S: Lithuania 1929
BC: The secular and religious history of Lithuania between the years 1920 through 1930, specifically focusing on the year 1929, the year which my great grandmother, Mrs. Jennie Reisman, was sixteen. Maps, photographs, an interview along with several other items allows one to understand and envision a world that was just eighty years ago.
FC: History of Lithuania 1929 | By Sarala Ebert
1: Already starting from a young age I would eagerly soak up and consume the awe-inspiring interesting stories that were related to me by my loved family members about my great grandmother, Mrs. Jennie Reisman. Perhaps it is for this reason why I jumped at the opportunity of researching about the time period and country in which she dwelled. These stories, as moving and touching as they are, always impressed me on a superficial level for I was shocked and dumbfounded that such horrid experiences had stood in the way of my relative. it was unimaginable to me that my ancestor had performed and undergone such noble and heroic acts. "Opportunity then came knocking at my door." I realized, through this fortunate experience, that to fully appreciate the past of my great grandmother and all that she had suffered and endured I had to understand and research the wellbeing of her country, what it was like back then and the hardships that faced the citizens due to the economical and political defaults. it was only then that these childhood memories of mine became a shocking reality. Suddenly, I was capable of comprehending the excruciating pain and loss which confronted my great grandmother and the many unethical dilemmas which she successfully surpassed. Yet today, when witnessing my great grandmother recount her childhood, one would never assume the hardships and affliction that she had endured. I am truly amazed for she is capable somehow of drawing out the positive in every memory and situation that she had and still is facing. I can honestly admit that I hope to achieve this lofty level one day. Mrs. Jennie Reisman, my great grandmother, has become my inspiration and role model and it is for this reason why I dedicated this book to her. Thank you Grandma from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done and taught me.
2: SOME YESHIVAH LOCATIONS AND MAJOR JEWISH POPULATION CENTERS IN EASTERN EUROPE
3: JEWISH HISTORY To many, the obscure years of our Judaic heritage are commonly found between the year 1920 through 1939; or as they are popularly referred to as in reference to history, the inter- war era. which follow World War One and precede World War Two. These years appear as a blur to countless individuals due to the close proximity that it possesses to the start of the Holocaust. Immediately upon mentioning this era one associates it with the Holocaust and the destruction of Jews. Only a limited number of individuals are cognizant of the massive influx and extensive growth of Torah as well as the difficulties that faced the generation before World War Two. Three million citizens inhabited the Baltic State of Lithuania. Although one may immediately associate Lithuania as being densely composed of Jewish citizens the reality is that eighty-six percent of the population was practicing the Roman Catholic Religion. To the utter shock and dismay of many the Jewish Religion only populated eight percent of this eastern country, a seemingly insignificant amount; however, " What they lacked in quantity they made up in quality". (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, p. 28). The overcrowded confines of the shtetle housed hundreds of prominent scholars and several yeshivas that impacted our Jewish history. The shtetle was a nurturing habitat for the Jewish culture and remained secluded from the secular world thereby enhancing and enriching the Jewish religion. For this reason many Jews dwelled within the shtetles due to the spiritual and physical security that it offered. The political and secular capital, Vilnius, was as well noted by the Jews and others as "the Jerusalem of Lithuania", where the greatest and highest concentration of Torah Jews settled and lived. It was a popular and famous fact known by several other neighboring countries that Jewish Vilnius produced and maintained the most learned and well-versed scholars. As well, these Jews were renowned for their strong religious sentiments, intellectual rationalism and exceptional erudition; henceforth, deeming them with the name Litvaks. In general, Lithuanian Jews fervently clung to and treasured their faith throughout horrible obstacles and religiously obeyed the laws of their Torah giants, such as the restrictions and Talmudic teachings of R' Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, the leader of this time period. This generation acquired a thirst for knowledge and intellect which will be satiated and quenched through the production and sprouting of many yeshivas. Russia withheld many Jewish scholars in the aftermath of World War One and upon Lithuanian Independence in the 1920's for those secular leaders sincerely hoped to convert the masses of Jews. They saw in them material for potentially idealistic comrades.If conversion failed the Russians then resorted to the destruction and persecution of Jews; which were initiated by the Yevsektzia, a Jewish section of the communist party appointed in eradicating the Jews. " Desperate times called for desperate measures"; henceforth, countless individuals smuggled themselves back into Lithuania even though they were fully aware that by doing so they were endangering and risking their life. To these refugees saving and rescuing their souls took priority and precedence over preserving their physical bodies. Many were successful in their dangerous endeavors; however, unfortunately, hundreds perished while in pursuit of spiritual freedom.
