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D. 1 9 2 3 – 1 9 3 3

Years of Economic Stability

After the great boom, during which most of the merchants moved to Kovno, the town entered into a period of ten more or less tranquil years.

The main wide street of Kibart, paved with stones, with large chestnut trees on both sides and a paved sidewalk on one side, which also served as the main road leading to Germany, was called Senapiles Street and later after the name of the President “Smetonos Aleja” (Smetona Avenue). As there were no diplomatic relations with Poland, Lithuania was closed to the East and the South, but in the North the border with Latvia was open, and to the West there was an open border with Germany, so travellers coming from Europe by car had to pass through Kibart. This road, a few kilometers long, was actually the border on one side, whereas on the other side the soccer field and the Jewish

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cemetery were situated. From there on, there were fields all the way to Virbalis, about 4.5 km distant from Kibart.

Most of the stores were situated along this street, the banks, one cinema called the “Palas,” the volunteer fire brigade, 2 pharmacies, one belonging to a Jew, the government elementary school, the German school, a Catholic church, a Pravoslavic church, a Protestant church and also a gas station which was operated by hand. Once a group of motorcycle riders from “Hapo'el” Eretz Israel passed through Kibart and bought gas at this station, which was a big event in Kibart.

Most of the two to four story buildings along the avenue and in the nearby streets were built of brick, some with and some without plaster, but there were no small wooden houses with straw thatched roofs or wooden tiles as could be seen in most Lithuanian towns. Most of Kibart Jews lived in modern houses equipped with running water, sewage systems and electricity, and some houses had central heating. The housing conditions in Kibart were much better than in many other towns in Lithuania with much larger populations.

All the streets at right angles to the avenue faced south, whereas the north side belonged mostly to the railway. One section of the town was situated to the north of the railway station and people had to pass the station to get there.

Life in Kibart was really influenced by the proximity of the German border. The main street of the town stretched to the border crossing, consisting of a wooden bridge over the small stream with customs buildings on either side. These buildings, both on the Lithuanian and German sides, were manned by a policeman and a customs clerk. The police issued certificates to inhabitants of a 5 km zone on both sides of the border, to enable them to cross freely. The German border town of Eydtkuhnen was small, but had four to five story buildings, wide paved streets and nice shops, according to the standards of those times. Many of the merchants, who owned textile, shoe, clothes and other stores, were Jewish (Rubinshtein, Levin, Zilberman and others). Eydtkuhnen had already instituted “White Weeks” and “Seasonal Sales,” and the inhabitants of Kibart as well as their friends and relatives from other towns enjoyed these occasions.

Dr. Iviansky was one of several Jewish doctors in Eydtkuhnen who also treated Kibart Jews.

During these years, similar to the times of Russian rule, masses of German women from Eydtkuhnen would come to the market in Kibart, on Tuesdays and Fridays, to buy fresh agricultural produce brought in by peasants from nearby villages. Food products were much cheaper in Lithuania than in Germany and near the border tens of grocery and butcher shops opened up, mostly owned by Jews, who made their living from the Eydtkuhnen inhabitants. There were about twenty Jewish groceries in the town during these years. Kibart and Virbalis Jews would buy dresses, shoes, cloth, cosmetics etc. in Eydtkuhnen. It paid to buy these goods there and to sell them in Lithuania for great profit.

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Until the beginning of the Nazi regime in 1933, Kibart Jews bought most of their supplies in Eydtkuhnen, including types of fruit which could not be obtained in Kibart, such as bananas, grapes, water melons, melons etc., and for reasonable prices. The problem was how to cross the border without paying customs' fees, and the method adopted was to take two or three oranges only by hand in a paper bag when crossing the border. New shoes were smeared with shoe polish and not brushed, so they would not look new to the customs clerk. New dresses and cloth would be wrapped around the body under the overcoat, and many other tricks were invented in order to smuggle goods without paying duties.

There were times, during the late twenties, when Jews from Kibart went to the cinema in Eydtkuhnen. Once they even went to a circus show in Stalupeonen, some 20 km from the border.

In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, all this stopped. On the first of April 1933 Nazi guards of the S. A. did not allow people into Jewish stores, and from that day on most of Kibart's Jews did not go to Eydtkuhnen anymore.

Most of Lithuania's main exports were agricultural products, which were sent to Germany, one of the major items being live geese. At the beginning of winter, exporters would bring the geese to a lot in the railway station, and the quacking of geese was heard in town day and night for a month or so. After Hitler had established his rule, he demanded Memel (Klaipeda) return to Germany. As a means of pressure he cancelled the commercial treaty with Lithuania, so all the geese assigned for export were left without buyers. To solve the problem, the Lithuanian government ordered all its clerks to get a part of their salary in geese, so that the price of geese dropped a lot at the time and people benefited.

The railway station in Kibart reminds one of additional events. All the immigrants (Olim) to Eretz Israel travelled through this station by train. There were years, when a group of “Khalutsim” (Pioneers) passed through Kibart every few weeks, and large crowds of Jews came to see them off. These were happy and exciting events, sometimes even funny. In order to exploit every “Certificate” (Aliyah Permission) issued by the British Mandatory Government to its maximum, every young man married a girl fictitiously, so that each “Certificate” enabled two people to enter Eretz Israel. It often happened that the fictitious couple met in Kibart's station for the first time, the “groom” looking for the “bride” he had never met before by shouting her name.

 

The Occupations of the Jews in Kibart

In those years the main occupation of the Jews was commerce, there being shops of haberdashery, grocery, shoes, cloth, paper, books, stationary, meat, iron and tools, household utensils. There were also several small factories such as bookbinding, a shoe polish and tin cans factory, several textile factories, sewing workshops etc. There were many craftsmen: shoemakers, photographers, tailors, fashions, barbers etc. Some were engaged in exporting

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agricultural products, such as flax, after processing it, and horses for meat. Apart from those there were one cinema owner, two tavern owners, several customs clerks, teachers, bank clerks, two carriages and one taxi owner. The economic life in town concentrated around the Jewish Central Bank and the Jewish Popular Bank. Two especially Jewish occupations existed, one being illegal trading foreign currency and the other “Couriers”. Several Jews made a good living by trading with foreign currency, and these “Couriers” were people who travelled by train to Kovno every morning and returned in the evening. They passed on orders from the merchants of Kibart to the wholesalers in Kovno, and then brought the ordered goods back by themselves on the same day. They also sold smuggled merchandise from Germany to the rich merchants in Kovno, and there were seven families who made a rather a poor living from this occupation. In particular the author remember at least one case when the community had to buy the monthly train ticket for one of these couriers, because the man did not have the money to do so.

 

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Stamp of the Minister for Jewish affairs   Stamp of the National Council of the Jews of Lithuania

 

Public and Cultural Life

Following the law of autonomies for minorities issued by the new Lithuanian government, the minister for Jewish affairs Dr. Menakhem (Max) Soloveitshik ordered elections to community committees (Va'ad Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919.

