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The Jewish Community of Siauliai

by Jeffrey Maynard

Chapter Four - Natives and Notables

P. Abramowitz was born and lived in Shavel. He wrote a short book "Religion and Philosophy" (Vilna 1912).

William Abrams was born in 1894. He emigrated to the United States in 1912. A writer for various left-wing newspapers.

Rabbi Chaim Katz Bacharach was born in Kovno, but lived for many years in Shavel. One of the wealthy men of Shavel, he was paupered after a great fire in the city. In his book "Zichron Chaim" (Vilna 1889) he write that his residence is in Shavel. His mother was the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Romshishker.

Rabbi Dov Ber (Bernhard) Baitz, the son of Leibe and Taube Baitz, was born in Shavel and educated at Yeshivos, obtaining Smichas Rabbonus (rabbinical certification) from distinguished rabbis. He emigrated to South Africa in 1908, and was rabbi first in Mossel bay and then in Uniondale until he retired. In retirement he lived in a small village near Ladysmith, Cape. He married Chaya Kaplan, the eldest daughter of an Oudtshoorn pioneer, A. M. Kaplan and had four sons and five daughters. 1

Henry Bane was born in Shavel in 1905. His parents were Benjamin Bane (Bene) and Sarah Rause. He emigrated to the United States in 1914, received a BA from Duke University in 1927 and an LLB from the University of North Carolina in 1930. An attorney, he was a Judge in the Durham County Civil Court from 1965-7. He lived at 1815 Morehead Avenue, Durham, North Carolina, USA. 2

Rabbi Eli Beinisher was from the family of Dovid Beinish who was received by Tzar Nikolai the First when he and the Queen visited Shavel in 1838. 3

Rabbi Julius Berger, born in Shavel, was a rabbi in Montreal, Canada. He was a Zionist.

Aharon Bergman was born in 1890. From 1920 he was a journalist for the provincial Russian press. In 1927 he emigrated to Brazil. He was the editor of the first Yiddish newspaper in Brazil, "Idishe Prese" from 1930 to 1950. He died in San Paolo in 1953.

Faygeh Esther Blankfeld was born in Shavel in 1862. Her parents were Abraham Meyer Blankfeld and Frieda Masha Nurok. Abraham Meyer Blankfield was the son of Velvel Blankfield and the daughter of a Rabbi Katzenellenbogen. 4 She married Rabbi Dov Ber Hirsh Heller, who was born in Shillel in 1862. He became the mashgiach of the Knesses Yisroel Yeshiva in Slobodka and was responsible for the Yeshiva's day-to-day finances. 5 Rabbi Ber Hirsh and Faygeh Heller had a son, Abraham Meyer Heller, and daughters, Chasya Gisseh, Itte Ettil, Kayla and Sarah. Chasya married Rabbi Abraham Grodzinski. They were martyred in the Kovno Ghetto. Itta Ettil married Rabbi Yakov Kamenetsky, who was to become a rabbinical leader of his generation in the United States. Rabbi Dov Ber Heller died in Jerusalem in 1935. Feige Esther Heller (nee Blankfield) died in Jerusalem about 1940. 6

Victor David Brener was born in the 1870s. He became famous as a sculptor, engraver and medalist in the United States. He engraved the Lincoln Penny, which originally had his initials, VDB on each coin. He died in 1924 in New York.

Shlomo Choronzshitski was born in 1879. A famous lawyer, he lived in Kovno after 1929.

Shimon Cohen, the son of Yakov Yeshiyahu Cohen was born in Shavel. Yakov Yeshiyahu Cohen was the son of Rabbi Avraham Cohen, shaliach tzibur of Azeretze, a suburb of Vilna, and of the town of Druja. He died in Shavli in 1917. Shimon Cohen's mother was Zelde, daughter of Rabbi Ziskind. She died in the town of Drisa during the First World War in 1917. He wrote two important books. The first is "Sefer Hapraos", about the expulsion of the Jews from Lithuania in 1915, which was published in Shavel in 1933. The second is "Korot HaYehudim BeSiauliai" (History of the Jews of Shavel), which was published in Kovno in 1938. This is the only contemporary history book about the Jewish community of Shavel. It was apparently the source of most of the information in the short article about Shavel that appears in the book "Yahadut Lita", and has been used as a major source in writing this paper.

