Jurbarkas can be proud of the interesting and meaningful commemoration of historical Jewish community and its culture in the town. Although as in many other smaller Lithuanian towns there are not many extant Jewish heritage objects in Jurbarkas, the town has few memorial objects, that cherish the memory of local Jews – memory stones and Synagogues square memorial.
Since the 17th century Jews in Jurbarkas were involved in trade and craftsmanship. The first wooden synagogue in Jurbarkas was built in 1786, and after one hundred years another synagogue – this time a mural one with heating – was built in town for the winter prayers and gatherings. The later synagogue building was also used as a place for religious school and Torah studies. During the interwar period, two Jewish secular schools – in Hebrew and in Yiddish – were opened in Jurbarkas as well.
Already in 1918 Jews in Jurbarkas actively participated in the city`s politics – they constituted about half of the city council. And this fact is no surprise because the Jewish community in Jurbarkas at the beginning of the 20th century was a relatively modern one. Local Jews opened the first electric power station and the first petrol station in town belonged to Jakob Golde, who also ran the first busses in the city. At the beginning of the 20th century, another member of the local Jewish community, G. Freiberg, was considered the richest man in Jurbarkas. He owned electric power station, water-mill and sawmill.
However, for the meaningful life people always searched not only for a loaf of bread but for some fun as well. Jews in Jurbarkas contributed significantly to the development of leisure time activities in Jurbarkas – Icikas Geselovičius opened the first cinema theatre in the town called „Triumpf“, Isakas Fridmanas established a hotel “Versel” on Jewish street (nowadays – Kaunas str.), and Jewish printing house as well as a bookstore operated successfully in interwar Lithuania.
In 1941 with a Nazi occupation in Lithuania started the tragic annihilation process of both the Jewish community and its legacy in Jurbarkas. One of the first Jewish buildings that were ordered to be destroyed in the summer of 1941 was a breathtaking wooden synagogue. In 2019 on Kaunas street (previously – Jewish street), where this synagogue stood, Synagogues` square memorial was opened in order to remember the rich history of the local Jewish community. Dovydas Zundelovičius was a sculptor who worked on this memorial – Litvak himself he aimed to continue memorialization of Jurbarkas Jewish community and its heritage, which was started in 2018 when 11 memory stones were installed in the city in order to remember Berkoveriai family.
Today You can find the most extant traces of Jurbarkas Jewish community on Kaunas street (previously – Jewish street) and Darius and Girėnas street (previously – Raseiniai street ). These two central streets of the city were full of Jewish shops and craftsmen workshops. Another memory place of Jurbarkas Jews – a park nearby Darius and Girėnas street, which was called Tel Aviv during the interwar period (today this park is called Jurbarkas library park). It received such a name because due to its close location to the traditional Jewish quarter mostly local Jews spent their leisure time in this park. In summer there was a working Jewish-owned coffeehouse called “Riklerinė”, and in winter there was a skating ring in the park. Today You can take a walk through a symbolic Lithuanian Tel Aviv and reimagine the atmosphere here one hundred years ago.
Historical Jewish quarter in Vilkija
Mural synagogue in Čekiškė