The veteran “Gabaim” of Kibart did not want a “Community Committee” to be elected, since they had enough power of their own. Only after tremendous persuasion was a “Community Committee” elected, most of its members tending to the left. Shortly afterward, this Committee was forced to resign and in the next elections, a Committee was forged with a right wing was elected. Later, in the autumn of 1923 a mixed Committee was elected with a small majority of right wingers, but the left were more active and pushed for establishing an elementary school and social help in town. Towards these elections five lists were presented:

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Fragments of the governmental survey of shops in Vilkaviskis District in 1931

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  1. Tseirei–Zion – Hitakhduth: Shimon Volovitsky, Aba Jaffe, Avraham Kloizner.
  2. Non party: Mosheh Naihertzig, Shemuel Rakhmil, Sheraga Beker, Kalman Glikson, Aharon Hurvitz, Mosheh–Joseph Alperovitz, Avraham–Aba Zholtok. Craftsmen and parents of the school children: Leikin, Zilin, Shtelman, Mandelblat, Rivlin, Aizenshtat.
  3. Folkists: Tuviyah Shereshevsky, Shalom Filipovsky, Mosheh Rabinovitz, Shemuel–Mosheh Segal, Yakov Bialostotsky.
  4. Zionists–Merchants–Retailers: Shimon Goldberg, Aba Yedidya, Yitshak–Shraga Khashman, Michael Shadkhanovitz, Shemuel Maroz, Eliyahu Katz, Meir Leibovitz, Hayim–Nisan Telem, Hayim Seinensky, Mordehai Frenkel, Alexander Gershater, Eliyahu Shvartz, Yakov Rozuk, Lipa Sukenik, A.J. Verzhbelovsky, Reuven Blokh, Dov Perlman, Shimon Miltz, Barukh Fridman, Shabtai Fainzilber, (see Table 2: an invitation issued by the Merchants Association, the Textiles Section of Kibart to its members, written in Yiddish, to a meeting to discuss the coming elections).

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An invitation issued by the Merchants Association, the Textiles Section of Kibart to its members, written in Yiddish, to a meeting to discuss the coming elections

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Each list was presented with signatures of supporters. It is not known who was elected to the Community Committee, but according to the names of the different sub–committee members one can see that there was reasonable representation of all lists.

Among the sub–committees it is worth mentioning the education sub–committee, which at its first meeting on October 10, 1923 discussed the issue of the school and the library, and it is interesting to note that the protocols of this sub–committee were written in Hebrew. Among its members were Shereshevsky, Goldberg, Rekhmat, Jafe, Leikin, Rakhmil. Shereshevsky was elected chairman and Jafe as secretary, who was then the director of the school.

Another sub–committee was for social help. Its members were Khashman, Volovitzky, Rakhmil, Shereshevsky, Yedidya. Y.Sh.Khashman was elected chairman.

The Community Committee existed until the end of 1925, when the Autonomy for Jews, also for other minorities, was annulled. At the last meeting of the Committee on December 20, 1925 it was decided to appoint four sub–committees who would care for the community's affairs after the annulment of the official committee:

  1. The education sub–committee, its members being T.Shereshevsky, Sh.Volovitzky, and M.Leibovitz,
  2. The sub–committee for social help whose members were Sh.Rakhmil, M.Shadkhanovitz and Sh. Maroz,
  3. A sub–committee on religious affairs including ritual slaughter with the same composition as above, and
  4. A sub–committee for the liquidation of the Community Committee, its members being Sh.Volovitzky, M.Rabinovitz and M.Leibovitz. This sub–committee had to settle the main Committee's debts and also to apply to the Jewish faction of the Seimas, asking it what to do with the buildings and archives which belonged to the Committee.
The archives of all the Community Committees were transferred to the “YIVO” Institute in Vilna, and during World War II the Nazis transferred them to Frankfurt in Germany, where they were found after the war, after which they were finally stored in the “YIVO” Institute in New York. This is the source of all the copies in the tables.

In order to illustrate the views of the Jewish public in Kibart one can use the results of the elections to the first Lithuanian Seimas in October 1922. 403 Kibart Jews participated, of whom the Zionist list received 324 votes, “Agudath–Yisrael” (religious) got 47 votes and the Democrats (the Folkists) 32 votes.

In 1924 Kibart was declared a town with self rule, and a municipality was elected consisting of 25 members: 6 Jews, 7 Germans, 1 Russian, 1 Pole, and 10 Lithuanians.

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In the 1931 elections 12 members were elected to the municipality: 2 Jews, 4 Germans and 6 Lithuanians. The elections of 1934 resulted in the election of 2 Jews, 3 Germans and 7 Lithuanians, pharmacist Budrevicius being elected Mayor. Among the Jews who officiated as members of the municipality during these years mention should be made of Y.Sh. Khashman, Yurzditzky, Sh Volovitzky, A.Vidomliansky and others.

 

Elementary Education

A Jewish school had already been established in Kibart in 1919, which was more like a “Kheder” and was situated in the “Ezrath–Nashim” (Women's Hall) of the Synagogue. For a long time the community did not manage to create a school of reasonable standard for several reasons, among them the proximity of the German border which enabled many Jewish children to go to kindergartens and schools in Eydtkuhnen. The older children would study in the high school in Stalupoenen, a German town about 20 km from Kibart. With the establishment of the Hebrew High School in Virbalis in 1919, wealthy parents with a national conscience sent their children there. In that High School which included elementary classes, tuition levels were comparatively high, but there were problems of finding skilled teachers. (see table 6: the protocol, written in Hebrew, of the meeting of the Education Sub–Committee on the 14.10.1923 in which the situation of the school, a building for the school and the library were discussed).

The new sub–committee for education carried out a survey of all children between the ages of 7 to 13 in order to create the possibility of establishing an excellent school in Kibart. Parents were asked where their children were learning at present and whether they would agree to admit them into the Hebrew “Tarbuth” elementary school. 95 children of the above mentioned ages were interviewed, of whom 18 studied in Eydtkuhnen, 13 in the Hebrew High School and the remainder in the existing school or privately. 55 parents agreed to enroll their children into the new school, whereas the remainder answered negatively or did not give a definite answer (see tables 7, 8, 9, 10).

A Hebrew school with 4 classes and 2 preparatory classes was established in Kibart in 1925. Hebrew was taught from the first preparatory class, Lithuanian from the second, but Yiddish, the mother tongue was not taught at all. A.Jafe was the director of the existing school and the teachers were Y. Reznik, M.Rabinovitz and Tsigler for the Lithuanian language. Mr. Jafe resigned and after considering all the candidates, M.Goldoft, a teacher who was also authorized to teach Lithuanian, was appointed director. Together with the establishment of the school, a Jewish kindergarten was opened by the wife of the director of the school, Mrs. Goldoft.

