Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Zoref also known as Ibrahim Salomon (1786-1851), born in Kėdainiai, was one of the first pioneers who rebuilt the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Jerusalem in the beginning of the 19th century.
After making Aliyah and arriving in Ottoman Jerusalem, in 1824 the rabbi was sent to Constantinople by the head of the Perushim of Jerusalem, and succeeded in procuring a royal firman, commanding the kadi of Jerusalem to enforce the declaration of debt annualization concerning the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Jerusalem.
With the annexation of Jerusalem by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1831, a window of opportunity arose for the Perushim. On 23 June 1836, after traveling to Egypt, rabbi Zoref, together with the backing of the Austrian and Russian consuls in Alexandria, obtained the long-awaited firman for the reconstruction of the Hurva Synagogue.
Zoref became deeply engaged with Jewish lands seized by the creditors in Jerusalem and appeased the Arabs with annual bribes, but at some point the arrangement ceased and they tried to kill him. One night he was shot at by an unknown assailant who missed but later drowned after falling into a cistern. On a second occasion he was attacked on his way to prayers early one morning. In 1851, Zoref was struck on the head with a sword and died of his wounds three months later.
In August of this year, an article appeared on the website of the Lithuanian municipality of Kėdainiai, under the headline: “With a minute of silence, Kėdainiai met Tel Aviv.” The text described an annual event, begun only a few years ago, commemorating the extermination of Kedainiai’s Jewish community on August 28, 1941, during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania.
At precisely 18:30, local leaders and others observed a minute of silence – while at that same moment, in Israel, descendants of that vanished Jewish community, who called their home Keidan, were doing the same thing.
Two simultaneous ceremonies – one at the hall of the association of the Vilna Jews in Tel Aviv, the other by the mass grave where more than 2,000 Keidan Jews were murdered 77 years earlier.
Such commemorations are a longstanding tradition in Israel, home to thousands of Jews who trace their families to Lithuania. But in Lithuania itself this is relatively new, and still uncommon, tradition. Kėdainiai’s annual observance began several years ago, and has grown each year. This year it was led by Saulius Grinkevičius, mayor of the municipality, and Rimantas Žirgulis, director of the regional museum. The participants included two mayor’s deputies, the heads of local cultural and educational institutions, members of the administration and museum workers, school teachers and other Kėdainiai citizens. A local television station broadcast the ceremony.
The event reflects an important recent change in public consciousness and attitude. To a significant degree, Lithuanians are confronting their country’s painful past. This is reflected in the media, in increased research into local Jewish history and culture, and in the restoration of sites related to Lithuania’s former Jewish communities. In Kėdainiai, the regional museum and its director have played an important role, as have teachers such as Laima Ardavičieneof the Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium, or secondary school. As it was often in the past, Kėdainiai is providing leadership and serving as a role model for other communities in Lithuania.
Supporting those efforts going forward is a recently published English translation of the Keidan yizkor book – a volume of memoirs, historical accounts and other material gathered from survivors and descendants of the Jewish community after World War II. Originally published mostly in Hebrew and Yiddish in 1977, the book offers a multi-faceted view of Jewish life in Keidan – its history, its religious, educational, social and cultural institutions, youth organizations, portraits of its prominent people, recollections of witnesses and survivors before, during and after the Holocaust.
Cover of the Keidan Memorial (Yizkor) Book, recently translated into English. Edited by Aryeh Leonard Shcherbakov firstname.lastname@example.org Andrew Cassel email@example.com of the Keidan Associations of Israel and the U.S.; published by David Solly Sandler firstname.lastname@example.org Perth, Australia. The book is obtainable from any of the three above mentioned
Photos of Commemoration in Kedainiai – 28 August 2018
A section of the memorial erected in 2011 at the site of the Jews’ massacre near Kedainiai. Names of the victims were recorded as cutouts in the metal sheet.
At the site of the 28 August 1941 massacre of Kedainiai’s Jews. Mayor Saulius Grinkevičius lays flowers, while Rimantas Žirgulis (in white shirt) observes.
Local students and media participated in the commemoration.
Laima Ardavičiene, a teacher at the Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium, records the event.
This post covers this year’s visit to my ancestral town of Kedainiai – Keidan in Lithuania and the activities of Laima Ardaviciene, English teacher at the Atzalynas High School. Each time I visit, there are so many new surprises in store for me! Thank you Laima!
70 Years After Destruction, Memory of Lithuanian Community Lives in Diaspora Descendents of Jews From Keidan Proudly Recall Roots People from my grandfather’s hometown in Lithuania were known to be…
Josvainiai is a small town in Kėdainiai district, central Lithuania. It is located on the Šušvė River 10 km southwest from Kėdainiai. In the town there is a Catholic church, secondary school, post office and public library.
The lighting of the first candle was watched by students at the Atzalynas High School in Kedainiai, Lithuania. I used skype and my iPhone to stream this back live to Laima Ardaviciene and her class. This is the second year in a row we have engaged Laima and her class on Chanukah.
Viewing it all from the classroom in Kedainiai, Lithuania
I introduced my friend Heiny Ellert to the class. Heiny, 95, is a Holocaust survivor from Neishtot-Tavrig, today Žemaičių Naumiestis, in Lithuania.
