Zhusli is near Kushidar
(7 miles), Rumshishok (16), Zhezmir (7) and Veviya (15).
Only dirt roads connected them. It is surrounded on 3
sides by lakes, Lake Statkonishki, the "Liman" and the
third just called 'The Lake.' It was on the rail line
from Kovno to Vilna, and about halfway between the two.
In 1847, the Jewish
population was 836. In 1897, it was 1325, out of a general
population of 2000. Before the Holocaust, there were about
1200 Jews, constituting a majority of the population. The
Lithuanians, Poles and Russians lived in a separate
The town burned down several
times - the last time during World War I.
The train station was 3
miles away. Near it was a large neighborhood, which included
many Jews whose occupations required proximity to the
railway, in particular merchants in wood, grains and
Most Jews engaged in
small-scale trade, peddling, and crafts. There were tailors,
shoemakers, carpenters, barbers, butchers, blacksmiths and
Tuesday was market day. The
local merchants would buy fruits from the farmers in the
summer and sell them to whole-salers in Kovno. They also
exported berries, cherries and apples to Russia and Germany.
Some local wood and grain merchants also traded abroad. Many
people had their own small farms beside their homes, with a
vegetable garden, a chicken coop and a cowshed. Most people
raised goats. It was because of the goats that the people
requested (and were granted) that the train tracks be laid
farther from town.
The standard of living was
very low, and when the people could no longer sustain
themselves, many emigrated or were supported by their
relatives who had emigrated.
There were two large Jewish
prayer houses, a Tarbut School, 2 cheders, a library, a
Jewish Peoples Bank with 148 members, a volunteer fire
department (which acquired its equipment through donations
from former residents living in the U.S.), an association of
artisans, Maccabi and various Zionist organizations,
including Socialist Zionists, Revisionists, Mizrahi, and
Nationalists. Youth trained and prepared for aliyah at
various farms. Many of these pioneers were absorbed in
Palestine, especially on kibbutzim, including Givat Brenner,
Yagur, Dafna, Ein Harod, and Tel-Yosef. Some settled on
moshavim or in the cities.
From the rabbinate: R.
Yitzhak bar Shlomo-Zalman [later served as rabbi and teacher
in Vilna]; his son R. David [took R. Yitzhak's place. He was
the rabbi for 40 years until he died in 5591/1831]. The son
of R. David, R. Menahem-Mendel [served as rabbi from
5594-5634/1834-1874]; R. Shaul bar Arye-Leib; R. Yitzhak-Meir
Rabinovitz [later in Slobodka]; R. Yitzhak-Eliezer-Leifman
Sharshavsky [5643- 5648/1883-1888. Later in Nesvizh]; R.
Avraham-Haim Shas [grandson of R. David]; and the last
rabbi, R. Moshe Levine.
Halevy Katz [maggid in Courland]; Shimshon Shas [maggid];
Prof. B.Z. Halper [linguist and orientalist]; and A. Klaus
Editor's Note: The towns referred to above by their Yiddish names
are, in Lithuanian:
Kaisiadorys, Rumsiskes, Ziezmariai, Vievis, Kaunas, Vilnius