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Table 7

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Table 8

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Table 9

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Table 10

 

According to the Lithuanian Education Law each minority had the right to establish a school for its children where the language of instruction was that of that minority. Teachers' salaries were paid by the government, but in this school there were always one or two additional teachers who received their salaries from the Parents' Committee. The school had a complement of about 100 – 150 pupils, and all graduates knew Hebrew well. Every year the school arranged a festivity including a play in Hebrew, which was an important event in the cultural life of the town.

After the first school director Mr. Goldoft emigrated to South Africa, a young teacher, graduate of Hebrew Teachers Seminar in Kovno, Aryeh Varshavsky, was appointed in his stead. He fulfilled his duty successfully until 1940, when Lithuania became a Soviet Republic and Hebrew education was eliminated.

In the table below view the subjects of instruction and the hours per week in class 2 (preparatory) and in class 6 in Kibart “Tarbuth” school:

 

Subject Class 2 Class 6
Bible 4* 6
Hebrew 6 6
Lithuanian 4 6
History ––– 2
Geography 2 2
Mathematics 6 6
Nature ––– 2
Painting 2 2
Handicraft 3 –––
Singing 2 2
Gymnastics 3 2

*According to the Government–only two hours per week.

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Among the teachers of the school there are fond memories of Leah Yablokovsky and Shoshanah Klein. Leah Yablokovsky taught the lower grades for few years, emigrated to Eretz–Israel and continued teaching in Tel–Aviv. Shoshanah Klein, who was a very beautiful woman, married and emigrated to South–Africa. Among the men teachers worth mentioning are Mordehai Lurie, who taught in this school during all its existence; Avraham Vizhansky, Mosheh Leibovitz, Shemuel Matis and others.

 

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Aryeh Varshavsky and Shalom Vidomliansky

 

It should be pointed out that when money was plentiful in the twenties, the Community was not wise enough to buy a plot of land in order to build a suitable building for the Hebrew school. During all the years of its existence the school rented buildings which were not always suitable, and the Parents Committee had to pay the rent. On the other hand, this Jewish community donated generously to the building of the modern Catholic church, which was built opposite the railway station, as well as to the building of the German church and school built at the other end of the town.

For many years Meir Leibovitz was the chairman of the Parents Committee and Mrs. Dobe Shtern one of its active members.

 

The Hebrew High School in Virbalis (Written by David Shadkhanovitz)

Most of Kibart's Jewish youths received their high school education in the Hebrew High School in Virbalis; the others studied in the Government High School in Kibart.

In 1918, after the war and with the establishment of the Lithuanian Republic, a group of Jewish men from Virbalis (Leizer Kagansky, Motl Ilenberg, Aryeh Benyakonsky, Yanek and Aba Filipovsky, Asher Uliamperl and others) initiated the establishment of a Jewish High School in Virbalis. In this school the language of instruction of all subjects would be Hebrew with Sephardic pronunciation, as in Eretz–Israel. There were people who did not like the idea of a Hebrew high school and tried to sabotage it, but the pioneers of Hebrew education overcame all obstacles.

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The pupils and teachers of the Hebrew elementary school “Tarbuth” 1931

First line from right: A.Khashman,–,Z.Golding, E.Ozerov, H.Jasovsky, F.Saharovitz, B.Sheinzon, –,
Second line: S.Jofe, D.Levin, –, G.Borovik
Third line: E.Kliatchko, Z.Borokhovitz, ––, Tsibulsky(?), –––, Y.Skrobiansky, M.Khlamnovitz, the Principal A. Varshavsky, teacher L.Yablokovsky, teacher M.Lurie, Y.Feferman, P.Kliatchko, D.Shtern, H.Borokhovifz, P. Shimkovitz
Fourth line: E.Halperin, –, A.Leibovitz, T.Beker, N.Levin, Magiliuker, B.Borovik, Y.Levin, Margolis(?), Skrobiansky, B.Zilbersky, Kanopke(?), F.Shtern, J.Rosin, H.Bartenshtein, –,
Fifth line: L.Tsikhak, Beirakhovitz, M.Landau, M.Grudzinsky, –, M.Vizhansky, R.Vilensky, Levin, Levin, –, Z.Borovik, ––, –

 

In Iyar 5679 (1919) pupils were enrolled in the High School and the beginning of the school year on the second of Heshvan 5680 (10.26.1919) was announced. This was actually the second Jewish high school in Lithuania and in the Diaspora, in which the teaching language was Hebrew, the first being in Marijampol. 200 pupils were accepted at the school, which started with only three classes and two preparatory classes. There was also a fourth class, not full and unofficial.

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The graduation class of the Hebrew “Tarbuth” school 1938

On top the Headmaster Aryeh Varshavsky, to his left the Committee Chairman Meir Leibovitz (the author's uncle).
The arrows on the right side are marking the author's sister (fourth from the bottom) and his cousin (second from the bottom)

 

The opening of the school was accompanied by many difficulties, social, pedagogical and financial, as it should be remembered that the communities of Kibart and Virbalis had only just began to recover from the disasters they had faced during the war. Most people had a hard life and found it difficult to make a living, and the staff of teachers, the pioneers of Hebrew education, had problems in sorting out the pupils. During the war one part of the Jewish population had scattered all over Russia due to the ruling Tzar's policy of exiling people, and the other part was under German rule. Most of the applicants for acceptance at the school had no knowledge of Hebrew and the level of their general education was somewhere between a Russian school, a “Kheder” and a German school. It was difficult to grade pupils, when youngsters of the same age had such different educational backgrounds.

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The announcement (in Hebrew) of the Jewish press in Lithuania regarding the commencement of studies in the Hebrew High School in Virbalis in 26.10.1919

 

The biggest problem was the complete lack of textbooks, even in Hebrew subjects. The pedagogical team had doubts about the character of the Hebrew High School, as to whether it should it be according to the “program” of the Russian or of the German schools. After many discussions the teachers rejected all the elements of foreign high schools and a curriculum for the Hebrew High School was drawn up. In addition to the pedagogical problems, the Parents Committee had to solve problems of purchasing even minimal amounts of teaching aids, and above all, a suitable building.

All this required a considerable amount of money, and which was not plentiful in Virbalis in those days. Despite the difficulties, the Jews of the town contributed each according to his ability and a destroyed building was purchased and rebuilt. Several maps were bought, also a microscope, but most of the aids for teaching subjects such as nature, geography and physics were prepared from wood, clay and paper by the pupils themselves. The first director of the school was a native of the small town of Serey (Seirijai), Dr. Ya'akov Rabinson, who had graduated in Warsaw and returned to Lithuania in order to obtain this difficult and pioneering position. (a known lawyer, adviser to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry before World War II, later the legal adviser of the Israeli delegation to the UN).

