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"A Hole in the Heart"

This document is in four parts:

1: The community
2: Settlers in Israel
3: Rabbis, teachers
4: Famous natives

More History:

"The City of Keidan" by B.C. Cassel (1930)

"Worlds Gone By: Scenes from Keidan by H.Y. Epstein

"The Destruction of Keidan" by Dovid Wolpe

Memoirs and Stories

"The Old Bridge"
"Summer Swimming"
"The Talmud Society"
Theater in Keidan
A Hometown Wedding
"The Feldsher"
"A Greeting from Keidan (1939)
"The Coachman"

Still more about Keidan

"A Hole in The Heart" home page

Images of Keidan, then and now

The Keidan Cemetery Database

The Keidan E-mail group: Archives and how to join

Back to Contents page

Other links of interest

From "Jewish Cities, Towns, and Rural Settlements in Lithuania:"
Historic-Biographic Sketches by Berl Kagan

New York, 1991

Keidan (Kedainiai)

Part 4: Famous Natives: 

R. Arieh-Leib Katzenelenbogen, presiding rabbi of Brisk, great-grandson of "Knesset Yehezkel". 

R. Yechiel Helir , born 1814. Rabbi in Hlusk, Vilkovishk, Suwalk, Plungyan, where he died in 1863. 

Shneur Zaks , Born here 1815. In 1817 his parents moved to Zager. A self-taught member of the "Haskala" [Enlightenment] movement in Vilna, Dubne and Brod. Diligently studied Hebrew philosophic literature and learned languages, old and new. For a couple of years beginning 1840 was a private teacher in Zager, afterward two years in Rasein. From 1844 a non-enrolled auditor at the University of Berlin, attending the lectures of Prof. Scheling and others. For many years was a "guest at others' tables" [was unable to support himself] until 1856, when Baron Josef Ginzburg hired him as tutor for Ginzburg's son and grandchild in Paris. He remained there until the end of his life. Settled there, he was free to pursue his writing and research. His research embraced various aspects of Hebrew literature in the Middle Ages, particularly philosophical-religious thought and Hebrew poetry in Spain. Wrote for all the Hebrew periodicals of the 1840s, and in his own journals. Dr. Shimon Bernfeld writes of him: "In understanding the religious philosophy of Israel, he has no equal." Died 1892 in Paris. Micah-Yosef Lebenson dedicated a poem to him ("HaTehiah" Berlin, 5610 [1850]). His lineage: Shneur b. HaRav Tsemach , b. Rabbi Matityahu , b. HaRav Tsemach , b. HaRav Uri, b. HaRav Avraham Zaks , called Avraham Teitz .

R. Avraham Over-Yaffe , born 1823. Rabbi in Eiragole, Lazdei, where he died in 1908. 

R. Natan b. Moshe Levin , born in 1825. Presiding rabbi in Alyta, Abel, afterward Nikopol (Russia), where he died in 1898. Grandson of the sage R. Rafael Hamburger .

R. Meir-Mikhl Rabinovitz , born in 1830. For 20 years presiding rabbi in Shatt, afterward 20 years rabbi in Vilna, where he also used to hold classes for scholars. Died 1902.

R. Yehuda-Leib b. Avraham Over-Yaffe , born 1842. Lived in Lazdai. Author of "Even Lev" (Vilna, 5660 [1900]).

R. Chaim-Yirmiyahu Flensberg , Born in 1842, Rabbi in Shakai. Wrote many articles for the Hebrew press. His daughter Esther is the wife of the well-known Rabbi Rubinstein of Vilna. 

R. Shmuel b. Nisan Rapaport, born 1842 (1852?). Rabbi in Eiragole, from 1900 in Springfield (America). Died 1938 in Jerusalem. 

R. Arieh-Leib b. Akiba Luria (R. Leibele Antokolier ). He was called "The Keidan genius", a sign that he came from Keidan. In the 1860s he was rabbi and teacher in Vilna. Was a teacher of religion in the Vilna rabbinical seminary.

R. Zalman Magid Keidaner, author of "Minhat Marcheshat " [A Sincere Gift] (about Moses Montefiore).

R. Zalman-Aaron Dat, born 1859. Rabbi in Pushalat and Smilg, where he opened a pharmacy. His sons worked there, freeing him to study Torah and serve God. He donated his salary for many years to the building of a synagogue. Author of "Toledot Aaron " and of articles in the Hebrew newspapers.

R. Binyomin-Eliahu Remigolsky, Born 1871. Rabbi in Pilten, Vindau-Courland, Trestina, Stavisk, Graieve, Semiatits, where he died in 1930.

Binyomin Shlesinger, born 1876. From 1891 in America, where he was a well-known workers' activist.

