Keidan and its Jews

from “Yahadut Lita, its history in pictures”[1] p.123. 

Keidan, an administrative center for its district, was one of Lithuania’s ancient cities. The history of the Jewish community in Keidan begins in the 15th century. In 1495, in the time of Prince Alexander, the Jews were expelled by his decree, but after some years, in 1503, they were allowed to return and Jewish settlement began to develop and take root there.

Prince Radziwill gave the Jews full rights. Keidan acquired a reputation in the Jewish world for its eminent personalities and great rabbis, and became famous as a “place of Torah and education.” It had a bustling, active Jewish life, with a yeshiva, synagogues, schools, organizations and youth movements, a people’s bank and charitable organizations. The large printing house owned by Movshovitz and Kagan was among the most outstanding Jewish publishers in the country, specializing in religious books and works by rabbis and scholars.

Many of the Jews in Keidan were vegetable growers, and “Keidan cucumbers” appeared on tables throughout Lithuania.

Among the rabbis of the city and its great men were: the gaon Rabbi Moshe Margalit, the author of “Pnei Moshe,” a commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud; the gaon Rabbi David Katzenellenbogen, the gaon Rabbi Abraham Shimon Troib, and the last rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Feinsilber, hy”d[2], a renowned Torah scholar and chairman of the Rabbinic Association of Lithuania, who compiled the books, “Nishmat Chaim” and “Yeriyot Shlomo”; the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Shimon Dubiansky, hy”d, who perished in Dachau; the rabbinical judge Rabbi Aharon Galin, hy”d, who was Rabbi Feinsilber’s son-in-law.

The Vilna Gaon spent a short time in Keidan and learned Torah from Rabbi David Katzenellenbogen. Prior to the First World War, the Jewish population numbered seven thousand; and before the Holocaust there were four thousand souls. Many Jews from Keidan emigrated to South Africa, America and Eretz-Israel. The Jews of Keidan were massacred on August 15 1941[3] near the town and were buried at that same place. The heroic death of Tzadok Shlapobersky is worthy of note. Witnesses tell how he dragged a Nazi commander into the death pit and smashed the skull of a Lithuanian murderer, who was collaborating with the Germans.

Translated by Bella Golubchik


[1] Published by “Mossad Harav Kook”, Jerusalem, 1959

[2] “May God avenge his blood”

[3] The actual date was August 28, 1941