See Heiny Ellert’s Testimony
Heiny Ellert’s Testimony
Heiny Ellert, a Lithuanian Holocaust survivor, tells his story to Eli Rabinowitz. Accompanying him is his wife Toby, also from Lithuania, but who escaped to …
A ceremony was held on Wednesday to thank those in Kedainiai, Lithuania who organised the recent cleaning of the Jewish cemetery and the matsevot.
Tzvi Friedl, Natan Katzel, Jill Rabinowitz and I joined those at the meeting at the Atzalynas School in Kedainiai just after 8pm Perth time. We joined online from CHABAD Perth, Australia. We thanked those involved in undertaking this huge mitzvah. There are no Jews living in Kedainiai today.
Here is the report from teacher Laima Ardaviciene in Kedainiai – translated from the Lithuanian below:
Valentinas Tamulis, governor of the town of Kėdainiai and Rimantas Žirgulis, director of the Kedainiai Regional Museum, visited Kėdainiai Atzalynas gymnasium. During the meeting the members of the gymnasium community thanked them for their cooperation in carrying out project TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן activities related to the Jewish community in Kedainiai. The students shared a recent presentation about the old Kedainiai Jewish Cemetery. Eli Rabinowitz (Australia), rooted in Kedainiai, and Rabbi Natan Katzel joined the meeting virtually and thanked the headman of Kėdainiai for his contribution to the old Kedainiai Jewish cemetery in honor of the Kedainiai Jewish people, Jewish music was played by Tzvi Friedl. Further cooperation activities were discussed during the meeting. The guests were presented with the Kedainiai drawings.
Atžalyno gimnazijoje lankėsi Kėdainių miesto seniūnas Valentinas Tamulis ir Kėdainių krašto muziejaus direktorius Rimantas Žirgulis. Susitikimo metu gimnazijos bendruomenės nariai padėkojo už bendradarbiavimą vykdant projektą TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן apie Kėdainiuose buvusią žydų bendruomenę. Gimnazistai pasidalino pastaruoju metu sukurtu pristatymu apie senąsias Kėdainių žydų kapines. Susitikimo metu prisijungė Eli Rabinowitz (Australija), kuris kėdainiečių žydų vardu padėkojo miesto seniūnui už jo indėlį tvarkant senąsias Kėdainių žydų kapines, padėkos žodį tarė ir rabinas Natan Katzel, o muzikiniu kūriniu pasidalino Tzvi Friedl. Susitikimo metu buvo aptarta tolimesnė bendradarbiavimo veikla. Svečiams buvo padovanoti gimnazijos mokinių piešti Kėdainių miestą vaizduojantys piešiniai.
We made three videos:
Participants in Kedainiai:
Valentinas Tamulis, the headman of Kėdainiai
Rimantas Žirgulis, the director of the Kėdainiai Regional History Museum Gintaras Petrulis, the director of Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium Rasa Cicėnienė, the assistant of Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium Lina Blinstrubienė, the assistant of Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium Giedrius Galvanauskas, a student Aistė Vosilytė, a student Šarūnė Makaraitytė, a student
More about the project – Building Bridges In Kedainiai
Building Bridges In Kedainiai
Kedainiai Atžalynas gymnasium students continue the Project: TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן . We thank Valentinas Tamulis, the mayor of Kedainiai, and Rimantas Žirgulis for organising cleaning activities in the old Jewish cemetery. Not a single tombstone is covered by a growing tree or a bush now. All the matsevot remind us about the Jewish community that lived in Keidan. We are presenting the recent view of the Old Jewish Cemetery of Keidan.
Drawings by Julija Chomenko featured in the video below.
Julio completed her schooling at Atzalyno High School last year.
From Laima Ardaviciene, teacher:
Kedainiai Atžalynas gymnasium students continue the Project: TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן . From the bottom of our heart we thank Valentinas Tamulis, the headman of Kedainiai, and Rimantas Žirgulis for organising cleaning activities in the old Jewish cemetery. Not a single tombstone is covered by a growing tree or a bush now. All the headstones remind us about the Jewish community that lived in Keidan. We are presenting the recent view of the Old Jewish Cemetery of Keidan.
The International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania
Extract from the newsletter
Kėdainiai “Atžalynas” gymnasium Tolerance education Centre administrates an international project on Jewish festivals
Since 2012 Kėdainiai “Atžalynas” gymnasium Tolerance Education Centre has been administrating a project aimed at educating students about the Jewish community history in Kėdainiai region. A special guest from Australia Eli Rabinowitz visits the gymnasium every year to share his knowledge and insights. The project is conducted in English, thus the students not only broaden their outlook, but use the foreign language and develop their English skills.
This year the project focused on Jewish festivals. In winter Eli Rabinowitz held a virtual conference to introduce a festival for the students and in summer, during the visit to Lithuania, the guest continued with stories about other traditional Jewish celebrations.
Atzalynas Gimnazija Kedainiai Visit 2017
Atzalynas Gimnazija Kedainiai Visit 2017
The Keidaner Family tree on Laima’s classroom wall – an unique work of art! The complex of two synagogues and the tree featuring the names of Keidaners, including my 3rd great grandfat…