Tuvia Dantzig was born in 1884. He emigrated to the United States in 1900. He was a professor of mathematics at the Universities of Indiana, Columbia and Maryland.

Shmuel Debowitz-Aloni was born in Shavel and emigrated to Bulgaria in 1927. Later he went to Israel. He wrote articles on educational topics. He died in 1960 in Givatayim. 7

Rabbi Eliezer Efrati came from an aristocratic family. His father, Reb Menachem Mendel Efrati lived in Shavel for a while, until his death. His uncle, Rabbi Dovid Tevele Efrati, was a Rabbi in Vitebsk and the author of "Toldos Anashei Shem" (Warsaw 1875). 8 Eliezer wrote for Hebrew newspapers and was a friend of Yehuda Leib Gordon when he was a teacher in Shavel.

Rabbi Shlomo Eliashew, the son of Rabbi Chaim Heikal Eliashew was an original scholarly personality in Shavel. A Tzadik (righteous man) and Kabbalist (mystic), he sat day and night and studied. He got along through the generosity of the Shavel philanthropist Ben Tzion Nurok, who year after year gave him 40 roubles a month. He was not interested in the affairs of the town. It was as if no one else lived there, except when Rabbi Yosef Zechariah Shtern would say something against the Kabbalah. They had sharp disagreements, although their fights were always within the bounds of talmudic wisdom and acceptable behavior. Their arguments made little impact on each other. He settled in Jerusalem in 1909 where he wrote his famous kabbalistic book "Leshem Shevo Ve'achloma". His grandson is the authority in Jewish religious law, Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv. Rabbi Shlomo died in 1926.

Yosef Epshtein was a writer of the "enlightenment" who lived and died in Shavel. 9

Yakov Yesheya Fridman was born in 1880 and emigrated to the United States in 1899. He wrote novels, humor and stories and was published in a wide variety of journals and magazines. He died in New York in 1962.

Mordechai Aharon Ginzburg, the famous Hebrew writer, married a girl from Shavel. From 1810 to 1816 he lived in his father-in-laws house in Shavel. He wrote about this period in his autobiography "Aviezer". 10

Yosef Yermiahu Glas was a well known teacher. He wrote many books, including "Mitodika leKitvei haKodesh", Antwerp 1927. 11

Reb Yitzchok Ari Goldberg was the son of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Goldberg and the father-in-law of Reb Chaim Leib Sheskin. He was knowledgeable in Torah. He and his wife were killed by robbers together with his sons, Reb Yissachar Dov Goldberg and Reb Yechiel Dovid Goldberg in 1914. The murderer was caught and because of the war was passed into the custody of another city. It is not known if he stood trial. 12

Mordechai Aharon Goldberg, an enlightened writer, was the son-in-law of a member of the Shavel community. He wrote "Galus Ha'aretz Hachadashah", Vilna, 1820, "Toldos B'nai Adam", Vilna 1835, and others, including "Avi Ezer" which has many references to Shavel. He was born in Salant in 1786 and died in Vilna in 1846.

Dr. Isaac Goldberg was born in Shavel on 1st February, 1925. His parents Reverend Hirsch Zvi Mordechai Goldberg and Sonia Vilanova had lived there for about two years. They left Shavel in 1929 for South Africa. Isaac Goldberg obtained a B.Sc from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, a Ph. D. from London University in England and is recognised as an expert in diamonds and emeralds. He was chief geologist for Matabeleland in Rhodesia, chief geologist for Anglo American in Rhodesia, and was in charge of teh Minerals Bureau in South Africa. 13

Rabbi Reuven Yosef Gordon was born in Shavel in 1851. From 1882 he was Rabbi in Radviliskis, where he died in 1887.

