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  J O N A V A,  L I T H U A N I A  


Jonava is located in central Lithuania, at coordinates: 55° 05' N / 24° 17' E

- 19.8 miles NE of Kaunas [Kovno]
- 7.4 miles SSE of Zeimiai [Zheim]
- Presently in Jonava District
- Formerly in Kaunas [Kovno] District; Kovno Gubernia

Jonava is the current Lithuanian spelling.
In Yiddish it was known as Yanova or Yonava.
Other names include Ionava, Jonavos and Janów.



Jewish Population (Based on Census Pre-War Figures) = 117 [Ed: Way too low; incorrect]
From Black Book of Localities Whose Jewish Population Was Exterminated By the Nazis
Published by Yad Vashem, 1965, Jerusalem



About Jonava
From Yahadut Lita (Lithuanian Jewry), Volume 3
Published by The Association of The Lithuanian Jews in Israel, 1967, Tel Aviv


(Jonava) - Kovno District




Yanova, 18 miles northeast of Kovno, is located on both banks of the Vilia (Nerys) River, along the Libau-Rumanian rail line. A narrow-gauge train connected it to Vilkomir. The road connecting Warsaw and Petersburg passed the town. The area was surrounded by thick forests.

A small Jewish settlement existed about 100 years ago in the village of Skarull (Skarouli), which is on the left bank of the Vilia River. Remnants of the Jewish cemetery stood at the edge of this village. At the end of the eighteenth century, the Jewish community began to be concentrated on the right bank of the river on land owned by noblemen named Kosakovsky.

Princess Maria Kosakovsky founded the town and invited Jews to settle there. Jewish settlement began in 1775.

In 1847, the Jewish community numbered 813. In 1897, the Jewish population was 3975, 80% of the general population.

A large fire damaged the town in the early 1890's. In 1905, almost the entire town burned down; 75% of the buildings were destroyed, but soon after were rebuilt in brick and stucco.

In 1915 during World War 1, the Jews were exiled by the Czar, mainly into Russia. Some concentrated in Vilna and returned at the time of the German conquest.

At the end of the War, in 1918, Jews began to return to the town from Russia. The town rabbi, R. Haim-Yitzhak Shilman, returned, along with public figures Abba Pagirsky, Haim Levine, Shmaryahu Stern, Yakov Gloz, and A. Abramson. They began to reorganize the Jewish community. The Talmud Torah was reestablished, with veteran Hebrew teacher Saul Keidansky as principal. A small yeshiva was founded. An interest-free loan charity for craftsmen and shop owners was established and later became part of a large Jewish bank. Institutions, including Bikur Holim and Linat Hazedek, were reorganized.

Jews formed a majority on the City Council. Haim Levine served as Mayor. In 1921, the Jewish population was 1800, and in 1932, it was 2710, 65% of the general population. Prior to the Holocaust, approximately 3000 Jews, 60% of the population, lived there.

Natural conditions and its geographical location favored the economy of the town. The forests provided lumber for export and raw materials for building and industry (furniture, matches, etc.). Trade in lumber supported hundreds of jobs for workers employed in cutting down trees and transporting them on the Vilia. The latter were called "water people." The sights of bonfires on the transport rafts at night and the voices of singing that broke the stillness of night were a regular part of the town environment.

The town was a center for all the little villages in the vicinity. There was a market day twice a week. Jews engaged in marketing agricultural products (grains, large animals, chickens, fruit, etc.), both within the country and as exports. Many families in the villages earned their livelihood in small shops and crafts. In 1939, 140 members registered in the association of craftsmen. This membership included 25 shoemakers and seamstresses, 20 blacksmiths, 26 carpenters, 10 bakers, 8 painters, 9 scribes, 3 tinsmiths, 3 watchmakers, and others, such as iron-workers, plasterers and butchers. Dozens of families worked in the transport of freight and passenger traffic to Kovno, Vilkomir and other places. They were wagon-owners. In the 1910's, the horse and wagon was replaced by machines and autos. Many sold their horses and became drivers or automobile owners.

The furniture industry played an important role in the economy of the town, employing 600 workers. Several hundred Jewish workers were employed in factories producing parquet, matches (owned by the Burstein family), and sugar, in sawmills and in 4 flour mills.

The Jewish Peoples Bank had a membership of 560 in the year 1929 and was administered by A. Abramson and Shmaryahu Stem, chairman of the bank council.

