Establishment of the Community and its Development Until the World War II


by Simonas Jurkštaitis

This article appears with the permission of Simonas Jurkštaitis.  The facts as presented represent the views of the author, Simonas Jurkštaitis, and we claim no responsibility as to their accuracy or fairness.

Simonas Jurkštaitis
, a history teacher at a school in Vilnius, Lithuania, studied at Vilnius University.  He wrote this article because of his interest in how local museums show the history and heritage of Jews in their communities.


Thanks to Aušra Jonušytė, historian at the Kupiskis Ethnographic Museum, and Phil Shapiro, for sending us this interesting article.

There is no precise data when the Jewish community began to settle in Kupiškis,
known in Yiddish as Kupishok. Several versions are considered at this issue. The first one says that the Jews moved here in the ruling time of Vytautas the Great, but it is not substantiated by any historical sources, so this version should be rejected. According to other data, the Jews settled in about the seventeenth century. The permission to build a Synagogue issued in 1862  by Mikalojus Pacas approves it. The Jews themselves who were natives from Kupiškis indicate the same century, one of them Rabbi Ephraim Oshry. Therefore, if any individual Jews would have been in Kupiškis in the past, they formed the Jewish community only in the seventeenth century. There are no existing documents about the relationships and their development between the representatives of Judaism and Christianity at that time either. However, it is likely that standard myths were common at that time, such as the Christian children's blood as if was used on the Passover festival/Pesach. This is one of the most popular myths and prejudices from the past times of the Commonwealth of Both Nations.

From the lustration [from the Washington Post, "Lustration (from the Latin verb lustrare, to ceremonially purify) refers to a policy that seeks to cleanse a new regime from the remnants of the past"] of the state elderships and economies, we can see that in 1765 the Jewish community had formed an abundant number of the society. There were 2 Jewish Dumas in the town and 53 houses with 413 residents of this nationality. The report mentions the rent fees for the 7 inns and the manor. The Jews used to spend 556 Thalers a year on them. Another lustration took place in 1775. Its material indicates the exact boundaries of Kupiškis Eldership and the number of Dumas, but it does not specify the confessions and the number of people in them. The last revision of  Kupiškis as a town of The Commonwealth of Both Nations was conducted in 1789. It noted that at that time the town had 106 Dumas, 61 of them were Catholic and 45 of them were Jewish. So the number of Catholic residents and Judaistic residents in Kupiškis at the end of the eighteenth century was rather similar. This lustration also provides data from other vicinities located around Kupiskis. It reveals that the smaller administrative units had less Jewish people living in them: for example, Dešrys Parish had 959 residents including 37 Jews among them,  and Paškys Parish had 716 residents with 19 Jews among them. The conclusion can be made that the Jewish community existed steadily and surely before the sunset of the Commonwealth of Both Nations. The Jewry had its own property and if necessary rented more of it. Another tendency shows that the Jews would rather come to settle in the central and more densely inhabited towns of administrative districts that were located in the strategically more comfortable places.

