Historical Jewish quarters in Zarasai

WORTH VISITING:

Zarasai was a birth place of a world-famous painter Jehuda Pen, who was born in the 19th century, studied painting in Saint Petersburg and  later established an art school in Vitebsk. This art school was a first artistic home for many famous artists at the beginning of their paths, one of them being world-famous modern painter and graphic artist Marc Shagal. J. Pen was his first painting teacher. The great work of Jehuda Pen and its students is constantly celebrated in Zarasai with exhibitions of their works, which make this town in Eastern Lithuania an oasis of both lakes and modern art.

HISTORICAL GLANCE:

In the 1890s there were about 3000 Jews in Zarasai, it constituted approximately half of all town`s inhabitants. About one third of Zarasai Jews worked the land and the rest of them were tradesmen and craftsmen. During the interwar period a majority of town`s surroundings went away to Poland (after it adhered Vilnius region), and that meant losses for the local economy. Two thirds of Jews were migrating to the bigger industrial cities, but those who left successfully developed their businesses further. In the 1930s Zarasai, in the city center there were 95 local Jewish craftsmen and 40 out of 50 local shops belonged to Jews as well. It is worth mentioning a local printing house, where during the interwar period local weekly newspaper “Zarasų kraštas” (en. “Region of Zarasai”) was being published, a professional photo-atelier owned by M. Botvinikas, where one could buy the first radio sets in Zarasai and also the attraction for the interwar citizens of Zarasai – carbonated water workshop owned by  A. Pitelis.

THE CURRENT SITUATION:

In the 19th century Zarasai there was a spitzol, mikveh and wooden synagogue, which last mural version built in 1860 is extant to this day and known to locals as the great beit midrash. At the end of the 19th century wooden prayer house was built in a close distance to the mural synagogue and citizens of Zarasai called it the small beit midrash. It`s building is also extant to this day and helps us to remember local Jewish history, even though it is being used as an apartment house and we can only admire it from the outside.

LOOKING AROUND:

The small beit midrash (Bajorų str. 14), 55.731922, 26.242103

The great beit midrash (Sinagogos str. 3), 55.734225, 26.243228

Monument commemorating the victims of Holocaust, 55.706000, 25.983000

Printing house established by Kovneris, and later administered by D. Šteiman and E. Rozman  (Šiaulių str. 28), 55.736211, 26.244233

The old Jewish cemetery (Šaltupė alley), 55.738353, 26.235517

Jewish cemetery at Kauno street, 55.717250, 26.231653

Photo-atelier of Moisiejus Botvinikas (Sėlių str. 23-24), 55.732106, 26.247086

Carbonated water workshop  owned by Abelis Pitelis G (Sėlių sq. 2), 55.730917, 26.244598

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