4: Simultaneously, young Jewish boys from across the globe seeking excellence and knowledge in the Talmud applied for admittance into Kovno, Ponevezh, Kelm, Telshe, Volozhin, Mir and Slabodke; all outstanding yeshivas in the country of Lithuania. Although each one focused and stressed different concepts in their methods of teaching the outcome would be a generation who will reconstruct the Torah world post World War Two. An intellectually equipped son and son- in- law were considered prestigious and lofty as opposed to today where many evaluate wealth to be honorable and worthy of respect. It is crystal clear from this statement that what our focus now is based on should, however does not, measure up to what their focus then was. As a means to spread unity and maintain the status and level of learning the Gemara, R' Meir Shapiro implicated the Daf HaYomi program which is to be studied daily. At first this program began in Poland, the country of its origin; however, almost immediately it spread and was adapted and accepted by all, no matter where their location of inhabitance was. As well, written in Hebrew and the prominent language amongst the Jews, Yiddish, were pamphlets, novels, short stories, newspapers and poetry which circulated among the country for Lithuania contained one of the greatest publishing centers in all of Eastern Europe. This , as a result, proves to one that the Jews at this point flourished in their studies for they were constantly publishing new sefarim, such as the Tsena-u-rena, a translation of the Torah into Yiddish, hence many intellectuals and scholars flocked to the yeshivas of Lithuania. As nurturing and secure life in the shtetl seemed for the typical Jew technological advances, for instance the telephone, electricity, radio and theaters, were beginning to infiltrate even the most isolated Jewish cities and homes. Sorrowfully, as opposed to the parents influencing their young their young were influencing them. The predisposed children and young adults would fervently preach to their household and parents that reform is a vital step in order to achieve and maintain a classier, sophisticated and modern lifestyle. Sadly, these youth viewed the Jewish traditions and laws as ancient and old-fashioned causing them to become embarrassed and ashamed of their narrow minded parents. The new always appears to be more attractive than the old, especially to the young. In retrospect, it was no surprise that the orthodoxy was placed on the defensive and thrust into a minority role in Jewish society, a position it had never before occupied in history.( Berel Wein, p. 83) In reality, due to the physical advances and vast public information and secular movements that were openly available, the Jews now confronted a spiritual Holocaust which they had never before experienced to this extent. This severe and horrifying spiritual war caused thousands of pure Jewish souls to be lost and swept away in the secular torrents, causing this form of combat to be the most detrimental. Unfortunately, those who suffered terribly and the group that lost the most of its members during this era were the Jewish girls. At the root of the problem schools for girls were not developed nor in existence leaving the girls illiterate and incapable of comprehending the Halachos applicable to them. A very insignificant minority of girls were fortunate enough to be home-schooled due to either possessing both or one learned parent allowing them to understand several Hashkafic lessons in Judaism and the manner in
5: which a proper Jewish girl behaves; however, many remained clueless to the fundamental and basic mannerisms of a young lady. As a source of entertainment and fun the girls would attend theaters and public gymnasia and those yearning for an education or intellect would enroll herself into a Christian school or public Lithuanian university. Due to the secular world's focus and awareness in women's rights and freedoms, commonly known as the suffragists, the Jewish Lithuanian girls as well adapted this plight and a majority amongst them agreed that they to deserved opportunity and a chance. Carrying out their belief the girls withdrew from their responsibilities at home such as tidying the house, preparing the food and supervising the household. The dilemma worsened when girls began incorporating themselves into secular seminar classes and decided to visit the public gymnasia for they too deserved exercise and culture. They wanted to become a symbol of knowledge as well amongst the secular community. In addition, secular and zionistic movements would "innocently" invite girls and women to sit in on several lectures hoping that by the conclusion of these sessions the girls would desire to integrate amongst them. A serious threat was imposed on this generation for who will lead the future children and generation of Jews in their house if the women are spiritually infected by this epidemic for it is the woman which set the Torah related tone in the house. They are a link in a chain for the future and upcoming era presenting them with the responsibility of handing over Torah and its way of life to their children. One woman realized the serious magnitude of the circumstance and decided to create a girls' school titled Bais Yaakov which she believed would help immunize the girls. Sara Schnierer founded this colossal institution which will and still effects us now for she created a nurturing habitat of education and hashkafa which the girls were clearly lacking before. Lithuanian Jews mimicked and followed her example which will result in sixteen girl schools with an enrollment of over two thousand students. To prevent girls from associating or preoccupying themselves with secular activities on the holy Shabbos day Eliezer Gershon Friedenson initiated Bnos Bais Yaakov Batya. This was a Shabbos program strictly for women and girls which would involve lectures, stories and learning with a friend a lesson in Torah. This was to instill within the girls an appreciation and admiration of Shabbos as opposed to running after secular entertainment. The women and girls of our era today must immensely and profusely offer grace and praise to these heroic figures for preventing what would have been a horrifying spiritual Holocaust for without these desperate measures which they have implicated I can infer that we would spiritually not be surviving today. Involving themselves in the Lithuanian negotiation for independence the Jews formed the League of Jewish Fighters for Lithuanian Independence. As well, this party concerned itself with nationalistic issues working to reconcile both Jewish and Lithuanian interests. They hoped that this would prove to the government that the Jews do desire to assist the country with its endeavors. Many from the Jewish population supported the country's desire to become independent due to the fact that they were promised Jewish autonomy if the country would rule its own. Post Paris Peace Conference, which occurred in 1919, Lithuania committed to upholding Jewish rights and freedoms. In the democratic voting system Jews were permitted and included