After the Partitions of the Commonwealth of Both Nations in the Russian Empire the Jewish regulations were adopted and according to them the settled zones were created for the residents of this nationality (they were forbidden to engage in agriculture and  to move to the big cities of Russia without permission), so in the nineteenth century the number of Jews significantly increased in Kupiškis. In 1847 the population of the Jewry was already 1450. At that time in the western provinces of the Russian Empire they were forbidden not only to buy estates but also to rent them. Thus the Jews were not only constrained and pushed away from agricultural work but they were restricted from businesses as well. However, despite the interference and the growing competition, they continued to develop handicraft and trade, some maintained rental business of manor houses or their auxiliary objects (a mill, a sawmill, a brewery). The Jewish community of Kupiškis could not avoid all these obligations and prohibitions. During the lustration that took place in 1843 the Jews were counted not as townspeople but as alien outsiders. According to the lustration data of that time the town of Kupiškis had 107 yards of peasants and 120 families of alien foreigners, i.e. mostly the Jews. However, in spite of the unfavorable laws of the Tsarist Russia towards the Jews they maintained the main forms of their activities such as crafts and trade.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the Tsarist government continued restrictions of the Jewish businesses and practices. The Abolition of Serfdom in 1861 was disadvantageous for the Jewish traders as they lost their intermediary role between the peasants and the estate. The Industrial Revolution in Russia accelerated the centralization of the state production activities and this deprived the Jewish industrialists of part of their profits. Another thing that had worsened the situation of the Jewish innkeepers was the establishment of the state monopoly on alcohol/vodka (1885-1902). All these unfavorable laws and decrees promoted the first wave of emigration from the Russian Empire to the United States of America and the South African Republic. However, the remaining Jews did not intend to go out of business, they continued trading with the village and developed peddling or so called doorstep selling of goods. Although because of the change of the economic conditions they had to reduce their prices and received only minimal profits, the traders and the craftsmen did not give up their business. Among the expatriate emigrants there were the Jews of Kupiškis as well, but the emigration did not reduce the Jewish part of the town, it even allowed the Jewish community of Kupiškis to spread wider around the world. Under favorable demographic situation, according to the general census of the population of the Tsarist Russia in 1897 Kupiškis totally had 3742 residents and 2661 from them were the Jewish people. It means that 71 percent of Kupiškis people of that time observed the religion of Judaism. At the beginning of the twentieth century Jews were already firmly settled in Kupiškis and formed an important part of the townspeople. They lived in the central streets of the small town. This is confirmed in the memoirs of Professor Povilas Matulionis written in the end of the nineteenth century. There he tells about the living spaces of Jews in the central streets of the town and about the Catholics, the vast majority of whom were peasants and their residential area was in the streets located around the town. However, according to the memoirs of the Professor and the reminiscences of his other contemporary allow to make a conclusion that Jews of Kupiškis did not live rich and their shops were described as rather poor. The fire broke out not once in the town of Kupiškis and destroyed a large part of the property of the Jewish community. Therefore few Jews of Kupiškis and its suburbs were wealthy and lived rich.

At the beginning of the twentieth century further away from the market square separated by the residential houses and stores, the three Synagogues were located in the town. Their set consisted of the following buildings: Kupiškis Great Prayer House, Hasidic Prayer House and Kupiškis Jewish Synagogue.

From all the available information we can see that at these times Kupiškis already had a fully functioning Jewish religious association with its own Houses of Prayer, a sauna, a house of the butcher and over the centuries established community.

In 1908 the registration of the Jewish metrics began and it recorded births, deaths and marriages. During the first year 49 newborn babies were registered, 25 boys and 24 girls. The Kupiškis metrics was also used by the residents of the surrounding towns: Anykščiai, Rokiškis, Troškūnai, Užpaliai. All these facts once again certify that at that time Kupiškis had a strong and influential religious community. This can be confirmed by the emigrants from Kupiškis who tell stories to their children about the lifestyle of the Jewish people of Kupiškis. Liberation from the Tsarist Russia gave new possibilities for the Jewish community and for Lithuanians to develop business, culture and religion.

Public Organisations

After the war the Jewish community was actively involved in the social and political life of the country and created Kupiškis departments of their religious, sports, cultural and educational organizations. During the inter-war period the town had a Jewish school, a bank, a kindergarten, the national and the Zionist organizations. Jonė Žebrytė in her article "The Jews and Their Social Life in Kupiškis Region" describes in detail the 19 public organizations. Their activities were varied. The Lithuanian Jewish Education Society (established in 1925) should be mentioned among larger organizations. The activity of the Kupiškis Support Committee for the Jewish refugees is noted only once. This shows that Kupiškis Jewish community lived an active social and cultural life and its activity was not limited to religious and Zionist organizations only.

