The Jewish Community of Siauliai
by Jeffrey Maynard
Shavel was one of the few Jewish towns in Lithuania that had not only the usual Jewish occupations of shopkeepers, small traders and artisans, but also a developed Jewish commerce with a wide range of occupations and considerable Jewish industry.
The railway line from Libau to Rumania was laid in 1871, followed by the road from Petersburg 1 to Berlin. The resulting trade stimulated the transformation from small town to city.
The most prominent figure was Chaim Freinkel, born in 1857 in Vilkomir (Ukmerge). In 1877 he founded a tannery and two years later a factory for leather manufacture. He was the first to install steam boilers and electricity in his factory and it became one of the largest leather producers in Russia. Later he founded weaving and knitting factories, a shoe factory in Riga and other industrial enterprises. In 1914 his worth was valued at 25 million rubles.
Chaim Freinkel was also a philanthropist. He gave generously to the Jewish Hospital, fed and clothed 250 children in the Talmud Torah, built a new school for 150 pupils and paid its salaries out of his own funds. He died in 1920 in Hamburg.
The Nurok brothers were also prominent local industrialists. They too had a great reputation in Russia for leather manufacture. Freinkel's tannery and Nuroks' were thus important in the First World War, and a plan was put together to build a canal from Libau to Shavel for shipping materials.
Other Jewish industrial enterprises included tobacco factories, ironworks, flax cultivation, soap and chocolate. There were large exports of flax, leather and grain.
Private banks were founded, including those of Bentzion Kagan, Choronzhitzki, and the Nurok brothers. 2
. The Jews usually called it Petersburg - not St. Petersburg.
. Yahadut Lita.
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