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

56° 23' / 22° 15'

Translation of the “Leckava” 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 363-364)

Leckava

In Yiddish, Latskeve or Latskove

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

A rural settlement in the county and district of Mazeikiai.

Year General
Population
Jews %
1867 381 .. ..
1897 1,176 830 70
1923 425 100 23
1940 .. 35 ..

Leckava is located in northeastern Lithuania, in the province of Samogitia, on the right bank of the Venta River, very close to the border with Latvia (Courland), 11 km from Mazeikiai, the district's city.

The settlement is mentioned in historical documents dating from the 17th century, when a Calvinist Church was built on its grounds. Parts of the land in the surrounding areas belonged to the Pabediniski family. In 1840, 45 families of peasants, artisans and petty traders lived in the settlement. Most of them were Jews. During the period of Russian Rule (1795-1915), Leckava was administratively allocated to the Siauliai district within the province of Vilnius, and subsequently within the province of Kaunas. At that time, Leckava was known for its fairs which took place every year during the month of July and lasted for 10 days each time. These fairs attracted also merchants and buyers from Courland, which was not far away from Leckava. The frequency of the fairs was reduced to once a week during the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940), when the border between Lithuania and Latvia was redrawn. The military activities during WWII caused great damage to the people and buildings of Leckava.

It has been assumed that the first Jews to settle in Leckava did so in the 18th century. Most of them resided in the only street in the settlement, which divided it lengthwise; the few non-Jews lived nearby, around that street. The Jews made their living mainly from petty trade and peddling and made their rounds among the peasants in the surrounding areas and in Courland. Many of the settlement's Jews, especially the younger generation, emigrated abroad. The financial aid that the emigrees provided their family members who remained in Leckava alleviated somewhat their dire economic conditions.

In spite of the fact that the Jews of Leckava were economically poor, they still managed to maintain social and religious community institutions in an honorable manner. They also helped Jews in other places. Perhaps that is the reason why they were nicknamed the “Lazckover Negidim” (the magnates from Leckava). In 1885, the Jewish homes in the nearby town of Laizuva burned down. The Jews of Leckava sent them 35 rubles “in addition to the undergarments and other things”, as it was quoted in the “HaMelitz”, #47 of that year.

The “Benot Zion” (Sisters of Zion) organization was established in Leckava in 1901 in order to teach Hebrew and aid in collecting donations for settling “Eretz-Yisrael”. Agudat Yisrael was also active in the town, and the names of 30 Jews from Leckava appear on the lists of donors for its sake.

At the beginning of WWI (1915), the Jews of Leckava, like the rest of the Jews in Lithuania, were expelled to the interior of Russia. Only 25 families returned to the town after the war. Among them were the Berghaus, Wald, Movshovitz, Kahn, Krup, and other families.

During the 1920's, after Independent Lithuania was established, Leckava became a modern community led by a committee which was democratically elected. In 1923, there were 49 eligible voters.

During the years 1894-1898, Rabbi Avraham Horvitz headed the Rabbinate in Leckava. He was succeeded by Rabbi Shelomo-Yakov Shein, who served until 1934 and was the author of the book “Avney Shaish” (Marble Stones). The last Rabbi of Leckava's Jewish community was Rabbi Yaakov Abelson, who perished in the Holocaust.

The social and cultural life concentrated mostly in the only Bet Midrash, which was built of wood, in the settlement. It also hosted the other educational activities which were delivered by the Shas, Mishnaiot, and Kor'ey Tehilim societies. The religious activities in the Bet Midrash continued also during the period of Soviet Rule (1940-1941). At that time, only 10 Jewish families resided in Leckava.

On June 22, 1941, when the German army invaded the Soviet Union, Lithuanian Nationalists took control of Leckava. Among other things, they began arresting their Jewish neighbors. Shortly thereafter, the arrested Jews were transferred to Mazeikiai. The remaining Jews of Leckava, including the elderly, women and children, were also taken there. On August 5, 1941 (12 Av, 5701), all of them were murdered and shot to death in the Jewish cemetery in Mazeikia together with the other Jews in the surrounding areas.

Among the natives of Leckava who gained renown were: Rabbi Moshe Tsemakh; Rabbi Katriel Natan, the Rabbi of Augustova; Rabbi Reuven Glik, subsequently a resident of Petakh Tikva and author of the book “Mishpatey Benei Adam”; the industrialist Shalom Ligum.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, Koniukhovsky Collection 0-71, file 21.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: file 1524, p. 24461.
Gotlieb, Ohalei Shem, p. 35.
Di Yiddishe Shtime [The Jewish Voice] – (Kaunas), 5.2.1922.
Hamelitz [The Advocate] – (St. Petersburg), 21.5.1883, 6.7.1885.
Neuzmirsime (We Shall Not Forget), Vilnius 1960, p. 48.

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