6: in the votes pertaining to elections for they were viewed as equals in society as well during the years 1918-1924 the government formed and maintained a Ministry of Jewish Affairs. Jewish representatives were present in the Parliament, in order to protect the Jews from unethical laws which may be created against them, which appeared unprecedented for the traditionally anti-semitic country. Majority of Lithuanian Jews were either by trade artisans or involved with industrial products. The banks were controlled and owned by Jews and contrary to public opinion they did have several tight political and professional associations. Amongst the Jewish population there were three daily newspapers, theaters, sports (the most common, basketball), clubs, youth organizations and charities. For the Jews who all dwelled amongst each other it appeared as though life had gained an aspect of simplicity for they flourished and succeeded in their activities rapidly. However, the peaceful and somewhat friendly secular Lithuanians performed a volt-face in 1921 re-infusing within themselves the hatred and anti-semitic views which they had previously put to rest. The Ministry of Jewish Affairs was forced to resign in 1924 and many of the Jewish institutions were no longer funded nor recognized amongst the government. Lithuania was slowly transforming to an ethnocentric society hostile to Jews. The Polish head of state, Josef Pilsudski, who at this time controlled Vilnius, acted as a brake against anti-semitic violence; however, upon his death this hatred blossomed once more resulting in countless pogroms. This resulted in many Jews seeking protection and emigrating to the "land of freedom and dreams", America. Due to the mass influx of Jews America formed new immigration laws issuing a quota of the sum total of Jews which they will permit into their country. The Lithuanian Jews desperately turned to the United Kingdom and a large percentage decided to make aliyah to Palestine. In addition, as Hitler gained the majority of seats in the German Parliament he began to invoke to others the theory that the Jews are parasites and insects and it is because of these vermants that Germany suffered a great defeat in World War One. As well, it is because of their conniving business ethics that the Great Depression occurred for they were the bankers. He furthered his lectures by saying that the Jews wreaked this havoc in the world so they could dominate and control their countries; therefore, it would be in everyone's best interest to destroy them. The world interpreted and took his words to heart resulting in them looking toward the Jews with suspicion and distrust. This enraged the secular Lithuanians further causing sporadic acts of violence. Equal opportunities which the Jews contained previously were stripped and many yeshivas were banned causing the Jewish future to appear dim and bleak. Catholic Christians would significantly mock the Jews' odd, strange and unacceptable isolation from the public proving the inherent rage that burned and seethed within them. In 1926 the democratic government was overthrown and replaced with an authoritarian and nationalistic regime with Antanas Smetona as the leader. During his severe reign the country, along with the Jews, were plagued with an economical crisis due to the Great Depression's affect on the world. The rising peasants and lower class, as a result in rapid urbanization, viewed the Jews as a major threat and began competing against the Jewish merchants and craftsmen, brutally ruining their business. The nationalistic motto during this era became "Lithuania for Lithuanians"
7: insinuating that the country is not and will not protect its Jews whether in face of violence or business. Quotas were produced as a means to inform the exact count of Jews that a university would accept and furthermore when reluctantly admitted into the University of Kaunas the Jews were commanded to sit on a separate bench apart from the other students for they were looked upon as a disease. By 1930 anti-semitism spread and was apparent in the press and other sources of media. Secular Jewry pretended as though the hatred did not exist; however, when they tried to join the Parliament and speak on behalf of the Jews it would only aggravate the Lithuanians more resulting in a deeper more vile hatred. When they lost all power they turned their focus and strengths to Palestine in the hope of creating a Jewish haven and homeland. Powerful movements such as Zionism, Communism and Socialism were always prepared and well equipped to pounce on the spiritually weaker Jews especially after World War One. Secular Jewish parties gained a tremendous amount of strength due to these influential programs and won many elections even in areas containing a high concentration of Orthodox Jews. Many Yiddish schools, based on the Yiddish culture and language, were set up; however, they were usually affiliated with the Jewish Labor Union Party or more commonly known as the Bund. They preached to the students that business and economically related concepts take precedence over Judaism and its Talmudic studies. Jewish political groups began to assemble in Parliament as opposed to the Jews who previously involved themselves in the government in a general aspect. The Bund were the leftist socialist party, Agudath Israel consisted of traditional, observant Jews and the Zionist group were secular religious Jews. In general, Jewish Lithuania was divided between religious and secular, Zionist and anti-Zionist, socialist and anti-socialist. Within these parties there was significantly decreasing stability and rivalry due to the vast opinions each movement contained since they were created and existed with such a mix of diverse people. Unfortunately, the Zionist group maintained a voice in the Parliament permitting them to implicate and impose any law concerning the Orthodox Jews which viewed befitting. Although present, the minute number of representatives that spoke on behalf of the Orthodox Jewry were labeled as a source of treachery who were not in the least bit interested in the nation as a whole. The Zionistic leader at the time, Shmaryahu Levin, was elected as deputy for Vilna to the Russian Duma proving the unbelievable power and influence which his party possessed. Although the Jews residing in Lithuania confronted tremendous adversity and were slaughtered simply because of who they were they still remained consistent and clung strongly to their faith. Numerous yeshivas were upkept and many were just formed in order to assist the Jews to maintain their Talmudic and Torah studies. True, there were many programs and movements initiated to sway and convert the Jew but the Jew rose above them all and still exist today. The Torah and its many commandments are what is the secret to our immortality.
8: Ellis Island In the latter years of childhood my great grandmother had developed a severe case of blood poisoning on her hand. They were not successful in acquiring a trained physician in Lithuania who possessed the proper utensils and medication; therefore, she was sent to Lebo. She was escorted by her mother's friend since her mother was required to remain at home to protect and care for her family. Traveling then was a painstakingly long and severely dangerous journey for there were many violent barbarians scattered along the path. My great grandmother was not certain if she would ever see her parents or family again yet she agreed to venture on this tedious journey. Although she felt seemingly alone in a foreign city she handled the situation like an adult because she understood the magnitude and importance of this circumstance. The experienced doctors in Lebo had performed the necessary operation and believed to have removed and cured her condition. * * * * * * * * * * After an exhausting two year voyage from Lithuania to America and encountering numerous fatal diseases my great grandmother along with her large family finally reached the shores of Ellis Island. Upon exiting the boat all immigrants were commanded to proceed through an extensive health inspection before entering America. The physician notified my great grandmother that she had to remain in quarantine for four weeks in the medical infirmary on the Island due to the blood poisoning in two of her left fingers which the doctors in Lebo had not completely treated. She was not permitted to have her family stay with her during her inspection for fear that they too will catch this unwarranted disease rather, once a week she was entitled to a visit from her mother only by seeing her through a glass window. Here was my great grandmother alone in a foreign country with no one to comfort her from her nightmares and frightening disease yet, she withstood this hardship for she understood its necessity. She realized that sulking and complaining would get her nowhere and give her little benefit. The strength that my great grandmother possessed and the courage and bravery which she contained deeply inspired and touched me. She showed me that under any circumstance one must find their inner strength and it is only through that when they will come out victorious. I truly hope to attain this level one day and fight off my adversity with courage and pride.