Shmuel Shlapoberski , born 1882. Member of the city administration in Kovno and of the Zionist central committee in Lithuania. Published articles in the "Jewish Voice" about economics. Died 1949 in Petach Tikva.

R. Avraham-Eliahu b. Avraham Eliahu Kaplan , born here 1890, shortly after the death of his father, for whom he was named. He was not a rabbi or a judge, but his spiritual influence on Orthodox Judaism in Lithuania and Germany was great. He helped to establish the Orthodox educational system in Lithuania. He was also the author of "LaDor", hymn of the "Young Israel" movement, and was the movement's spiritual leader.

In 1919 he was invited to teach Talmud in Dr. Hildesheimer's rabbinical academy in Berlin. R. Avraham-Eliahu posessed sage-like qualifications, he even carried around with him a bold, magnificent plan for a new commentary of the Babylonian Talmud. Once when he was asked: What about Rashi's commentary? He answered: Rashi's commentary also requires a new commentary. The sage R. Isser-Zalman Meltzer calls him "the young giant." Both he and the sage R. Yehezkel Sarna emphasize the "holy impudence" of a plan designed to be a new explanation of the Talmud. The Chofetz-Chaim saw in R. Avraham-Eliahu the leader "destined to return the crown to its old glory". His introduction to his planned commentary in the Berliner "Jeshurun" is a deep, broad-reaching inquiry all by itself.


Moshe Fraser, born here 1840. Lived in Poneveszh, Vilna, Kovno and from 1870 in St. Petersburg. Everywhere he was occupied with instruction and giving "lessons." In St. Petersburh he was the private teacher of Baron Ginzburg's children. From 1865 wrote many articles for "HaMelitz" where he was a permanent member of the staff. Died 1895 in St. Petersburg. His pseudonyms in "HaMelitz" - Ben Amram HaPrazii, Ani HaGever HaRa'n.

Moshe-Leib Lilienblum , born here 1843. Because of his marriage in Vilkomir at age 16, he moved there. A master in Talmud, he even founded a yeshiva, where he was headmaster. After reading many "enlightened" books and secular research literature, his faith in the religion of Israel weakened. He began printing articles in the Hebrew press against the Talmud and called for reform of the "Shulchan Aruch ". This brought on his persecution by the Vilkomir religious zealots, until his very life was in danger. Lilenblum was a major Jewish fighter and held out for a couple of decades, until in the end he left for Odessa, where he died in 1910. Lilienblum was one of the central figures in the "Haskala" [Enlightenment] movement and in its literature, and later in the "Love of Zion" movement which was created a crisis in his entire Jewish-nationalist conception. All his Jewish transformations are directly reflected in his work: From his "Orchot HaTalmud" - through his great confession in "Khatat Ne'urim " [Sins of Youth] - until his "Derech L'avor Golim " and "Derech Teshuva " - he goes through the major revolution of an honest, struggling soul (in greater detail after Vilkomir).

Yosef Smilg, 1848. Was ordained for the rabbinate. Doctor of philosophy. From 1880 Jewish religious teacher in three German gymnasia in St. Petersburg. Published a series of articles in "HaMelitz" part of them dealing with "The Foundation of Ethical Education," which were later printed in separate brochures. Died 1900 in St. Petersburg.

Yisroel-Mikhl Troib, born 1858. Wrote essays in "HaMagid" and "HaMelitz". From 1903-1908, published in Johannesburg a Hebrew-Yiddish weekly "HaKochav - The Jewish Star". Returned to Russia and settled in Libau, and later in Telzsh. Died 1926 in Berlin. Grandson of R. Avraham-Shimon Troib.

Isar-Yosef Einhorn , born 1866. In 1891 he completed his agronomic studies in France. In Israel for several years and from 1912 in Warsaw. Staff writer for the Yiddish press in Warsaw and author of books about zoology, physics and chemistry. In Hebrew, wrote a series of instructional books about natural science and agriculture: "Sefer Torat-Avodat HaAdamah " (London, 5670 [1910]), "Baalei HaChaim" (Warsaw, 5682-5684), "HaAdam" (Warsaw, 5682), "Limudei HaTeva L'vatei-Sefer Matkhilim " (Ibid). Translated into Hebrew "Gibborim v'Avodat Gibborim" by T. Carlyle (Warsaw, 5679) and "HaFilosofiya Shel Amanut" by H. Ten (Ibid, 5681-5683). Also wrote in French and edited newspapers in that language. Died 1925 in Warsaw.

