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

55°38' / 23°43'

Translation of the “Baisogola” 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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(Page 171)

Baisogola (Lith.)

Beisagola (Russian)

A town in the region of Keidan

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by [1]

YearTotal
Population
JewsJews as
percentage
of Total
Population
1847..461*  ..
18971,205634    53%
1914 100** ..
1923806106***13%

*229 men, 232 women
**15 families
***  48 men, 58 women

Baisogola is located in the center of Lithuania, on the right bank of the Kirsinas River, at a distance of 36 kilometers northwest of the county seat, Keidan.

In 1791 Baisogola officially became a city. Most of the land belonged to the noble family, Komar. In 1831, for a short period of time, Polish rebels conquered the town. Also, in the rebellion of 1863, the local farmers took control of the area. In the period of the Russian regime (1795-1915), the town was in the district of Vilna and from 1843 to the district of Kovno, and the area of Shavli. At the end of Word War I (from December 1918 until March 1919), the town was under the government of the Bolsheviks. In the period of Lithuanian independence (1918-1940) the town was the center of the area; the railroad station was a distance of only one and a half kilometers from the town.

The beginning of the Jewish community in Baisogola was at the end of the 18th century. In 1801 the Burial Society was established, that maintained a pinkas [record book] from the year 1813. The dead were brought to a cemetery near Grinkishok. The public life of the Jews centered on the synagogue; charity organizations and religious study groups. During the famine at the end of the 1860s, the Jewish community of Baisogola also suffered and it received help from the Jewish community of Memel.

By the end of the 19th century, many of the Jewish youth were receiving a secular education and belonged to the organization “Hibat Zion”. Books from the “Publishers of Enlightenment of the Jews of Russia” of St. Petersburg were sent to the town. One of the young men, Shraga ben Moshe Lifshitz, wrote an article in “Hamelitz” (April 13, 1888) on Torah to the organization in the name of “everyone”. The names of many of the Jewish population in Baisogola appear on the lists of donors to the communities in Eretz Yisrael for the years 1898-1899. The representative was Naphtali Herz Goldberg.

In 1911 a large fire erupted and the newspaper, Hamodia, published a call for help with the authorization of the local rabbi and many community leaders. In another critical article that was published at the same time, it was stated that the community institutions were neglected: The Talmud Torah is about to collapse, the Bikur Cholim Society and the Synagogue were in a state of neglect.” It is likely that one of the reasons for this situation was the collapse of the Jewish population in Baisogola; at the beginning of World War I there were only 15 Jewish families (100 people) left in the town. At the beginning of the war, the Russian government expelled those families to the center of Russia.

Among the rabbis of the community were Rabbi Avraham ben Rafael Grushkin (held the position for 19 years and died in 1881); Rabbi Shmuel-Avigdor Feivelson; Rabbi Aharon Bakst; Rabbi Avraham-Yitzchak ben Baruch Feivelson (from 1900); and Rabbi Issac Rabinowitz (between the two wars).

Among the natives of the town who were famous were: Rabbis Moshe-Chaim Mervis (rabbi in Cape Town); Nachum ben Azriel Kaplan; Meir Atlas; and Baruch-Moshe Feivelson; the famous authors were: Rafael Grushkin, Eliezer Atlas, and Moshe Mirlis, who were among the first Hovvei Zion in the United States, and Dr. Eliyahu-Yosef Gordon.

After World War I, a number of Jews returned to Baisogola from Russia and found their homes occupied by the Lithuanians. The synagogue was destroyed. Six families built new homes near the railroad station.

When autonomy was granted to the Jews in independent Lithuania, five members of the community were voted to a ruling committee. The committee was active for a number of years in most of the areas of Jewish life in the town. The head of the committee was Yehoshua Kaufman; the secretary was Menachem Weizman. Despite the small number of Jews, at the beginning of the 1920s they conducted an orderly community life. For the first Lithuanian elections to the Seim [Lithuanian legislature] that were held in 1922, 29 Jews voted for the Democratic Party. The Religious Orthodox Party did not receive even one vote.

In the summer of 1923, there was a lot of tension between the Jews and the Christian population in the village on the basis of “Blood Libel”. On June 21 the [Jewish] Community Committee sent a detailed report about the situation to the “National Jewish Committee” in Kovno.

Also, during this period, just as before the war, the Jews made their living by commerce, peddling, fruit orchards, and ancillary farming, including raising poultry. It is possible that because of the poultry, the Jews of Baisogola received the nickname “Baisagoler Pupkis” (the gizzards of Baisalgola). According to the 1931 Lithuanian survey there were two textile stores and one food shop owned by Jews.

In 1937 there were seven Jewish tradesmen/artisans: 3 butchers, a baker, a glazier, an ironmonger and a tinsmith in the town. At the instigation of the rabbi, Y.S. Feivelson, who was among the returnees from Russia, donations were solicited and received from natives of the town who had emigrated to South Africa and the United States. One of them, Tzvi Traub from Brooklyn, donated $3,000. With the money from the donations they built five houses, renovated the desecrated cemetery, and built a two-storey building with sophisticated equipment for the bathhouse and mikve.

The rabbi at that time was Issac Rabinovitz.

At the beginning of World War II, there were only a small number of Jews in the town. In the fall of 1941 the Lithuanians gathered all the Jews and took them to Krok where they were killed along with the Jews of that town on September 2, 1941. Not one person from Baisogola remained alive.

  1. Words in brackets are translations by Gilda Kurtzman Return

 

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