9: Saved by a Yell The anti- semitism which was evoked by Russia toward the Jews in the early 1900's was extremely prominent and vehement. One innocent victim of their baseless hatred was my great grandmother's grandfather who as well resided in Lithuania at the time. One cool evening my great grandmother's grandfather slowly made his way to shul to daven the set Tefillah. While deep in thought a couple of hooligans circled him and eventually enclosed him all the while screaming and cheering that they had caught a Jew and intend on torturing him for society's benefit for the world would have one less Jew to care for. A few moments later they withdrew a burlap sack and immediately threw it over him as a means of suffocation. My great grandmother along with her brother approached their window to see what all the commotion was about. As they noticed and witnessed this frightening experience they began to scream and yell "Their killing Papa, their killing Papa!" so as to notify as many people as they could and scare off these murderers. Soon enough numerous individuals came running to help rescue and save her grandfather and successfully caught these hooligans. Although this story and experience appears bleak and frightening there is a beautiful underlying message which can be inferred. It would have been safer for my great grandmother to remain quiet and hidden yet she risked and endangered her own life so as to rescue someone else. It was obvious to her that another individuals life is just as important as hers thereby making it crucial to save him. How many times do we think about ourselves in one day and assume that our needs take precedence over others; however, if we pause for a moment and understand this lesson we will realize that others are just as important as we are.
11: POLITICS At the young age of sixteen my great grandmother, Mrs. Jennie Reisman, lived in the city of Salant in Lithuania. In the year 1929 Lithuania was surprisingly independent. Lithuania desperately battled for countless years in order to accomplish and develop for themselves a free and independent state; however, this process was interrupted by World War One since foreign countries began to target and reign over Lithuania. In 1918 the country was successful in driving out the Bermondt Avalov, commonly known as the "Free Corps"; yet, to the citizens' dismay the Poles along with the Bolsheviks remained in Lithuania dominating the south and east. As a means to settle boundary disputes the Constitutional Assembly met on May 15, 1920. It was only in the latter part of the year though, July 12, 1920, that the Treaty of Moscow was signed between Lithuania and Russia stating that the Duma recognizes that the larger portion of Vilnius along with the Gardinas district are now authorized and legally controlled by Lithuania. This in essence infers that Lithuania has now achieved independence. The Lithuanian constitution was promulgated by the Taryba in 1918; however, the final and approved form of government was to be decided with a Constituent Assembly which would only take place in 1920. For temporary purposes a three men directory was initiated headed by Antanas Smetona, the president, and Augustinas Voldemaras who was charged as Lithuania's first cabinet. These idealistic leaders set out to institute that their country promotes religion and allows their citizens to upkeep their true nationalities; in other words they will not enforce assimilation. The only regulation and limitation enforced on this guaranteed freedom was that the country's administration and high offices had to be controlled by a strong, Lithuanian character. This explicitly proves that although they promoted their democratic leadership they reserved their hierarchy positions strictly for pure Lithuanians. G. Stresemann of Germany and Augustinas signed a German- Lithuanian protocol agreeing to arbitrate all difficulties between the two countries. Once Lithuania became independent it established an army as a prevention against Bolshevik, Polish or German forces from entering and controlling them. A cumpolsary military school was funded for all able- bodied males over twenty- one to train for approximately 18 months. From this military academy they would select officers at a time of battle as well ten to fifteen young officers were transferred to French, Belgian or Czechoslovakian military schools to further their education. The regular, average army contained at a time of peace 55,000 men. Refugees slowly began to return from Russia challenging the authority of the Taryba. A second state conference commenced in Kaunas in January 1919; however, it did not resolve state issues causing a constitutional change to occur in April 1919. This resulted in a sole president, Antanas Smetona. In 1919, the Lithuanians fought the Bolsheviks resulting in the Poles entering Lithuania while they were pre-occupied and assuming control over Vilnius. Once in control over this territory the Poles decided to use it as a bargaining point for the Poles desired to reissue and reinstate their ties with Lithuania. Adamant about their decision the Lithuanians refused this offer since the country wished to create its own identity amongst the world as well Lithuania desired to enforce land reform which the Poles would obviously object. During the Russo- Polish war the Lithuanians seized the opportunity and signed a peace treaty with Russia causing the Russians to drive out the Poles from Vilnius on July 14, 1920. By August 1920 Vilnius was returned to its respected leaders, Lithuania. Unfortunately, this did not last long for on October 9, 1920 the Polish general, Lucian Zeligowski carried out Jozef Pitsudski's orders by regaining Vilnius for Poland. Vilnius would now remain under Polish control; therefore, as a display of hatred full diplomatic and commercial relations between the two countries were not re-established until 1938 when the Poles were able to convince Lithuania to open up its frontier. In January 1923, Lithuania imitated the
12: Poles by sending in a civilian clothed army as a means to capture Klaipeda which was under a temporary inter- allied control. On May 8, 1924 the Conference of Ambassadors signed in Paris a convention stating that Klaipeda was now and forever will be under Lithuanian sovereignty. As one can infer Lithuania was not a stable country for there were constant territorial disputes and battles along with an ever changing constitution to appease the citizens with their requests. The Constituent Assembly of 1920 declared Lithuania an independent republic. The country was led by a coalition of Christian Democrats and Populists both appealing to the needs and desires of the peasants. They demanded extensive land reform, a new national currency (litas) and an improved constitution which would occur in 1922. This coalition dispersed in January 1922 due to the differences in opinion regarding education and religion as a result the Christian Democrats were the sole reigning party until 1926. The elections of May 1926 caused a major cabinet change bringing to power a coalition of Socialists, Populists and national minorities. This new coalition aroused a seething anger amongst the army resulting in a bloody fight. On December 17, 1926 by means of a coup d'etat the Smetona-Voldemaras group seized the government with twenty percent of the seimas supporting them. This nationalist party slowly limited the activities of other parties eventually prohibiting them. The