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[Page 356]


(Svėdasai, Lithuania)

5541' N, 2522'

By Haikel Ayresh and Nachom Blacher

Translated by Batami Hertzbach

Translator's Note : I dedicate my efforts in translating this work to the memory of my mother's family who lived and lost their lives in Sviadoshz. My mother Celia Peres Yewlow, one of only three known survivors of the town, lost her father, Yosef Lazer Peres, listed below as Yossi - Hirsh Yankel's, her mother, Henne Rochel, their two sons Yankel and Sholom and their daughter Ester.


Sviadoshz was an idyllic, beautiful small Jewish town. The town was nestled between two large lakes, birch and pine woods, drenched in greenery and reflected on the lakes' waters.

Four straight rows of houses stood around all four sides of the market square, from which meandering streets led to the neighboring villages: Paloikishok, Slabe-Si-Le, Narunte, Lepe-Gire (Ester Malka Jacobson's inn stood in between Narunte and Lepe-Gire), Boten, Vikantzi, Naialitshi and Poirishik, where Yankel Zavisher lived for many years.

Nearby, there were many small Jewish towns. The closest Jewish communities were Vizhon, Oshpole, Kamai and Davink. Sviadoshz was located between Aniksht, Utian and Rakishok The nearest train station was in Ponemunak, 30 kilometers from Sviadoshz.

Our beloved hometown had a quaintly beautiful landscape. It was so quaint and attractive and its Jewish population was so exalted that it seemed a perfect fit in the beautiful natural panorama.

All the Jews of Sviadoshz were literate and knowledgeable in the Bible. There were practically no Jews who could not read at least a chapter in the Mishnah. Each man, at the conclusion of the workday, came to the synagogue to study a portion of the Talmud, a page of Gomorrah or to say prayers with the greatest intent of opening up his heart and soul.

In brief, there were Hasidim and Mitnagdim. In fact, in Sviadoshz the Hasidim were great scholars. In Sviadoshz all the Hasidim were Chabadnikers and they sent their children to study in Liubavitz. There were two synagogues: a Mitnagdic one and a Hasidic one. Lazar Blacher was the gabbai (warden of the synagogue) of the Mitnagdic synagogue and Sheftel Kaplan was the gabbai of the Hasidic synagogue.

Although the Hasidim and the Mitnagdim both had separate houses of prayer, yet they had only one rabbi and one shochet (ritual slaughterer). The Rabbi would pray one week in the Hasidic shul and one week in the Mitnagdic shul.

Sviadoshz had great teachers. The best scholars in town were Zalman Neimark and Moishe Yakov haCohen Farber. They would interview the potential Rabbi before he even arrived in Sviadoshz to assume the position of Rabbi. If the above mentioned authorities said that the Rabbi was in fact a qualified scholar, their word would in effect be the final recommendation indicating that the Rabbi should be accepted as the spiritual leader of Sviadoshz.

Before the First World War Reb A. Klatzkin was the religious leader of the Jewish community in Sviadoshz. He was a respected and renowned authority in Lithuania. Reb Joseph Halevi was the Rabbi after World War I. The shochet in Sviadoshz was also a notable scholar. Noshem Freedman was the shochet up until the First World War. He was also the Gomorrah teacher in the town. Following World War I he became the shochet in Rakishok.

There weren't any organized societies in Sviadoshz until 1914. Jewish children were raised in a religious and nationalistic spirit. There were religious schools. The teachers included the above-mentioned Noshem the Shochet, Yudel Uzshpaler, Abba-Elie and Aaron Yitzik. There was also a Russian elementary school where several Jewish children studied, most of whom were girls.

No one seemed to notice the lack of organized administrative societies or parties in Sviadoshz, yet a dynamic and modern life pulsated there. The above mentioned Zalman Neimark and Moishe Yacov Farber, who were the most prosperous Jews in town, had son-in-laws who were enlightened scholars who brought a new spirit into the community right at the beginning of the present century.

