Encyclopedia Judaica

Rokiskis (Heb. and Yid. Rakishik), city in Lithuanian SSR near the Latvian border. Situated on the Daugavpils-Liepaja railroad, it served as a commercial center for a large rural area and a point for the export of wood, grain, and flax. In 1847 there were 593 Jews in the town and in 1897 2,067 (75% of the total population). During World War I most of the Jews fled to the interior of Russia. The city was reestablished after the war. Jews numbered 2,013 in 1923, and although Rokiskis developed rapidly, its Jews had to contend with harsh competition from the Lithuanians, who were supported by the government. In 1939 there were 3,500 Jews in Rokiskis (40% of the total population). They were mostly Habad Hasidim. During the period of Lithuanian independence (1918-1940) there were two Hebrew schools. When the Germans occupied the city in 1941 the Jews were deported to the ghetto of Joniskis and killed there. Rokiskis is the birthplace of the commander of the Soviet Air Force and Hero of the USSR Yaakov Shmushkevich.

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