Among the first teachers were Avraham Eliyahu Sandler, Mitkovsky, Masha Frenkel, Dudnik, Shilansky, Aharon Frank, Mosheh Frank, Fridman, Reizel Rozenblum (the daughter of A.E.Sandler), Geisinovitz (the father of the well–known Aba Akhimeir), Sambursky, later a professor of mathematics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Ash–Bartana, in due course a teacher of mathematics in the “Rehavya” high school in Jerusalem. Reuven Kaplan was the secretary of the school during all the years of its existence.

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Table 11

 

One of the tasks of the Hebrew High School education was to educate the youth in the spirit of Zionism and to prepare them for “Aliyah” to Eretz–Israel. Accordingly the subject of Eretz–Israel, settlement, the landscapes of the land and its geography were given high priority by the teachers and were popular with the pupils. Before they knew where Mont Blanc was, they knew about Mount Tabor and the Carmel, and before they heard about the Rhine and the Danube, they knew about the Jordan and the Kishon Rivers. The study of the Bible familiarized them with the history of Eretz–Israel and the love of the land.

Slowly the school emerged from its initial period and became a routine educational and cultural factor. After several years the school was a full high school with eight classes and two preparatory classes, and the first class graduated in 1925.

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During the next few years the numbers of pupils grew. They came from the adjacent towns of Vishtinetz (Vistytis), Naishtot (Naumiestis–Kudirka), Shaki (Sakiai) and others. By the end of the twenties and the beginning of the thirties, Kibart's pupils constituted the majority in the school, numbers being not the only important factor, but also the income from their tuition fees, which was the main part of the school's total revenue. (See Table 11: a letter from the Virbalis Hebrew High–School dated the 12.4.1923 to the Community Committee of Kibart regarding payment for tuition fees for 4 talented and well– behaved pupils, whose parents can not afford to pay).

Even the Purim and Hanukkah parties, arranged in order to increase the school's financial resources, took place in the hall of the “Palas” cinema in Kibart, because of the more comfortable situation of Kibart Jews.

Due to the growth of the school and the need for improved conditions, the situation of the old buildings having worsened, it was decided to replace them in a suitable modern building. The purchase or the erection of a new building entailed great expenses and of course most of the money was to be found in Kibart. The Kibart members of the Parents Committee wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to buy a suitable building in Kibart and transfer the school to their own town.

During the late twenties the only means of transport between Kibart and Virbalis was by coach and a single bus which belonged to a corpulent German named Tit, who spoke juicy Yiddish like a Jew. The pupils from Kibart would go to Virbalis on the crowded bus, with the older children sitting down and the smaller ones from the preparatory and the first grade sitting on their knees. Despite the crowding the mood was happy and the children enjoyed the trip. During cold winter days Tit's bus was stored away most of the time, as a result of which transportation was by horse–drawn sleds.

The strong desire of Kibart parents to move the high school to Kibart was therefore understandable. In fact it was decided to buy a two story building in Seinensky's yard, where later Alperovitz established a shirt factory, but because of the intense objection of people from Virbalis this decision was not carried out. Their arguments were both historic and economic: a) the high school had been established originally by the people of Virbalis, b) many of Virbalis' Jews had an additional income from accommodating and supplying meals to outside pupils. So it was decided to purchase Sudarsky's building in the main street opposite the public garden and to adapt it to its new purpose. Classrooms were renovated and for the first time rooms for nature studies and physics were available. Central heating, a novelty in those days, was also installed in the building.

In the middle 1920s Director Dr. Rabinson left the school and Mikhael Bramson was nominated to take his place. He was a tall and slender man, a strict disciplinarian, and was thought to be among the foremost teachers of the Lithuanian language. He lived in Kibart with his short and round wife who only spoke Russian. During these years most teachers changed, among them

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the Bible teacher Mr. Salant who was popular with the pupils. He emigrated to Eretz–Israel and taught for many years in Kibbutz Ein–Harod. Nature study was taught by Mr. Tsimbalist who also immigrated to Eretz–Israel. The Lithuanian language teacher was Mr. Katz, and English was taught by B.Shulgaser who was also an amateur actor and very popular in society. His wife Mrs. Shohat–Shulgaser taught German, was a strict disciplinarian and appeared in class elegantly dressed and made up, which was unusual in those times. Mr. Kizel, a quiet and modest man very popular with his pupils, taught Hebrew and literature in the higher classes. Mr. Lifshitz was the drawing teacher, but because pupils held this subject in low esteem, he suffered quite a lot from them. The teacher of mathematics was Tabakhovitz. and other teachers included Averbukh and Jerushalmi.

In 1934, the high school was closed by the government, and a pro–gymnasium was established instead, with Tabakhovitz as director. A year later he was asked to take over the position of director of the Hebrew High School in Mariampol.

M.Bramson, the former director of the Virbalis High School moved to Kovno and established the Jewish–Lithuanian High School there.

The High School in Virbalis was closed because of lack of pupils in the higher classes and the great deficit in its budget. The pro–gymnasium was a private school and was administered by a specially established company “Haskalah” whose chairman was Mikhael Shadkhanovitz, who often covered its deficits with his own money. This school carried on until Lithuania became a Soviet Republic in the summer of 1940, when the Hebrew Education Net, the pride of Lithuanian Jewry, was abolished.

 

Social and cultural activity

In 1922 a branch of the “Tarbuth” (Culture) organization, whose slogan was “The people, the Land and the Language of Yisrael” (Am Yisrael, Eretz–Yisrael and Sefath Yisrael), was established in Kibart. The local branch applied to the Community Committee for an allocation of 3,000–4,000 Mark per month for performances of cultural activities “ so that the Jewish Torah and its wisdom should not be forgotten”. The application was signed by six members of the branch, but only three of them could be deciphered: Sh. Goldberg, L. Rosin (the author's father), H. N. Telem. (see Table 12 below).

The intelligent youths in the town, who had arrived there during the war from the Vilna region, established a Society for the Arts. On their initiative musical concerts with singers, lectures on different subjects and amateur shows took place. In the thirties a Jewish director named Rubin who had relatives in Kibart escaped from Germany and arrived in Kibart.. He staged the show from the Jewish writer J.Gordin “God, Man and the Devil” in which all the actors were local amateurs, and it was tremendously successful. [Page 178]

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Table 12

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From time to time the Jewish theaters from Kovno and also known Yiddish reciters, like Yosele Kolodny, Hertz Grosbart and others, would bring their shows to Kibart.

The Jewish library received many books in Hebrew and Yiddish. Benjamin Vidomliansky was the librarian most of the time and held this position voluntarily.

There were also experiments in establishing a Jewish club and to open a reading room next to the library, but they failed. People blamed this on the Cafe–Restaurant “Der Russischer Hof” in Eydtkuhnen which played an important role in the history of Kibart's Jews. This Cafe was only several hundred meters from the border, had beautiful halls, a dance band always played, and from time to time performances took place there. Many Jews, mainly the so–called “Golden Youth,” would spend their time there. The anti– Semites called this place the “Juden Hof”. There was a tale about one of the waiters who once asked when the holiday was coming on which day the Jews are allowed to eat pork. He surely meant of Yom Kippur, when several of Kibart's Jews who did not pray in the synagogue, would go to eat in “Der Russischer Hof”.