The subsections of the major Zionist organizations acted in Kupiškis: Zionists socialists, Agudot Israel and General Zionists. This movement had  influence for the Jewish emigration trends. Economic emigrants retreated to the South African Republic or the USA. These organizations in Kupiškis had an impact on the religious emigration to Palestine. It is not known exactly how many people from Kupiškis emigrated to the Promised Land, but it is calculated that 9-12 thousands during the inter-war period left Lithuania. The Zionist organizations earned positive opinions because of the complicating economic conditions in Lithuania, spreading of  nationalism and anti-Semitism and  the threat of the great economic crisis. However, the predominance of positive demographic situation against emigration did not reduce the number of the Jews in Kupiškis significantly. For instance, in 1935 the number of the Jewish people living in this region was 1444, in 1938 about 1200 Jews were settled in the town. As the Regulations of the Zionist organizations describe, their divisions had to encourage young people to develop the Jewish identity, nationhood and culture, were aimed to educate honest and useful citizens for Lithuania and their own nation, to restore the Jewish State, to prepare skilled workers to be employed in Palestine. So the doctrines of Zionism had goals to develop high moral standards and to educate virtuous, educated and skilled people. After achieving this objective it was expected that they would emigrate to Palestine to create the new Jewish state. However, despite how nicely the goals were presented, divisions of these organizations in Kupiškis had not shown great results of work. Most of the divisions had been closed because they had not reregistered after the legislative amendments of the Laws of Societies in 1936. From the stories of representatives of these organizations we find out that many of the divisions finished their activities already at the beginning of the 4th decade. These data reveal that the Zionist organizations in the province of Lithuania were established easily but failed to develop prominent and significant activities. Yet we can conclude that during the time period of the establishment of these organizations Kupiškis had already had  socially responsible and educated Jewish generation that seeked its cultural and religious enhancement and development, worked for Lithuania and dreamed of their own state in Palestine. These citizens also contributed to the activities of educational organizations.

The Lithuanian Jewish Education Society (LJES) had the biggest impact on the educational development of the Jewish community in Kupiškis. Its goal was to help their fellow countrymen to acquire general and vocational education and develop their culture. The activity of LJES lasted from 1925 to 1940 until it was formally prohibited.  Its department of Kupiškis was established in 1927. The Society opened the primary Jewish school where the Yiddish language was taught, but experiencing the shortage of financial resources this educational institution was nationalized and later the organization stopped its activity in 1937. The poor financial situation allowed to employ only 3 teachers to work there. There was another Jewish elementary school with the Hebrew language taught in it. However, its economic situation was no better than of the first mentioned. Many Jewish children attended Kupiškis Gymnasia school until the 4th decade. At first the school admitted only Jewish girls, then the situation changed and Jewish boys were in the list of pupils too. Mr. Teodoras Blinstrubas was appointed the Principal of the school from March 1, 1938. Two hours were dedicated for the lessons of the Jewish religious education at school.

From the memoirs of Kupiškis people and the available material it can be suggested that there were no significant or scandalous occurrence of anti-Semitism at school. The Lithuanian and the Jewish children played together in the schoolyard. The Lithuanian pupils often helped the Jewish classmates if they themselves could not do tasks in writing in observance of the Sabbath. The atmosphere was positive in the educational institutions. Sarah Ainbinderaitė-Levinskaja, one of the first graduates from Kupiškis Gymnasia school describes it in her memoirs though she also mentions occasional unpleasant facts or situations, but they mostly were indiscreet and anti-Semitic remarks of the teachers and not some wrong attitude of the youngsters.

Sports societies were of the equal importance as the educational organizations were. Kupiškis had divisions of the main sports organizations, i.e. Hapoel and Maccabi. The goals of these societies were to take care of national, spiritual and physical upbringing of young people, to give lectures on sports, to arrange festivals and competitions. It should be mentioned that the Maccabi Society originally was created as a Zionist sports organization and only later grew into an independent sports society. Although no records about its activity in Kupiškis could not be found, surely the biggest Societies had their divisions throughout Lithuania. Thus, Kupiškis was not an exception. The Kupiškis school sportsmen‘s newsletter „Vytis“ gave only a brief message about the mentioned organizations. We assume that the activities of the town sports societies were rather passive. The Society to Support the Lithuanian Jewish Scouts worked more actively and like the sports societies it was apolitical. It was defined and emphasized in its Regulations. The main intention was to develop high-principled and devoted citizens for Lithuania. The Kupiškis Division belonged to the Panevėžys department of Hashomer Hatzair Jewish Youth Movement established in 1930. At the beginning it had 24 members, but no material is available about its further development and trends. It is not possible to state firmly that the mentioned Societies had an active and important influence to the community of the town.

