Krinsky.[126][127]

Final years

His own stated goals

From his childhood and throughout the years of his leadership, the Rebbe explained that his goal was to “make the world a better place,”[128] and to eliminate suffering. In 1954, in a letter to Yitzchak Ben Tzvi, Israel’s second President, the Rebbe wrote: “From the time that I was a child attending cheder, and even before, the vision of the future Redemption began to take form in my imagination – the Redemption of the Jewish People from their final Exile, a redemption of such magnitude and grandeur through which the purpose of the suffering, the harsh decrees and annihilation of Exile will be understood…[129] ”

Final declarations

In 1991, he declared to his followers: “I have done everything I can [to bring Moshiach], now I am handing over to you [the mission]; do everything you can to bring Moshiach!” A campaign was then started to usher in the Messianic age through “acts of goodness and kindness,” and some of his followers placed advertisements in the mass media, including many full-page ads in the New York Times, declaring in Rabbi Schneerson’s name that the Moshiach’s arrival was imminent, and urging everyone to prepare for and hasten it by increasing their good deeds.[citation needed]

Death and burial

Main article: Ohel (Chabad)

The Rebbe’s Tomb: Schneerson’s burial place next to his father-in-law and predecessor in Queens, NY.


Rabbi Schneerson died at the Beth Israel Medical Center on June 12, 1994 (3 Tammuz 5754) and was buried at the Ohel next to his teacher and father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, at Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, New York,[130] in 1994.[131] The Ohel had been built around the previous Rebbe’s grave in 1952.


According to police estimates, some 35,000 people were gathered outside Lubavitch headquarters waiting for the coffin to be brought outside. When the plain pine coffin appeared, the scene became one of emotional mayhem, with women wailing and men pressing forward to touch it. The 350 police who were on the scene could barely contain the surging crowds, and the pallbearers had difficulty getting the coffin into a waiting hearse. Among the dignitaries present at Lubavitch headquarters were New York Mayor Rudolph GiulianiBenjamin NetanyahuGad Yaacobi, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations; Colette Avital, Israeli consul general in New York; and Malcolm Hoenlein, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.[132]

Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch Center

Soon after Schneerson’s death, philanthropist Joseph Gutnick of MelbourneAustralia established the Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch Center on Francis Lewis Boulevard, Queens, New York, which is located adjacent to the Rebbe’s Ohel. Following the age-old Jewish tradition of turning the resting place of a tzadik into a place of prayer, thousands of people flock to the Rebbe’s resting place[133] every week.[134] Many more send faxes and e-mails[135] with requests for prayers to be read at the grave site.

Awards and tributes

U.S. Government awards

Starting with President Carter in 1978,[136] the U.S. Congress and President have issued proclamations each year, declaring that Rabbi Schneerson’s birthday — usually a day in March or April that coincides with his recognized Hebrew calendar birthdate of 11 Nissan — be observed as Education and Sharing Day in the United States.[137] The Rebbe would usually respond with a public address[138] on the importance of education in modern society, and holding forth on the United States’ special role in the world.


On March 25, 1983, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, the United States Congress proclaimed Rabbi Schneerson’s birthday as “Education Day, USA,” and awarded him the National Scroll of Honor.[139]

Honored by Congress

After Schneerson’s death, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives—sponsored by Congressman Charles Schumer and cosponsored by John LewisNewt Gingrich, and Jerry Lewis, as well as 220 other Congressmen—to posthumously bestow upon Schneerson the Congressional Gold Medal.

On November 2, 1994 the bill passed both Houses by unanimous consent, honoring Schneerson for his “outstanding and enduring contributions toward world education, morality, and acts of charity”.[140] President Bill Clinton spoke these words at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony:

The late Rebbe’s eminence as a moral leader for our country was recognized by every president since Richard Nixon. For over two decades, the Rabbi’s movement now has some 2000 institutions; educational, social, medical, all across the globe. We (the United States Government) recognize the profound role that Rabbi Schneerson had in the expansion of those institutions.

Other posthumous commendations

In 2009, the National Museum of American Jewish History[141] selected Schneerson as one of eighteen American Jews to be included in their “Only in America” Hall of Fame.



There is considerable controversy within Chabad about Schneerson’s will, as he named no successor. He did however write one legal will, which was signed before witnesses, whereby he transferred stewardship of all the major Chabad institutions, as well as all his possessions to Agudas Chassidei Chabad.[142]

Another will, no executed copies of which are known to be in existence, named three senior Chabad rabbis, as directors of Agudas Chassidei Chabad.[142]

“Moshiach” (Messiah) fervor

Rabbi Schneerson’s followers believed he was the Jewish Messiah, the “Moshiach,” and some have persisted in that belief since his death. The reverence with which he was treated by followers led many Jewish critics from both the Conservative and Reform communities to allege that a cult of personality had grown up around him. His obituary in The New York Timessaid he “was attacked for allowing a cult of personality to grow around him”[143] from Conservative and Reform critics. Though he worked to dissuade his followers from making it that, telling New York Times reporter Israel Shenker in 1972 “I have never given any reason for a cult of personality, and I do all in my power to dissuade them from making it that”.[57] Moshe D. Sherman, an associate professor at Touro College wrote that “as Schneerson’s empire grew, a personality cult developed around him… portraits of Rabbi Schneerson were placed in all Lubavitch homes, shops, and synagogues, and devoted followers routinely requested a blessing from him prior to their marriage, following an illness, or at other times of need.”[144]



  • Hayom Yom – An anthology of Chabad aphorisms and customs arranged according to the days of the year.
  • Haggadah Im Likkutei Ta’amim U’minhagim – The Haggadah with a commentary written by Schneerson.
  • Sefer HaToldot – Admor Moharash – Biography of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Schneersohn.

