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[Page 427]

Jonaver Organization in New York

by Efraim Silberman

The Jonaver Organization in New York was founded in 1906. It was the only such organization in all of America. Even though many Jonavers were scattered across various cities in America, they did not organize themselves into an organization.

The founders of the Jonaver Organization were: the brothers Moshe and Yosef Wunder, Izak Tambank, Sam Weinstein, Nathan Strom and others. They are now all long gone.

In the years before the First World War and also in the later years of the 1920s and 1930s, when the massive immigration of European Jewry to America took place, many Jonaver Jews also immigrated and took part in the organization. Then, the organization had over 250 members.

The Jonaver Organization conducted various activities in the realm of social and societal assistance. It helped both the Jews in Jonava, and the newly arrived Jonaver Jews.


Managing committee of the Jonaver Organization in New York

From right to left and from top to bottom – Meir Podison, Alchik Cohen, Benny Davis, Max Weinik, Efraim Silberman, Morris Goldberg, Louis Feterman

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After the First World War, in the 1920s, the organization purchased a house in Jonava on Shul Gasse, where the first Jewish hospital in Jonava was erected. On the eve of Passover, the organization conducted a Maos Chittin[1] campaign. The collected money would be sent to the rabbi of Jonava to distribute to the local needy families.

In America, the organization help the newly arrived Jonaver Jews become involved in the social, cultural and societal life in the country – for example, in obtaining a dwelling, work, a loan through the charitable fund that was created, etc.

The Jonaver Organization of New York acquired land in the Beth Israel Cemetery. The former cemetery, Mount Carmel, was already filled with Jonavers.

Unfortunately, today the organization in New York has a completely different appearance. It no longer has the inspiration and no longer draws nourishment from the succulent Jewish life of Jonava. The Jonaver Jews suffered the same tragic fate as all the Jewish residents of Lithuania during the era of destruction of the Second World War.

Today, the organization has approximately 50 members, who are already old and weak. The meetings of the organization, which take place once every two months, are poorly attended. The managing committee makes an effort to maintain the organization and conduct its activities. It collects donations from its members for the benefit of the funds in the State of Israel. The organization gave a large contribution to the Jonaver natives in Israel for the publication of the Yizkor Book of Jonava.

The managing committee of the organization consists of the following members: Moshe Goldberg – chairman, Leib Feterman – vice chairman, Efraim Silberman – financial secretary, Y. Jablokov – business secretary, and Benny Wilensky – protocol secretary.

The secretary, Moshe Goldberg, the son of Abba the bricklayer, was born in Jonava in 1886. He lived on Shul Gasse, across from the Hassidic Shtibel. He left Jonava in 1903. When he arrived in New York, he quickly joined the Jonaver Organization and became an active member. He held various offices at that time. At first he became the protocol secretary, and later the vice chairman. For the past 18 years, Moshe Goldberg has been the chairman of the Jonaver Organization.


Y. Y. Pogir speaks at a reception for Jonavers in the hall of the Organization of Lithuanian Jews in Tel Aviv


With Efraim Silberman in Israel: Mordechai Rashkes, Rabbi Lipschitz' wife, Yitzchak B.[Burstein], Rabbi Lipschitz, Moshe Bar, Dina and Daniel Rickless, Golda Sirek, Khasid and his wife


Moshe Bar, Dr. Shimon Zack, E. Silberman, Yitzchak [Burstein], Freda Shochet of blessed memory, Sara Burstein


The crowd in the hall of the Organization of Lithuanian Natives

Efraim is No More!

At the conclusion of the printing of this book, we received the tragic news that Efraim Silberman passed away on August 7 in New York.

He was one of the initiators and prime movers of the publication of the Jonaver memorial book. He helped actualize this, both with material and moral support. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the day, which is now rapidly approaching.

During the past three years, endless correspondence was exchanged between Tel Aviv and New York, in which he encouraged us, advised us, and sent checks from the Jonaver Organization and other Jonavers. In his answer to our last letter, in which we informed him that we had a deficit, he asked his wife Lena as one of his last wishes, while already on his deathbed, to send us one thousand dollars.

Efraim was born in Jonava in 1904 into a nationalist and honorable family. He studied in cheders and in the Talmud Torah. He was active in Maccabee and Zionist organization in Jonava and later in Siauliai. He endured the Nazi occupation in the Kovno ghetto. He lost his own 5 year old son. He and his wife Lena survived and were saved through great miracles.

When he was living in Germany after the war, he took part in writing articles about the Kovno Ghetto in the journal “From the Last Destruction”.

He threw in his lot with America in 1948. From the first day, he was chosen as the secretary of the Jonaver Organization in New York, which consisted of 120 members. He worked for the Israeli funds and encouraged cultural activity.

He came to visit Israel and prepared to settle there permanently.

It was not to be.

He left behind a widow and a son.

Honor and respect.

[Page 429]

The audience at the meeting with Y. Pogir, 1971

Translator's Footnote

  1. Literally “money for wheat” – a term for charity given to the needy prior to Passover so that they would be able to obtain matzos and other Passover supplies.Return


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