There were more organizations with special aspects of activities that existed and acted in Kupiškis. The before mentioned Committee to Support the Jewish refugees and The Jewish Soldiers‘ Union, the members of which participated in regaining Lithuania's independence. Their titles prompt us that these organizations had their own specific directions of action and gave only a limited right to join them. The Committee mentioned above did not do much work in Kupiškis as the majority of the war refugees at the beginning of World War II found their shelter in Vilnius and its region. Therefore, the department of Kupiškis issued only one certificate to testify the refugee status. Then the activity of such committees in Lithuania was terminated in October 1941, so the people of Kupiškis had no opportunity to develop their work and help the refugees. Another indicated organization that started its activities from 1927 unofficially and since 1933 already legally was one of the most active in Kupiškis. Its objectives were closely related to the Lithuanian state and its independence. It supported the armed forces of the country, it encouraged love and public spirit to Lithuania among its Jewish members and the Jewish community in general, promoted the cultural cooperation between Lithuanian and Jewish people, the convergence of the two societies and the usage of the Lithuanian language among the Jewish countrymen. It is not exactly known how many veterans belonged to this union in Kupiškis, but throughout Lithuania it had more than 2 000 members. The activity of Kupiškis department was vital and they even managed to establish a library that was opened at the beginning of 1939. The library had books in Lithuanian, Hebrew and Yiddish languages, the head of the library was Samsonas Feinbergas. There are no more informative resources about who else belonged to the Board of Administration of the department. Unfortunately, it is not known whether this public organization organized any celebrations and commemorations for the society, but its consistent and patriotic work speaks about Jewish devotion to the Republic of Lithuania, good cultural relations between Lithuanians, other Christians and their Jewish autonomy. The Union of the Jewish soldiers who took part in regaining Lithuania's independence is a proof that the Jews were loyal to Lithuania that granted them freedom and self-government.

Through the established public organizations the Jewry in Kupiškis and elsewhere in Lithuania took care of education, sports development and obtained knowledge about the lifestyle of the local people. It is true that there was a lack of cultural organizations, e.g. the theater, but occasional performances were given by various societies that had no direct connection with this form of art. It should be further noted that the people of the Jewish nation were not closed in their own circle of social organizations. They also participated in the Lithuanian movements such as volunteer firemen. For example, Nochemas Schmidtas was a member of the Management Board of the Lithuanian National Union. The Jews did not avoid participating in the Lithuanian Riflemen's Union activity in Kupiškis. Active involvement in the public organizations helped them not only to cherish and uphold their own religion and culture, but also to integrate into the local public life, to express themselves better and to grow together with the Lithuanians.

Trade, Crafts, Services

 When analyzing this subject, it should be noted that the Jews themselves often used to make products and sell them in markets or fairs, worked in the sector of services, providing the services of hotels, cafes, tea shops. There is no available statistics what activity was predominant. The works fulfilled by them are mentioned in the memoirs and written sources of their contemporaries.

The trade was concentrated in the center of the town in the Market Square. Owned by Joselis Jechilevičius, located on one side of the Square "Austerija" hardware store of metal items served not only the residents of Kupiškis but also the people from the surrounding towns and villages. Totally the Jews had about 50 various shops in the center of the town. Some of them were richer than the others, some poorer. The Jewish offered a variety of goods - from a box matches to bicycles and radios. The Jews were clearly dominant in the trade, while the Lithuanians at that time just started their businesses. Jewish traders were vey united and worked together with solidarity, if any of their shops was at risk of bankruptcy, their other kinsmen always helped to avoid the failure. The solidarity allowed the Jews to stay in business throughout the entire inter-war period. They did not avoid sharing the goods among themselves, ordered them in time , provided some credits for regular customers, so that they could pay later. Honestly speaking, sometimes they faced some credit related problems. Occasional cases were known when the debtor accused the shopkeeper because of the excessive debt, or the trader thought the customer was avoiding to return the debt. Such buyers then never received the goods on credit. It should be noted that the sellers never applied to the Court to get back smaller debts. Thus, the Jewish shopkeepers had always been inclined to find a compromise with the customers.

The traders closely communicated with the customers. Such relationship strengthened their mutual understanding, reduced isolation between the two communities. The harshest interwar accident for the Jewish community of Kupiškis is not related with any religious disagreements or myths about their holidays, but with the personality of Director of the Jewish People's Bank Kupiškis Division. Totally 369 people kept their savings in this Bank in 1929 and all of them were observers of the Judaic religion. When the great economic crisis began and everyone experienced hard times, in 1931 the Director of this bank stole all the bank savings and escaped from Lithuania. Not one business of the Jewish shopkeepers and craftsmen was destroyed. Such action of the banker spread widely throughout Lithuania and so far receives attention in the published articles about the Jewish community of Kupiškis nowadays. This unprecedented event made a disrupting economic blow on the Jews of the town and it took a lot of time, effort and investment of emigrants and other Jews of Lithuania until they recovered financially.