Yehuda Leib Gordon was born in Vilna in 1831. A major figure of the enlightenment, he is the father of modern Hebrew poetry. He lived in Shavel for five years, and taught secular subjects at the Government School in Shavel in the 1860s. He became editor of the Hebrew newspaper Hamelitz (The Morning Star or Advocate) which he expanded from twice-weekly to daily. He died in St Petersburg in 1892.

Avraham Zev Gordon was born in 1857. A scholar, he was the son-in-law of Shraga Feivel Yakobzon of Moscow, who was a prominent merchant. In 1891 he emigrated to Palestine. He was one of the founders of the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv in 1922.

Rabbi Arieh Gotz was born in 1849 and died in 1932 in Shavel. For 50 years he was the Rabbi of the Chevra Shas (Talmud Society) of the Great Beis HaMikdash in Shavel. He was known as a good preacher and an active Zionist. 14

Rabbi Refoel Shlomo Gotz, a great teacher, was known for his copy of the Gemorah which was full of marginal notes. A son-in-law of K. Wisotzki. He died in 1920.

Shmuel Gotz was born in 1895. He emigrated to South Africa in 1935. He wrote articles for Yiddish newspapers in Kovno, Riga and Johannesburg. He died in 1983 in South Africa. 15

David Itzikowitz was born in Shavel in 1874. In 1907 he emigrated to the United States. He was an active anarchist and wrote books on anarchy in Yiddish. He died in New York in 1949.

M. Janover was born in Shavel and emigrated to Warsaw, Poland in 1928. A songwriter. His book "Gedanken Un Paradoksen" was published in Shavel in 1925. 16

Benjamin Fedorovich Kagan was born on March 10, 1869 in Shavel. He entered Novorossysky University in Odessa in 1887 and was expelled in 1889 for participating in the Democratic Students movement. In 1892 Kagan received a degree from Kiev University and in 1895 he was awarded a Masters Degree from St Petersburg University. He taught at Novorossysky from 1897 to 1922, becoming a Professor in 1917. In 1922 he went to Moscow and was appointed Professor of Differential Geometry there in 1934. He died in Moscow on May 8, 1953.

Esther Kal was born in Shavel in 1930. She emigrated to Palestine in 1935 together with her family. A Hebrew writer of short stories for adults and children.

Reb Dovid Eliezer Kaplan, a merchant, wrote the book "Demeshek Eliezer", published in Vilna in 1907. This book has the Haskamas (agreements) of Rabbi Meir Atlas and Rabbi Shimon Sheima Lurie, the Rabbis of Shavel. Kaplan came from one of the older established families in Shavel. His grandfather lived in Shavel when it was just a small town, and he was the first Cohen there. He was also one of the first matchmakers in Shavel. 17

Yisroel Yitzchok Kaplan, the son of Yakov Kaplan was born in Shavel. He lived in Windau, Dorput. He received his doctorate from Dorput University. He attended Zionist Congresses. 18

Rabbi Abraham Jacob Katzenellenbogen was born about 1865 and lived in Shavel. 19 He was the author of a handwritten pedigree of his family (in 1886), based on an original dictated by his grandfather. He was the son of Saul Katzenellenbogen of Vilna, who was born in Vilna in 1841, who was the son of Abraham Jacob Katzenellenbogen who died in Plungian on January 29th, 1863. 20

Rabbi Shaul Tuvia Katzenellenbogen lived at the time of Rabbi Yitzchok Aizik Rabinowitz. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Meir Luntz, the son of Rabbi Getzel Luntz. 21 Several questions and answers of his are printed in Rabbi Yitzchok Aiziks book "Ateres Yitzchok". The Rabbi of Loknik, Rabbi Noson Kotler mentions in his commentary to "Ateres Yitzchok" that Rabbi Shaul Tuvia was living in Telz at the time, but later he lived in Shavel. He died in 1852. 22

William Keizer was born in Shavel in 1872 and emigrated to the United States in 1893. His original family name was Israel. A Jewish poet, he wrote in Russian, German and English in the American Jewish press. He died in New York in 1940.