Moishe Jacob Farber, a Lubavitcher Hasid, would voluntarily tithe money from his own earnings to help pay the tuition fees for a cheder. He had a large fabric shop. He selected a young man from Dvinsk to marry his daughter, Hannah Arsh. The son-in-law taught torah to the people. He wrote newspapers and books. Since he was well-versed in the torah and a secular teacher, he was able to gather a circle of young people around himself. In spite of being a Hasidic Jew, Moishe Jacob Farber permitted his daughter, Miss Farber, to study medicine and then to practice in Rakishok. Her husband, Dr. Gendelman, was the dentist. They both, along with their children, committed suicide, when the Germans arrived in Rakishok.

Zalman Neimark, or as he was also known, Zalman the innkeeper, had a large hardware store and a roadhouse. His three sons-in-law were handsome, fine young men. The oldest son-in-law, Koifman Neimark, was a scholar and an adherent of the enlightenment. He helped raise the intellectual level of the town. The other two son-in-laws, Laibe and Gershon, were also scholars. After World War I Leibe became the head of the Yeshiva in Slabodke.

Zalman Neimark's son, Shabtai, was the Rabbi in Rogeve. Zalman's brother, Elia Neimark, was a scholar and his son, Shloime Neimark, was a lecturer in South Africa at Johannesburg University and is now a delegate in the UN as an economic advisor.

Leibe Moishe Epstein was a distinguished, proprietor and a scholar. His son Chaim Joseph was a great scholar and the son-in-law of Moishe Yacov Farber. Furthermore, Moishe Jacob's son-in-law, Rueben Rubenstein, was the former editor of "The Jewish Voice" in Kovno.

It is important to mention Toviah haCohen Kaplan and his son, Sheftel Kaplan, who was the town baker. Toviah had respectable sons-in-law. Toviah's son-in-law, Moishe Ayresh had two sons in South Africa, Haikel and Yitzhak. Leibe Wolfson was another one of Toviah's sons-in-law. He was educated, a very good chess player and a worldly, modern Jew.

Hirshe Kaplan Berger was a man of the people and a joker. He would deliver the merchandise from Dvinsk for the businessmen of Sviadoshz.

Bertzik Gafanovitz, or Bertzik the Tanner, was a respectable man. He was a good student and an intelligent man. Two of his sons now live in Capetown and another son lives in Israel.

The cantor for the High Holy Days in the Mitnaggedic synagogue was Zalman Berman, or Zalman from Tzik. He had a beautiful voice. He dealt with lumber and merchandise. He was a very hospitable man who would invite poor people home for the Sabbath or the holidays.

There were original and unique characters amongst the Jews. Mates the Shoemaker was a pauper but a man of exceptional integrity; Abba Blacher was an extremely forthright man and a hard worker. Shmuel Simanovitz was known as Shmuel haCohen. His sons were respectable young men and actively took part in all the social activities in town.

We could enumerate each family house by house, because each one of the Jewish families in Sviadoshz was praiseworthy, admirable and commendable. Sviadoshz included over 60 Jewish families. They were all good, decent people and lest we forget them, we will perpetuate them in our memorial book as much as we can remember, as much as we can name:
Hannah Arsh
Moishe Ayresh
Aaron Yitzak the Rabbi
Bere from Azubal
Itche-Pesach the peddler
Efraim the peddler
Osher the Shamos
Moishe Blacher
Abba Blacher
Rofel Berzan
Zalman Berman
Baruch Brom
Hirshe Kopel Berger
Lazar Henesh Blacher
Bertzik Gafanovitz the tanner
Hannah the shoemaker Gafanovitz
Fievke the Smith Herish
Noshem Vilkis
Shmuel Vineberg
Velve Vineberg
Peretz and Hene-Ite Vineberg
Leibe Wolfson
Velve the Shopkeeper
Leibush from Zavish
Reb Yosef Halevi
Yossi - Hirsh Yankel's
Mates the Shoemaker
Shmuel Segal
Zalman Neimark the Innkeeper
Meyer-Hirshel Neimark
Aaron Itche Neimark
Elia Neimark
Ure-Leib Neimark
Dubre and her daughter Chaya-Gittel Neimark
Michel Neimark
Sara-Esther Neimark
Shmuel haCohen Simonovitz
Mende Segal
Eidel Sklader
Rachel-Leah Swarin
Leibe Moishe Epstein
Chaim-Yosef Epstein
Lazar Padovitz
Artshik Payes
Moishe Yacov Farber
Chaim Itche Fulman
Noshem Freedman the Shochet
Liba the mailman
Koifman Neimark
Shloime the Smith
Hirsh Tarnagel

