Back To Journal

LitvakSIG 1998 Goals and Objectives

By LitvakSIG, 1998


The Lithuanian Special Interest Group (LitvakSIG) is a forum for the gathering and exchange of genealogical information about the Jewish community in Lithuania. This forum is also appropriate for historical, political, and social comments which help us better understand the lives of our ancestors who came from Lithuania. A substantial Jewish community existed in Lithuania since the 14th Century and by the late 15th Century Vilna was widely known as the "Jerusalem of Lithuania." Lithuanian Jewry has had a very significant influence on the social and political movements during hundreds of years, up until their near total destruction in the Shoah. We, the descendants of these Litvaks, feel a particular sense of responsibility to perpetuate their memory, in the rediscovery of our "roots".

The borders of Lithuania, both actual and as perceived by the Jewish population, changed many times over the past few centuries. At its largest, the Kingdom of Lithuania reached across eastern Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, and at other times did not exist on the map as a separate nation
at all. Jewish communities who identified themselves as Litvaks, and whose Litvak dialect and customs differed from their Jewish neighbors, were spread throughout the countries of Eastern Europe.

Jewish genealogical  records of many types exist from the late 1700’s through  the present time. Many of our members  are particularly interested  in finding connections  to their families who left Lithuania at the end of the 19th Century emigrating  to South Africa, western  Europe and America. At that time Lithuania consisted of two large provinces,  Kovno and Vilna Guberniya,  which were part of the Pale of Settlement established by the Russian Empire.


1. To provide an internet discussion group forum for exchange of information on Jewish Lithuanian Genealogy. We welcome contributions from beginners to experts, regarding genealogical issues. We are also a forum for the discussion of the historical, political, religious, and social issues which affected the lives of our ancestors, and enable us to understand their lives in the contexts of their times.

2. To maintain an Internet website, providing a permanent home for new information, searchable databases, guidelines for establishing Litvak Shtetl Research Groups, and other resources. The website will also provide FAQ’s and links to JewishGen and other websites of significant importance to Litvak researchers. An edited Online Journal, publishing articles of greater scope and than possible in the Digest, information about the LitvakSIG’s organizational structure, its Board of Directors Advisory Board, and financial information, will be featured.

3. To encourage and support the preservation and computerization of primary sources of genealogical data. Initially this process will be via the internet discussion group. We began this process initially in our Internet discussion group. A major goal has been achieved by developing a LitvakSIG Web site, hosted by JewishGen, which will be the platform for all of our searchable electronic databases.

4. To further the continuing development of Lithuanian Shtetl and District (Uyezd) Research Groups, each with web pages in association with the JewishGen ShtetLinks project.These groups will be encouraged and assisted in pooling financial and volunteer resources to obtain and translate documents, Yiskor books, and other genealogically important information. Research group members will enter data into the "All Lithuania" database.These groups will be at the core of our LitvakSIG research plan.


I. We will encourage the reading of our Frequently Asked Questions to improve the quality of Discussion group participation and to assist beginning researchers. We will add more FAQ’s and information files (Infofiles) to our web site as the need arises.

·2. The LitvakSIG has created a cadre of experienced individuals who are integrating our many databases into one "All Lithuania" database. We are combining pre-existing databases (including the work of the original NW Lithuania SIG) with newly acquired and translated data from many sources. Many of these are already in place on JewishGen. This comprehensive new database will include mid-19th Century Revision Lists (censuses) for the fourteen districts of the Kovno and Vilna Guberniyas. Because Revision Lists are not available for all districts, they will be supplemented by Jewish community box and candle tax records, court and property records, vital records, as well as data from more than forty additional sources. The database will be searchable by the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex system.

3. We will provide references (and links) to other sources for research materials such as Prenumeranten (prepublication book subscription) lists, Landsmannschaften records, Yiskor books, bibliographies of books and articles on the history of Lithuania (such as Pinkas Hakehilot), historical maps, and photographic archives. We will also provide excerpts from existing materials and newly written materials on the history of the Lithuanian Jewish community.

4. We will support the development of websites for all Litvak shtetlach . More than 26 are in place and many more are in development in cooperation with the JewishGen ShtetLinks project. These Shtetl SIG groups, under the umbrella of the LitvakSIG, will personalize the research experience. We are particularly supportive of those efforts to use documents, memoirs, Yiskor books, photographs, music and history to create the "virtual shtetl" of our ancestors.

5. We will support existing and new scholarship and research efforts in Lithuania, particularly primary source work on Jewish records, and will assist in the documentation of the oral history of the surviving Jewish community of Lithuania.

6. We are writing a comprehensive research guide to available resource materials  on Lithuania, and links to web pages of other groups who provide  excellent information and practical  advice on research in Lithuania.

7. We will assist in the translation of archival and other material which has already been gathered but is inaccessible because it is written in old Cyrillic (Russian), Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, or Lithuanian. We will coordinate volunteers insofar as is possible, and raise funds to create accessible indexes of available data. Please let the coordinators know about your availability to translate.

8. The Lithuanian Special Interest Group (SIG) will not serve as a family finder. JewishGen already maintains a very extensive Family Finder database in the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF), and the Family Tree of the Jewish People (FTJP) is provided by the Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies.

9. The LitvakSIG will attempt to monitor the acquisition and translation of records, in order to prevent duplication of expense and effort. We will try to coordinate our activities with other genealogy special interest groups (SIGs) and participate in joint projects, where practical.