Personal writings and correspondence

  • Igrot Kodesh – 30 volume set of Rabbi Schneerson’s Hebrew and Yiddish letters.
  • Letters from the Rebbe – 5 volume set of Rabbi Schneerson’s English letters.
  • Reshimot – 10-volume set of Schneerson’s personal journal discovered after his death. Includes notes for his public talks before 1950, letters to Jewish scholars, notes on the Tanya, and thoughts on a wide range of Jewish subjects (2,190 pp).

Public talks delivered and edited by Schneerson

  • Likkutei Sichot – 39 volume set of Schneerson’s discourses on the weekly Torah portions, Jewish Holidays, and other issues. (16,867pp)
  • Hadran al HaRambam – Commentary on Maimonides‘ Mishneh Torah.
  • Sefer HaSichot – 12 volume set of Rabbi Schneerson’s talks from 1987–1992. (4,136pp)
  • Sefer HaMa’amarim Melukot – 6 volumes of edited chassidic discourses.
  • Chidushim UBiurim B’Shas – 3 volumes of novellae on the Talmud.
  • Besuras Hageula – compilation of talks on the imminent arrival of Moshiach from 1990–1992.

Public talks delivered by Schneerson, unedited by Schneerson

  • Sichot Kodesh – 50 volume Yiddish set of Sichos from 1950–1981.
  • Torat Menachem Hitva’aduyot – 43 volume set of Sichot and Ma’amarim from 1982–1992. (Based on participants’ recollections and notes, not proofread by Rabbi Schneerson.)
  • Torat Menachem – 40 volume Hebrew set Maamarim and Sichos currently spanning 1950–1964 (Approximately 4 new volumes a year). Planned to encompass 1950–1981.
  • Heichal Menachem – Shaarei – 34 volumes of talks arranged by topic and holiday.
  • Sefer HaShlichut – 2 volume set of Schneerson’s advice and guidelines to the shluchim he sent.
  • Karati Ve’ein Oneh – Compilation of Sichos discussing the Halachic prohibition of surrendering land in the Land of Israel to non-Jews
  • Sefer HaMa’amarim Hasidic discourses – Approx. 24 vols. including 1951–1962, 1969–1977 with plans to complete the rest.
  • Biurim LePeirush Rashi – 5 volume set summarizing talks on the commentary of Rashi to Torah.
  • Torat Menachem – Tiferet Levi Yitzchok – 3 volumes of elucidations drawn from his talks on cryptic notes of his father.
  • Biurim LePirkei Avot – 2 volumes summarizing talks on the Mishnaic tractate of “Ethics of the Fathers“.
  • Yein Malchut – 2 volumes of talks on the Mishneh Torah.
  • Kol Ba’ei Olam – Addresses and letters concerning the Noahide Campaign.
  • Hilchot Beit Habechira LeHaRambam Im Chiddushim U’Beurim – Talks on the Laws of the Chosen House (the Holy Temple) of the Mishneh Torah.
  • HaMelech BeMesibo – 2 volumes of discussions at the semi-public holiday meals.
  • Torat Menachem – Menachem Tzion – 2 volumes of talks on mourning.

Collections and esoterica

  • Heichal Menachem – 3 volumes.
  • Mikdash Melech – 4 volumes.
  • Nelcha B’Orchosov
  • Mekadesh Yisrael – Talks and pictures from his officiating at weddings.
  • Yemei Bereshit – Diary of the first year of his leadership, 1950–1951.
  • Bine’ot Deshe – Diary of his visit and talks to Camp Gan Israel in upstate New York.
  • Tzaddik LaMelech – 7 volumes of letters, handwritten notes, anecdotes, and other.

Esoterica continue to be released by individual families for family occasions such as weddings, known as Teshurot.

Kedainiai, my Lithuanian Shtetl – New Developments

B’nai B’rith NSW

B’nai B’rith NSW

With Rabbi Selwyn Franklin
DSC_8474THIS WEEK in Perth & Sydney. Come listen.



I have just returned from my fourth visit to Lithuania in as many years.
There are some interesting developments in Genealogy, Travel and Education in Lithuania, which I will be talking about in Perth and Sydney this week.
I recently spoke on the subject at Limmud Oz in Melbourne, and will continue this Tuesday at Carmel School in Perth and on Thursday at B’nai B’rith in Sydney.
95% of South Africans, including those living in Australia, have Litvak roots. Up to 70% of Perth’s Carmel Jewish Day School’s students are of Litvak heritage, which begs a rethink on the emphasis of Jewish education in Australia.
We are developing a program which will soon be offered to students at Jewish Day Schools around Australia.
A Lithuanian school in Kedainiai (Keidan in Yiddish) is leading the way in rebuilding broken links using Jewish Education, spurred on by a teacher, educated in the Soviet era during which the Holocaust was never mentioned.
The English teacher, Laima Ardaviciene, is the driving force, connecting with Jews around the world, rooted in Kedainiai. Renowned author Ellen Cassedy is one of these who has visited from the USA and addressed the students.
The Kedainiai Cultural Centre was formerly a complex of two synagogues. The historian and director of the Kedainiai Regional Museum, Rimantas Zirgulis, has introduced significant initiatives, including several memorials in the town and at a massacre site. A first in Lithuania is the permanent Jewish exhibition in the Cultural Centre. Rimantas has close ties to Laima’s school in Kedainiai and is now inviting schools from all over Lithuania to visit.
The town is only a few kilometres from the centre of Lithuania, so is fairly easy to reach.
Kedainiai is a special town in the Jewish world. Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, the Vilna Gaon, the foremost leader of mitnagdig or non hasidic Jewry of the past few centuries, studied there and influenced many of his followers to settle in Jerusalem. One of these students, my third great grandfather, Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref of Keidan did so in 1811, and went on to establish the first Ashkenazi community in the Old City, today represented by the Hurva Synagogue.
The famous Mir Yeshiva moved to Keidan in 1940 and in 1941 the Japanese Consul in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, was able to save many of its students by issuing them with transit visas for Japan.


