“Gorzd” - Jewish Cities,
Towns and Villages in Lithuania until 1918

(Gargzdai, Lithuania)

55°43' / 21°24'

Translation of “Gorzd” chapter from
Yidishe Shtet, shtetlekh un dorfishe yishuvim in Lite: biz 1918

Edited by: Berl Kagan

Published in New York, 1991


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

John S. Jaffer

 

Our sincere appreciation to Miriam Kagan Lieber
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

We would like to thank Rabbi Saul Klein for help in editing this material.

This is a translation from: Yidishe Shtet, shtetlekh un dorfishe yishuvim in Lite: biz 1918;
Jewish Cities, Towns and Villages in Lithuania until 1918:
Historical-Biographical Sketches. Edited by Berl Kagan, New York, 1991 (Y).


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.


[Page 55]

In the Kretinga district. In German it is called Garsden. One of the old Jewish communities in Lithuania. Gorzd Jews who were responsible for collecting the border duties were mentioned in historic documents from the end of the 16th century.

These were just individual Jews; the kehile began to develop at the beginning of the 17th century. In 1639 the Polish king, Stanislaw the Fourth, gave the Jews in Gorzd a charter that guaranteed them citizenship. The shuls and the cemetery were exempted from taxes.

In the last quarter of the 17th century Gorzd was evidently already an established community. At that time the vad medines lite [Jewish Council of Lithuania] was mired in debt. Therefore in 1676 it was decided to transfer a debt of "one thousand gold rubles to Reb Gershon of Gorzd" – a huge sum in those days.

At the time of the Polish rebellion in 1831, the Gorzd Jews suffered from both the warring sides. The people of the community were forced to make a vow not to help the rebels against the Tsar and that “we will deliver no secrets to the enemy”.

A tragic event in Gorzd is connected to the first Polish rebellion. The Russian military command had to send soldiers from Raseyn over to Palonga. The Palonga priest had a letter with an order that the letter must be promptly taken to Raseyn.

There was no postal service in Zamet then, and poor Jews used to maintain the connection between the towns. The priest called in the wealthiest Jew in Gorzd, Zishe Zismanovitsh, a great-grandfather of the historian Kahym Shoys, and ordered him to take the letter immediately to Raseyn. Being a messenger was dangerous, and Zishe sent a poor Jew, Velve Faktor. He was intercepted by the rebels with the letter, and they immediately executed him by hanging. Zishe died a young man from the grief this caused him.

Gorzd was one of nineteen communities that did not respond to the ukase from the Russian government in 1854, that all Jews must leave their places of residence and go to designated areas deeper in Russia if they were less than 50 kilometers from the border.

Gorzd was a wealthy town. Its prosperity came from its strong trade with neighboring Prussia, which was also a near and welcoming market for both their own meager manufactured goods and also for imported merchandise from other parts of Lithuania. The entire economy of the town was dependent on Prussia.

For years Jewish corpses were brought from Memel to graves in the local cemetery.

In 1847, 648 Jews lived here; in 1897, 1455; in 1923, 1,037; and before the Holocaust about 800. One year before the Holocaust most of the town was destroyed in a fire.

Gorzd is connected to the story of Boruch-Bendet Podkever, a refugee from the 1648 pogroms in Ukraine. He was so completely occupied with his sharp-minded study and erudition that one of the wealthy Gorzd Jews gave him his daughter in marriage.

The wedding feast lasted seven days. On the last day Boruch-Bendet suddenly recognized among the poor guests, his one-time fiancee from Lublin, whom he had believed to be dead. Ignoring all the pleading and legal decisions of the rabonim, that the earlier engagement was annulled, he married the earlier, poor bride and lived in Gorzd until his death. Boruch Bendet is the father of Reb Shmuel the Chasid in Raseyn, whom the Vilne gaon called “the Zameter Chasid.

Gorzd was one of the few towns in Lithuania where the haskole (enlightenment) already struck roots in the years 1880 - 1890. That was a result of the fact that the local Jews, who lived next to the border with Germany, were economically integrated with German society. Besides that, Gorzd was then a main channel for the transport of enlightenment publications.

Gorzd was also very involved in the work of khibes-tsion and Zionism. It would be hard to find a town of Lithuania of the same size that had so long a list of contributors to the rebuilding of Erets Yisroel in the Hebrew press of that time in Europe. For Jews suffering want there is a list of contributors from Gorzd in 1872. The main collector for Erets Yisroel was Yekhezkel Zusmanovitsh; for general Jewish need, Nosson-Eliezer Ziv, and Dr. Aronson.

Rabonim.

Reb Moshe Yafe. In town they called him Reb Moshele. Circa 1860-1874. A terrible thing happened here during his tenure. One of the pious Jews, Zusl Prays, was the gabay [sexton] of the shul. In 1866 he did not allow a boorish Jew to buy a verse in “ata horeyso” [certain verses recited on simkhes teyre]. In the morning they found the gabay choked to death in a field. The criminal was arrested and prosecuted.

Reb Yoysef, his son, born 1846 in Vilkomir, rov in Slonim, Gorzd, Salant, Pokroy, Manchester (England). Author of Yoysef b'or (1891), Hasekhl V'hayetzer, Ahavas Tzion v'yerushalayim (published posthumously in 1947 (?)). Passed away in 1897 in Manchester.

