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History Of Riteve


This chapter relates the history of the Jewish community in Riteve as it was written by known and unknown landsleit of the town. It includes stories, engraved in the memory of the inhabitants, such as the great fire, the building of the new school by a donor, the suicide of the Polish tyrant who embittered their lives, etc. Although the name of the town and those of its rabbis are first mentioned in the 18th century, and the first Jews settled in Riteve probably a hundred years before that, most of the history related here dates from the middle of the 19th century – that is, more or less three or four generations before the Holocaust, the number of generations back generally retained in the collective memory of a family.


The history of the Riteve community

Author unknown

Riteve was an ancient Jewish town in Zamut, Lithuania, with Memel to the west and Telz seven miles away to the east. Two hundred years ago, its name could already he found in the Pinkas (annals) of The Council of Four Lands. Riteve was situated in the province of Kaidan. The largest of the provinces in the northwest of Zamut. The annals mention a number of conferences of the Kaidan communities which were held in Riteve.

Riteve's place on the map was secured by the River Yureh which flowed into the Nieman, an important route for the transport of timber and ferries to Germany. Timber merchants and officials of the industry would visit Riteve fre– quently. The flax industry also flourished there. Since it was a town situated at the crossroads, the rabbinical courts dealt with many disputes between the merchants and the administration. Thus a wise and alert rabbi, knowledgeable in commercial matters, was required to decide in these complicated disagreements.

Above all else, Riteve was known for is scholarship. Even the shopkeepers and businessmen were experts in Mishnah studies. Feivel Udwin, for example, whose eyes had become weak in his old age, could recite the Mishnah by heart in particular the Tractate Chulin. Another scholar, Joseph Stras (known as Reb Yoshcik), had studied in the yeshivot of Volozhin and had such a penetrating mind that when he asked a question regading the Mishnah, it was very difficult for anyone to answer it. A qualified teacher, Mordechai Isaac Segal, was an expert in Agadah (stories and legends explaining the Halachic text in the Talmud) and when he taught on Saturday afternoons the synagogue was full. They were not the only scholars, but they were the most senior. There were others, for example a younger scholar, a chemist by profession, Eliezer Prisman, a graduate of the Telz and Slobodka yeshivot, who was outstanding in his scholastic achievement. Other outstanding young yeshiva graduates who lived in Riteve and earned on their studies after their graduation from Telz, Mir and Slobodka were the sons–in–law of businessmen in Riteve. Three such young men were responsible for maintaining tie Riteve yeshiva after the First World War and for its worthy name. Hundreds of students from the surrounding areas studied in the yeshiva in Riteve.

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The Hebrew school

Author unknown

The Hebrew school equipped its pupils with the skill to read and write Hebrew plus a knowledge of grammar, the Bible and Jewish history. It prepared the children spiritually for the new age which was dawning in our town. It became, with the passing of time, the source from which they drew inspiration for redemption and freedom. Indelibly engraved in our memories are the early stirrings of the National Movement and the rebirth of the Hebrew language which were, as yet. Ideals for the youth who graduated from the school.

And in our memories the festivals and celebrations and the many dramatic presentations which were offered at the school live on.

A list of the teachers follows:

Avraham (Alter) Goldberg
David and Moshe Kos
Alter Levite
Miriam Levite (Tsvik)
Frieda Levinson
Loyova Melamed
Rachel Friedman
Zvi Faktor
Miriam Rabinowitz
Izchak Zvi Paktor

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A posed group of a senior class of girls at the Hebrew (Jewish) School taken during the second half of the 1920s with teachers Moshe Kos, center left, and Alter Levite.


Alter Levite poses with 63 school pupils, all of whom he taught, in about the early 1920s.
This is the only photograph which gives some idea of the outside appearance of the first school building, made from wood and with shuttered windows, typical architecture of the shtetl.
It was replaced in 1924 by a brick building.

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Two teachers – the one on the left is Alter Levite– with a clas of 12 girls, probably aged between 12 and 14, taken in the late 1920s.


The third graduation class of the ‘Yavneh’ School (Hebrew School) taken in 1931.
The teachers seated front are, from left to right: Izchak Paktor, Miriam Levite; the examiner Dr Pirkin, and Miriam Rabinowitz

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A group photograph of the Hebrew School taken in about the late 1920s with their two teachers in the middle.
The one or the left is Alter Levite.


The school with the teaching staff.
Rachel Friedman, Loyova Melamed and Alter Levite, taken when it had over a hundred pupils, probably in the mid–30s.


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