Microsoft Word - Eli Rabinowitz FLYER.docx

Eli bb June 14


Visit to the Atzalyno Gimnazija School

Teacher: Laima Ardaviciene.

“Growing up during the Soviet era in Lithuania, Laima Ardaviciene does not remember being taught anything about the Holocaust at school. But those days of silence are over – for her and for the Atzalynas Gymnasium (high school) in Kedainiai, Lithuania, where she is a teacher.”

Read More – See these links:



Cultural Diversity


Laima’s class


Victoria – thank you – see video

Her Gift

Kedainiai Victoria


The Cultural Centre in the old synagogues. Run by Rimantas Žirgulis and Audrone Peciulyte

Kedainiai Culture


Around the Town

The Jewish Cemetery

Holocaust Memorial

More of Kedainiaia

Kedainiai at Night

Eli Rabinowitz


My third great grandfather, Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tsoref, a student of the Vilna Gaon, was born in Keidan in 1785. He left Kedainiai in 1811 for Palestine where he established the first ashkenazi community in Jerusalem.I also create webpages for JewishGen and I have one on Kedainiai – see:
http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/kedainiaiYou can see my connection to Tzoref and his story in a video at:
http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/kedainiai/Zalman_Tzoref.htmlMy great grandfather came from Lithuania, we think Krakes, near Kedainiai. His name was Michel Avraham Herison.


Keidan Memorial Book

“Sefer Zichron” / Yizkor Book

Published by the Keidan Association in Israel,
with the participation of the Committees in South Africa and in the United States of America
Tel Aviv 1977

Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref

from the Encyclopedia of the Builders and Pioneers of the Yishuv
Yizkor Book pp 198-199. Translated by Miriam Erez

Born in Keidan, Lithuania on 1 Kislev, 1785 — or as he himself wrote, in the year “TaKuM”[1], thereby hinting at his life’s purpose — the son of Reb Yaakov. He learned Torah diligently, as all good Jews in Lithuania did at the time. He married, engaged in trade, and continued to study Torah.

On 8 Iyar, 1810, a convoy of emigrants left Lithuania for the Land of Israel, among them Tzoref[2], his wife Chasya, his young sons Mordechai, Moshe, and Yitzhak; and two brothers-in-law, Reb Tzvi Hirsch and Rabbi Yosef the Preacher. They made the journey on horse-drawn carts and sailing ships, and on Hoshána Raba 1811, they reached Akko. Following the end of the [Succot] holiday, made their way to Tzfat.

During the journey, Tzoref learned silver- and goldsmithing, and when he arrived in Tzfat, he bought a house, began engaging in his craft, and learned Arabic quickly. He was beloved by his customers and all who knew him, Jews and Arabs alike, made a good living, made sure to study Torah regularly, and joined in the leadership of the community.

When a virus spread across the Galilee in 1811, many of the Jews of Tzfat fled to the villages. About 10 Ashkenazi families left for toJerusalem, among them Tzoref and his family. They snuck into the city in the middle of the night, dressed like Sephardim. After the virus subsided, while a few returned to Tzfat, Tzoref remained in Jerusalem, opened a shop, and engaged in his craft. Here also, he was beloved among the rich Arabs.

At first, the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem were not able to establish their own synagogue, as they did not want their identities as Ashkenazim discovered. In the annex allotted to them in the Sephardi synagogue, whenever they couldn’t form a minyan, they added a [pre-Bar Mitzva] boy carrying a Torah scroll. Over the next few years, more Ashkenazim arrived from Tzfat, particularly following the Druse and peasants’ revolt and the earthquake that laid waste to Tzfat. After that the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem grew and flourished.

With no small effort, the veteran Ashkenazim were able to rent the “right of use” of the courtyard, which until then had housed the yeshiva of Rabbi Chayim Ben Attar, also called the Or Chayìm [“light of life”]. There they established a place for worship, but during prayer they had to station young men as guards to warn them whenever Muslims neared, so that worshippers would have time to quickly put away the Torah scroll and disappear from sight. Real anusìm[3]!

The Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem also faced difficulties from the Sephardi establishment, who feared that donations from European Jews to Jerusalem — if there were such — would now be diverted to the Ashkenazim. With heavy lobbying, they resolved the dispute using the laws of Torah, together with Ashkenazi representatives, and agreed on a way to divide money from Europe; thus this internecine quarrel ceased to be an obstacle to the aliya of European Jews to Jerusalem.

Tzoref was held in high esteem by the Sephardi establishment, and in 1810 was sent as an emissary to Europe on behalf of both communities, after he influenced both sides to make peace and be judged by neutral parties (rabbis from abroad) for the benefit of them all under the terms of the day: The rabbis’ representative pays a flat sum to his “senders,” and [any] income belongs to him.

From 1818 to 1822, Tzoref was again an emissary to Germany, the Netherlands and England; and again in 1828 he went to Europe on behalf of the kollelot [yeshivas for full-time, married scholars], as well as to press for redemption of the ruined building of Rabbi Yehuda HaChasìd — which the Arabs had seized against “the known debt” — so that they could rebuild the synagogue and other buildings for the Ashkenazi community.

In Germany, Tzoref received Prussian citizenship, and thereafter was close to the Prussian consul in Alexandria, and was appointed the latter’s proxy in Jerusalem and granted the authority to issue protection documents to Jews. A few years later, he was also appointed a representative of the Jews to the council of the governor.