constitution of 1922 was rewritten due to numerous new circumstances and promulgated on May 15, 1928. Lithuania was under severe pressure due to its awareness of Hitler's expansionist ideas into the countries of closest proximity. They were told to surrender Memel, which was on the western front, for Memel had belonged to Germany before the Treaty of Versailles 1919. Lithuania could not physically withstand Germany's military might; henceforth, relinquishing Memel, the industrial center and sole Baltic seaport which it had just gained. January 1923 Lithuania insurgents directed from Kaunas seized this territory; however, the allies only recognized the Lithuanian sovereignty in 1924. In February 1929 Lithuania joined Latvia, Estonia and Poland in signing the Litvinov protocol in Moscow. Due to discontent which had spread about the dictatorship, Smetona expelled Voldemaras attempted to regain control in 1934 but was thwarted. Although achieving its goal and dream of independence Lithuania never was a stable country. Constant territorial disputes and an ever- changing constitution causes the dynamic and form of government to alter severely limiting the countries success. Perhaps independence was a negative choice for it's possibly that Lithuania requires a stronger mother country to shelter it from evils.
13: SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT The Roman Catholic Religion was the predominate religion in Lithuania during this era. The Lithuanians were a firm believer in religion and considered it a necessity of life causing the newly independent country to be molded and formed by the Roman Catholics. National dances along with musical traditions were strongly and widely promoted as a means to enhance and create nationalistic spirit and a sense of admiration for the country. While the USSR controlled and dominated Lithuania they forbade them to speak the Lithuanian language or preach about their religion and culture; however, once it became an independent state the elders began to reteach and renew to the younger generation the original and founding language and culture. As a result each generation would pass on and enhance the knowledge and information they had received to the next generation. By 1929 education became compulsary for the shortage of trained Lithuanian speaking teachers did not exist anymore at this time. Within nine years there were three thousand institutions across the country all containing different methods pertaining to teaching. Several institutes focused on art or trade, for instance agriculture, and eleven newly initiated institutions contained extremely high standards. The Lithuanian Academy of Sciences was the main research and source of knowledge in the republic. The academy along with the University of Kaunas possessed the two most important and largest libraries. Labor Unions were superseded by a government sponsored workers' organization; as well, disputes were settled by a commission of three; the government, workers' organization along with the chamber of commerce. There were very minimal strikes for only a small minority worked in the industry. As opposed to countless other countries the Lithuanian government sent factory inspectors periodically to determine the conditions, minimum age and wage and compulsary insurance. The average wage of an unskilled worker in Kaunas, the industrial city, was 5.3 litai per day. The social environment at this time was viewed as a haven for culture and knowledge as the country persevered for excellence in their prime years of independence. Since the economy was not completely developed the state of the factories and workers were not yet horrible or cruel allowing the citizens to lead a somewhat average life free of torture or cruel workmanship.
14: ECONOMY Due to the proximity of this era to the destruction of World War One there was a shortage of medicine within the country and those that were available were extremely expensive. Intensive- care units located in the hospitals were lacking the proper utensils and medication necessary as well, the patient were responsible of supplying the doctors with the proper medication if surgery was required. Due to the low supply of equipment and drugs many citizens had to leave the country in order to take a blood test or have an operation. Upon receiving independence Russia withheld and cut off their trading with Lithuania; therefore, they found a new successful market in Germany which lasted until 1933. The country developed a system where they would constantly strive to keep the importing and exporting rates balanced or that their exports should contain a larger rate or quota. However, this economic goal did not leave room for the economy or country to develop and grow for they were required to import objects which possessed greater value than their exports causing the economy to lose a tremendous amount of money. 1929 EXPORT (percent) IMPORT (percent) Germany 59.4 49.3 Great Britain 17.4 8.5 USSR ----- 4.3 The year 1929 brought a world wide financial crisis which was initiated in America, known as the Great Depression. Many Lithuanians which immigrated to America pushed the U.S. to assist the Lithuanians economy and were successful; however, due to the Great Depression the Americans withdrew their markets as a means to support themselves and their economy. This severely damaged the Lithuanian economy. The litas is the currency in Lithuania. The national debt was 134,000,000 litai or forty-seven litai per capita. Although the budget was constantly growing it was still traditionally balanced. Yield from the government and mixed enterprises were a primary source of revenue. Communication, education and agriculture accounted for 3/4 of the state's expenses. The Fundamental Agrarian Law of 1922 confiscated a portion of estates that were larger than 197.7 acres. This land was then distributed to farmless laborers and small landholders with each head of family receiving no more than 49.4 acres. This redistribution of land moved Lithuania toward a democracy for now everyone was capable of possessing their very own private property. Only 6.43% of Lithuanian citizens were engaged in the industry or handicraft. A tight money policy hindered economic growth causing Lithuania to lack vital resources for a large scale industry.Vilnius was famous for machine engineering, Klaipeda for shipbuilding and fish processing and Kaunas for metalworking along with textiles. All means of transportation were state owned. The two major newspapers, Tiesa and Sovets Kaya Litva, both served and assisted the Lithuanian Communist Party of the Presidium of the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet and of the Lithuanian Cabinet of Ministers. There were 26,591 telephones, 5 broadcasting Stations and 53,667 radios within Lithuania. Peat along with hydroelectricity was the most important source of local energy and 1/2 of Lithuania's fuel supply, coal, was imported from the Ukraine. Lithuania strived to establish a stable and successful economy that would be beneficial to all
15: classes; however, they were not yet experienced in this field. The Great Depression caused severe financial damage to Lithuania for their assistance and guidance of America was removed. The country did not possess fertile land nor were they intimately engaged in industry causing the national debt to rise increasingly. It would take some time for the Lithuanians to develop an economy which would serve everyone alike.
