“Datnove” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Dotnuva, Lithuania)

55°21' / 23°54'

Translation of “Datnove” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Dov Levin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996


Project Coordinator

Jonathan Levitow

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for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

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 208 - 209)

Datnove (Dotnuva)

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Jonathan Levitow

(in Yiddish, Dotneve; in Russian, Datnove)
Keydan (Kaiden) district.

Datnove (in Yiddish Dotneve, in Russian Datnovo) was a country town in the Keydan district, located in the middle of Lithuania, 11 km. from the district capital of Keydan, on the banks of the small river, the Dotnuvele1. Municipal rights were granted to Datnove in 1637 along with permission to hold two market days per year. The majority of village lands and the nearby estates that carried its name were associated for hundreds of years with the aristocratic families of Meletski, Bizestovski, and Khrafovitski. During the period of Russian rule (1795-1915) these lands were given to Graf Kroytz. In an administrative capacity Datnove belonged to the district of Vilna and after 1843 to the district of Kovno.

1923491204 (82 men, 122 women)41
1939 120 

Along with the construction of the railroad from Libuy to Romania in the middle of the 19th century, a station was built next to Datnove, and thanks to this the town began to develop and grow. In 1895 and 1911 it suffered large fires. Around that time an agricultural school was established in the Datnove farmlands, which after WWI in the era of Lithuanian independence (1918-1940) became an academy of agricultural studies. Jews from various parts of Lithuania also studied there.

The Jewish community of Datnove was already founded by the first half of the 18th century, at which time the Jewish cemetery also served the communities of Keydan and towns in the surrounding area like Montevidova and Berzinski. In the cemetery stood a wooden headstone which according to a tradition in the town marked the grave of the Vilna Gaon. A more likely story is that the Vilna Gaon visited Datnove as a young man on the holiday of Shavuos, and according to custom spent the night studying the Talmudic tractates of “Zevakhim” and “Menakhos” in the synagogue. The local Rabbi, R. Mikhal, was greatly impressed by the understanding and profundity of the visitor.

The house of this Rabbi and of the one after him, R. Aba Heshl Shteyn, stood in the synagogue courtyard2. Next door were a Beys-Midrash and a “shtibl” which also served as places for travelers to stay. After 1908 R. Shmuel Marcus served in place of a Rabbi in Datnove, and after 1922 R. Moshe-Ahron Kushelevski was the last Rabbi of the community (he was killed by Lithuanians in summer 1941).

Nearly all children in Datnove went to traditional “kheder” schools, and the community was known for being traditional. Most Jews made a living from commerce and tanning, a few as artisans and farmworkers. The commercial activity of the town centered on the local market day, which took place on Tuesday.

120 Jewish families were sent to the interior of Russia during WWI, and only a few returned. Many Jews emigrated after the war to South Africa and America. At the beginning of the period of Lithuanian independence (1921), about 50 Jewish families still lived in Datnove.

According to the census conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1931, businesses owned by Jews included: 2 grain mills, a produce warehouse, fuel dealerships, mixed retail stores, a leather tanning factory, and a felt factory3. In 1937 there were 8 Jewish handworkers in Datnove: 4 tailors, a carpenter, a shoemaker, a barber, and a butcher. Because of the lack of students, Datnove did not have its own Jewish school, and children went to study in institutions in Keydan and the area. In spite of its small size, many social and collective activities were carried out by the community. Many took an interest in politics and especially in Zionism. In the 1890's the names of Jews from Datnove appear on lists of contributors to the Jewish settlement of Eretz-Yisroel, and their representative was Pesakh Levin. The following table shows the votes cast in Datnove in the elections for Zionist Congresses during the 30's:

1    2
181933 1212     
191935 3027 11 1
 Popular Block
211939151411    3

Among the well-known inhabitants of Datnove was R. Yitzhok Rubinshteyn, who was the government appointed Rabbi and from the 1928 the Chief Rabbi of Vilna. He passed away in New York in 1946.

When Lithuania was absorbed into the USSR in winter 1940, economic changes came to Datnove. Some of the Jewish leaders were integrated into the official economic institutions. Zionist activity was prohibited.

On the 25th of June 1941, only 3 days after the German army's invasion of the USSR, the first German soldiers reached Datnove. In fact, however, control of the town remained in the hands of the Lithuanian nationalists, the leader of whom was a local teacher. Jews were attacked and forced into hard labor. In August the Jews were driven from their homes without being allowed to take anything with them, and they were imprisoned in a monastery next to the village of Kruk.

On Sept. 2 1941 (10 Elul) all the Jews were killed along with the other Jews from the area and buried in a mass grave. 5 years after the war, the remnant of Jews from these villages erected a monument and inscription over the grave. In Hebrew was written, “Here Lie the Victims of Fascism,” and in Lithuanian, “Those Killed by the German Occupiers.”


Central Zionist Archive: files 55/170, 55/1788,13/15/131, Z-4/2548
YIVO, “Collection of the Communities of Lithuania” files 156, 1378
“HaMeylitz” (“The Defender“), St. Petersburg Jan. 22, 1887
Yehoshua-Heshl Levin, “The Ascents of Elyahu” (“Alyot Elyahu“) Vilna 1841

Translator's notes

  1. I'm not 100% sure about the connotation of, "arayat nafa," which I've translated as, "country town," but which literally means, "small town of the county." I thought at first it might mean something like our, "county seat," but Levin has another phrase closer to this, i.e., "merkaz nafa," or "center of the county," so I went with "country town." At any rate, an "araya" is something larger than a "k'far" (village) but smaller than an "ir" (city), and "nafa" means, "region," "district," or "county." Return
  2. Kagan in "Shet un Shtetlekh" calls him R. Sheyn. Return
  3. The Hebrew word, "beyt-kharoshet," means, "factory," but the idea would seem to be something smaller than what we call a "factory," today, maybe something close to the Yiddish, "varshtat" or "workshop." Return

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