When Muhammad Ali, governor of Egypt, conquered Palestine and Syria, his stepson, Ibrahim Pásha, was made commissioner ofJerusalem. Pasha was afraid to eat a Muslim dish in the city for fear of being poisoned, so the Jews brought him his meals: One day his dish would be prepared by one of the prominent Sephardim, the next day [a meal was brought] from Tzoref’s house, and so on. Tzoref’s son Mordechai would bring Pasha his meal on a special copper tray, which served as a sort of entry permit. One day Tzoref himself went to bring Pasha his meal, in order to ask him to rescue the Jews of Hebron, whom the revolting Arabs were plotting to destroy, and Pasha sent an army to restrain the insurgents.

During the same period, Tzoref asked Pasha to issue a royal decree forgiving the Ashkenazim the debts of the students of Rabbi Yehuda haChasìd, and restoring to them the ruin known as Dir Shachnan. Toward that end, Tzoref also went to Egypt and with the help of the Austrian and Prussian consuls, obtained the requested decree from Muhammad Ali. In a legal hearing before the mufti and the kadi, the right of the Jews to the ruin was recognized, and the Arabs who had built shops there were forced to restore the site to the Jews in return for compensation, after which the Jews of Jerusalem hurried to purify the site from all the garbage that had accumulated thereon for generations, and established there the Beit Midrash [house of study] Menachem Zion.

The Arabs who were forced to abandon the “ruin” bore animosity toward Tzoref on account of his victory. As he sat in his house one evening studying Torah, a young Arab tried to shoot him. The bullet missed its mark, and the shooter fell into a vat of sesame oil and drowned. A year later, another Arab attempted to kill him as he was on his way to sunrise prayers by sneaking up behind him and hitting him on the head with a sword. For months Tzoref was bedridden and lost his memory. Only on his last day on earth did his memory return, whereupon he asked all his family and friends to gather so he could bid them farewell.

Tzoref died in Jerusalem on 19 Elul, 1851, and was buried on the slopes of the Mount of Olives next to the prophet Zachariah. The heads of the Sephardi community sought to delay his burial (there was still no Ashkenazi cemetery at the time) until his heirs paid off the debt that they said he owed them. Only owing to the resolute intervention of Rabbi Shmuel Salant did the Ottoman Chief Rabbi concede, and order the burial to proceed.

Tzoref’s wife, Chasya, died on 4 of Heshvan, 1865, and was buried beside her husband.

His son Mordechai was one of the yishuv’s agricultural and industrial pioneers, and Mordechai’s son, Rabbi Yoel Moshe Solomon, was one of the founders of Petach Tikva as well as various Jerusalem neighborhoods. Tzoref’s son Moshe died in Baghdad on his way back from an emissary mission in eastern Asia; his son YItzhak became caretaker of the Hurva Synagogue; and his daughter Miriam was the wife of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Trachtenberg.

[1] The Hebrew year of his birth was תקמ”ו. He switched the letters around to form תקו”מ, spelling the Hebrew word takum, meaning “shall go up”, thereby hinting at aliya to the Land of Israel.

[2] Hebrew for “goldsmith”

[3] Jews forcibly converted to Christianity during the Inquisition, who continued to practice Judaism in secret.

Yizkor book contents | Keidan.net




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kėdainiai old town
Kėdainiai old town

Kėdainiai (About this sound pronunciation , also known by several other names) is one of the oldest cities in Lithuania. It is located 51 km (32 mi) north of Kaunas on the banks of the Nevėžis River. First mentioned in the 1372 Livonian Chronicle of Hermann de Wartberge, its population as of 2008 was 30,214. Its old town dates to the 17th century.[1]

The city is the administrative centre of the Kėdainiai district municipality. The geographical centre of the Lithuanian Republic is in the nearby village of Ruoščiai, located in the eldership of Dotnuva.


The city has been known by other names: Kiejdany in PolishKeidan (קיידאן) in Yiddish,[2] and Kedahnen in German. Its other alternate forms include Kidan, Kaidan, Keidany, Keydan, Kiejdany, Kuidany, and Kidainiai.[3]


The March of Swedes for Kėdainiai/Kiejdany

The area was the site of several battles during “The Deluge”, the 17th century war between thePolish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Sweden. In 1655 a short-lived treaty with Sweden, theUnion of Kėdainiai, was signed by two members of Radziwiłł family in their Kėdainiai castle. While little remains of the Radziwiłł castle, the crypt of the Calvinist church (1631) houses the family mausoleum, including the tombs of Krzysztof Radziwiłł and his son Janusz. Also according to some myths a giant called Mantvydas lived here and terrorized the city until the great RDW slayed him and took the princess monika for himself

Scottish Protestants arrived in the late 16th and 17th centuries, encouraged by the conversion of Anna Radziwill; the community exerted considerable influence in the city and persisted until the mid-19th century.[4]

A local custom called on all visitors to bring a stone to be used in the town’s construction.[1]

Cultural activities

The Kėdainiai Regional Museum, established in 1922, now operates four branches: a Multicultural Centre, the Mausoleum of the Dukes Radziwill, the House of Juozas Paukštelis, and the Museum of Wooden Sculptures of V.Ulevičius.[9]

Since the city is known as the cucumber capital of Lithuania, it sponsors an annual cucumber festival.[8]

A small Polish minority of 329 (0,61%)[10] people live in Kėdainiai district municipality, but only 30 people participate inStowarzyszenie Polaków Kiejdan (The Kiejdany Polish Association), the elder people; their cultural activities involve public celebrations of Polish Day of Independence and Day of the Constitution of Third of May, as well as organizing a festival of Polish culture. Since 1994 a School of Polish Language exists.[11][12]