Another large part of the community were the craftsmen. The Jews had more competitors among Lithuanians in this branch of business. From the recorded memories about crafts by V. Sasnauskas we assume that representatives of both confessions could be proud of skilled masters and professional artisans. Various craftsmen worked in Kupiškis: watchmakers, potters, barbers, bakers, confectioners, butchers, wool carders, furriers, tinsmiths and millers.

D. Vileišis suggests adding photographers and blacksmiths and he distinguishes the Jewish smiths Leiba and Moishke as exclusive masters. The craftsmen of Kupiškis established a division of the Lithuanian Craftsmen's Union in 1927 that survived until 1935. The same as the shopkeepers, the craftsmen were located in the center of the town. A large variety of handicrafts guaranteed jobs for the residents of Kupiškis, a wide range of goods and assortment of products, enabled competition in the market that had been beneficial to the consumers. The Jewish people's names who were real specialists of their craft were often mentioned among watchmakers, potters, barbers, confectioners, butchers and millers. The most famous miller who started to supply electricity for the town was Nochem Schmidt. He inherited the mill from his father.

This skillful man provided grain milling and wool felting services for Kupiškis people. As Mr. N. Schmidt was a monopolist in the market of electricity he sometimes became entangled in legal disputes with the rural district Council. The Council obligated him to reduce the price of electricity. During the inter-war period N. Schmidt was considered the richest man in Kupiškis. He did not even leave the town during World War II and was killed.

Some Jewish people of Kupiškis were engaged in the activities that were not very common to them, e.g. agriculture and horticulture. However, there is not much information remained about such persons. V. Sasnauskas mentions in his notes the Jewish gardener Faifka who could grow the best cucumbers and other vegetables for the local market. He could make a living through all the winter from his grown and sold vegetables. Akiva Slavinskas was also known and mentioned as a farmer, who was employed as a secretary of the Hapoel Sports Society,  but we have no more detailed records about his activities. Another farmer named Abramas Golumberas was mentioned in Rabbi‘s metrics in 1928. It is not clear if they were large or small-scale farmers. Most probably their farm property was not large because they were not mentioned anywhere else. There is also no data on whether they were land owners or land tenants. According to D. Vileišis research , the Jews as landowners were mentioned at the beginning of the 4th decade. The newspaper Panevėžio balsas (Engl. Voice of Panevezys) wrote in 1934 that wealthy Jews bought plots of land near the town, they worked themselves, grew wheat, potatoes and vegetables. The author of this message was surprised about the good harvests of the Jewish that were often better than the harvests of the experienced local farmers.

More information can be found about the Jews who worked in the sector of services. The Jewish people dominated among the owners of hotels, pubs, inns, tea shops and various snack bars. Mostly it was a family business. Usually all the Jewish family was employed in such type of business. We do not mention restaurants because there were very few of them in Kupiškis and they did not belong to the Jewish owners. Most restaurant-type pubs had the status of the pub because of the cheaper licenses. The biggest network of eateries belonged to Sloma Kaplan who owned 6 pubs and a shop that applied the commercial take-away form. Every year he had to pay about 2000 Litas/LTL for the licenses. The majority of customers of the Jewish pubs and inns came on market days. The main drinks were beer and vodka and the main snack was herring. Customers could acquire non-alcoholic drinks too: lemonade or tea. According to V. Sasnauskas, mostly peasants gathered there after the market was over. People came to have a drink with the neighbors, but seldom remained to sleep overnight and never idled daily outside the pubs. The cheapest license was for the tea shops. It was prohibited to sell alcohol, but everybody assumed that it was sold there. V. Sasnauskas says that in most cases the officials were given bribes and were expected to give a favor in return for personal gain. The owners and tenants of such institutions had securely installed hiding places. So almost all the Jewish or Lithuanian inns had alcohol available to purchase. Often the Jews would arrange a pub in the same household together with the hotel,so in case the customers drank too much they occasionally could stay overnight.