Tzvi Kesel, born in 1898, donated the important "Tzvi Kesel Prize" for Yiddish and Hebrew writers. In 1926 he emigrated to Mexico.

Reverend Shmuel Zalman Klaff was born in Shavel and died in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1957. According to his obituary notice, he came from a family steeped in rabbinical tradition. His son, Reverend Moses David Klaff was "a third generation minister (chazan)," according to an article in the Port Elizabeth, South Africa, "Eastern Province Herald" newspaper of March 1969. Another relative was Reverend Moses Claff who was born in Shavel in 1847 and emigrated to England in approximately 1883. 23

Rabbi Yosef Mordechai Kriger, a resident or native, was rabbi in Shavlan and Radviliskis. he died in 1907.

Reb Shmuel Helman Kweit, son of Reb Hillel, was Gabai Rashi of the Burial Society. 24 He lived in Shavel from the 1890s. He was a major opponent of the Chovevei Tzion (Lovers of Zion society).

Abraham Leib, born in 1896, was an active Bundist and was later in the Jewish Communist Party in Russia. In 1948 he was arrested in the Soviet Union and never heard from again.

Rabbi Betzalel Lewin, Head of the Rabbinical Court of Mervalite was born in Shavel in 1908.

Rabbi Yisroel Lewin from Shavel was chosen as Rabbi of the small town of Grozd, and later of the town of Sadi. He was the son-in-law of the philanthropist Reb Leib Nurok.

Rabbi Gershon Lifshitz, born around 1865, was a native or long-time resident of Shavel. He was Rabbi in Bazilan and later in Batok, and afterwards returned to Shavel.

Mordechai Litwin was born in 1906. He studied humanities and science at Kovno University. In 1939 he emigrated to France and lived in Paris. A Yiddish journalist and writer.

Reb Yehuda Leib Luntz was the son of Reb Zev Wolf Luntz, the son of Rabbi Getzel Luntz, the son of Rabbi Yechezkel Luntz, and came from one of the most prominent families in Shavel. His brothers Binyomin Luntz and Dovid Luntz also lived in Shavel. He wrote "Kovetz Shoshanim" (Warsaw 1891). One of the chapters of this book relates the genealogy of the Luntz family. A writer of the enlightenment and Zionist, he wrote articles for the Hebrew newspapers Hamelitz and Hatzefira.

Another Yehuda Leib Luntz, who was born in Shavel, was a successful businessman. His most famous coup was getting the fruit from the Tsar's orchards in the Crimea into St. Petersburg during the First World War. He was exiled into central Russia during the war, and returned after he was imprisoned by the communists. 25

Reb Leib Yeshei' Luntz was a respected gabbai (synagogue official) of the Beis Hamidrash Hagadol (Great House of Learning and Prayer) and of the Burial Society for some years after the death of Reb Helman.

Rabbi Meir Maltz, born in Shavel, was a Rabbi in Radviliskis. He died in 1905.

Yoel Zusman Marik, a writer of the enlightenment 26 was born in 1842 in Shadove and was a teacher in Shavel for many years. He published two translations and a book of poems in Hebrew. He wrote articles for Hebrew newspapers and journals. He was physically weak and ill for a long time in Shavel, where he died in 1887. His son Pesach Marik was a researcher of Jewish history and folklore.

Eleazor Noik, who was born about 1835 in Luknik or Tresik moved to Shavel. One of his grandchildren, Sadie Noieck, born about 1887 in Shavel, married Isadore Kaitz. Their son, George Cates, born October 19, 1911 in New York City, was Musical Director of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. 27

Reb Bentzion Nurok's son-in-law was Rabbi Eitzele from Kelme. His son lived in Shavel. 28

The philanthropist Reb Leib Nurok, was the collector of meat taxes in Shavel. He was the son of Reb Bentzion Nurok, who was known as "Bentzel the orphan" because he was orphaned as a child with a large inheritance. Rabbi Leib Nurok was one of the “seven good men of the city”, 29 a senior public activist of the older generation.