In the twenties Kibart Jews went to the cinema in Eydtkuhnen, but later two cinemas were opened in Kibart, the “Metropol” and “Palas”, and there was no need to go Eydtkuhnen anymore. Once a big circus arrived in Stalupoenen, about twenty kilometers from the border, and many people went to the performances.

 

Religious affairs

In those years a large synagogue made of red bricks with two floors was built opposite the market square, the second floor serving as the “Ezrath Nashim” (Women's Hall). In the middle of the main hall there was the “Bimah,” a podium built of wood with beautiful carvings, whilst on the east wall there was, as usual, the “Aron haKodesh” (The Holy Ark) also built of wood with many engravings. The upper part of the building's walls had high windows made of colored glass, and there were several more rooms serving different needs. Adjacent to the synagogue was another building in which the bathhouse, the “Mikveh” and the library were housed.

The representative of “ Keren haYesod” in Kibart was Yehudah Leib Rosin (the author's father), the owner of a stationary shop. The representative of the fund in Lithuania was Eliezer Rosentsveig, who once a year would come to Kibart where a meeting would be organized in his honor, where he would deliver a speech and collect donations for the fund. The actual collection of the money was carried out by Y.L.Rosin, who would transfer the money to the center in Kovno.

“The Keren Kayemeth” (Jewish National Fund) representative in Kibart was Eliyahu Katz, the owner of a grocery shop. Most of the funds were raised by members of the Zionist youth organizations. On Rosh HaShanah eve, Katz

[Page 180]

would put up notices in both synagogues consisting of white sheets of paper, on which appeared the donors' names with the total sum every donor had given, the amounts of each appeal, and the general total amount of all contributors for the previous year, the letters and the numbers being written by hand in marvellous handwriting. The total sum each donor had contributed was written in red ink and this was, of course, a fact which led to competition among the wealthy of the town, as to who would appear first in the list.

 

lit4_180.jpg
The front wall of the great Synagogue in Sinagogos Street

[Page 181]

lit4_181a.jpg
Vidomliansky Iron Shop
Standing near the shop: Benjamin Vidomliansky in Vistytis street

 

lit4_181b.jpg
Zisle Leibovitz (the authors Grandmother)
Rosin stationary shop in Smetonos Aleja

[Page 182]

lit4_182a.jpg
The wedding of the author's parents 1920

Standing from left: Hanah Zalkind, uncle Meir Leibovitz, Mother Hayah, Father Yehudah–Leib Rosin, cousin Hayah Hilelson
Sitting from left: Grandpa Ya'akov Leibovitz, Grandma Zisle Leibovitz, Grandpa Dov Rosin

 

lit4_182b.jpg
The author's family living in Kibart from his Mother's side 1934

Standing from left: Cousin Aryeh*, cousin Avraham, the author Josef Rosin
Sitting from left: Aunt Sarah*, uncle Meir, Grandma Zisle, Uncle Barukh (Tel Aviv), Mother Hayah*, Father Yehudah–Leib Rosin*
Third line from left: Cousin Elyakum*, cousin Tsiporah*, sister Tekhiyah*
(The surname of all the uncles and cousins and of the grandma is Leibovitz)
(*)–murdered by the Lithuanians in July 1941
)

[Page 183]

Most of Kibart's Jews were not very orthodox, but rather traditional. Except for the Rabbi and the “Shohet” nobody wore a “Kapota” (a long coat) or sported a beard and side locks (Peoth). There were no “Hasidim” and as usual with “Mithnagdim” religious life in town was sedate and tranquil, without the enthusiasm of the “Hasidim”. On Saturdays and Holidays the synagogue was almost full with worshipers who had paid for their allotted places for the coming year in advance, before “Rosh HaShanah”. On “Rosh HaShanah” and “Yom Kippur” many people, who would not be seen there throughout the year, did come to the synagogue.

There was another smaller synagogue at the other end of town named “Ohel Yitshak,” named after Yitshak Sheraga Khashman, its initiator and a member of its committee until his death. Meir Leibowitz (the author's uncle) was their “Ba'al Kore” (the reader of the “Torah” with the proper tune), who fulfilled this duty until his death in 1940.

Until the twenties the Rabbi of Virbalis was also the Rabbi of Kibart. In the spring of 1925 the Community Committee decided to appoint a committee whose task it was to select a Rabbi for Kibart. This committee elected a sub–committee to negotiate with the Rabbi of Virbalis to give up his job in Kibart and also to publish an announcement in the newspapers about a vacancy for a Rabbi in Kibart. The twelve persons in the committee were: Sh.Goldberg, Sh.Davisky, J.Frishman, M.Naihertzig, H.Telem, Sh.Frenkel, Zholtak, Sh.Rakhmil, A.Katz, Y.Khashman, Sh.Maroz.

There were tens of applications from Rabbis all over Lithuania, some of whom the committee interviewed, finally selecting Rabbi Barukh Nahum Ginzburg, one of the founders of the religious education network “Yavneh” and a member of its center.

In the thirties he moved to Janenve (Jonava). Rabbi M.Rabinovitz, a member of the religious Zionist party “Mizrahi,” was elected in his place. He died in 1940 during Soviet rule in Lithuania. Neither of these Rabbis interfered too much in the community's affairs. Sheinzon was the cantor in the big synagogue, and the only Shohet (ritual butcher) in town.

 

Zionist and Public activities

The Zionist Organization was already active in Kibart during the first Zionist Congresses. After the Balfour Declaration its activities increased and the merchants of Kibart contributed generously to the National Funds. For example, in a 1922 newspaper article it was reported, that an agent of “Keren haYesod” (the fund of the World Zionist Organization) named Dr. Vilensky had raised $6,000 in one evening from the merchants of Kibart. It was known in Lithuania, that if it was necessary to raise funds for Jewish needs, it would start in Kovno the capital, and then continue in Kibart.

When in the beginning of the twenties the “Bank haPoalim” was established in Eretz–Yisrael, many Kibart Jews bought founders' shares in the bank.

[Page 184]

A branch of the “WIZO” (Women International Zionist Organization) organization was active in Kibart, its chairwoman being Hayah Rosin, Y.L. Rosin's spouse and the mother of the author of this book, but amongst those active in this branch Mrs. D.Shtern should also be mentioned. The branch arranged such activities as lectures, parties etc., and notices about these activities were displayed in the pharmacy window of Tilzer–Gershater. The biggest and most impressive event of the branch was the “Bazaar” which took place in the middle of the thirties after a festive opening in the hall of the “Palas” cinema. Among other items sold during this “Bazaar” was silver jewellery brought specially from the “Betsalel” art school in Jerusalem.

