Lithuania Yizkor Book

Project Name. Translation of Lita (Lithuania) Yizkor Book

Project Leaders

JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

This is an unusual yizkor book. Most yizkor books are for an individual town or a limited number of towns surrounding a larger town. This publication of over 2,900 pages memorializes the black pintlakh on the map—towns that were too little for separate yizkor books. Lita, usually translated as “Lithuania,” refers to Jewish Lithuania, whose borders were defined not by politics but by culture and language.

In 1951 and 1965, the Cultural Society of Lithuanian Jews, which was created after the war by emigres and survivors, published the two-volume set LITA

Vol. 1:, ed. Mendel Sudarsky and Uriah Katzenelenbogen (New York, 1951), 2000 pages.
Vol. 2:, ed. Ch. Leikowicz (Tel Aviv: I. L. Peretz Publishing House, 1965), 900 pages.

To date 150 pages, including the detailed table of contents, are online and 50 more pages are in process, with translations funded by previously-made donations. In order to translate the remainder of this extraordinary book from Yiddish into English, JewishGen requires a large infusion of cash.

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots in this town constitute the primary audience for the material.  However, the material has the potential to be of broader interest to scholars specializing in Jewish history and society in this region.

Project Importance

Yizkor books are unique sources of information on once vibrant towns, primarily in central and eastern Europe, whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Written after World War II by émigrés and Holocaust survivors, yizkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and gripping stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or shot in the forests are not recorded elsewhere. Usually written in Hebrew or Yiddish, these important books are not accessible to most users, who cannot read these languages. Thus, the translation of these books into English unlocks this information to many more researchers all over the world. The JewishGen Yizkor Book Project received the award in 2002 for outstanding contribution to Jewish genealogy by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

This collection of writings, entirely in Yiddish, offers a precious glimpse into life in Lita from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. Included are descriptions of travel through small Jewish towns in the1930s; heartfelt personal reminiscences; scholarly “Litvak” reflections on literary, political, and economic concerns of the time; vivid accounts of renowned personalities, rabbinic and secular, and of folk “types” and customs; and a large section of Shoah accounts by survivors.

Project Description

Two essays by the important Lithuanian scholar Hirsz Abramowicz, totaling 22 pages, are already available in a recently-published collection of his essays in English, and will not be translated again [Profiles of a Lost World: Memoirs of East European Jewish Life Before World War II (Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology) by Hirsz Abramowicz, Jeffrey Shandler (Editor), Eva Zeitlin Dobkin (Translator), Dina Abramowicz (Editor)]. About 166 pages of general historical overviews (readily available in other sources) will not be translated. That leaves approximately 2,275 pages to be translated, a task for which JewishGen has hired a professional translator. The project coordinator will decide on the order in which chapters will be translated, will work closely with the translator to ensure an accurate yet idiomatic translation, and will prepare the material for submission to the Yizkor Book Project.

Estimated Cost. $83,000


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Updated 14 Mar 2009 by LA