Isar-Moshe Rubin, born 1871. Original family name Rabinovitch. Yiddish journalist. From 1891 in America. One of the pioneers of the Yiddish press in America. Permanent staff member of "Teglikher Herald ", later "Varheit " and "Tog ", where he wrote lead articles for many years. Author of "Mentshn un Lebn " [People and Life] (Miami Beach, 1953). Translated into Yiddish the novels "Vayse Shklafins " [White Slaves] (New York, Varheit) and "Iber Geld un Ehre " [Above Gold and Honor] (N.Y.). Wrote also in Russian and in the Hebrew "HaPisgah" [the Summit] and "HaIvri" [the Hebrew]. Died 1957 in New York.

Aaron-Leib Pick, born 1872. Doctor of medicine. Practiced in Shavl [Siaulai.] In the Kovno "Jewish Voice" printed many essays about medical matters. Perished 1942 in the Siaulai ghetto. May the Lord avenge his blood.

Avraham Shlesinger , born 1874. From 1895 in Lodz. Wrote "Little Feuilltons" in "Lodzer Tageblat" later in "Lodzer Folksblat." Since 1925, printed periodically in the Lodzer "New Folksblat" translations from the writings of the Jewish sages under the title "A String of Pearls from the Talmud and Midrash." Died 1938 in Lodz.

Gershon (Bernard) Richards - Keidansky, born 1877. In 1891 emigrated to America, since 1902 in New York. Wrote in English-Yiddish periodicals. Author of an English book. Until 1903 a little connected with Yiddish: was editor of the Boston Israelite, staff writer with Winchevsky's "Emes" and Boston correspondent for New York Yiddish newspapers. Died 1971 in New York.

Aaron Einhorn, born 1884. Yiddish journalist. Since 1912 a permanent staff member at the Warsaw "Today". There published journalistic articles and theater criticism, as well as translations of Russian, German and French. Translations in book form: "Gods are Thirsty" by Anatole France (Warsaw, 1918), "The Miser" by Moliere (Warsaw, 1921). Killed 1942 in Otwotsk. May the Lord avenge his blood. 

Hirsh Bloshtein , born 1895. From 1925 in Argentina and since 1931 in Soviet Russia. Printed poems, stories, reviews, journalistic articles in the Yiddish press of Lithuania, Argentina, America and especially in the Soviet-Yiddish editions. Creator of "Arbshulog " (Buenos-Aires), "Songs of Struggle" (ibid, 1930), "Barricades Under the Palms" (Kharkov-Kiev, 1933) "I am Young" (Kharkov, 1934), "Children of One Class" (1935), "New Songs" (1938), "Birobidzhan Notes" (Kiev, 1939), "Among Wolves" (Kiev, 1939), "By a Lyric Spring" (1977) and others.

Dovid Wolpe, born 1908. Poet, literary essayist. From 1930 in Erets-Yisrael. 1937 back in Lithuania, where he experienced the Slobodka ghetto and later the Dachau camp. From 1951 in Johannesburg. Wrote poems, stories, articles of journalism and literary criticism in the Munich "Our Way", "Jewish Times" newspaper, "Liberation", and also the "African Jewish Times", "The Golden Chain". 1955-1970 edited "South Africa". Books: "A Cloud and a Way" (1978), "A Word in Its Time" (1984), "With Abraham Sutzkever About His World of Song" (1985), "Homes, Dreams, Nightmares" (1989) - all Johannesburg.

Natan Berger , Born 1910. From 1930 in Johanessburg. Author of four books in English, mainly about Jewish historical episodes. Died 1987 in Johannesburg.


"HaMelitz": Shlomo-Leyzer Zilbershteyn, Yosef Blumson, Levinson, Isar Einhorn, Yakov Ran, M. Dushkin, Yerakh Ben Yomo, Yakov Ronder, Zev-Wolf Ronder, Ish-Sholom (Friedman), Yehuda-Leib b'haRav Rabinovitz, M.A. Shoydinisky (Yurburger), Yitschak Dam, D.S., Y'Z.

"HaTzfire": Moshe-Zev Kantor (=Mizukuk Shivataim?), Lipman Shur, M.M. Friedman, Y.A. Shisiansky .

"HaMagid": Yakov Lifshitz, also long articles, Y.M. troyb (Yisrael-Mikhl), Y.H.L. (?) "Hed HaZman" [echo of the time]: P.R. HaCarmel: Yosef-Shlomo Saltsberg , also wrote from Dvinsk.


The first great well-known scholar in Keidan was an immigrant, as is indicated by his name, R. Yosl Kobriner . A master of the Talmud and the books of religious law, yet he declined to take a rabbinical position. Author of a lament in 1698 upon the events of 1648-9 and other Jewish tragedies. The lament used to be read in all communities of Lithuania and Zamut.