16: Dearest Grandma, I sit here today, November 19, inscribing to you as I delve into my soul withdrawing and confronting my challenges and distasteful dilemmas. From the many tales which you have kindly related to me time and time again I was able to infer that there too were tests and issues that sprouted before you, just as they face me at this point in life as well, blocking you and withholding you for some time from the straight and proper path. I was recently notified by my mentors and source of inspiration that after one stumbles in the retched darkness and has sunken to the lowest level where all hope seems lost and unreachable that they are capable of rising from the ashes and can without a doubt achieve heights that they would have originally speculated as unattainable. Grandma, you are my living proof of this theory for you have confronted so many tests throughout your life yet, just as you have grasped a lofty and praiseworthy level level so too I yearn and desire to emulate your actions and demeanor and one day grasp that status. However, the world in which you have dwelled in appears to me as an alternate universe for the world in which I inhabitate has evolved tremendously possessing a foreign focus to that of your generation. Due to women being the future of the Jewish nation a Jewish girls' school seemed and until today appears as a fundamental concept amongst society for it is only logical that the future generation should be well versed and understand their lineage and the intrinsic value of the Jewish nation. Enthusiasm and a burning desire to learn and gain this vast knowledge of Torah was infused within every bone of your body. Why then am I lacking this emotion? You persevered and sacrificed your life just to be able to learn one Halacha. Why is it that I am so willing to toil and sweat over physical subjects that contribute absolutely nothing to my spiritual purpose whereas my Jewish studies, which will aid me throughout my existence, hold little interest to me? This causes me to only contribute about 15% of my overall strength into these studies. The enormous lack of appreciation which I possess toward my school, family and most importantly my parents terrify and haunt me with every fleeting moment, My parents support my life and ensure my survival which is a tremendous feet yet, as opposed to repaying them beneficially I consequently turn a deaf ear to their requests and demands appearing to be an ignoramus to their needs. Grandma, I don't understand why my priorities lists and enumerates that my friends and teachers take precedence and are more vital than my family and parents compared to your generation which would undeniably assist their parents and household under any circumstance. Where has my appreciation and gratitude disappeared to and what has become of me as a result? In addition, theaters and several clubs constituted as the entertainment for the masses during your era. True, novels and poems were available at the time; however, the emphasis and stress, as opposed to the world today, did not revolve around immoral subjects and concepts. What strikes me as the baffling and traumatizing is how novels, photographs along with motion pictures today highlight the negative attributes of an individual along with the corrupt
17: mentality that he contains as opposed to commemorating the positive aspects of humanity. At this point in time these irrational concepts are publicly advertised in the roads and the shops due to the popularity it has gained. Unfortunately, dear Grandma, after a short while your eyes adjust to these unrighteous ideas and become immune to these terrifying sights. Billboards containing unthoughtful photographs symmetrically line our streets allowing us to investigate and implore each and every day its meaning and purpose. Since Jewish girls are constantly exposed to these themes and views they become and ordinary sight and appears as a result allowable; henceforth, causing them to attend theaters and shops which possess the immorality and scandal. A Bais Yaakov girl during your era would have understood well her boundaries and limitations and under any circumstance would prevent herself from pursuing this nightmare. Grandma, what can I do to withhold myself from becoming ensnared in this raging firno? How can I envelope myself with spirituality so it can shield me when I am surrounded by a revolting scenery known as the world. It may be a hard concept at this stage in your life to understand Grandma but existing and available today is technology that allows one to research whatever they desire and permits one to communicate with whomever they wish. Devices such as cell phones, Internet and e-mail would appear to you Grandma as just words or phrases but these items in reality are explosives if handled without care. During your era it was clearly obvious that one would associate with her friends causing them to automatically maintain the furthest distance from anyone labeled as a stranger especially those who are of a different gender. It may seem unimaginable; however, countless individuals use these physical objects to assist them in their negative plans and use them as tools and ammunition allowing them to see or read anything with a click of the finger or easily communicate with a stronger perhaps even one who is of a different gender than she is. Do not fret Grandma for I do not possess an e-mail address and do not intend to for I realize the negative repricautions and its severity; however, it is not an easy task to withhold for all my fellow peers communicate to each other by means of e-mail. Honestly, as to be expected, I feel isolated and very much alone as a result. As well, inaccessible Internet permits me to live in a stable home. I fully understand that what I'm doing and the path I'm headed to is the correct path but together and bonded with this comes an unbelievable test which I hope to be capable of withstanding. Ironically, during this time period patience is not practiced nor considered valuable or necessary even though we constantly murmur " Patience is a virtue". It is quite evident that individuals consider their needs and desires as more vital and pressing than others. To many, others must be centered around them just as the world revolves around the sun. It is unfortunate and depressing to admit; however, majority of the humans surviving in todays era contain an ego larger than the earth itself causing them to stamp and tread without care on all those subjective to them. This mentality which they possess results in the annulment and abolishment of patience for why would I listen to other's problems if I am significantly more important.
