A small town in Southern Lithuania
Where the Jewish Community is no more
With the help of material from the magnificent article by Josef Rosin I am attemting in the following pages to give some small picture of Jewish communal life in Vilkaviskis before it was all tragically destroyed in the summer of 1941.
Shtetl Life - Social Welfare
Many welfare institutions were active in Vilkovishk: "Gemiluth Chasadim" (ran a "Pinkas" from 1800); "Maskil el Dal" (their "Pinkas" dates from1880) giving loans to the needy without interest and small payments for returning the money; "Mathan BeSeter" which helped people whose economic situation had deteriorated and who were embarrassed to ask for help; "Maoth Chitim" provided the needy with necessities for "Pesach". In 1910 all four institutions were united into one big institution "Tsedaka Gedolah". "Hachnasath Kalah" helped poor brides; "Linath haTsedek" supplied poor passers-by with food and accommodation; "Bikur Cholim" helped needy patients and sent them doctors and medicines. There were also Jewish public baths and several "Mikve". In 1912 the community built a magnificent "Home for the Aged" with a lovely garden
The old synagogue and the other prayer houses which existed before the war, continued to fulfill their mission after most of Vilkovishk Jews returned home. All the societies for learning Judaism were active again as was the "Chevrah-Kadisha".
During all this period the Rabbi of the community was Eliyahu-Aharon Grin (1875-1941), who was murdered in the Holocaust.
After the disbanding of the community committee in the middle twenties, the welfare activities were transferred to the "Ezrah" society, which together with the "Adath Yisrael" society had about 120 members who donated about 500 Litas per year. These societies helped the poor, arranged fund raisings (as for "Maoth Chitim" for Pesach) and also initiated special welfare activities.
The pride of the community was its "Home for the Aged" which also had a nursing department. Its budget was covered by donations and by a regular allowance from the municipality (2,000 Lit. per year).
The "OZE" organization dealt mainly with Jewish school children, and its clinic was open twice a week. The municipality supported it with 2,400 Lit. per year (1932).
The welfare institution "Maskil El Dal" who gave interest free loans to the needy, renewed its activity in 1918 at the initiative of J.M.Levinovitz, its director for many years.
Postcards of the Jewish Old Age Home in Vilkaviskis with the kind permission of Hana Slutzki of Kibbutz Maoz Hiam.
Today what was the Jewish Old Age Home is the Vilkaviskis Regional Hospital
Remembering the Jewish Old Age Home
As part of Yossi Ankorion's Plaque Project Yossi produced a plaque commemorating the Jewish Old Age Home . Today the building is part of the Vilkaviskis Regional Hospital
This pictures show the unveiling of the Plaque by Eli Rutstein who was born here also pictured with our friend Mr. Algis Vaskevicius
The original OZE (Obshchetsvo Zdravookhraneniya Yevreyiev, Organisation for the health protection of Jews), was created in 1912 in Saint Petersburg by doctors, to help needy members of the Jewish population. Branches were established in other countries. In 1923 the organization relocated in Berlin, under the presidency of Albert Einstein. In 1933, fleeing Nazism, it relocated again, this time to France where it became the Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (Society for Rescuing Children), retaining a similar acronym.
The OSE in Vilkaviskis
Children at an Ose Summer Camp, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, 1928
Children at an Ose Summer Camp, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, 1930
Children in OSE Summer Camp, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, 1930
Dr. Shapira at an OSE Clinic. Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, c.1920
OSE Day Care for Orphans. Vilkaviskis, Lithuania 1924
OSE playground, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, summer 1928
OSE playground, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, Summer 1930.
OSE Summer Camp, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, 1927.
Sports class at the OSE school for boys, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, 1926
Children at the 'Kultur League' Day Care Center, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, 1924
Free meal for the city poor, Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, 1925
The Jewish Old Age Home Bet Avraham 1909-1941
Laying the Foundation Stone 1909