Higher Education

Famous citizens



Brighton Beach to Trigg Winter Beach Walk

West Coast Highway


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
West Coast Highway
Western Australia
West Coast Highway, Scarborough.JPG
View northbound approaching Scarborough
West Coast Highway is an arterial coastal highway located in the western and inner northern suburbs of PerthWestern Australia. It is part of State Route 71, and also Tourist Drive 204 in various coastal parts.[1]

The highway commences from the end of Curtin Avenue at Swanbourne and heads north, via the SAS Campbell Barracks and rifle range, to City BeachScarborough and Trigg, terminating at the Karrinyup Road intersection, where it becomes Marmion Avenue. It links the northern coastal suburbs of Perth with the city of Fremantle. The speed limit for the majority of the highway is 70 km/h with two small 60 and 80 km/h sections at the Scarborough end. The highway is a dual carriageway for most of its length.

Approximate road distances (in kilometres) of coastal suburbs from Swanbourne onwards.


The Scenery


Young Surfers



New Sefer Torah for Brisk after 75 years

Festivities in Brisk – Brest


From Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz, CHABAD of Brisk

Hundreds of citizens –members of the Jewish community in Brisk celebrated the presentation of a new Sefer Torah, the first after 75 years, to the Brisk-Brest Synagogue.  This  was presented by the Mizrachi, Leselbaum and Perrin families in the illustrious memory of their dear father Reb Pinchas ben Yitzchak Mizrachi of Blessed Memory.

The ceremony of writing the last letters was held in the Hall of the previous Great Synagogue where the renowned Rabbis of Brisk , amongst them the late Rabbi Chaim HaLevi Soloveitchik ע”ה  davened.  This ceremony started with the showing of a video explaining the essence of the Sefer Torah and terminated when members of the Mizrachi family and honored members of the Community were given the Zechus of writing the last letters.

I then  spoke and emphasized the historic occasion – using the Chabad expressions “דידן נצח ‘We have Succeeded’.  In spite of the fact that both the Communists and the Nazis rose up against the Jewish people, and in spite of all that occurred in the past, we celebrate here today the writing and presentation of a new Sefer Torah which signifies that the Jewish people in Brisk are proud of their roots and reawakening their traditions.  We are most grateful to the honorable  Mizrachi Family and warmly thank them for their generosity in presenting this Sefer Torah, the Emblem of Judaism.

 Mr. Yitzchak Mizrachi spoke warm words of encouragement on behalf of the family.

Among the participants in the festivities were Mr. Yitzchak Mizrachi the family representative, my  father-in-law, Rabbi Zusha Goldstein and his family who came from Israel especially to participate in this historic occasion.  The Chabad  Shaliach from Grodna Rabbi Yitzchak Kaufman,  Rabbi Moshe Fima from the town Pinsk who came with the students from the Pinsk Jewish School, the renowned Scribe the Sofer Rabbi Yosef Westman, and  Mr. Shalom Milenkin, Director of the Jewish Congregation.  Dignitaries from the Municipality including the Regional Ministry of Religion,   the representatives from the Brisk Municipality, the Consuls of Poland, the Ukraine, Russia and Azerbaijan, were also present.

After the letter writing ceremony, a wonderful colorful and lively parade escorted the Torah throughout the streets honoring and glorifying in the name of the Almighty.  The entire program was covered by the local newspaper and television, who were overjoyed to be able to report on such a unique occasion.  The most lavish banquet  thanking and giving recognition to the donators was held in the ballroom in of the community as befitting such an occasion.

With blessings

Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz

If you wish to join and be a partner in the revival of the Jewish Community of Brest please press here.


Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz
Chabad of Brest – Belarus



For more images, see the JewishGen Kehilalink:


Also The Yiskor book just published:

Brisk Yiscor Cover




Brest-Litovsk – Volume II
Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora
(Brest, Belarus)
Published by the Yizkor Books in Print Projectpart of Yizkor Books Project of JewishGen, Inc.

Translation of Brisk de-Lita: Encycolpedia Shel Galuyot
Original Yiddish Volume Edited by Elieser Steinman Published in Jerusalem, 1958
498 pages, 8.5″ by 11″, hard cover, including all photos and other images


Details:This is the translation of the Memorial (Yizkor) Book of Jewish community of Brest-Litovsk, Belarus.The name of the town, Brest-Litovsk, indicates its link with Lithuania. Although founded by the Slavs in 1017 and invaded by the Mongols in 1241, it became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1319, and in1569 it became the capital of the unified Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.The town is also known as “Brisk,” in Yiddish to the Jews who lived and thrived there for six centuries. Jewish “Brisk” had an illustrious history; the famous Brisker Yeshivah attracted scholars from all over Europe. The list of Rabbis of Brest includes such famous rabbis as Solomon Luria and Joel Sirkes in earlier periods, the Katzenellenbogens, and three generations of the Soloveitchik dynasty in more recent times. Brest also produced Jacob Epstein the great Talmudist at the Hebrew University, Menachem Begin, and many other major religious, literary and political leaders.In 1923, Jews, made up 60% of Brest’s population of 60,000.This book was written by Brest survivors and former residents from many countries who contributed their memories of their hometown as a record for future generations, and as testament and loving tribute to the innocent Victims of the Shoah. It is a must read for researchers of the town and descendants of “Briskers.”