18: significantly more important. The world has evolved into a cold and isolated place for many are disheartened and disinterested in other's challenges and do not under any circumstance offer their assistance. Grandma, willingly your family cared for a child and generously offered her a home who sadly lost her parents and possessed no one in this world. Flabbergasted, I could not understand why your family did not chose to ignore her needs; however, with your wisdom you completely knew that that would have been the improper and ruthless path to take. You kindly and patiently took her in treating her as a part of the family which elevated you to a supreme level. I am deeply bothered by how much of my conversation rotates around me and I am greatly worried that I, perhaps at times, do not allow my peers to confide their issues and dilemmas in me. Seldom do I allow them to complete their thoughts before responding for I constantly interrupt their speech proving the minute respect which I possess. Just as you have shown the world this tremendous trait of yours I too wish to heed this trait and am presently working on it. I would like to prove to others that I do in fact care and desire to hear what they need from me. To the younger generation money definitely means very little for we cannot appreciate its true value and worth. Because we come from a secure and stable environment it is extremely difficult for us to comprehend that there are existing in our society many who can just afford the bare minimum. A girl during your era, as you have graciously recounted to me, was presented with one or two dresses for the week and if fortunate enough two for special occasions. As a means to help support your family you were required to work at a part time job in order to earn some money. In todays day and age we rely on our parents to support our livelihood and do not even slightly ponder the possibility and responsibility of working at a job. We constantly take for granted our provisions because of this laxed manner which we acquire toward working and waste our parents' money on over priced objects or items which are completely unnecessary. I am terrified Grandma for who will I be capable of supporting my family in the future if I possess this horrid mentality? Lastly, tznius is an ancient dilemma which confronts women and girls across the globe which leads me to believe that every girl, no matter what era she lives in, struggles somewhat with this problem. Perhaps we possess different hardships within this issue yet, the pressures of society then and now and the persistence and desire to conform to the masses has drastically altered all girls' form and perception of dress. Girls everywhere suffer daily from this very issue; henceforth, if we would all unite as one against this tyrant we can defeat it for strength lies in numbers. Together Grandma we can battle this dilemma and come out victorious. | Sara Schenirer: Instead of sewing garments for the body, I will sew garments for the soul. (Rabbi ChaimSchloss, p. 297)
19: Grandma, please do not judge me too critically for I desperately yearn to alter and fix my deeds for I too would like to attain a lofty spiritual level. They say that with each generation the level of tumah and challenges increase as I am sure this letter clearly proves but we are quick to dismiss that we have the power in our hands to conquer it. How depressing it is that an entire generation of young teenagers should be plagued and poisoned by the corrupt world in which we live for I can assure you dearest Grandma that I am not alone in this constant battle. At least there burns within me a desire to develop and mature and a sensation that dwells within my bones beckoning me to see the light and reach our for it. I believe this proves that I am on the correct path in life. I want you to be proud of me and I solemnly know that you will always be rooting for me from the sidelines which will help to propel me forward. Thank you for grasping strongly onto your beliefs and values and for clinging on to the straight and proper path for it is as a result of your emotional, spiritual and physical strength that you have produced and maintained a stable and loving family. I love you Grandma and I promise you that you will be witnessing great things coming out from my actions and demeanor. Enclosed is a calage of our family and the many memories which we cherish as a result of you. I hope you enjoy and shep an abundance of nachas and satisfaction since the positive attributes and actions of our family are produced as a result of you for you Grandma are our source of inspiration. Sincerely, your great granddaughter, Sarala
22: INTERVIEW Sarala: What was life like for a sixteen year old? What did you do for the day? Grandma: If it was allowed by the parents the girls would attend school. In the lower and middle class many of the young girls would assist their parents at home. Unfortunately, these teenagers were not permitted to attend a school since they couldn't afford it or it was necessary that they stay at home. Sarala: What form of school did you go to? Grandma: I attended a Lithuanian Public Day School along with all of my siblings since there were no Jewish schools in town. After a long day at school we would come home and my father would teach us Chumash, Navi, Halachah and how to write Hebrew. Sarala: What did you do as a teenager to assist your family regarding money issues? Grandma: When I was about sixteen I began to work in the mornings. Whatever money I earned from my job I offered to my parents. After much persuasion my parents would accept the money and would use it for my family's needs. Sarala: What did you do you do as a source of entertainment as a teenager? Grandma: I used to periodically attend lectures in Jewish topics and often went to concerts with my good friends. Sarala: What did your parents do for a living? Grandma: My father was the Rosh Yeshivah and Rabbi in Europe and in America. My mother stayed at home cooking, cleaning and tending to the children's needs. Sarala: What means of transportation did you use when you were young? Grandma: I mainly used the trolley car for it not so expensive and was considered safe at the time. Sarala: Who do you think has more leisure time - your generation or mine? Grandma: Your generation!! Children in my generation had to begin helping at a young age. The house was aways filled with children to take care of. We had to do everything ourselves for our parents were extremely busy. For example, today preparing and eating chicken is a simple feet. Back then we had to pluck, salt and cut the chicken all on our own. We were always busy but we still managed to have a fun.