Two of the most successful hotels in the inter-war Kupiškis belonged to the Jewish families. The first one was owned by sisters Jofaitė, who both, according to V. Sasnauskas, had support of the police. One of the sisters was married to a Lithuanian. "Adirim" was another hotel owned by Ainbinderas family. There was a store in the same house. The hotel owners were not likely confined to a single activity and knew how to better use the remaining space of the building.

This chapter makes an overview of various businesses and the relationships of businessmen with customers,shows that inter-war Jewish community was concentrated and united in seeking the economic prosperity, but it does not reveal what problems at that time people had to encounter, what influence the businesses experienced under the great economic crisis, and so on. The community of Kupiškis at that time was economically strong, the more prosperous townspeople supported the poorer with money and goods.


 As the largest national minority in Kupiškio region the Jews took an active and united part in the political life and demonstrated their solidarity. The Zionists, the Folkists  and the Orthodox Jews did not act separately. Such common approach to the policy of the country was benefitial and useful during the first elections to the Kupiškis Town Council. In 1920 Lithuanians chose to boycott them and the Jews got 7 out of 12 seats. One of the main tasks that the town Council had to solve was the restructurization of the real estate of the captives and prisoners of World War I. The town council members reacted very sensitively towards the subject of their countrymen's real estate and provided all possible assistance to find solutions of their problems. The Council had existed for four years until 1924, when the local Kupiškis government, putting pressure on the regional Panevėžys administration Head, was able to render the elections to the city Council not valid. Trying to separate from the rural district had not been very successful. A large part of the townsfolk both Lithuanians and Russians already in 1921 wrote requests to the district Council that they wanted to be admitted to the district citizens. The total number of such townspeople was 1051 and their requests were fulfilled.

Already at that time the Jews had shown their political unity and the desire to defend their interests in the local government. Meanwhile, the internal political life of the community was divided because of the aforementioned political currents. During the elections to the district Council that consisted of 48 members, the Jews raised their own 9 delegates and 6 of them were elected. The first position in the list was won by Director of the Jewish Bank Lipa Furmanovski. The Jewish list received totally 682 votes, 652 of them were won in the second district that included the town of Kupiškis, and they won only 30 votes in the first district that included villages and granges. Thus, these results clearly confirm the Jewish residential geography trends. Since 1925 the rural district Council started various construction works in the town. The Council decided to lay paving over the streets of the market place and several streets nearby. By the initiative of Leiba Assas, the Jewish Representative in the Council, the night security guard was set up in Kupiškis, thereby enhancing the safety of the town. These means gave a positive impuls to the development of the town urbanization, its security and the population had gained more comfort.

The first decade after the World War I was the period of rapid reconstruction and building of the state. A large number of the Jews willingly and actively took part in not only economic, but also in political and cultural areas throughout Lithuania and in Kupiškis.

There were no bigger changes in the rural district Council and its composition during all the time period of the independence. In 1934 the Jews tried to establish self-government of the town for the last time: the District Council had been given a letter with signatures of 103 citizens (96 of them Jewish), requesting the establishment of Kupiškis municipality. However, due to the numerous Jewish community in the town the rural district Council, as well as other higher authorities  were worried that the Jews could take all the leadership in the self-governance. Therefore, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Department of Municipalities rejected the request. The reluctance of the state authorities to grant self-government to Kupiškis revealed and highlighted some of the Lithuanian phobias associated with the Jews, especially because of their potential dominance in politics. Thus, the town remained under influence and government of the rural district Council. The Jewish politicians actively participated in the political life of the town. A good example is N. Jachilevičius who was in the leading position the Elder of the eldership in the interwar time. Although the Jews failed to establish a separate self-government of the town, they exerted their influence over the district council, constantly had their representatives in it. So they practically were involved in the local government and seeked more empowerment in it.


Commemoration of the Jewish Community.

Contribution of Their Descendants


Coming back to our days, we can say that the memory of the expatriates of Kupiškis is still alive. They always try to visit the town, contribute to the initiatives through which they seek to commemorate  the community that had lived here and its heritage.

