Stakliskes -Stoklishok

Written by Yosef Rosin

English edited by Sarah and Mordehai Kopfstein


Stoklishok is located in the south-eastern part of Lithuania, surrounded by lakes and woods, about 25 km distance from the Alytus district center. The town, first mentioned in historical documents dating from 1521, was a county center during the 16th-18th centuries. In 1759 King August III authorised the town to hold one market day per week and two fairs per year, and in 1795 Stoklishok was granted the Magdeburg rights of self rule.

Until 1795 Stoklishok was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, when the third division of Poland by the three superpowers of those times - Russia, Prussia and Austria - caused Lithuania to become partly Russian and partly Prussian. The part of the state which lay on the left side of the Nieman river (Nemunas) ) was handed over to Prussia which ruled there during the years 1795-1807, while the other part, including Stoklishok, became Russia.

After the defeat of Napoleon by the Russian army in 1812, all Lithuania including Stoklishok in 1815, was annexed to Russia, first into the Vilna Gubernia and from 1843 into the Kovno Gubernia.

During the 18th century medicinal springs were discovered nearby, but in 1857 the bathhouse burnt down and was never reconstructed, due to the recreation towns Birshtan (Birstonas) and Druskenik (Druskeninkai) having meanwhile replaced it.

During the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940) Stoklishok was a county center.

Jewish Settlement until World War II

Jews apparently settled in Stoklishok at the beginning of the 18th century. In the middle of the 19th century there were already about 500 Jews, with a Beth Midrash. They made their living from small commerce, fishing, agriculture, timber, and in 1890 the Rabinovitz family established a beer brewery.

The Synagogue

In 1847, 1,344 people lived in Stoklishok, among them 443 Jews (33%). By 1897, their numbers had increased to 2,200, including 808 Jews (37%).

At "The all Lithuania revision list Database" of the Jewishgen Org. Web Site there are 766 records of Stoklishok Jews from the 19th century, copied and transliterated from Lithuanian Archives.

In 1873 a fire burnt down 97 Jewish houses, and in 1893 many Jewish houses were also destroyed by fire. In 1885 peasants from the surrounding villages destroyed a Jewish house which had been built not far from the church.

These events caused the increased emigration of Stoklishok Jews, which had started after the pogroms in Russia at the beginning of 1880, although Stoklishok Jews did not suffer from them.

In 1887 emigrant families left the town almost every week, and nearly half of Stoklishok’s Jews were already in America, causing the closure of the Jewish school which had been established in 1877.

In the middle of the 19th century Jews from Stoklishok had already emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael. In the old Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem at least 2 headstones of Stoklishok Jews can be found, those of Rabbi Ya'akov-Yehudah ben Aryeh, who died in 1862, and of Hinde bath Shelomo-Zalman, who passed away in 1863.

A list of donors for the "Settlement of Eretz Yisrael" dated 1900 mentions many names of Stoklishok Jews, whose fund raiser was Esther Cohen. A list of donors for Jews in Lithuanian towns who suffered hunger in 1872 also shows several names of Stoklishok Jews.

During the first years of Lithuanian independence (1919-1920), Stoklishok Jews suffered from adverse economic conditions and received help from "YeKoPo" (Committee for helping Jewish refugees).

According to the autonomy law for minorities, issued by the new Lithuanian government, the minister for Jewish affairs Dr. Max Soloveitshik ordered elections to be held in the summer of 1919 for community committees in all towns of the state. In Stoklishok a committee of seven members was elected. This committee collected taxes as required by law and was in charge of most aspects of community life, acting till the end of 1925 when the autonomy was annulled.

According to the first census performed by the government in 1923, Stoklishok had 1,787 residents, amongst them 391 Jews (22%). But the number of Jews diminished, many emigrated to America and South-Africa, some of the youth to Eretz-Yisrael, and before WW2 only 70 Jewish families were left in Stoklishok.


At left: Stamp of the Minister for Jewish affairs.

At right: Stamp of the National Council of the Jews of Lithuania.

During this period Stoklishok Jews made their living, as before WW1, from small commerce, crafts and agriculture, there also being several Jewish coachmen. The main income of the local Jews came from the weekly market days and the 6 yearly fairs.