 

lit4_184.jpg
A group of Kybart youth with their guests at a party

First line from right: Z. Kovensky, A. Levit,––––,–, L. Vezhbelovsky, Fe1dshtein, Akabas, –––
Second line: A. Zarko, Rezvin, sisters Meyer, sisters Bronshtein Y.Filipovsky, L.Arnshtam,
Third line: Berezin, B. Shatenshtein, Y. Kovensky, D. Helershtein,. Muzikant

[Page 185]

lit4_185.jpg
A group of Kibart youth 1929/1930

Standing from left; –––, Yosef Bartenshtein, –––, –––, Yehudith Borokhovitz, –––, Zisl Kovensky
Sitting from left: Aryeh Shadkhanovitz, Pesha Yasovsky, Ze'ev Sheinzon, Miriam London, Mosheh Borovik
Laying: –––, Shalom Vidomliansky

 

On June 19, 1932 a parade marking the fiftieth anniversary of the “Khovevei Zion” (The Lovers of Zion) movement and the thirtieth anniversary of the “Keren Kayemeth leYisrael” Fund took place in Kibart. Bicyclists headed the parade, their wheels decorated with blue and white stripes, followed by marching members of “Maccabi” and a band playing. After them came “WIZO” women, and then the uniformed “haShomer–haTsair” members led by Joseph Bartenshtein and Aryeh Shadkhanovitz, and “Beitar” members led by Moshe Khashman. Many Jews joined the parade, which made its way along the main street and from there by bus to the town park in Virbalis, where the celebration ended with speeches, shows and dances.

The central office of “heKhalutz” organization purchased a farm in the vicinity of Kibart, naming it “Kibbush” (conquest), which was the biggest “Hakhsharah” (training) farm in Lithuania, where “Halutsim” (pioneers) candidates for “Aliyah” were trained in agriculture. The Zionist youth of Kibart and Virbalis were in close contact with this farm and supported it as much as possible.

In 1932 an “Urban Kibbutz” was established , consisting of a few tens of “Halutsim” and “Halutsoth”. It contained workshops for shoemaking as well as dressmaking and knitting for women and its members also worked in several factories in town, thanks to the unflagging efforts of Zisl Kovensky. The Kibbutz existed until 1936.

[Page 186]

lit4_186a.jpg
The main building of the “HeKhalutz” farm “Kibush” 1925

 

lit4_186b.jpg
Halutsim on “Kibush”

[Page 187]

lit4_187.jpg
Sinagogos street and a part of the market place

 

The daily Yiddish newspaper “Dos Vort” (Word) of December 17, 1934 published a story about a party which took place in this kibbutz on the occasion of the Aliyah of four girls (Halutsoth) and in honor of Z.Kovensky, who contributed much to the establishment and consolidation of the Kibbutz, and the party opened with a speech by the “heKhalutz” activist Yerakhmiel Voskoboinik. Generally Kovensky's house was the center of Zionist activity in Kibart, and all those delegates of “heKhalutz” and “haShomer–haTsair” from Eretz–Yisrael who came to Kibart, would be accommodated in Kovensky's house. At some time, the “Maon” (Club) of “haShomer–haTsair” was in an empty shop of this house, given to the movement free of charge, the equipment of the “Maccabi” sports organization being stored in Kovensky's storeroom. Contact with the “haShomer–haTsair” movement in Poland, which was much bigger and stronger than in Lithuania, was kept up through Z.Kovensky, who for this purpose rented a post office box in Eydtkuhnen. Material from Warsaw would be sent to this P.O.Box and Z.Kovensky would bring it from there and send it to the leadership of the movement in Kovno. It should be pointed out that until 1938 there were no direct diplomatic relations between Lithuania and Poland, and this was the only way to keep up in touch with the movement in Poland.

[Page 188]

lit4_188.jpg
The farewell party for Mrs. Vizhansky and Mrs. Shatenshtein to their “Aliyah”, arranged by the “WIZO” committee in Kybart 1933

Sitting from right: Sarah Leibovitz, ––, –, ,–– ,Vizhansky, Shatenshtein, Hayah Rosin, Bartenshtein, Dobe Shtern, Zisle Leibovitz

 

Z. Kovensky, who was on good terms with the gendarmes at the border crossing, used to take young “Halutsim” across the border to Eydtkuhnen on their way to Eretz–Israel before recruitment to the Lithuanian Army, fixing the passage for a few hundred Lit. All “Olim” (emigrants) to Eretz–Yisrael went by train and thus passed through Kibart station, where more people who would also join them, making this a joyful, exciting and sometimes also an amusing event. In order to utilize every “Aliyah Permission” (Certificate) which the British mandatory authorities agreed to grant, every “Halutz” married some girl fictitiously and thus brought her to Eretz–Israel legally too. There were cases when the fictitious couple met at the station in Kibart for the very first time, and sometimes shouts could be heard of someone looking for his “wife” whom he had never met before. There were years, mainly in the thirties, when every few weeks groups of “Halutsim” passed through the Kibart railway station. Lots of Jews would fill the station, and the cylinder shaped hats with a badge on them worn by gendarmes who were at least 1.80 meter tall, could be seen over the heads of the crowd.

[Page 189]

lit4_189.jpg
Kibart youth at the “Urban Kibbutz” of “heKhalutz”. December 1935

First line, from right: Tuviyah Yasovsky, Yerakhmiel Voskoboinik (Khalutz), Benyamin Vidomliansky, , Shalom Vidomliansky
Second line: Yisrael Ziman, Mosheh Svirsky, Batyah Slavotzky, Avraham Khashman,
Third line: 3 Khalutzoth

The “haShomer–haTsair” organization started off in Kibart in the early twenties, and many children and youths received their Zionist education in this movement. Because of the semi–fascist rule which existed in Lithuania during most of its independence, this movement was called “The Hebrew Scouts Organization haShomer–haTsair” and to the outside it really appeared as such. The uniforms and the activities were similar to scouts, only in the “Maon” there were discussions about Eretz–Israel, socialism etc., everything according to the age of the members. Among the members of the movement in Kibart who emigrated to Eretz–Israel and of whom some of them joined Kibbutzim there were: Jehudith Borokhovitz–Jaron, Shelomoh Blotnik, Sarah Blotnik–Harari, Joseph Bartenshtein, Hana Staravolsky, Avraham Leibovitz–Ben Yehudah (the author's cousin), Mosheh Melamed, Mosheh Borovik, Shalom Vidomliansky–Shakham and others.

Amongst the leaders of the branch of the movement there was Z.Kovensky, who filled this position for many years, as well as Mosheh Borovik, Joseph Bartenshtein, Avraham Leibovitz, and lastly Yekhiel Feferman who perished in the Holocaust. (see table 15: “haShomer – haTsair” membership card of Z.Kovensky, written in Hebrew and Lithuanian).