The town of Kupiškis is one of the Lihuanian periphery areas that is completing comprehensive and thorough commemoration of the Jewish community. The Jewish tombstones in the cemetery had been restored, the former Synagogue, the current town library had been equipped with a Memorial Plaque with all the Jewish names of the people who were killed in Kupiškis inscribed on it.The descendants of Kupiškis Jewry created a film "Kupishok: for Eternal Memory" that tells about their visit in this significant place and the Jewish community. When they started making this film in 2004 the Memorial Plaque on the Synagogue had been placed and unveiled, Then over 50 descendants of the Kupiškis Jewish community from the United States, the South African Republic, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, Denmark and, of course, from Lithuania were visiting Kupiškis. The initiators and makers of the film were the active people of the new generation of the Kupiškis Jewry coming from the same family -  Norman Meyer and Harvey Sherzer.

Norman Meyer was the first Jew who dared to look for his family roots in Kupiškis. He first visited Lithuania in 1997 and from that time he began a continuous work to properly commemorate the Jewish community. His loving efforts had not been fruitless. He was one of those who contributed and organized the unveiling of the Memorial Plaque, communicated and interacted with all the descendants of the Kupiškis Jewish community, shared opinions, often had consultations with the Lithuanians, made translations and otherwise contributed to the preservation of the Jewish heritage in the town. Mr. N. Meyer brought his grandchildren with him to the ceremony of the unveiling of the Memorial Plague. This clearly proves the loving desire of this person to remember his family roots, nurture them, to share his ideas with the others, to help them find their ancestors so they could be able to honor their memory. N. Meyer unexpectedly passed away in 2004. The unveiling of the Memorial Plaque was the culmination of all his efforts. At that time he last visited Lithuania and Kupiškis.

One of the largest internet websites devoted to the Jewish history, mentions several prominent expatriates from Kupiškis who respected their ancestors, wrote about them and had an enthusiastic  interest in their roots. The first should be mentioned Rabbi Ephraim Oshry. He prepared the publication "The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry" (the original in Yiddish "Khurbn Lita"). It contains data about Kupiškis too. Another outstanding representative of the Jews, son of the expatriates from Kupiškis, Stanley Mayersohn wrote a book "Kupishok: Memory Stronger". It is like a handy tool to gain knowledge about the Jewish roots in Kupiškis. The Jews begin their search for relatives from this book. Unfortunately, none of the books is translated into the Lithuanian language, so they are rarely used in the research of the Holocaust in Lithuania and for the local historic research works Kupiškis. The honorable authors of both publications had never visited Kupiškis after the war , but the son of S. Mayersohn had come to see the land of ancestors and to honor them.

Going back to the promotion of  the heritage of the Jewish community in the town, Anna Rabinovich must be mentioned first. According to the local press of Kupiškis she could be called Encyclopedia of Kupiškis. This woman in one of the most active descendants, who had visited Kupiškis not once. The mentioned website presents observations of the elderly people and grandchildren, their experiences, memories of parents and grandparents, the list of the victims of the Holocaust, photographs and other information about the history of the Jewish community in Kupiškis. A. Rabinovich contributed and supported the developing and enriching this website.

The press of Kupiškis had always written about the visits of the Jewish people in the town on the river Kupa, publicized the events and assisted in their ancestry search. The publicity of this information in the local media helps the people of the nowadays Kupiškis to remember the history of the town and to understand it correctly. The government of the local Municipality and Kupiškis Etnographic Museum put every effort into the commemoration of the heritage. Without their contribution and help the actualization of the Jewish heritage would have taken a much longer time if not failed to be completed. Descendants of the expatriates express gratitude to the former mayor of the Kupiškis Municipality Leonas Apšega and the employees of the museum of the town. The staff of the latter institution actively research and nurture the Jewish heritage and they are considered to be among the leading researchers throughout the province museums of Lithuania

The diaspora, the local authorities, the regional museum and socially active people focus on the joint work on the enhancement projects of the heritage of the Kupiškis Jewish community and carry out them successfully. People of Kupiškis try to fully reveal the true image of the past of the town.

This publication is the first attempt to have a look at the activity of the community of the Jewish diaspora in Kupiškis. It aims to remind our countrymen of their ancestral heritage and the importance to the history of the town. There is no doubt that eventually the past of the Jewish community will take a worthy place in the general history of Kupiškis.


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