10. A primary motivation underlying  the activities of the SIG is to improve access to the Lithuanian Archives,  and other sources of information in Lithuania, Israel and America, which have remained inaccessible  for a variety of reasons. We will act collectively in a professionally responsible  way, one which is sensitive to the needs of the institutions and archivists with whom we work. We believe that this is best accomplished by improved  communication. Towards this end we are supporting  the cataloging  of the Jewish Holdings  of the Kaunas Archives,  and will publish  and constantly  update this material on the Internet.  We will also support visits by Lithuanian  archivists to Jewish Genealogical Seminars and Conferences  to interact with Litvak researchers.


In order to carry out the most basic function of the SIG - the acquisition,  translation and entry of data into our Internet database  - there are many organizational and administrative expenses.  Even in an internet world, it costs money to communicate internationally, to photocopy,  scan and store records, and to translate documents. It is expensive  to bring archivists to the Genealogy  Seminar. We also pay for services that facilitate records acquisition in Lithuania. These are expenses  that many other JewishGen hosted organizations may not have. The budget of the SIG is approved by the Board of Directors of LitvakSIG,  Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit  corporation. A financial  statement  for the past year and a budget  for the upcoming  year are included at our website. This "operational budget" is supported by dues and contributions. All research projects  are separate and self-supporting via tax deductable  contributions made to the LitvakSIG.

More than 700 people currently read the LitvakSIG digest. To cover our proposed budget for 1999 operations, we will need support at some level from the majority of these people. Participation in our Discussion Group/digest does not require membership, but a voluntary minimum contribution of $18 (chai) would be appreciated. We suggest:

Membership dues of $36 (double chai)

Sustaining membership dues of $75

Patron dues of $100

Please send your check made out to LitvakSIG, with "dues" in the memo field, to:

LitvakSIG Treasurer
245 Dalrymple Road
Atlanta, GA 30328

If dues pose a financial burden, please contact Financial Committee Chair Elliott Lipschultz <> of the SIG for a reduction.

• Additional donations will be used for the translation ofrecords donated by members to the "All Lithuania" database and for special projects. Only dues-paying members will be able to vote, hold office, serve on committees, or participate in research projects. Other special benefits (such as discounts on maps, etc.) will be available to members.

• While payment of Fiscal 1999 dues would be appreciated now, anyone who has paid dues of any amount during the past year will qualify as a paid member until July 1, 1998. Anyone who has paid any amount of dues in the last year will be able to vote for the Board of Directors of the LitvakSIG (even if this takes place after July 1, 1998).

• We believe that you should base your dues and contributions on your ability to pay and the degree of involvement and the importance of our goals and activities to you personally. If you expect to benefit from the services provided by the SIG such as the All Lithuania database, you should certainly be willing to become a regular Member; if the LitvakSIG is your primary genealogical affiliation, and you can afford it, please consider becoming a Sustaining or Patron member.

• We strongly urge our members to contribute generously to JewishGen every year. The LitvakSIG will continue to contribute to JewishGen from our Operational Budget, but individual support is appropriate as well.

• As special projects develop, additional appeals may be made from time to time We are actively pursuing grants and philanthropic contributions to support large scale projects. It is clear that without these levels of support by our members, we will not be able to be more than a discussion group.


JewishGen, Inc. hosts a number of online discussion groups, including one for the Litvak SIG. There is no charge to be added to this mailing list. To subscribe, go to the JewishGen WebForm and follow the simple instructions. You can easily subscribe/unsubscribe, set digest/nodigest, mail/nomail. If, after signing on, you wish to receive individual posts rather than digests, you can modify your subscription at the same site.

To post a message that will be distributed to all subscribers on the list, send e-mail to:

Send email regarding problems you experience with the listserver or other technical problems
- regarding the functionality of the listserver DIRECTLY to the moderators of the list. You will receive a rapid response.

Discussion Group Etiquette

• To facilitate reading of messages, please write a Subject heading, which clearly describes the content of the message. SUBJECT: "Re: LitvakSIG Digest #123" means nothing to the reader.
• Never hit "reply" or "send" without checking the subject heading. Decide whether the message should go to the entire membership of the SIG or is more appropriately sent as a private e-mail message.
• Write email the way you do a business letter get to the point FIRST, then put in the details.
• ALWAYS sign your messages with you full name and location, i.e., Shmuel Litvak
<> Siauliai, Lithuania, Don’t assume people know where you are. LitvakSIG is read in dozens of countries worldwide.
• Capitalize PLACE NAMES and FAMILY NAMES so that they stand out
• Please sign your messages with you full name and location. Don’t assume people know where you are. LitvakSIG is read in dozens of countries worldwide.
• Spell place names as they are in WOWW; you may add other versions or spellings in
parentheses. This will make it easier to spot a relevant posting.
• Send email regarding problems you experience with the listserver or other technical problems regarding the functionality of the listserver directly to the moderators of the list. You will receive a rapid response.


Our questionnaire will soon be linked to our Home Page. In the meantime, for our new members, or those who haven’t yet done so, please take a moment to fill in the following information, so that we can serve the group better. Please do not post this information to the mailing list. Send to

First Name: Surname:
Street Address : City:
State: Country: Postal/Zip Code :
Home Telephone Number (please include area code):
Business Telephone Number (please include area code): Email Address :
FAX (please include area code):
URL Address: Surnames of Interest: Shtetls of Interest: Documents In Hand:
Documents I Have Ordered:
I would like to help the SIG by:

What I would like from the SIG is: ___________________________________

For all other SIG business, please contact.

• Davida Noyek Handler
• David Hoffman

about the author