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Translation of Seta chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Lita
Translation of Seta chapter
Written by Josef Rosin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1996
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1996
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
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.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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A small town in the Kedainiai district
Translated by Joseph Woolf, who was born in Seta
The town suffered frequently from devastating fires from time to time. In the years 1860 and 1878, 100 homes were burnt down, including the synagogue and beit hamidrash, and in 1892 again 115 homes were burnt down. The Squire Montvilla assisted those made homeless in the fires and in 1868-69 also assisted many in the years of drought and hunger. Every year he donated 25 rubles to the fund for disinfecting the town.
Until 1898 the Jewish children were only taught at the cheder but in that year a Jewish school was established by the initiative of the Rabbi-Reb Israel Levin. He rented a large and wide house and partitioned the rooms to provide a separate room for each class. He also hired good experienced teachers of various subjects, including Hebrew and Hebrew grammar, the Bible, etc.
The beit hamidrash was the center of the religious life of Seta. Of their rabbis were Eliahu ben Yakov Ragoler (1794-1849) who served as rabbi in 1821 and who also established the large yeshiva of Slobodka in Kovno; Rabbi Naftali bar Ephraim; Rav Meir-Michel Rabinowitz, who served Seta for 20 years and died in 1902 and author of the book HaMeir L'Olom on the logic of studying the Torah; Rabbi Nahum Shapiro (died 1902) prodigy of Rabbi Israel Salanter; Rabbi Zev-Wolf Abrech (served in Seta in 1875); Rabbi Avraham Druskowitz (served Seta 1897-1902).
In 1900 the town founded the institution Righteous Lodging that assisted those suffering diseases of the eyes. In the same year the Zionist Council was established under the chairmanship of Zundel Rubensohn. In the lists of those who donated to assist in the settlement of Eretz Israel from the years 1900 to 1903, quite a number of Jewish donors of Seta are recorded, Wittenberg, Bezalel Hirsch Meitkis and in 1903 Kurlanchick.
The bund was organized towards the end of the 19th century followed in 1903 by the young bund. On the first yarzeit of the mourning for the pogrom of Kishinev, the members of the young bund climbed onto the bima of the synagogue and would not allow the cantor to intone the memorial prayer to honor that sad day.
|Type of Business||Total||Owned
|butchers and cattle dealers||2||0|
|restaurants & inns||3||3|
|furs, clothes & textile stores||4||4|
|radio, electrical goods & sewing machines||1||1|
|iron & steel, tools||1||1|
In the same census it also listed a factory for soft drinks and a wool spinning and material weaving mill, both Jewish-owned.
In 1937 there were 37 Jewish craftsmen as follows: 8 tailors, 5 stove and fireplace builders, 3 glaziers, 3 carpenters, 3 blacksmiths, 2 bakers, 2 tinsmiths, 2 butchers, 1 felt-boot manufacturer, 1 metal-grinder, 1 shoemaker, 1 barber, 1 leatherworker, 1 shoe stitcher, 1 other. The Jewish Peoples Bank (Volksbank) played an important role in the economy of the town; in 1927 there were 129 depositors. Two years after that there were only 105.
In the middle 1930's the Jewish population was considerably reduced and the economic crisis which caused it was due to the boycott and pressures organized by the Lithuanian Merchants Association (Verslas). Those who left sought a livelihood in other places. A large portion of them emigrated to South Africa, some attempted to emigrate to the U.S.A. For many years there existed a "Shatter Association". In 1939 there were 13 telephones in Seta, 7 of them were owned by Jews.
About 30 Jewish children studied at the cheder and 70 at the Hebrew elementary school belonging to the Tarbuth network. There was also a Jewish library which held approximately 500 books in Hebrew and Yiddish. But very few Jewish residents of Seta used them. There was very little cultural activities, mainly because of the difficulty in reaching Seta, especially during periods of rain. There was no decent road and also no railway line. Electricity was non-existent.
Of the Jews of Seta who participated in Zionist activities, most belonged to the Zionist parties. In 1925 a branch of the Zionist Socialist Party consisting of 10 members was formed. Many activities were organized by the "Grosmanists" and there were a number of Zionist Youth Groups, amongst them Bnei-Akiva and Hashomer-Hatsair. The proportion of members of the various Zionist organizations was influenced by the voting patterns of the Zionist Congresses between the years 1929-1939. The following chart reflects this:
|16||1929||32||-|| ||-||- -||--||-|
|17||1931||16||15||2 2||--||8 -||-||3|
The religious life of Seta was centered around the beit hamidrash and kloiz (prayer room). After the resignation in 1935 of the Rabbi Shlomo Rabinowitz after 30 years service to the community, the town was without a rabbi for some time until the election of Rabbi Elchanan Weiner, who was the last rabbi of the Seta Jewish Community. Through all the years of the history of Seta, the Jewish Community always had a shochet (ritual slaughterer). The Gemilus Chesed (charitable loan fund) was also important in the life of the Jewish community in providing interest-free loans to the needy.
Well-known native born of Seta were Rabbi Moshe-Itzhak Rabin (1834-1902) who served for 40 years as the authorized rabbi of Ponevezys and for many years the principal of the famous Ponevezys Yeshiva; Dr. Ephraim Kaplan (1879-1943) who emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1904 who edited Der Morgan Journal (The Morning Journal) in New York; Mordechai-Menes Moneshevitz (1857-1928), an educator and author who founded a well-known school in Leipaja, Latvia. Later on emigrating to the U.S.A., he became principal of a school there and also was a publisher of poems, essays, Hebrew educational books and plays.
The war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out on the 22nd of June 1941. A few days later, after a heavy battle with the Red Army, the Germans captured the town of Seta. Even before that armed Lithuanians were already roaming the town waiting for Jews who had returned from the forest or the adjoining village after fleeing from the heavy battle. The Germans arrested Joshua Aharon Levy, a respected resident of Seta, and ordered him to tear the Torah-scrolls of the beit hamidrash and when he refused, killed him by gunfire. Lithuanian Auxiliary police forcefully rounded up the males of all ages and cruelly abused them. On the 20th of August, all the Jews of Seta were transported on trucks to the regional capital Kedain. There they were kept at the stables until the 28th August, after which they were murdered together with the Jews of Kedain, first the males, and then the women and children. It is known that some of the Jews of Kedain and Seta resisted the murderers. Names of the Lithuanian murderers are recorded at the archives of Yad Vashem.
After the war, survivors of Kedain and Seta built a memorial on the mass grave. On it was inscribed in Yiddish, Russian and Lithuanian, "The Victims of Fascist Terror". [Translator's note: Since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. the inscription has been changed. It now reads in Yiddish, Hebrew and Lithuanian, "Here rest 2076 Jews, victims of the Nazi murderers and their willing helpers".]
See also:Seta - Jewish Cities, Towns and Villages in Lithuania until 1918
Seta - Volume I: Lite (Lithuania)
Seta - Yahadut Lita (Lithuanian Jewry), Vols. 3 and 4
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