Rokiskis, Lithuania Yizkor Book

Project Name. Translation of Rokiskis, Lithuania Yizkor Book

Project Leader
Tim Baker

JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

Rokiskis is an old town with a Jewish presence noted after 1780. Although there are references to the town in 1499, it was not until after 1780 that Jews were invited into the area. In 1939, the approximately 3,500 Jewish residents constituted 40% of the town's population.

In 1952, former residents of Rokiskis published a 626-page yizkor book: Yisker-bukh fun Rakishok un umgegnt (Yizkor book of Rakishok and environs). Edited by M. Bakalczuk-Felin. Johannesburg, South Africa, The Rakisher Landsmanshaft of Johannesburg, 1952 (Yiddish). About 367 pages have been translated by volunteers and are online at In order to translate the remainder of the book, JewishGen requires the services of a professional translator who has just begun work.

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.

By the late 19th century, Rokiskis was a predominantly Jewish town, with Jews comprising 75% of the population in 1897. Most of the Jewish adults of Rokiskis were tradespeople. During World War I, many of the town's Jews moved to Russia. After the war, many returned to try to re-establish Jewish life. Subsequently, the Jewish residents of Rokiskis experienced an economic depression, and by 1925 many had departed for South Africa, the United States, and Israel. The Holocaust decimated most of the remaining Jewish population, although a few survivors returned after World War II. In 1959, Rokiskis had 36 Jewish residents, but the number dwindled to 10 by 1989. The yizkor book includes descriptions of families who emigrated to South Africa.

Project Description

Approximately 259 pages of Yiddish text remain to be translated and put online at To accomplish that JewishGen will use the services of the current professional translator. The project coordinator will select the order in which to translate the chapters and will work closely with the translator to ensure a grammatically correct and idiomatic translation. Specific tasks the project coordinator will perform include proofreading, editing, and preparing the work for submission to the Yizkor Book Project.

Estimated Cost. $7700


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Updated 18 Dec 2009 by LA