23: Sarala: What was your favorite subject in school? Grandma: Math was my favorite because it was logical and made so much sense; this was one of the only things during my time that made sense so as to be expected I was drawn to it. Sarala: Do you remember your grandparents? Grandma: Yes, I do, they are very hard to forget. My grandfather was a tall and outstanding man; everyone called him " Graff- Count". He was a learned man and extremely brilliant. My grandmother was always neatly dressed and never went without a sheital. She was kind, friendly and always had guests staying in her house. Sarala: Did you live through any major historical events? Grandma: No, but when I was living in Europe the Germans were beginning to impart their nasty and evil anti-semitic views. There were some Russians as well, who were starting to brake into some Jewish homes and steal their silver from them. Sarala: Who were you named after and what information do you know about her? Grandma: I'm not absolutely positive who I am named after but I think it was some relation to my grandmother. All I know is that she was kind, caring and extremely welcoming for everyone would bless me and state that I should be like her one day. Sarala: Can you describe your trip from Europe to America? Grandma: It was an extremely difficult trip which took over two years. We stopped at every town along the way trying to attain visas and countless documents. There were several different forms of transportation that we used such as boats and trains. There were many diseases along the way which we encountered while traveling on the boat. There was no room to play or even have an ounce of fun on the boat. Sarala: Is there a family chumash or siddur by any chance? Grandma:I'm not sure all I know is that my father wrote a lot of commentaries. My brother took care of all my father's works and took it to Israel to be printed but I don't know what exactly happened to them. Sarala: Are there any family heirlooms that have been passed down from generation to generation? Grandma: Yes, there is a special bracelet that has been passed down from many generations before me.
24: Sarala: Are there any family recipes which have been passed down? Grandma: Yes, apple cake, stuffed chicken and gefilte fish. Sarala: What was an important milestone in your life? Grandma: When I reached Ellis Island after much preparation. At that moment I knew I was going to be safe and that was a very comforting feeling. Sarala: Who was your role model? Grandma: My parents were my role models. The financial and emotional sacrifices they made in order to provide for their children hope of a better life life a huge impression on me and made me realize that that is the same way that I want to deal and treat my children. Sarala: What job did you have once you got married? Grandma: I headed the Department of the Aging for about thirty- two years. I worked for the Mayor's office under Mayors Linsey, Kock and Dinkens.
25: CONCLUSION The year 1929, the year which I deeply researched, did not present Lithuania or its Jews with an easy and fruitful life. Diseases, severe poverty, tyrants dictating their lives and tremendous anti-semitism surrounded these individuals daily. The economy was cruel to its citizens causing them to work laboriously as a means to survive; however, it appeared that no matter how much they worked to achieve success they were always considered menial laborers. Many were not granted with the privilege of owning luxuries or what was considered as an extra yet, they still managed to cope and ironically withdrew from their challenges extremely victorious possessing a rare strength in their character, faith and belief which shockingly remained unshaken and unperturbed. This concept proved to me that I am capable of reinforcing my inner strength without containing physical luxuries in life for it is these objects which slowly deteriorate at our spiritual beings contributing nothing meaningful to us. It was unbelievable to learn that although persecuted or treated vehemently the Jews continued to flourish and cling firmly o their religion as opposed to allowing the gentiles to spiritually ruin them. This knowledge has supplied me with the inspiration and will power which I was significantly and unfortunately lacking. Perseverance, to push forward although times appear bleak and extremely dim, is a role which is vital for our existence for where would the Jewish nation stand if every generation gave up hope. True, there are instances which may appear to us as though the world is coming to an end and that there is no possible way for life to improve; however, we must fervently believe and realize that a salvation can occur, and often does, at the last moment. I have received a lesson from my great grandmother which invokes that when the going gets rough and we are severely oppressed then we must be journeying along the correct path. I am now able to determine the source in which she derived this crucial lesson for during her time period the moment the Jews acted accordingly the gentiles would spontaneously rupture and would spill innocent blood. Today, even through the unclarity of the times, we are capable of determining our spiritual success based on the gentiles' behavior. This project has allowed me to envision a world that survived eighty years ago and the immoral depravity which our society contains compared to that era. It has become apparent that our generation is headed in a frightening downward spiral. Our future seems like a black hole and does not feel secure unless the Jewish society establishes a manner in which Judaism can be practiced while stability is ensured. History has opened my mind and allowed me to speculate that the strength and power of success is delicately placed in the palms of our hands. Based in how we use it will determine our future.
27: BIBLIOGRAPHY 1.Daniels, P. S. (2003). Almanac of World History. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. 2. Eliach, Y. (1998). There Once was a World: Yaffa Eliach. 3. (1964). Encyclopedia Americana Volume 17: Americana Corporation. 4. (1947). Encyclopedia Britannica Volume 14. United States of America: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. 5. Lichtenstein, R. (2009). Witness to Jewish History: Project Witness 6. Lithuanian Jewish Shtetl. [online]. Available: http://www.haruth.com/jw/JewsLithuania.html 7. Republic of Lithuania 1918-1940, Wikipedea 8. Schloss, R. C. (2002). 2,000 Years of Jewish History. Israel: Feldheim Publishers. 9.Wein, B. (2001). Faith and Fate. United States of America: Berel Wein and Shaar Press.
29: ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sarala Ebert is a sixteen year old currently living in Toronto, Ontario. She attends Bais Yaakov High School and is for the time being focused on her studies in eleventh grade. When receiving this task of acting like an historian, which to many may appear tedious and somewhat a bother,she accepted it whole-heartedly for she knew that the best projects come as a result of passion and devotion. She has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on the country Lithuania; however, more importantly, she has attained countless vital lessons due to her great grandmother which she believes will drive her to bettering herself.