Kedainiai, my Lithuanian Shtetl

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: can see my connection to Tzoref and his story in a video at: 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 |




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



0 Replies to “Kedainiai, my Lithuanian Shtetl”

  1. Is there a list of names ONLINE of those buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Kedainiai? My
    gggrandfather Reb Shlomo Zalman Steinberg, lived there in the 19th C, and I assume is buried there. I know nothing about his life there, except that he was a scholar of torah.

  2. Dear Eli,
    It was pleasure to meet you in Kėdainiai in our “Atžalynas” gymnasium. Until now all your interesting stories are present to my mind. It was unforgettable day to me and I am very happy that I had a golden opportunity to understand small but at the same time a very big part of your life. I believe, it is also a big part of our world and history of human society too. After that meeting I realized few things and I remembered few thoughts about why it is important to remember the past. One might say there wouldn’t be a present without a past. I think, we are the sum of our experiences after all. I am certain, we must remember the past. It’s important to remember atrocities like the Holocaust, because if we would, we could honor the victims and keep their memory alive through stories of their lives when we could be aware. We have to remember the past to keep such a thing from happening again. To sum up, our history can help us learn from our past and live for a better future.
    So, thank you! Thank you! Thank you for everything! And thank you the fourth time for those lovely koalas and story about Australia.

    Best wishes from Kėdainiai,

    1. Hi Viktorija
      You have expressed yourself beautifully and I am so pleased to have met you and your fellow students. It is important for us to keep in contact and to encourage others to visit and exchange ideas.
      Best regards

  3. Today many young people live just at the moment, they are rushing and are being attacked by lots of stress and other big disasters. However, it is vitaly important to remember what happened in the past, so far far from now, attend, participate in international projects and consider the fact that there occured many significant events that must be memorized in our minds today. In this way, we could learn much how to avoid repeating some mistakes, how to not fall in the same trap as our predecessors did. In history is also important to understand why things are as they are. Furthermore, we must not forget the past of our ancestors that accomplished many great deeds. Just think, without the past what would we be today?

    1. Dear Goda
      Thanks for writing your comments which reflect your mature understanding that we need to appreciate our mutual differences and still be proud of our heritage. I am happy to have met you and hope we can do so in the near future. You and your classmates are also most welcome to visit us in Australia.
      Best regards

  4. Having the project “Cultural Diversity ” we were able to learn many different things about the cultures that lived in Kėdainiai. Besides we were able to meet some relatives of the Jews that lived in our country a long time ago. It’s good to know that although they hadn’t lived in Lithuania at all but they are still interested in their ancestors that lived here. And because of that they come to visit Lithuania and they can learn more about the history of the country. Listening to their stories was very interesting. It helped us to understand their cultures better. Projects like this one are necessary in order to know other cultures better, to get a deeper view of the historical facts and to meet people from all around the globe. It was not only educational but also very interesting.

    1. Dear Edvinas
      I am pleased to have been able to meet your school group and connect with young people who represent the future of Lithuania. The world can only be a better place when you have great guidance that you have received from teachers such as Ms Laima Ardaviciene, who make such a difference!
      Best regards

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