[Page 190]

lit4_190.jpg
Table 15

[Page 191]

lit4_191.jpg
Kybart youth with Ya'akov Kovensky who came for a visit from Eretz–Israel, 1935

First line from right: A.Rezvin, Y.Mirbukh, Shatenshtein, B.Vidomliansky, B, Tsikhak
Second line: R.Berniker, M.Khlamnovitz, F.Tilzer, Gershater, A.Shadkhanovitz, Y.Gidansky Sh.Borokhovitz
Third line: S.Frenkel, S.Manheim, ––––,, Y.Kovensky, Gershater
Fourth line: Gershater, Sh.Bartenshtein

 

In 1929 a branch of the “Beitar” movement was established in Kibart. At the peak of its activity the branch had about 40 to 50 members aged 10–18, its activities including scouting, the geography of Eretz–Yisrael, military drill, trips, camping in the woods and also sports activities such as table tennis and football. The heads of the branch were Aryeh Apriyasky (lives in Peru), Zalman Panush (died in Israel) and from 1936 Avraham Rutshtein (exiled to Siberia and died there). From this branch Shemuel Panush, Rivkah Panush–Shemesh, Shemuel Frenkel and Yitzhak Berniker emigrated to Israel.

David Gamzu, the owner of the “Textilia” factory, was among the active “Revisionists” (the right wing Zionist party) in Kibart, and the main sponsor of the party's newspaper “Unzer Moment”.

[Page 192]

lit4_192.jpg
The group “Gesher” of “haShomer–haTzair” in Kybart, 1926

Standing from right: Mordehai Melamed, Aharon Shapira, Ya'akov Kovensky, Eliezer Blotnik, Zisl Kovensky, Shemaya Borokhovitz, Shemuel Abramson, Joseph Shapira

 

In the following table one can see how the Kibart Zionists voted at Zionist Congresses in the years 1927–1935, once every two years:

 

Year 1927 1929 1931 1933 1935
No. of members 107 250 123 200
No. of votes 61 90 82 155 165
Zionist Socialists 11 16 9    
Tzeirei Zion 15 19 31    
Labor Party       92 117
Revisionists 4 1 13 31  
General Zionists A 16 30 13 13 15
General Zionists B         6
Grosmanists       1 2
Mizrakhi 15 24 16 18 25

[Page 193]

lit4_193.jpg
A group of “haShomer–haTzair” members in Kybart 1929–1930

First line from right: S.Yurkansky, Z.Kovensky, H.Toker, Y.Lubotsky, Hofman, J.Borokhovitz,
Second line: Y.Kovensky, M.Melamed, H.Ofseyevitz, Sh.Blotnik, A.Shapira, Pintchuk, Sh.Abramson, M.Svirsky, S. Shapira
Third line: H.Kisetz,–––, Magiliuker, Sh.Zarko, M.Linde, A.Katsizne, S.Yebart, E.Blotnik

 

The sports activities centered around the “Maccabi” branch, which was not a political organization and therefore included members of other movements. This branch had a group for gymnastics, a football team, and in the twenties had 85 members. (see table 16: “Maccabi” membership card of Z. Kovensky).

About 200 people from Lithuania participated in the second “Maccabiya” in Tel–Aviv in 1935 and most of them remained there, which included several young people from Kibart.

Among the activists of “Maccabi”” were Sh.Volovitzky, Dov Sheinzon and others.

The left wing circles in the town, who did not like the Zionist orientation of “Maccabi,” established another sports organization “J.S.K.”, but it lasted for only one year and closed down in 1926.

[Page 194]

lit4_194.jpg
Table 16

[Page 195]

lit4_195a.jpg
“HaShomer– HaTzair” organization in Kibart, 1932–1933

First row, standing from right: Sarah Jofe, Shifrah Fink, Brahah Sheinzon, Mosheh Khlamnovitz, Moshe Helershtein, Gotlib Borovik
Second row: –––, Joseph Bartenshtein, Yerakhmiel Jofe, Bebka Tsikhak, Mosheh Svirsky
Third row: Sarah Mandelblat, Perelz Kliatchko, Fruma Sakharovitz, Elkhanan Halperin, Dov Shtern, David Shadkhanovitz, Yehiel Feferman, Yitshak Skrobiansky, Grinshtein, Joseph Rosin, Aryeh Leibovitz, Avraham Leibovitz
Fourth row: L.Tsikhak, Tsevi Bromberg, Mendel Vizhansky, –––, –––, Borovik, Ze'ev Sheinzon, ––– Rosa Senensky, Rivkah P., B.Borovik

 

lit4_195b.jpg
The soccer team of “Maccabi” Kibart 1926–27
(Second from left: Gershonovitz and his son)

[Page 196]

lit4_196.jpg
HaShomer HaTsair organization in Kibart 1937–1938

First line above from right: Sarah Yofe, –––, Mosheh Khlamnovitz, Emanuel Voltchansky, –––.
Second line: –––, Yafah Froman, Avraham Leibovitz, Yosef Bartenshtein, Esther Ozerov, Dov Shtern, Yekhiel Feferman, Hayim Borokhovitz, David Levin, Max Vizhansky
Third line: Nehamah Levin, –––, Fruma Sakharovitz, Doba Skrobiansky (?)
Fourth line: –––, Bobe Borovik, Shalom Vidomliansky, Yerakhmiel Yofe, –––, –––, Sarah Mandelblat, Tehiyah Rosin
Fifth line: Miriam Landau. Yente Levin, Margolis (?), last in line– Zalman Epshtein
Sixth line from right: second–Levin, fifth– Yitshak Zakharik. Last–Michael Davidson

[Page 197]

lit4_197a.jpg
A group of Kybart youth 1933–34

First line from right: Yurzditzky, Sh.Borokhovitz, S.Manheim, R.Voltchansky, B.Vidomliansky, A.Shadkhanovitz
Second line: M.Shtern., E.Taburisky, Z.Kovensky, N.Rakhmil, Rog
Third line: M.Dembo, S.Frenkel, Fainzilber, –––, –––, A.Apriyasky

 

lit4_197b.jpg
The founding committee of “Maccabi” Kibart, 1924

Sitting from right: Frenkel, –––,, Sh.Volovitzky, J.Filipovsky, Beker Standing: Y.Levit, Jafe, Vald

[Page 198]

lit4_198a.jpg
“Beitar” youth in Kybart. The farewell meeting of A.Apriyasky's departure to Peru and Fima Frenkel's departure to Memel

Second line from right: –––, ––, Tsevi Borokhovitz, Shemuel P., Shemuel Frenkel, –––, Fima Frenkel
Third Line: Zelma Frenkel, Niuta Rakhmil, Avraham Rutshtein, Aryeh Apriyasky, Rivkah P, Shatenshtein, Nehamah Levin