Brest, Belarus is located at 52°06′ North Latitude and 23°42′ East Longitude 203 mi SW of Minsk.

lternate names for the town are: Brest [Belarussian], Brest Litovsk [Russian], Brześć Litewski [Polish], Brześć nad Bugiem [Polish, 1918-39], Brisk [Yiddish], Brasta [Lithuanian], Brest Litowsk, Brisk Dlita, Brisk de-Lita, Brześć-Litewsk, Brist nad Bugie, Bzheshch nad Bugyem, Bieraście


Nearby Jewish Communities:

Terespol, Poland 6 miles WSW Chernavchitsy 8 miles N Kodenì, Poland 14 miles SSW Zhabinka 15 miles ENE Piszczac, Poland 16 miles SW Volchin 21 miles NW

Zamosty 21 miles NNE – Kamyanyets 21 miles NNE – Janów Podlaski, Poland 22 miles WNW Charniany 23 miles ESE – Vysokaye 23 miles NW – Biała Podlaska, Poland 24 miles W

Abramovo 25 miles N – Domachėvo 25 miles S – Sławatycze, Poland 25 miles SSW Łomazy, Poland 27 miles WSW Niemirów, Poland 27 miles WNW Malaryta 27 miles SE – Konstantynów, Poland 27 miles WNW Wisznice, Poland 29 miles SW – Kobryn 29 miles ENE – Rossosz, Poland 30 miles SW

Available at:


List price:

$56.95 Available on Amazon for around $41, may have lower prices elsewhere




This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.’s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Yizkor Books in Print     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Lance Ackerfeld

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 11 May 2014 by LA


Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 2.19.33 pm


Limmud Oz




Eli Rabinowitz

Local Speaker

Eli, ex South African from Perth, incorporates his interests in videography, photography, digital storytelling, research, travel and genealogy to create lively and enthusiastic presentations of his extensive Jewish heritage travel, evidenced by his popular blog: elirab.me. Eli has given presentations around Australia and Israel.


Druskininkai, Lithuania


Druskininkai is well known for its spas!


Jacques Lipchitz Sculpture Park

Jacques Lipchitz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz, 1935, photograph Rogi André (Rozsa Klein).jpg

Jacques Lipchitz, 1935, photograph Rogi André (Rozsa Klein)
Birth name Chaim Jacob Lipschitz
Born 22 August 1891
Died 16 May 1973 (aged 81)
Nationality French American
Field sculpting
Training École des Beaux-Arts
Movement Cubism

Jacques Lipchitz (August 22 [O.S. August 10] 1891[1] – May 16, 1973) was a Cubist sculptor.

Life and career

Jacques Lipchitz was born Chaim Jacob Lipschitz, in a Litvak family, son of a building contractor in DruskininkaiLithuania, then within the Russian Empire. At first, under the influence of his father, he studied engineering, but soon after, supported by his mother he moved to Paris (1909) to study at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian.

It was there, in the artistic communities of Montmartre and Montparnasse, that he joined a group of artists that included Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso as well as where his friend, Amedeo Modigliani, painted Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz.

Living in this environment, Lipchitz soon began to create Cubist sculpture. In 1912 he exhibited at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and the Salon d’Automne with his first solo show held at Léonce Rosenberg’s Galerie L’Effort Moderne in Paris in 1920. In 1922 he was commissioned by the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania to execute five bas-reliefs.

With artistic innovation at its height, in the 1920s he experimented with abstract forms he called transparent sculptures. Later he developed a more dynamic style, which he applied with telling effect to bronze compositions of figures and animals.

With the German occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of Jews to the Nazi death camps, Jacques Lipchitz had to flee France. With the assistance of the American journalist Varian Fry in Marseille, he escaped the Nazi regime and went to the United States. There, he eventually settled in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Jacques Lipchitz, 1917, L’homme à la mandoline, 80 cm

He was one of 250 sculptors who exhibited in the Third Sculpture International Exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the summer of 1949. He has been identified among seventy of those sculptors in a photograph Life magazine published that was taken at the exhibition. In 1954 a Lipchitz retrospective traveled from The Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and The Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1959, his series of small bronzes To the Limit of the Possible was shown at Fine Arts Associates in New York.

Beginning in 1963 he returned to Europe for several months of each year and worked in PietrasantaItaly. He developed a close friendship with fellow sculptor, Fiore de Henriquez. In 1972 his autobiography, co-authored with H. Harvard Arnason, was published on the occasion of an exhibition of his sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Jacques Lipchitz died in CapriItaly. His body was flown to Jerusalemfor burial.

Selected works

  • Sailor with Guitar” – 1914
  • Bather” – (1916–17)
  • Woman with Book” – (1918) at Carleton College
  • Bather, bronze” – 1923-25
  • Reclining Nude with Guitar” – (1928), a prime example of Cubism
  • Dancer with Veil” – (1928)
  • Dancer” – (1929)
  • “The Song of the Vowels” – (Le Chant des Voyelles), – (1931) cast bronze sculptures at Cornell UniversityPrinceton UniversityUCLAStanford UniversityKykuit Estate GardensParis
  • Bull and Condor” – (1932)
  • Bust of a Woman” – (1932)
  • David and Goliath” – (1933)
  • Embracing Figures” – (1941)
  • Prometheus Strangling the Vulture” – (1944)
  • Rescue II“- (1947)
  • Mother and Child” – (1949) at the Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Bellerophon Taming Pegasus: Large Version” – (1966-1977), begun in 1966 and arrived at Columbia Law School in pieces for assembly in 1977[2]
  • Peace on Earth” – (1967–1969)
  • Government of the People” – (1976)

Grutas Parkas near Druskininkai, Lithuania

Gruto Parkas 2

Gruto Parkas 1

Grutas Parkas

The Statues

The Museums

The Park




Grūtas Park

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A statue of Joseph Stalin in Grūtas Park; it originally stood in Vilnius.

