“Skapiskis” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Lithuania)

55° 53' / 25° 12'

Translation of the “Skapiskis” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Josef Rosin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Lita: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Lithuania,
Editor: Prof. Dov Levin, Assistant Editor: Josef Rosin, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


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(Pages 440-441)

Skapiskis

In Yiddish, Skopishok

Written by Raphael Julius

Translated by Shimon Joffe

A town in the Rokiskis district.

Year General
Population
Jews %
1833 332 .. ..
1847 .. 282 ..
1889 422 .. ..
1897 1,184 1,010 85
1923 5,610 215* 3.8
1940 1,110 .. ..
1959 617 .. ..

* 99 males, 116 females.

Skapiskis is a town and county center in northern Lithuania, 30 km south west of the district town Rokiskis and south of the Mituva lake. The Mituva River flows through the town. The town is some 3-4 km distant from the Siauliai –Daugavpils (Dvinsk, in Latvia) railway line. The town was founded in the 17th century. The name id derived from that of the estate owner, Stanislav Skopas, who granted the Catholics land in 1555 to build a church. From 1590, the estate belonged to the Gricin family. At the beginning of the 19th century, ownership was transferred to the Tizenhaus family. In the years 1750-1832 it had a Dominican monastery. In 1832, the monastery was converted into barracks for the Russian army. During the period of Russian rule the town was included in the Kaunas Province (the Novo Aleksandrovsk district (Zarasai). The town consisted of 4-5 alleyways.

In the second half of the 19th century, Skapiskis had some twenty shops and taverns as well as market and fair days. In 1863, a rebel unit took the town and destroyed the county records. In 1870 the town had 60 houses, two churches, a Jewish prayer house and army barracks. The town had official offices relating to a number of villages in the vicinity. In the years 1915-1917, a narrow gauge line was laid by the Germans which connected the town to Suvainiskis and reached Latvia. A revolutionary committee representing the Soviet regime ruled from the end of 1918 until the spring of 1919.

In the period of Lithuanian independence (1918-1940) the town had a library, a police station, a forestry office, and 2 teams of firemen. The town also had 2 flour mills, a dairy, a timber mill, various shops, a public school and a pharmacy.

In the period between 1897, when the number of Jews reached its peak, and the beginning of the First World War, the Jewish population contracted to some 50 families, (approximately 200 souls). During the war a few Jewish families moved to Russia. In 1921 some of these moved back to the town. During the period of Lithuanian independence the number of Jews was reduced even more and the town contained only 25 Jewish families.

Between the years 1920-1924, the period of Jewish autonomy, a community council was democratically elected and it received administrative and fiscal assistance from the Ministry of Jewish Affairs in Kaunas. The 5 members of the council represented the following; 2 Young Zionists, 1 Workers List and 2 independents.

The Skapiskis Jews lived mainly concentrated around the market. They lived off trade, shop keeping and peddling. The main trade was in flax. Before the First World War, the economic connections were with Novo-Aleksandrovsk (now Zarasai) and Daugavpils (Dvinsk)) in Latvia. But after the war, once the border between Lithuania and Latvia was finalized, trade relations developed with Kybartai on the German border, and with Kaunas. Some of the Jews dealt in timber. Others leased lakes in the vicinity. There were also artisans; tailors, shoemakers, a few merchants in flax and linseed.

According to a survey made by the Lithuanian government in 1931, there were Jewish- owned; 2 butcheries, 2 haberdashery shops, 2 textile shops, 2 flour mills, a hardware and tool shop and a pharmacy. In 1937 there were 6 Jewish artisans in the town; 3 tailors, a carpenter, a shoemakers and a butcher. In 1939 it had 13 telephones, one belonging to a Jew.

Relation with the non-Jews was excellent. Although, at one time, the local peasantry created an alarm among the Jews, the local priest managed to calm the situation and the event passed by without further incident.

In the 20s' the economic situation of the Jews worsened with the founding of Lithuanian co-operatives and the rise in the political reaction and anti-Semitism. The Jewish youth began to leave the town, mostly immigrating to South Africa. The town had neither a library nor a primary school, but at least on one occasion amateurs put on a show. There was a Maccabi club with 28 members. It had 2 wooden study houses, one belonging to the Hassidic sect and the other to the Mithnagdim. The Hassidim belonged to the Kapost group.

Among the rabbis who led the congregation were; Rabbi Azriel Gordon, who officiated before the World War, and Rabbi Mendel who officiated after the War. The town had two religious teachers and one Shokhet. The last rabbi of the congregation was Rabbi Menakhem Kopelowitz; he perished in the Shoah.

The voting to the Zionist congresses divided as follows:

Congress
Nr
Year Total
Shekelim
Total
Voters
Labor
Part
Revis-
ionist
General
Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrachi
Z”S Z”Z A B
14 1925 - - - - - - - -
19 1935 - 35 31 - 2 - - 1
21 1939 - 17 12 - 5 - - -

In the period of Soviet rule (June 1940-1941) a number of Jewish owned businesses were nationalized. All the Zionist organizations were disbanded as were also some of the community institutions. Some of the Zionist activists were exiled to Siberia.

In the period of the Shoah, the town had approximately 40 Jewish families. It is known that they were transferred to Rokiskis and they shared the fate of the Jews of that town. According to an eye witness who returned to the town immediately after its liberation by the Red army in 1944, the houses remained undamaged but the cemetery was totally destroyed. Of the town Jews not a single one survived.

Bibliography:

Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: files 701-702, 1318, pages 30923-31049.
Bakaltshuk-Felin, M., Yizkor Book of Rakishok and Environs, Johannesburg, 1952, pp. 370-373.

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