Rabbi Yisroel Ordman, born in 1909, was Head of the Yeshiva in Telz. He was a son-in-law of the Telz rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Bloch. Both perished in the Holocaust.

Suzana Orlowski, born in Shavel in 1889, was a singer with the Kovno Opera.

Rabbi Avrahamel Ram came from the family of the Vilna Gaon. A respected man known for his knowledge, he worked faithfully for the needs of the community. All his life, he loved to do charitable deeds, to show kindness. 30

Rabbi Yakov Dovid Rapoport (according to Berl Kagan his second name was Dovid, although Otzar HaRabonim lists him as Yakov Dov Rapoport) was born in Alyta in 1860 but lived in Shavel for many years. A son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Zechariah Stern and father-in-law of Rabbi Osher Nisan Lewitan. From 1926 he was a Rabbi in Kfar Saba, Palestine, where he died in 1928. His son Arieh was born in 1888 and also emigrated to Palestine.

Rabbi Arieh Rabinowitz, who was born and lived in Shavel, was the author of "Zichron Avir O Intziklopedia Talmudis" (Vilna 1911). This book, completed in 1910, was written in Shavel. His parents were also in Shavel. His father, Reb Yitzchok die in 1907, and his mother, Slave Chasia in 1910 in Vilna. 31

Tzvi Hirsh Rabinowitz was born in 1863. In 1893 he became a Doctor of Medicine at Berlin University. His book, "Popular Electricity" was published in Russian in Kiev in 1894. In 1895 he emigrated to New York. He wrote articles for the German and Yiddish newspapers in New York.

Rabbi Abraham Rein, the son of Meir Rein, was born in 1876. He was rabbi in High Springs. He died in 1941.

Rabbi Shmuel Moshe Rubinshtein, son of Yitzchok and Sheine Mere, came from Boisk in Latvia, but lived in Shavel for a number of years. He wrote a number of books including "Evnei Shoham" (Warsaw 1902), "Toras Hakabalah" (Warsaw, 1912), and "Kadmonios Hahalacha" (Kovno, 1926).

Rabbi Maurice Saltzman came from Shavel and studied at the Telshe Yeshiva where he was ordained as a rabbi. During the First World War he served as a rabbi in New Jersey before resigning in order to attend medical school. He lived in Philadelphia. 32

Rabbi Bentzion Senderovitsh's daughter, Chanah was married to the writer, Shimon Cohen. She died on the 3rd of Marcheshvan, 1938.  According to his son-in-law, Rabbi Bentzion was versed in Talmudic knowledge and religious faith.

Dov Shilansky, former speaker of the Knesset in Israel, was born in Shavel.

Yakov Tzvi Sobel was born in 1831. His father, Rabbi Yitzchok Sobel was a dayan in Shavel. Later in Kovno he was Head of a Yeshiva, and afterwards a Rabbi in Slobodka. Yakov Tzvi studied at the Rabbinical Seminary in Zhitomer and learned mathematics at Odessa University. A writer, he emigrated to the United States in 1875 and died in Chicago in 1913.

Louis H. Sobel, United States organization executive. He was born in Shavel on July 4, 1901, the son of Samuel M Sobel and Buna Lazarus and emigrated to the United States in 1904. Married Minna Blackman October 24, 1924. Children David Elliot, Mrs. Phyllis Hutner. Executive Director Jewish Child Care Association of New York from 1947. 33

Yakov Yehoshua Wolberg, the son of Nison Wolberg was a frequent newspaper correspondent from Shavli for the Hebrew newspaper Hamelitz. His book "Zichronos HaMilchama", about the expulsion of the Jews from Lithuania in 1915, was published in Kovno in 1924. He lived in Kovno from 1924.