Reb. Yitschak-Aizik b. Kasriel Troyb , during the time of Rabbi Moshe-Mordechai Katsenelenbogen, author of "Gaon Olam" (Altona, 5557 [1797]) - about the Vilna Gaon; "Yikra de Sekhvi" by R. Yitzhak Isaac b. Kasriel of Hamburg, grandson of Rabbi Sender Troyb b. Rabbi Binyamin Troyb, burned in the fire of the city of Keidan "The holy books with all of my holy scriptures" and only the eulogy remains (Altona 5559 [1799])

R. Moshe Khasid Keidaner (R. Moshe Hindes), In the time of Rabbi Moshe-Mordechai Katenelenbogen, son of R. Avraham, rabbi in Krozh, Eiragole, brother of the Vilna Gaon.

R. Tsemach Shapiro , Born 1877. In the time of Rabbi Reuven Zaks. His father R. Avraham, presiding judge in Telz. Brother of the rabbi Moshe Shapiro Krozher, R. Shimon, presiding judge in Birzh, R. Shmuel, presiding judge in Droye, Poneveszh, Telz.

R. Moshe b. Urieh Rapoport (R. Moshe R. Uri Keidaner's). Scholar and philanthropist. In the time of Rabbi Arieh-Leib HaCohen. First to discover the genius of R. Yitschak-Elchanan , the Kovner Rav. Author of "Toledot Moshe " (a commentary on the Hagadah, with text),(Warsaw, 5649 [1889]), "Imri Moshe " (on the Scroll of Esther) (Warsaw, 5649 [1889]). In manuscript: Moshe b. Uri of Keidan, "Or Haboker ", "Ori v'Yish'i" [My Light and My Salvation]. Died 1839 (1830?) in Keidan.

R. Avigdor , in the time of rabbi Arieh-Leib HaCohen. Grandson of R. Uri Feivush , rabbi in Vilna, later lived in Jerusalem, where he was called R. Feivush Ashkenazi . R. Avigdor was the father of R. Yitschak, presiding judge in Pumpian.

R. Yakov, known under the name of Yankl Keidaner . In the time of Rabbi Reuven Zacks, author of "Vikuekha Raba." Also published a collection of legends, "Sipurim Niflaim ". Mystic and Chasid.

R. Avraham-Eliahu Kaplan , born in Rakev (White Russia) in 1854. Married R. Zalman Troib 's daughter and settled in Keidan. His original commentaries on the Talmud and the works of Rambam were almost entirely destroyed in the great fire of 1887 in Keidan. Died at age 35.

R. Binyomin Natanson , wealthy man and philanthropist. Son-in-law of the most eminent man of the city, R. Meir Fradels , around the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

R. Zodek HaCohen , schoolteacher. Great-grandfather of Moshe-Leib Lilienblum. Even at that time taught his students Bible and grammar. Died 1868.

R. Leib-Zalman Levinson , for 50 years a leader of the community. Helped build the large kloyz, and to start the community fire brigade. Died 1899.

R. Nachum Rabinovitz , among the elders of the community. Died 1900. Brother of R. Chaim Lifshitz (!), rabbi in Srednik. His son R. Hillel Lifshitz , presiding judge of Lublin.

R. Eliezar Wolpert , Rebbe of R. Shmuel-Nathan Rapoport . Major scholar and philanthropist. Believed in anonymous charity, often made gifts at night to avoid being seen.

R. Moshe Merkil , R. Ozer Kantor , Rb"l Shapiro -- Heads of the Community,: R. Yisroel b. Yehuda Rabinovitz , R. Leib-Zalman Ziskind , Refoel Rom, Rumshishki , R. Zalman b. Heshel Daitch , brother in law of R. Hillel Bishko , R. Shmuel-Yakov Yaffe , R. M. Ratner , R. Eliezar Godnik , R. Yosef Wolpert , Fridland, Lichtmacher , R. Ben-Zion Feingold .

Attorney Abramovitz, Government-teacher Avraham Ptashkin.

Keidan boasted that it had had a connection with the Vilna Gaon. One version is that R. Dovid Katzenelenbogen had him brought from Vilna to Keidan at the age of five and had him taught by the town's rabbi R. Moshe Margolios , the author of "Pnei Yerushalmi". The Gaon was a son-in-law of Keidan - he wedded Chana , daughter of R. Yehuda-Leib in Keidan. How long he lived here after the wedding we do not know.

Here also lived for several years Zvi-Hirsh Yonatanson , born in 1841 in Vilna. Writer and philanthropist. Author of "Shirei Zion" [Songs of Zion] (Warsaw, 1893). In 1868, when the new governor of Lithuania came to Keidan, Yonatenson greeted him in Russian, in the name of the Jews of Keidan.

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Copyright © 1996 by Andrew Cassel | Online since April, 1996