The Jews lived around the market place and along the neighboring streets. There was a well in the market place and the entire community drew their water from it. All the land in Sviadoshz was part of the landlord's court and in the course of many years the Jews bought the ground which became their communal property. Before World War One the town was part of Vilkomir County. A sheriff from Aniksht governed Sviadoshz.

In 1915 as the war's front drew near, the Jews of Sviadoshz fled fearing the imminent combat that would occur close to their town because the German/Russian positions were, in fact, at the little lake three viorst [1] outside Sviadoshz. For seven weeks the position of the front remained the same and during this period the Jews abandoned their established homes and fled to Russia: to Kalatz in Varanez Province, to Rostov, Penze, Astrahan. Only a few families in the flight stopped in Sventzion, where they waited out the war.

In 1920 all the Jews of Sviadoshz returned to their homes, except for 10 families who remained in Russia. It is notable that only a few houses were destroyed during this period. The good relations that were enjoyed between the Jews and Christians in Sviadoshz confirm this. Even the priest in Sviadoshz always maintained warm relations with the Jewish population.

A typical letter written by a boy living in South Africa to his uncle Itzik (Yitzhak) Ayresh in Sviadoshz written several years before the war.

Dear Uncle Itzik Leib Bayel!

May good fortune always follow you. You should know that we are all well, thank God, and anticipate nothing worse to come. Also I can write to you that I go to school and I am now in fourth grade and I am a good student. Gita is in first grade and she is a good student. She is good in Hebrew. And she is very good at singing and dancing. Tebele runs around in the streets. My little brother, Lifale is in a shtayalke.
[2] Furthermore I would like to ask you to send a little scarf. A new suit was sewn for me. Send me the scarf for Passover if you could. Also everyone sends regards. Be well.

From me your nephew Leibe Pakabitz

The youth went off to study. They were thirsty for knowledge. In general Jewish life in Sviadoshz flowed serenely. Each person was satisfied with his lot in life, with his own individual means. Each individual Jewish family had a small house, a garden, and its own sense of worth. Thick and vast forests stretched out around and around their town and the Jews believed in the Master of the Universe, that He would protect them from all evil. Their faith in the One above was great, and with much devotion and religious fervor they took great care to be observant in their religious lifestyle.

The social-economic situation of the Jews in Sviadoshz was the same as in all small towns in Lithuania. Approximately 30% if the Jewish population earned their living as shopkeepers. A large proportion were peddlers; others were ferrymen, orchard keepers, craftsmen, several flax merchants, a few lumber dealers. Montzic Berman was a lumber dealer. Yacov Shtolov was the town pharmacist. Hirshe-Kopel was the exporter.

Also, fairs were held twice a year. Gentiles from the surrounding villages and dealers from the neighboring towns would gather together.


The Germans, along with the help of the Lithuanians, left neither a remembrance nor a trace of the Jews of Sviadoshz. There are, however, Sviadoshzer Jews in South Africa, America, Argentina and Israel and, of course, in other lands. In brief it is estimated that there are approximately 10 families in Israel, 20 families in South Africa, 50 families in America, 8 families in Argentina.

We, the remaining Jews of Sviadoshz, must continue the beautiful traditions and the high morals of our beloved and admired town of Sviadoshz. The memory of Sviadoshz and its entire sincere and simple community, which was comprised of religious, observant and honorable Jews, must be held sacred and dear to all. May their memory live on forever!

  1. Russian measure of distance equal to .66 mile <return>
  2. a wood contraption for toddlers. It is a cross between a modern day walker and a playpen. Stationary and sitting low to the ground, it holds a standing child upright around the chest and under the arms so that the child's legs and feet are free to move around <return>


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