Jewish Community of Panevėžys

Contact Gennady Kofman, chairperson of the Panevėžys Jewish Community; Jurij Smirnov, deputy chairperson, address: Ramygalos g. 18, Panevėžys, telephone: 8611 20882 email: Panevėžys Jewish Community webpage:

Activities of the Panevėžys Jewish Community The community includes about 75 people. The community holds various religious events, celebrates Jewish holidays and marks important dates on the Jewish calendar. They maintain close ties with public figures, embassy staff, the Rožynas High School in Panevėžys, the Gabrielė Petkavičiatė-Bitė Library and Christian religious communities. The Panevėžys Jewish Community organizes exhibits, the Jewish Cultural Days and international conferences, tends the Panevėžys Jewish Cemetery and carries out active social activities.

History of the Jews of Panevėžys

From the 17th Century to the First World War

Jews have lived in Panevėžys (Yiddish Pónevezh) since the 17th century. They came from the Ukraine and Western Europe and slowly settled in the town. In 1766 Jewish families built many new brick houses in Naujasis Panevėžys (New Panevėžys) which housed 254 Jews. The development of crafts and trade developed rapidly in Panevėžys at this time. Jews were engaged in the production of small trade items and goods, metalwork and timber processing. The Jews of Panevėžys were among the first to become involved in banking in Lithuania. Jews opened lending offices which lent to smallholder farmers.

There were 410 Jewish families for a total of 1,447 Jews living in Panevėžys in 1847. This community was close-knit and adhered to the life of the Torah and its traditions. Relations between Jews and people of other ethnicities were exemplary.

The Pónevezh Jewish community spared no effort to ensure that all their children would become literate, without regard to the social position their parents occupied. A Jewish primary school was opened in 1863 with five teachers and about sixty boys. The other children were taught at Jewish study houses. A religious school for girls was opened the same year. In 1897 the Jewish community had one main synagogue, built in 1764, and 12 houses of prayer. Panevėžys had 14,733 residents in 1904, of whom there were 3,088 Jewish men and 3,556 Jewish women. The population would have been higher if not for massive immigration to Hungary and North America.

Ten years later about 17,000 people inhabited the city of Panevėžys and surrounding areas. About half of city residents were Jewish. Before the First World War, there were 60 Lithuanians and 351 Jews engaged in trade in Panevėžys.