Grūtas Park (unofficially known as Stalin’s WorldLithuanianGrūto parkas) is a sculpture garden of Soviet-era statues and an exposition of other Soviet ideological relics from the times of the Lithuanian SSR. Founded in 2001 by entrepreneur Viliumas Malinauskas, the park is located near Druskininkai, about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southwest of VilniusLithuania.


After Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, various Soviet statues were taken down and dumped in different places. Malinauskas requested the Lithuanian authorities to grant him the possession of the sculptures, so that he could build a privately financed museum. This Soviet-theme park was created in the wetlands of theDzūkija National Park. Many of its features are re-creations of Soviet Gulag prison camps: wooden paths, guard towers, and barbed-wire fences.

Its establishment faced some fierce opposition, and its existence is still controversial. Some ideas originally meant to be a part of the park were never allowed. Examples include transporting the visitors in a Gulag-style train. Grūtas Park and its founder Malinauskas won the 2001 Ig Nobel Peace Prize (see List of Ig Nobel Prize winners#2001). Since January 2007 the park has been in dispute with the Lithuanian copyright protection agency. The agency requires royalties to be paid to seven Lithuanian artists who created some of the statues.[1]

The park also contains playgrounds, a mini-zoo and cafes, all containing relics of the Soviet era. On special occasions actors stage re-enactments of various Soviet-sponsored festivals.


The exposition, consisting of 86 statues by 46 different sculptors, is organized into spheres. Each of the statues features a Soviet or socialist activist, many of them ethnic Lithuanians. The Totalitarian Sphere features sculptures of the main Communist leaders and thinkers, including Vladimir LeninJoseph Stalin, and Karl Marx. The Terror Sphere is dedicated to sculptures of founders of the Communist Party of Lithuania (Zigmas Aleksa-AngarietisVincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas) and officers of the Red Army(Feliksas Baltušis-ŽemaitisIeronim Uborevich). It also has a sculpture of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the organizer of the Red Terror.

The Soviet Sphere includes sculptures of the four leaders of Lithuanian Communists, executed in the aftermath of the 1926 Lithuanian coup d’état, and activists of theLithuanian–Soviet War of 1918–1919. The Red Sphere is dedicated to Soviet partisans, including Marytė Melnikaitė. The Occupation and Death Spheres showcase the brutal side the Soviet regime: mass deportations, suppression of the Lithuanian partisans, etc.

See also

Trakai, Lithuania


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Trakai, Lithuania
Bridge and Castle of Trakai
Bridge and Castle of Trakai
Coat of arms of Trakai, Lithuania
Coat of arms
Trakai (About this sound Trakai  (see names section for alternate and historic names) is a historic city and lake resort inLithuania. It lies 28 kilometres (17 miles) west of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Because of its proximity to Vilnius, Trakai is a popular tourist destination. Trakai is the administrative centre of Trakai district municipality. The town covers 497.1 square kilometres (191.9 square miles) km2 of area and, according to 2007 estimates, is inhabited by 5,357[1] people. A notable feature of Trakai is that the town was built and preserved by people of different nationalities. Historically, communities of KaraimsTatarsLithuaniansRussiansJews and Poles lived here.



The name of the town was first recorded in 1337 chronicles in German as Tracken (later also used spelling Traken) and is derived from the Lithuanian word trakai (singular: trakas meaning glade). Since the time of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the city was known as Troki in Polish. Its other alternate names include Trok (Yiddish),[2] Troky, and Traki.[3][4][5]


The majority of Trakai’s inhabitants (66.5%) are Lithuanian, although the town also has a substantial Polish minority (19%), as well as Russians (8.87%).[6] The city has a significant Karaite population.


There are 200 lakes in the region, of which the deepest (46.7 m) isGalvė with its 21 islands. Galvė covers an area of 3.88 km2, Vilkokšnis lake – 3.37 km2, the lake of Skaistis – 2.96 km2. There are Trakai Historical National Park and Aukštadvaris Regional Park founded in the territory of the region.

Trakai Historical National Park was founded on April 23, 1991 to preserve Trakai as a centre of Lithuanian statehood as well as the park’s authentic nature. It is the only historical national park not only in Lithuania but also throughout Europe.[clarification needed] The territory of the park covers 82 km2, 34 km2 of which are covered by forests, and 130 km2are covered by lakes.

Aukštadvaris Regional Park was founded in 1992 to preserve the valuable landscapes of Verknė and Strėva upper reaches. The area of the park is 153.50 km2, most of which is covered by forests. There are 72 lakes here, the biggest of which is Vilkokšnis.

Trakai is a town built on water. The town is surrounded by the lakes of Luka (Bernardinai), Totoriškės, Galvė, Akmena, Gilušis. There are a number of architectural, cultural and historical monuments in Trakai. The history museum in the castle was established in 1962. Festivals and concerts take place in the island castle in summer.



The first settlements in this area appeared as early as the first millennium A.D. The town, as well as its surroundings, started developing in the 13th century in the place ofSenieji Trakai (Old Trakai). According to a legend after a successful hunting party, Grand Duke Gediminas discovered a beautiful lake-surrounded place not far fromKernavė, then capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and decided to build a castle in the location. That is how the Old Trakai Castle was built in Senieji Trakai. The name of Trakai was first mentioned in Teutonic Knights chronicles in 1337. This year is considered to be the official date of town’s foundation. When Grand Duke Gediminas finally settled in Vilnius, Senieji Trakai was inherited by his son the Duke KęstutisDuchy of Trakai developed and the town entered its best decades.

Golden age

Grand Duke Kęstutis moved the town from Senieji Trakai to its current location, which is sometimes known as Naujieji Trakai. The new location was a place of intensive construction: a new castle was built in the strait between lakes Galvė and Luka and known as the Peninsula Castle, and another one, known as the Island Castle, on an island in Lake Galvė. A village grew around the castles. Vicinity of Trakai was protected by Senieji Trakai, Strėva, Bražuolė, Daniliškės and other hillforts from attacks of the Teutonic Knights. Despite the protection, both wooden castles were successfully raided by the Teutonic Knights several times in a row.