Reb Yitzchok-Yaakov Rabinovits, born 1854 in Shershov. For a short time rov in Karelits, afterwards R”M at the Slabodke yeshive “Keneses Yisroel”; from 1894 rov in Gorzd and since 1896 av beys din [head of the Jewish court] in Ponevezh, where he passed away in 1919. He was most often called Reb Itsele Ponevezher. One of the Torah greats of his generation, and also active in Jewish affairs, locally and worldwide.

Reb Aron Volkin, born 1865 in Shumiatsh (Belorussia). After Gorzd 1 he was rov in Shat (Siad?), Amtshislav, Pilvishok, Pinsk. Author of many books. Murdered in 1942, may G' avenge his blood.

Reb Yitchok Ayzik Fridman, born 1874. Rov here from 1905, in Kurshan from 1914, Tavrig from 1927. In 1935 he made aliye to erets yisroel. Rov for nine years in Nakhlas Yitskhak (Tel Aviv), where he passed away in 1944. Author of many books.2

Reb Shabsay-Aron Shapiro, born 1863. Rov from 1922 to 1939, when he passed away. Son of the Riga Rov Moshe Shapiro and grandson of Ayzl Kharif; R' Mayer Levin, from 1934, may G' avenge his blood.

Between 1835 and 1911 there were 82 subscribers to rabbinic books here.

Descendants

Reb Shmuel Chasid. One of the trio “the Zamut chasids.” Born here in 1751.

Reb Shleyme Zalman Shakh, born here 1847. Talmud-lecturer in Telz. From 1904 a rabinical judge in Yafo, later Talmud-lecturer in Rav Kook's yeshive in Jerusalem. Killed by Arabs in the pogroms of 1929, may G' avenge his blood.

Khaym Binyomin Shoys, born 1884. Historian. From 1910 in Chicago, from 1915 in New York, last years in Los Angeles. Wrote about Jewish history, Tanakh and religion, among others: Jewish monotheism and Marxist materialism (Idisher kemfer, 1916-1918); Israel and the Nations (Varhayt, NY. 34 articles); series dealing with well-known apostates and famous Jewish cities. Some of his work: Biblishe gezangen (NY, 1916); Di greyse idishe geshikhte (his own and translated, NY, 1919-1925); Noviim (NY, two volumes); Mayses fun breyshis (NY, 1945); Historishe shriftn (NY, 1956). Translated Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray, Kuno Fisher's Spinoza's Life and Character ("The New Life"). Also a few books in English. Died 1953 in Los Angeles.

Yudika Yehudis Tsik, born 1898. Yiddish poetess. Since 1920 in Canada, the later years in America. Wrote poems in the Kovne Yiddish newspapers and collections, in Canadian and American Yiddish publications. Poetry books: Naye yugnt (Kovne, 1923); Mentsh un tsayt (Kovne, 1926); Vander-veg (Montreal, 1934); Shpliters (Toronto, 1934); Tsar un freyd (Toronto, 1949). In 1988 she still lived in New Jersey.

Leyb Shoys, born 1915. Yiddish journalist. Lived in Kovne, from 1944 in Vilne. Under communist rule was vice-director of the official Lithuanian news agency “Elta”. Reporter for Dos vort, 1938 editor of Ovent blat and in 1940 of Folksblat, all in Kovne. Author of the play Zog nit keyn mol az du geyst dem letsn veg [the title of the “partisans' hymn,” “Never say that you are walking the last road”.]

Notables

Rabbi Dov-Ber Hakoen Borokhov. Religious Judge beginning 1900. From 1905 in America, where he passed away in 1939. Author of Reyshes bikkurim (Jerusalem, 1932).

Yoel Susman Abelman, Osher Yafe, Dan Falk; Dr. Yehude Aronson, gynecologist. Rov Yisroel Salanter once consulted him about gynecological matters.

Bibliography:

Hamagid 1872: 2; Hamelits, 1893: 171; Y. Brutskus, Voskhod 1896: 7-9; Luakh Akheyosef, 1898, 342; Hamelits: 1898: 29, 132;1903;120; Kheshvn hanadoves, 1914, 35; Idishe shtime, Kovne, 1937: 5769; Entsiklopedia shel hatsiones hadases, 1938, 382; A. Sh. Zaks, Kemfer far folks-oyflebung - Dr. H. Frank. New York, 1945.

Efroym Oshry, Khurbn lite, NY, 1950, 108; Khaym Shoys, Historishe shriftn. NY, 1956, 276, 281, 284; Pinkas medinas lite, tekunas vad 5436 in Jewish calendar; Khelkos mekhukek, mekhavres G; Oheley shom, 367, 451; Toldos anshey shem (rand), 79; L'koyres ir raseyn, 23;D. M. Lipman, L'toldos hayehudim b'lite-zamut, 43; Yivo-bleter, II., Num. 3; Seyfer haprenumerantn, 1617; Lexicon, 4, 8; Yahadus Lite, 3.

Statistikos biuletinas, Kaunas, 1923, XII.; Black Book; Biuletyn Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego W Polsce. Warzawa, 1987, no. 141; Jewish Encyclopedia, IV., 311; VII., 57.



Footnotes:
1 According to another source: Grudz. The two towns are confused at times and it can be difficult to distinguish. See the chapter on Gruzd. Return
2 According to Entsiklopedia shel hatsiones hadases (Encyclopedia of Religious Zionism), rov in Gruzd. Return


See also:
Gorzd book; A memorial to the Jewish community of Gorzd

"Gorzd" - Volume I: Lite (Lithuania)

"The Destruction of Gorzd" - Volume I: Lite (Lithuania)

"Gorzd" - Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Lithuania

Gargzdai - ShtetLinks page

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

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