Salant (Salantai)

English edited by Fania Hilelson-Jivotovsky

Salant is located in the north-western part of Lithuania, about 32 km north-east from the district town Kretinga. The nearest train station was at a 12 km distance from Salant. The town was built on both banks of the Salantas river, the main part being on the left bank. A village with the same name was mentioned in historic documents dating back to 1565. In 1746 Salant was granted King’s permission to organize four annual town fairs.

Until 1795 Salant was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, when the third division of Poland by the three superpowers of those times - Russia, Prussia and Austria - caused Lithuania to become partly Russian or Prussian. The part of Lithuania which included Salant fell under the rule of the Czarist Russian. From 1802 it was part of the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 as part of the Kovno province.

At the beginning of the 80-ties of the 19th century Count Bogdan Oginsky purchased the lands of the town.

During the 19th century and also during the subsequent years of independence in Lithuania (1918-1940) Salant was a county centre in the Kretinga district.

The Jewish Settlement till after World War I

Jews settled in Salant since the beginning of the 18th century. In 1765 there were 279 Jews in town who paid poll tax. Aged people as well as the poor and the children under ten years of age were released of the payments, therefore it is reasonable to estimate the number of Jews at this date at about 400.

They made their living in crafts and commerce, in particular in flax trade. The market days and the fairs were the source of their livelihood.

During the years of autonomous organisation for Jewish communities in Lithuania (Va'ad Medinath Lita, 1623-1764), Salant community belonged to Birzh (Birzai) district.

During the Polish rebellion in 1831 a rich Salant man Eliyahu Gutkin, helped by the local priest, saved 12 Jews from being hanged by the rebels.

In 1843 the Czar issued an order stipulating that Jews living in the area within 50 km of the western border of Russia should be transferred to some of the Gubernias inside Russia. Salant community was one of 19 who refused to obey this order.

In 1847 there were 990 Jews in Salant. In 1880 300 Jewish families lived in the town. There were in town 60 Jewish shops, 20 flax merchants, a water-activated flour mill, 15 shoemakers, 7 tailors and other artisans, a doctor, a paramedic, and a pharmacist.

Picture supplied by Dr L.J.Herberg

Market place in Salant. The white house at right belonged to Zusmanovitz family

After Count Oginsky became the owner of Salant lands in 1885, he wanted to evict the Jews from their homes claiming that the Jews living on his lands were living there illegally. The conflict had to be resolved in court and the verdict was passed in favour of the Jews who stayed on in their homes after paying the claimant a fee of 60 Rubels per house.

Jewish children studied at the "Kheder" which was usual in those times. In the years 1903-1910 Salant had a "Yeshivah" and five "Khadarim". In 1906 a library was established, considered illegal in those times. The initiators of the project were Hirsh Ulshtein and one of Rabbi Rabinovitz's sons.

One of the promoters of secular education in town was Mordechai-Aharon Ginzburg, who later became the best known Hebrew writer of Lithuania.

Salant was becoming known in Lithuania and in the Diaspora for its scholars, the "Musar" men (ethics, morality), the rabbis, intellectuals and writers who trace back their roots to the town .

There was an old synagogue in Salant which apparently was built in the first half of the 19th century.

Street with peddlers

For list of rabbis who served in Salant see Appendix1 at Appendices 1-2-5-6.

On the list of Salant Jews who paid the membership fee of "Agudath Yisrael" in1913, thirty two names show up (see Appendix 2). The activists were Rabbi Mordekhai Rabinovitz, Tsvi Muskat, Moshe Milner.

In 1907 local public workers managed to form "Loan and Saving Society", despite obstacles caused by the government.

The "Khibath Zion" (Affection for Zion) movement and later the Zionism movement was well received in Salant, but even before these movements were established, some of Salant Jews immigrated to Eretz-Yisrael.

In 1838 Rabbi Yosef Zundl Salant immigrated to Eretz Yisrael and in 1902 Naftali Amsterdam did. Yitskhak ben Ze'ev Keidansky with his wife settled in Jerusalem at the end of the 80-ties of the 19th century. Beinush Salant was one of the seven founders of the "Nakhlath Shivah" quarter in Jerusalem. Dr.Ze'ev-Wolf ben Moshe Levinzon, a known doctor in Zemaitija region, agreed to run his practice in Jerusalem arriving in 1846 where he worked until his death in 1873.

Moshe-Yehoshua (Salant), born 1824 in Salant, arrived in Jerusalem in1872. Served as "Shamash" at the Beith Hamidrash of "Batei Makhase" quarter. Died in 1903 ad was buried on Mount of Olives cemetery. Had four daughters and one son.

One daughter and the son immigrated in 1912-13 in America, the others lived and died in Jerusalem.

At the old Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem there are 7 headstones of Salant Jews who passed away at the end of the 19th century:

Yosef-Zundl ben Binyamin-Beinush, immigrated in 1838 where he died in 1867 at the age of 81.

Rachel-Rivkah bath Tsvi (wife of Rabbi Yosef Zundl), died in 1856,

Tsivyah bath Yosef Zundl, died in 1881,

Moshe ben Yitskhak Izik, died in1873,

Rachel from Salant, wife of Asher from Shad died in1875,

Hode-Gite bath Yonah, died in 1884,

Binyamn-Beinush ben Rabbi Shemuel from Salant, died in 1900.

At the Hebrew newspaper "HaMeilitz" dating back to the years 1894-1901 there are 100 names of Salant Jews who donated money for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael (see Appendix 3 at Appendices 3-4). The fundraisers were Yomtov Lipman and D.Vazbutzky.

Towards the fifth Zionist Congress which took place in 1902, 50 "Shekalim" were sold in town. The list of members supporting Jewish agrarians in Eretz Yisrael and Syria in 1896 the following names of Salant Jews appear: Yosef Urdang, Khayim Gitkin, Lipman Ziv, Ben-Zion Cohen, Tsvi Cohen, Yehoshua Shwartz, David and Zalman Vazbutsky.

The Hebrew newspaper "HaMagid" Nr. 17 dating back to 1872, lists 80 names of Salant Jews who donated money for the destitute Jews in Lithuania. (see Appendix 4)

In 1915, at WW1, the Russian army exiled Salant Jews and most of the Jews of the Kovno Gubernia, deep into Russia.

For a partial list of famous persons born in Salant see Appendix 5.

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