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The Lithuanian Jewish Community of Telšiai

By Phil S. Shapiro, November 2020

The Lithuanian Jewish Community of Telšiai, by Phil S. Shapiro, is research that started in an initiative of the “Alka” Samogitian Museum, which has undertaken projects to recover for Lithuanians the true history of the Jews who lived side-by-side with their ancestors. Several years ago, the Museum received a copy of the 500-plus-page “yizkor”(memorial) book for the Jewish community of Telšiai, which was printed in 1984. The yizkor book is a collection of facts and personal memories of those who had lived in Telšiai before or at the beginning of the Second World War. Most of the articles are written in Hebrew or Yiddish, but the Museum was determined to unlock the information that the book contained. Without any external prompting, the Museum embarked upon an ambitious project to create a Lithuanian version of The Telshe Book. As part of that project, the Museum organized this conference to discuss The Telshe Book and the Jewish community of Telšiai.

This project is of great importance to Lithuania. Since Jews constituted about half of the population of most towns in provincial Lithuania in the 19th Century, a Lithuanian translation of the book will not only give Lithuanian readers a view of Jewish life in Telšiai but also a better knowledge of the town’s history, which is our common heritage.

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about the author
Phil S. Shapiro

The author is an attorney who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History (with Honors) from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Maryland School of Law. He also attended the Baltimore Hebrew College.

In the late czarist era Mr. Shapiro’s ancestors emigrated from Lithuania to Baltimore.
In 1901 his paternal ancestors co-founded the B’nai Abraham and Yehuda Laib Family Society (“BAYL”) as a mutual assistance group to help other relatives emigrate, Mr. Shapiro serves as the society’s co-president and historian.

Through the non-profit organization Remembering Litvaks, Inc.,, Mr. Shapiro and his wife Aldona undertake various projects to remember the Litvak communities in places that today are in Lithuania and Belarus.