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[Page 285]

Šeduva (Shadeve)

55°46' 23°46'

Šeduva (Shadeve in Yiddish) is situated in the center of Lithuania, about 42 kilometers west of the Ponevezh (Panevezys) district administrative center. Shadeve was first mentioned in archival documents dating back to the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries its growth can be attributed largely to the construction of nearby Kovno-Riga commercial road. In the second half of the seventeenth century the town acquired the status of a county administrative center and became a commercial town with storefronts, shops and taverns. In 1654 Shadeve was granted the Magdeburg Rights of self-rule and a permit to run one weekly market day and four annual fairs.

Until 1795 Shadeve was included in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland in the same year by the three superpowers of those times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. As most of Lithuania, Shadeve became part of the Russian Empire, first under the jurisdiction of Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 in the Kovno Gubernia.

In 1798, Baron T. von Ropp bought Shadeve and the surrounding areas. The railway, constructed two kilometers away between 1871 and 1873, encouraged the local export trade of grains, flax and seeds to Liepaja in Latvia.

During the years of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940) and after, Shadeve retained its status of a county administrative center. In 1924 Shadeve acquired the title of a town with self-rule.

Jewish settlement until after World War I

Jews lived in Shadeve dating back to the fifteenth century. Rabbi Mosheh “HaGolah” was born in Sheduve in 1449 and lived there until he was 31 years old. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, on the initiative of Chartorisky, the deputy Chancellor of Lithuania, many Jews settled in Shadeve. In 1766 there were 508 Jewish taxpayers. They worked in the small trades, crafts and agriculture. By the end of the 1780s, there were 43 shops, probably all Jewish. Jews rented land upon which they cultivated vegetables and fruits that they sold to the merchants of Riga and St. Petersburg.

During the Polish rebellion of 1831, Shadeve Jews found themselves “between a hammer and a sword” and they suffered at the hands of both the rebels and the Cossacks who were brought in to suppress the rebellion. Cows and horses confiscated from the estates and from the rebels were herded to the camp of the Russian General Tolstoy. On July 2, 1831 seven Jewish merchants escorted by a policeman (Ispravnik) went to the camp of the Russian army intending to purchase the cattle. On the way a small group of rebels attacked the merchants, robbed them of their money and hanged them in the Pakalnishki Forest, in the vicinity of Shadeve. Only the policeman managed to escape.

In 1847, the Jewish population of the town was 1,211. In 1880 the Jewish population increased to 2,386 (63%) out of a total population of 3,783.

In the 1880s, during the great emigration of Russian Jews overseas (mainly to America), many Jews had to cross the border to Germany with assistance of smugglers. In Shadeve some Jews participated in the smuggling of emigrants over the border and were known not always to have treated the migrants fairly.

During the years of famine between 1868 and 1870, Shadeve Jews suffered considerably, consequently getting help from the Aid Committee in Memel. In 1871 and 1872, in spite of their own difficulties, 128 Shadeve Jews donated money to the victims of the great famine in Persia, and the Hebrew newspaper HaMagid presented the list of 128 contributors from the town (see Appendix 4)

Jewish boys received their education in Heder – like institutions. In 1879 a four-year grade school opened, and local Jews undertook to raise a fixed sum for its annual support. Rabbi Yosef-Leib Blokh, later the head of the Telz Yeshivah, established a Yeshivah in Shadeve. In 1910, following his move to Telz, Rabbi Aharon Baksht replaced him. Approximately fifty young men studied in this Yeshivah. Rabbi Baksht also formed the Shadeve Yeshivah Ketanah.

The great fire of 1871 destroyed 150 houses, and 300 Jewish families became homeless and destitute. In 1884 another fire affected 200 Jewish families reducing them to poverty. Zamut Jews, in particular Keidan (Kedainiai) Jews, donated considerable amounts of money to the victims. Having realized the gravity of the situation, Baron von Ropp, who owned the town and the surrounding areas, helped many Jews by providing building materials and funds for home reconstruction.

Public life centered on the synagogue and a few small prayer houses. In 1866, the Hevrah Kadisha inaugurated a beautiful synagogue in Shadeve. One of the most beautiful Aron Kodesh in Lithuania was added in 1895. Since 1902 a Somekh Noflim society, was formed; its task was to grant small interest-free loans to be repaid in small installments. Also the Zionist movement was active and had a mandate to raise funds for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael. The list of contributors for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael between 1883 and 1900, as published in the Hebrew newspaper HaMelitz lists names of 57 Shadeve Jews (see Appendix 3). The Bund party was active in the underground until World War I.

For a partial list of the rabbis who served in Shadeve before World War I see Appendix 1

According to the census of 1897, the population of Shadave was 4,474 of which 2,513 were Jewish (56%).

At the beginning of World War I Shadeve was almost completely burnt down.

During the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940)

Economy and Society:

Following the end of German occupation Shadeve Jews began to re-establish their businesses and social life. According to the first census carried out by the new Lithuanian government in 1923, the number of the Jews in town was only 916 (29%) out of a total population of 3,186, compared to 56% before the war.

General View of Shadeve

Following the passage of the Law of Autonomies for Minorities by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. In 1920 a Va'ad (community committee) with eleven members was elected in Shadeve: two from Tseirei Zion, one from the Mizrahi list and eight non-party men. The committee worked in all fields of Jewish life until the end of 1925.

In the elections for the municipal council of 1931 two Jews were elected among its nine members (Leizer Melamed and Berl Peim).