Unlike most towns of Lithuania, Yanova was healthy economically. The Jewish community consisted primarily of working people - men with muscles, working hard during the week and religious in their observance of the Sabbath. When the need arose, they could react using their strength against wild hooligans and in pogroms against the Jews.

At the end of the nineteenth century, emigration to the U.S. and South Africa began. The number of emigrants went alternately up and down. The ones who left maintained connections with the town. They gave support to needy relations and helped with public projects.

The Jewish community had religious and secular groups, scholars and Maskilim, Hasidim and working people. There were 7 houses of prayer: the Great Synagogue, the Great Beit Midrash, the New Beit Midrash, the kloiz of the Peddlers, the kloiz of the Stonecutters, a shtibl of the Chabad Hasidim and the Beit Midrash of Tiferet Bachurim. In addition, there were small prayer houses of various craftsmen. They served as the center of tradition, spiritual life and sometimes also as a center of public action in times of emergency. At the prayer houses, there were many active societies of Six Orders of Mishna (Shas), Mishnayot, Chayei Adam, and Megidai Tehilim. The Yeshiva was founded by Yehuda Gorfunkel and administered by him from 1902-1914, and afterward by Mendel Dietch. There were also numerous cheders.

During Independent Lithuania, there were 3 ethnic schools - a Tarbut School (administered by Shaul Keidansky), a Yavneh School, and a Yiddish school. About 100 students studied in these schools. Many went to the high schools and to the Lithuanian university in Kovno. There were three libraries: the Zionist, the Yavneh, and the Yiddish libraries.

In the town was a hospital, an interest-free loan fund, a dowry fund for poor brides, a hostel for wayfarers, maotchitim and a bath-house. At the beginning of the present century, youth began to seek a secular education. During the political agitation in Russia at the beginning of the century, there were activists in Yanova from all the revolutionary parties. The bourse on Bolvoar Street was the scene of many stormy arguments.

Between the World Wars, public life crystallized around the two camps of the Zionist and the Yiddishists. Both did constructive work. They established schools, night classes, libraries, sports clubs and institutions for occupational training. The majority of the youth belonged to Zionist youth movements. Motivated by the Zionist youth, a "Pioneer House" was established. It served the pioneer group and was a center for Zionism and a place to learn different vocations.

Of the first Pioneer group from Lithuania to make aliyah at the end of World War I, one half came from Yanova. They joined various settlements in Palestine.

From the rabbinate: R. Yehoshua-Heshil Eliashzon; R. Moshe-Arye Halevy [died ca. 5652/1892. Before that he served as rabbi in Eishishuk and in Ponevezh; R. Haim Segal [a cantor from 5653/1893]; R. Haim-Yitzhak Shilman [author of "Zera-Yitzhak"]; and the last rabbi, R. Nahum- Baruch Ginzburg.

Scholars from Yanova: R. Abraham Shlomovitz; Professor Yisrael Davidsohn [scholar in Hebrew poetry]; Morris Vintshavsky [poet]; Dr. Avraham Meyerson [psychiatrist]; Natan Yonsavitz [Secretary of the Kovno Community and an historian, folklorist and founder of the Jewish museum in Lithuania]; Dov Zisla (Gazit); Rachel Zisla-Lavi [a leader of Hechalutz and one of the founders of Ein-Harod]; David Cohen and Yishayahu Kolviansky [artists]; Noah Stern [poet].

Public figures: Moshe Ivansky [a leader of the Socialist Zionists in Lithuania]; Shmaryahu Stern [built a building for the Tarbut School]; David Burstein [Chairman of Keren Hayesod and a member of the Zionist Center in Lithuania]; Zvi Levine [active in Betar]; and Menahem Mins/Miness [active in Socialist Zionists].

Editor's Note: The towns referred to above by their Yiddish names are, in Lithuanian:
[To be added]



Coat of Arms - Jonava was until the mid 18th century an Estate, owned by the Kosakowski family and named after Joannes Kosakowski. In 1750 Jonava received town and market rights, but it did not develop into a city. In 1923 proper city rights were granted, but development started after the Second World War. The present arms show a swan derived from the arms of the author Abraomas Kulvietis. The swan is portrayed like a heraldic eagle and the arms were granted on October 18, 1996.


Note: Some Jonava sections are under construction



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