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'A Hole in the Heart'

Keidan's main synagogue square in the 1930s

It was said that if a Jew from Keidan was traveling, and someone asked where he was from, he would puff out his chest and poke a finger at his heart, replying proudly, "Me? I'm a Keidaner!" And so forcefully would he poke that it looked like the finger might go right into his chest. Thus people took to calling them "Keidaner mit griblen in hartzn" -- Yiddish for "Keidaners with holes in their hearts."

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Tombstone of Moshe Zusman Cassel
in Keidan's Jewish cemetery.

This site is about Keidan, where my grandfather was born. Known today by its Lithuanian name, Kedainiai, it is a town like many others, wiith a library, a chemical plant and some 28,000 residents, none of them Jews. But for 500 years, from the mid-1400s until Aug. 28, 1941, it was home to an important Jewish community, with scholars, merchants and artisans. An aristocratic legacy helped foster a pride that made Keidan stand out in the world of the old Russian Pale. Every shtetl was special to its inhabitants, but Keidan had what in Yiddish is called yikhes -- a lineage, a pedigree.

Here you will find  stories, documents and images relating to Keidan, an ongoing effort to preserve the memory of the commuinty that once thrived there. Through these pages, Keidaners and their descendents who now live all over the world can thus reach back and grasp a bit of their yikhes.

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Copyright ©1996-2011 by Andrew Cassel | Last update Dec. 29, 2011