During that period the Shadeve Jews made their living in trade, crafts, light industry and agriculture. According to the government survey of 1931 there were 36 shops in the town, 31 of them owned by Jews (86%).

The distribution according to type of business is given in the table below:

Type of business Total Owned by Jews
Grocery stores 1 1
Grain and flax 1 1
Butcher's shops and cattle trade 6 6
Restaurants and taverns 1 0
Food products 7 7
Beverages 1 1
Textile products and furs 5 5
Leather and shoes 2 2
Haberdashery and household utensils 2 2
Medicine and cosmetics 2 0
Watches and jewelry 1 1
Hardware products 2 2
Bicycles and electrical equipment 2 1
Timber and heating material 2 2
Stationery and books 1 0

According to the same survey there were industrial 20 enterprises, 13 of them Jewish-owned (65%).

Type of factory Total Jewish owned
Power plants, metal workshops 1 1
Dresses, shoes, furs, hats 3 2
Textile: wool, flax, knitting 3 2
Sawmills and furniture 1 1
Flour mills, bakeries, food production 10 6
Other 2 1

In 1925, a Jewish doctor and a Jewish dentist provided services to the population. In 1937 thirty-seven Jewish trades people worked in Shadeve: eight shoemakers, seven tailors, six butchers, three barbers, two milliners, two tinsmiths, two needle trade people, one baker, one glazier, one bookbinder, one locksmith, one painter, one photographer and one saddler.

At the annual conference of the Trade Association held in February 1938, Y. Kolektor was elected chairman of the branch, Shimon Segal as the secretary and Lipa Pamuz as the treasurer.

The Jewish Popular Bank (Folksbank) played an important role in the economic life of the Shadeve Jews. Upon its establishment in 1927 there were 266 members, however in 1929 there were only 216 members.

The workers of the Folksbank

The economic crisis of Lithuania and the open propaganda against Jewish shops organized by the Association of Lithuanian Merchants (Verslas) resulted in deterioration of the economic situation of Shadeve Jews. A large number of community members needed support from their relatives abroad.

Two orphans who emigrated overseas became financially very successful. After a time one of them, Shemuel Bar, returned to Shadeve to donate generously to community institutions and to everybody who turned to him and, of course, to his relatives who had raised him as a child.

During these years many Shadeve Jews emigrated to America, South Africa and Eretz-Yisrael. One of these migrants was Reuven Shnaider who became one of the founders of Kefar Malal (named after Moshe Leib Lilienblum).

In 1939, there were 47 telephones listed, 17 of which belonged to Jews.

Relations between the Jews and the Lithuanian population were generally good, but deteriorated at that time. Often the Lithuanians would mock and make scornful comments on the Jews. From time to time attacks on Jews were instigated and there were libels against Jews. A few Shadeve Jewish men were known to react strongly to such incidents.

A market day in Shadeve

In December 1931 a blood libel against Shadeve Jews was instigated because a Lithuanian boy pretended to have disappeared. After the Nazis took control in the neighboring Germany and after the annexation of the Memel region in 1939 to Germany, the situation became worse. Attacks against Jews were reported in January 1940.

Education and Public activities:

Schools in Shadeve included a yeshivah, two Heder schools for boys and a Hebrew school of the Tarbuth chain. Its last headmaster was the teacher Fish. The Jewish public library had hundreds of books in Hebrew, Yiddish, German and Russian. A few youngsters studied at the Hebrew High Schools in Kovno, Ponevezh and Shavl. A few others were enrolled at the Ponevezh yeshivah while students with high grades studied at the public high school. All youngsters were able to speak and write Hebrew. From time to time cultural activities were organized. In 1935 a public performance of the 1907 play Got fun Nekome (God of Revenge) by the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch was organized.

A group of Hashomer HaTsair Scouts in Shadeve, 1923

Many Shadeve Jews belonged to the Zionist camp and all Zionist parties were supported. The results of the elections for the Zionist Congresses are given in the table below:

Year Total
Total Votes Labor Party
Revisionists General Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrakhi
14 1925 40
15 1927 35
16 1929 60 25 13 4 3 4 1
17 1931 48 35 6 6 14 3 6
18 1933 135 96 10 25
19 1935 281 255 132 15 45 47
21 92 68 44 5 N. B. 19

Among the Zionist youth organizations were HaShomer HaTsair with about 76 members and HeHalutz with 9 members (1932). In 1934 an urban Training Kibbutz of HeHalutz was formed in Shadeve. Sport activities were organized in the local branch of Maccabi with about 42 members.

Religious life centered on the old synagogue which held an Aron Kodesh with artistic carvings, also the new Beth Midrash and the smaller prayer houses. Shadeve had the oldest Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) in Lithuania.

The religious youth belonged to the Tifereth Bahurim and Beth Ya'akov movements (established in 1931).

The rabbis who served at that period were Aharon Baksht, who was murdered in the Holocaust and Ben-Zion Notelevitz (served from 1926). The last rabbi of Shadeve was Mordehai-David Henkin, who was murdered together with his congregation.

For a partial list of personages born in Shadeve see Appendix 2.

A group of Hashomer HaTsair Scouts around the camp table, 1924

The above article is an excerpt from “Protecting Our Litvak Heritage” by Josef Rosin. The book contains this article along with many others, plus an extensive description of the Litvak Jewish community in Lithuania that provides an excellent context to understand the above article. Click here to see where to obtain the book.



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