Avraham Helman Zak"sh (Zaks), whose family came from Zagare, was the son of Rabbi Tzemach Zak"sh, Head of the Rabbinical Court of Zagare. He was a school teacher in Shavel. He was the first agent for the newspaper Hamagid in Shavel, in 1856, described as "religious teacher Helman Zaks". 34

Yechiel Zaks was born in 1916 in Shavel. He lived through the ghetto and concentration camp. He wrote articles in revisionist Yiddish periodicals and in Unzer Weg, a refugee newspaper in Munich. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. 35

Yosef Zak"s, born in 1896, emigrated to South Africa. He wrote English books about Jews.

Rabbi Shimon Zevadia in his work "Mayan Ganim" writes that he is from Shavel. He had famous rabbinical ancestors. On his father's side, Rabbi Noson Yeshayahu, a descendent of Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Rapoport and the dynasty of Volozhyn. On his mother's side, from the Rama (Rabbi Moses Iserles), the Bach and the Maharal of Prague. He was a grandson of Rabbi Yitzchok Aizik Broida, Head of the Rabbinical Court of New Zager.

Y. B. A. Ziw was born in Seta. He lived for a time in Shavel and was a correspondent for the Hebrew press. He published two volumes of poetry and other Yiddish books.

Reuben Leib Zurinamer, also known as Levin Soloman and Yehuda Reuben, lived in Shavel and was mentioned in records of the Mitau (Latvia) City Council papers of April 25, 1838, as one of the "minor heirs" of the estate money from an estate in Surinam that had been owned in the eighteenth century by Gerrit Jacobs. His son, Solomon Zurnamer was born in 1848 in Shavli and went to South Africa. Another son, Moses Raphael Surinamer, born about 1854, went to England. 36


[1]. Information supplied by Leonard Loebenstein of South Africa.

[2]. Who's Who in World Jewry, 1955, 1965, 1972, 1978, 1981.

[3]. Cohen, p24.

[4]. See "The Unbroken Chain" by Neil Rosenstein, second edition, page 752.

[5]. Yonason Rosenblum, Reb Yaakov, Brooklyn, New York, 1993.

[6]. Authors note - Feige Esther Blankfield was the sister of my great-grandfather, Morris (Moshe Eliezer) Blankfield who was born in Shavel and emigrated to London, England.

[7]. Kagan

[8]. See also Neil Rosenstein, The Unbroken Chain, p20.

[9]. Cohen, p25.

[10]. Kagan. Dovid Magid, Sefer Toldos Mishpachos Gintzburg (Book of the history of the Ginzburg family), St Petersburgh, 1899, page 87.

[11]. Cohen, p25.

[12]. Cohen, p25.

[13]. Information supplied by Ed Goldberg of Vancouver, Canada.

[14]. Kagan.

[15]. Kagan

[16]. Kagan

[17]. Kagan

[18]. Yahadut Latvia, Tel Aviv 1953, page 302.

[19]. Neil Rosenstein, The Unbroken Chain, New Jersey, 1990, p614.

[20]. ibid.

[21]. Cohen, p24.

[22]. Kagan. Also, LeKorot Ir Rasein VeRaboneha, page 39.

[23]. Information supplied by Rita Krakower Margolis of Rockville, Maryland, USA.

[24]. Cohen, p24.

[25]. Information supplied by Chana Luntz

[26]. Cohen, p25.

[27]. Information supplied by Davida Noyek Handler.

[28]. Cohen, p25.

[29]. Cohen, p24.

[30]. Cohen p25.

[31]. Kagan

[32]. Information supplied by Rabbi Gary M. Gans of Marlton, New Jersey, USA.

[33]. Who's Who in World Jewry 1955.

[34]. Kagan.

[35]. Kagan

[36]. Information supplied by Judy Langer Caplan of Long Beach, New York.

Copyright@1997 Jeffrey Maynard. This material may not be used for commercial purposes.