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

55° 41' / 24° 09'

Translation of the “Naujamiestis” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Dov Levin

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 401 - 402)

Naujamiestis (Lith.)

In Yiddish, Nayshtot-Ponivezh

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

A town in central Lithuania in the Panevezys district.

Naujamiestis is located on the right bank of the Nevezys River, 15 km southwest of Panevezys, the district's city. The town originated as an estate by the name of Naujamiestis, when it belonged to the Volovitz aristocratic families since in the 16th century. Then it belonged to the Radzivil family, and subsequently to the Karp family. During the 16th and 17th centuries, many Karaites lived in the town, and subsequently, 45% of Lithuania's Karaites settled in Naujamiestis. At that time the town was practically the center of the Karaites in all of Lithuania. One of its leaders, Yitzkhak Ben Avraham (1533-1593), the author of the book “Khizuk HaEmunah” (Strengthening the Faith), held the titles of “Head of the Rabbinate”, “Moreh Tsedek” (teacher of righteousness) and “Moreh Halakhot” (teacher of conduct). During the first half of the 18th century, many of the Karaites suffered from plagues (during the years 1710 and 1755) and also from the big fire that struck the town in 1751. In 1786, they suffered from draught. Due to these factors, the economic and communal status of the Karaites suffered a setback, and the status of Rabbinic Jews gained strength. The latter maintained in the town an organized community which was concentrated around the synagogue and other institutions. In the 18th century, the number of Rabbinic Jews was much greater than those of the Karaites, which continued to decrease. In 1897, of the 985 residents in Naujamiestis, only a few families of Karaites remained in the town. At that time, the number of Jews was 298, that is, 29% of the population in the town.

When the government of Lithuania declared autonomy for the Jews, a ruling committee of 5 members was voted for in Naujamiestis. The committee was active for a number of years in most areas of Jewish life in the town. The 1923 census counted 739 residents in the town; 157 of them were Jews (81 women and 76 men). The Jews made their living from groceries and light industries. According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, Jews owned in the town a cloth shop, a grocery store, a pharmacy. There were also a leather factory, a tar factory, a flourmill, and a brick factory (in the village of Upyte) which belonged to Jews. Subsequently, the number of Jews in the town decreased gradually because they moved to the big cities in Lithuania or emigrated abroad. In 1939, the town had 14 telephones; one of them belonged to a Jew.

In 1935, 32 people voted during the 19th Zionist Congress: 30 of them gave their votes to the Grossmanists' party, and 2 to the “Mizrakhi” party.

The town's Rabbi at that time was Rabbi Benyamin Goldstein.

In June, 1941, when Germany conquered Lithuania, Naujamiestis had only a few Jews. Those Jews were transferred during the month of July to a ghetto that was established in Panevezys and shortly thereafter all of them were murdered in Pajouste together with the local Jews.

One of the Jews of Naujamiestis, Shemuel Feifert (1922-1948), who was a soldier in the Red Army and left when the army retreated, returned to his town. Having discovered that none of his family members remained alive, he devoted his time to erecting a memorial on the mass graves in Pajouste and to retrieving Jewish children from Christian families in order to bring them back to Judaism. He brought 15 orphans to the Jewish orphanage in Kaunas, and paid of his own money to some of the Christian saviors. In 1948, between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, he went to Rietavas, near Telsiai, in order to retrieve another child from an adopting family and was murdered there by Lithuanians.

At the beginning of the 1990's, a stone memorial was erected in the place that was the Jewish cemetery of Naujamiestis. It has an inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The old cemetery. Let the sacred be remembered for all eternity”.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-1/E-1642/1532.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files Z-4/2548, 55/1788.
Testimony of Boris Shimkhovitz, Gakhelet (Tel Aviv), January 1992.
Naujienos (Chicago), 11.6.1949.


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