Between two Lithuanian historical capitals – Vilnius and Kaunas – lie two unique towns significant for Litvak history and culture – Žasliai and Žiežmariai. Both these towns were regional trade centers until the Second World War, which meant that four times during the year peasants came to these markets in order to buy non-everyday goods, which were usually sold by Jewish traders. Thus the towns of Žiežmariai and Žasliai tell the story about the importance of local Jewish tradesmen and craftsmen for the prosperity of the region.
The first knowledge about Jews living in Žasliai dates back to the 16th century – in 1555 they presented a complain to the king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania – Žygimantas Augustas, stating that the governor of Trakai region threatened them, and then the latter was punished by the king. Further historical data about this community is rather sporadic – in 1776 the inventory of Žasliai mentioned 23 Jewish households. It is likely, that during this period Jewish community began to establish itself in the city, because in the sources of 1782 the synagogue in the town is being mentioned and described as „wooden, big and operating without the permission of either king or bishop”. In the end of the 19th century there have also been a small wooden prayer house of Misnagdim Jews and very splendid prayer house of Hasidim Jews. Unfortunately, in 1905 the great fire destroyed the town and devoured all three synagogues; instead of previous wooden synagogues mural prayer houses have been built after few years. Today the former prayer houses stand opposite each other, they are separated only by the unpaved path.
THE CURRENT SITUATION:
The major streets where Jews have settled in Žasliai were Vilnius and Kėdainiai streets, most of local Jews lived in the streets surrounding the market square, which now is simply called the central square of the town. Nowadays there still are extant Jewish houses, where they had various shops. You can easily identify those houses by the wide doors leading to the street.
Hasidim synagogue in Žasliai (Vytauto str. 40), 54.864201, 24.589722
Beit midrash in Žasliai (Vytauto str. 38) 54.864007, 24.590021
Central square in Žasliai, 54.863889, 24.588889
Žasliai fireman headquarters (Vytauto str. 36), 54.863675, 24.589838