According to the Lithuanian government survey of 1931, there were 11 shops, of which 10 belonged to Jews (91%): 4 horse merchants, 4 textile shops, 1 grocery and 1 shoe shop, as well as a flour mill and a candy factory owned by Jews. In 1937 there were 21 Jewish craftsmen: 6 tailors, 4 shoemakers, 4 butchers, 2 glaziers, 3 blacksmiths, 2 stitchers and 1 baker. In 1939 there were 9 telephone owners in town, of whom 2 were Jewish.

In 1920 a big fire burnt down almost half of Stoklishok’s houses including the Jewish school and Jewish youths had no place to study. After a year a school was established in an unsuitable building and the Community Committee applied to former Stoklishkers living abroad, mainly in America, appealing in the Yiddish newspaper "Forverts", for help to build a new school in town.

A new school connected to the Hebrew "Tarbuth" chain, was indeed established, in which 50-60 pupils studied.


The Hebrew school on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of teacher Pitluk's educational work and of his emigration to America-April 5, 1937

Many of Stoklishok Jews were fans of the Zionist movement and in elections for Zionist congresses they voted for most of the Zionist parties, as can be seen from the results enumerated in the table below:




Total Shkalim

Total Voters

Labor Party

Z"S . . . Z"Z


Gen. Zionists

A. . . . B













































The Zionist youth organizations active in town were: "HeKhalutz", "Gordonia" (with about 50 members), "HaShomer-HaTsair-Netsakh", "Beitar" and "Sirkin Society' (Z"S Party). The youth society "HaTekhiyah" (Revival) established a library in town and published its own bulletin. Most of the town's youth were active for the National Funds, and on Pesakh eve they would participate in baking "Matsoth" and selling "Maror", while on "Sukoth" eve they would sell "Sekhakh" (Cover) for the "Sukoth". All income from these activities was dedicated to Keren Kayemeth le'Yisrael.

Stoklishok youth at Purim 1934


The Bath House (?)

Sports activities were held in the local "Maccabi" branch which had 50 members. The local fire brigade members were all Jews, volunteers, who were also active, inter alia, in Zionist activities. Many of the young people were in "Kibbutzei Hakhsharah" and emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael.

Religious life in town was concentrated around the brick built Synagogue and the old wooden Beth Midrash.

The Rabbi who served in Stoklishok during the years were:

Shelomoh-Reuven Rabinovitz - from 1872;

Yehudah-Idl Hurvitz;

Yeshayah-Zelig Halperin;

Dov-Tsevi Kravitsky - in Stoklishok in 1922, also previous to this date as well as later;

Duber Bergman (1860-1941), who was murdered with his community in Stoklishok in Av 5701 (July 1941).


The Volunteer Fire Brigade 1938

The management of the "Gemiluth Khesed" Society on the occasion of the emigration of its founder and chairman B.Pitluk to America.


In Stoklishok there was a "Gemiluth Khesed" society as well as a "Khevrah Kadisha".

Parade of the Jewish volunteer Fire Brigade

The Jewish Cemetery 1935

The writer Yisrael-Ze'ev Kreier (1860-1917) who wrote all his books under the name of Y.Z. Ben-Aryeh was a native of Stoklishok, and became well known among the Jewish public, not only as a teacher and director of a Talmud-Torah in Vilna, but also as the writer of popular science books, and his book "Velt un Veltelakh" (World and small worlds) was published in Vilna in 1894. His book "Ma'ase Ben Aryeh" achieved great success and about 50 editions were printed, the 48th edition being issued inWarsaw in 1899. Y.Z. Ben-Aryeh also wrote a book on Hebrew grammar. During WWI he returned to his hometown, where he died in 1919, lonely and forgotten.

A.T.Rabinovitz wrote reports in the Hebrew periodical "HaTsefirah" and Tsevi Barit in "HaMeilitz".

WWI broke out in August 1914, and in the middle of April 1915, after being defeated in the battles in Tannenberg and in the Mazurian lakes in Prussia, the Russian army began to retreat from Lithuania. In the beginning of May of that year, the commander of the Russian army ordered the exile of all Jews from the Kovno Gubernia into the Poltava and Yekaterinoslav Gubernias, on the pretext that the Jews were friends of the Germans and could be spying for them. For several days 120,000 Jews were exiled in ignominious circumstances, during which they lost almost all their property. On the 10th of May the commander ordered the exile stopped, but hostages were to be taken instead. Stoklishok Jews together with Jews from the other 9 towns benefited from this order and remained in their homes.

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