The town was in the center of a conflict between Grand Duke Jogaila (later to become King of Poland) with his uncle Kęstutis. In 1382 Jogaila’s and Kęstutis armies met near Trakai, but Jogaila tricked Kęstutis and imprisoned him in Kreva. A few weeks later Kęstutis dies in captivity and Jogaila transferred the castles to his brother Skirgaila, who became a governor of Lithuania Proper. However, his rule was briefly interrupted when in 1383 joint forces of Kęstutis’s son Vytautas and the Teutonic Knights captured the town. In 1392 Vytautas and Jogaila signed Astrava Treaty ending their quarrel. Vytautas became the Grand Duke of Lithuania while Jogaila technically remained his superior. Vytautas also regained his father’s lands, including Trakai. Despite his official capital being Vilnius, Vytautas spent more time in Trakai. In early 15th century he replaced the older, wooden fortress with a stone-built castle. Some design elements were borrowed from the castles of the Teutonic Knights as Vytautas spent some time with the Teutons forming an alliance against Jogaila in earlier years.

A typical triple-windowed wooden Karaim house in Trakai

Trakai became a political and an administrative centre of the Duchy, sometimes named a de facto capital of Lithuania.[7]Construction of the brick castles was finished and a Catholic church was built. In 1409 the town was granted with Magdeburg Rights; it one of the first towns in Lithuania to get city rights. The village started rapidly developing into a town. In 1413 it became a seat of the Trakai Voivodeship and a notable center of administration and commerce.

Decline and reconstruction

The old post office building

Tyszkiewicz palace

After the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined the Kingdom of Poland into Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569, the castles remained a royal property, but the town’s importance gradually declined, with the nearby Vilnius and the political center of the Commonwealth inKraków being far more important. Nevertheless, it continued to be the seat of local Sejmik. In Polish sources the town name was started to be referred to as Troki. In 1477, the castle on the lake was a meeting place of king Casimir IV of Poland with Venetian envoys. After that the castle became a luxurious prison for political prisoners. Sigismund I the Old imprisoned the members of Goštautai family, believed to be conspiring with Michał Gliński. Also Helena, widow of Alexander of Poland was kept there in order to prevent her escape to Muscovy. The castle was refurbished by king Sigismund I the Old, who set up his summer residence there; however, after his death in 1548 the castle gradually fell into disrepair.

During the wars between Russia and Poland between 1654 and 1667, the town was plundered and burnt. In the aftermath of the war with Muscovy in 1655, both castles were demolished and the town’s prosperity ended. The castle ruins remained a historical landmark. During the Great Northern War (1700–1721) Trakai was plundered again, as famine and plague swept the country.

Troki – pejzaż – Landscape of Trakai, 1904, watercolor on paper by Stanisław Masłowski

After the Partitions of Poland in 1795, the area was annexed by the Russian Empire. AfterWorld War I, the area was captured by the restored Republic of Poland. In 1929, the Polish authorities ordered reconstruction and restoration of the Trakai Island Castle. The works in the Upper castle were almost complete in 1939, when the Polish Defensive Warstarted and the area was soon annexed by the Soviet Union, then by Nazi Germany during Operation Barbarossa. During the war, more than 5,000 Jews from the Trakai region were murdered by the Nazis. In 1944, during Operation Tempest, the town was liberated by joint forces of the undergroundPolish Home Army and Soviet partisans. After World War II it was again annexed by the Soviet Union and made part of theLithuanian SSR in the Soviet Union; subsequently many of the city’s and area’s ethnic Polish inhabitants left for the recovered Territories of the People’s Republic of Poland.

In 1961, the reconstruction of the upper castle and a high tower construction were completed; however, the works came to a halt as a result of Nikita Khrushchev‘s speech of December 21, 1960. The Soviet First Secretary declared that reconstruction of the castle would be a sign of glorification of Lithuania’s feudal past. Works in the lower castle were not resumed until the 1980s and were completed by the Lithuanianauthorities in the early 1990s. Today the Island Castle serves as the main tourist attraction, hosting various cultural events such as operas and concerts.

Karaim community

Map of Trakai

The Karaim kenesa

Karaims (or Karaites) are a small Turkic-speaking religious and ethnic group resettled to Trakai by Grand Duke Vytautas in 1397 and 1398 from Crimea, after one of his successful military campaigns against the Golden Horde. Both Christian and Karaim communities were granted separate self-government in accordance with the Magdeburg rights. Despite ever-increasing Polonisation, Trakai remained a notable center of Karaim cultural and religious life. Some famous scholars were active in Trakai in the 16th and 17th centuries, such as Isaac ben Abraham of Trakai (1533–1594?), Joseph ben Mordecai Malinovski, Zera ben Nathan of Trakai, Salomon ben Aharon of Trakai, Ezra ben Nissan (died in 1666) and Josiah ben Judah (died after 1658). Some of the Karaims became wealthy and noble. The local Karaim community, the backbone of the town’s economy, suffered severely during the Khmelnytsky Uprising and the massacres of 1648. By 1680, only 30 Karaim families were left in the town. Their traditions, including not accepting neophytes, prevented the community from regaining its strength. Early in the 18th century war, famine, and plague reduced the Karaims to three families. By 1765 Karaim community increased to 300. Trakai’s Karaim kenesa is a rare example of a surviving wooden synagogue with an interior dome.[8] Kibinai, traditional Karaim pastry, became a local speciality and are mentioned in tourist guides.[9]