 

lit4_198b.jpg
The soccer team of “Maccabi” Kibart 1932

[Page 199]

lit4_199a.jpg
A Kibart youth group 1936

First line from right: Beirakhovitz, Z.Kovensky, Khlamnovitz, A.Shadkhanovitz, B.Vidomliansky, S.Frenkel, Gershater, B.Tsikhak, R.Yasven, N.Rakhmil, R.Berniker, Z.Borokhovitz, A.Borokhovitz, A.Lakovsky, M.Svirsky
Second line: E.Taburisky, Sh.Bartenshtein, –––, Z.Epshtein, E.Halperin
Third line: Gershater, D.Shadkhanovitz, I.Voltchansky, B.Tsikhak, –––

 

lit4_199b.jpg
A group of Kybart youth, 1932

First line, staying from right: Ze'ev Berzdovsky, Hana Sheinzon, Joseph Bartenshtein
Second line: Ze'ev Sheinzon, Sarah Yurkansky, Pesia Yasovsky, Benjamin Vidomliansky
Third line: Shifrah Fink, Jehudith Borokhovitz, Mordehai Borokhovitz, Khyene Berezdovsky
Fourth line: Rivkah P., Rosa Senensky

[Page 200]

lit4_200.jpg
The “Bar–Mitzvah” party of Mosheh Khlamnovitz 1934

First line from right: Yehiel Feferman, Shemuel P., David Levin, Dov Shtern,Yitshak Skrobiansky, –––,Hadasah Bartenshtein, Frida Shtern, Aya Khashman
Second line: Iser Kahanov, Aryeh Miltz, Yitshak Rabinovitz, –––, Shlomovilz, Mosheh Khlamnovitz, Havivah Khlamnovitz, Peretz Kliatchko, Yitshak Feinzilber, Hayim Borokhovitz, Gotlib Borovik
Third line: Shlomovitz, Mordehai Shtern, –––, –––, –––, Michael Davidson
Fourth line: –––, Yehudah Rabinovitz, –––

 

The Voluntary Fire Brigade, with remarkable Jewish participation, should be mentioned. Its station, in the main street near the government elementary school, had a wooden tower five stories high and on it a siren for alarming the volunteers. There was a storeroom with one or two water tanks mounted on a cart, a stand by hand pump activated by four people, also ordinary water containers and long hoses. When a fire broke out the firemen would stop passing carts, untie their horses and harness them to their equipment. This was taken for granted and a common custom.

Shoemaker Tzibulsky was among the Jews who for many years continued to do their duty in the fire brigade, and as such was decorated with many medals of distinction and for some time was even the chief of the brigade. Berniker the manufacturer also held this position for many years.

[Page 201]

lit4_201.jpg
The Kybart Volunteer Fire Brigade

First line, sitting from right: –––,–, Voltchansky, the mayor Budrevicius, Berniker, the medic Sher
Second line: Tsibulsky, H.Jofe, –––,–, Frenkel–––––––––

 

Welfare Institutions

During the German occupation in World War I, many Jewish refugees from Poland arrived in Kibart and by in 1918 a committee to care for them had been established. This committee cared for them very well, enabling some of them to return to their homes or to go on to other destinations, and for others it cared for their livelihood and existence.

Social help was very developed in Kibart, and the Community Committee had a budget of 10,000 to 12,000 Lit per year for this purpose. After this Committee was closed down its functions were transferred to the “Ezrah” institution, which did very well, having among its duties also “Ma'oth Khitim” (help for the poor for Pesakh) and the supply of heating materials for the needy. The chairman of this institution was J. Sh. Khashman for many years.

Over the years the budget for this institution shrunk and by 1935 it was only 5–6 thousand Lit. Taking into account that during the years many rich merchants left and the status of some of the people changed from having been donors to being needy, the activities of the “Ezrah” institution were certainly worthy of their name (Ezrah – help in Hebrew). There were also poor families who moved from other places to Kibart, thinking that that they would be better of living in Kibart, despite the fact that in their former abodes there were many

[Page 202]

more Jews. Parallel to the “Ezrah” institution was the “Linath–haTsedek” association, whose yearly budget was about 1,500 Lit.

Another association was “Gemiluth Hesed” which granted interest free loans to those in need. Its chairman was Mikhael Shadkhanovitz, who was very active in welfare matters.

The budgets of these institutions were financed from donations and from balls that were organized by local amateurs and sometimes with the help of amateur artists from nearby towns. On February 8, 1930, a ball took place in the hall of “Palas” cinema in Kibart on behalf of the “Ezrah” institution, with different shows performed by youths from Kibart and Virbalis and a band from Vilkavishk.

Another institution working on behalf of health care for children was called “OZE”. It began its activities in 1925 with a remarkable budget of 3,500 Lit per year, but ten years later its budget had decreased to only 1,500 Lit, with which they nevertheless did much good work. About 30 children received a glass of fresh milk and a roll every day, weak children received cod liver oil and 10–12 children were sent to a summer resort every summer, two doctors voluntarily practicing preventive medicine and giving medical help. The budget for these activities came from monthly donations of about 50 members, from a one–time fund raising affair and from a yearly ball, the income of which was dedicated to “OZE”. Another important action of the Kibart Community at the end of the thirties was to send 10 youngsters to study on its account to the “ORT” vocational schools in Kovno.

Generally Kibart distinguished itself by its generosity not only to local institutions, but “delegates” who came to raise funds for outside institutions did not leave the town empty handed.

In the thirties the Yiddish “General Jewish Encyclopedia” began to be published. There were 10 subscribers in Kibart and compared with much bigger Jewish communities this was a remarkable number.

Another example of the nature of Kibart as a large city was the fact that people addressed each other by their family names – Mr. so and so – and not by a nickname as was common in most of Lithuania. Generally people in Lithuania did not know their neighbors surnames because everybody was called by his nickname, according to the village his grandfather had come from, or by his occupation, or by the name of his mother or grandmother or by a nickname which had been passed on from father to son for generations. Even the Yiddish was a little different in Kibart, the vowels “oi” being pronounced “au” in some words. For example, instead of pronouncing “Boikh” (belly) it was pronounced “Baukh” like in German. The letter “H”' was pronounced correctly and not like in other places “A” or “O” instead. Also the “Sh” and the “S” were correctly pronounced and not like in other places, mainly in north Lithuania, where these two consonants were mixed up and caused many funny misunderstandings.

[Page 203]

Kibart today – March 2003, according to information I received lately from there.

The real authorities are in Vilkaviskis, and Kybartai today has only a “seniunas” of a little “seniunija”. It is much smaller than “valscius” (county) .”Seniunas” has much less rights, finance and possibilities comparing with pre–war “miesto burmistras”(mayor). This doesn't refer to the new quarters in town built 30–40 years ago.

Only several three story buildings were left in Kybartai after World War II. The town became ugly and dirty –compared with that what can be seen in pre–war pictures.

The town does not enough money for electricity to lighten the streets in the evenings. In 1900 Kybartai already was the first town in Lithuania with municipal electric lighting.

 

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