About the book:

Protecting Our Litvak Heritage

by Josef Rosin

This book is a monumental work documenting the history and destruction of 50 Litvak Shtetlach.  It is nearly 500 pages long, replete with historic facts and photos that Josef obtained from  the Archives of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel as well as  from former residents of these towns.  It is a treasure trove of material that will be valued by researchers and  families whose progenitors came from these towns.  It documents the rich Litvak history and describes the horrendous destruction of these communities and the murder of their residents by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators.

Josef Rosin and Professor Dov Levin, the author and writer of the introduction, respectively, met in the forests of Lithuania, as Partisans, fighting the Nazis during World War II.  They left Lithuania and after the tribulations of their illegal travel through Poland, Slovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Austria and Italy, they arrived in Eretz-Yisrael (the Land of Israel) on October 24, 1945 on a ship of "Ma'apilim" as illegal immigrants.   These two men became successful and contributors to the Israeli society: Professor Levin became the Chair of the Department of Oral History at the Hebrew University.  Josef became an engineer, working for the Water Planning for Israel" (Tahal).   He was the  Head of the Drainage and Development Department of that firm.  Dov and Josef  remain life-long friends.

History of the Book

Upon retirement Josef wrote many entries for the Hebrew book Encyclopedia of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania (Pinkas Hakehilot-Lita) and was the assistant editor of that book; this 750 page book, containing articles about 500 Litvak communities, was published by Yad Vashem in 1996 and was edited by Professor Levin. 

Joel Alpert, one of the editors of Protecting Our Litvak Heritage, is a distant cousin of Josef.  Recognizing  the need for the  information to be published in English, Joel proposed that Josef expand upon his research on a limited number of shtetlach (towns) from  the Hebrew book Encyclopedia of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania, and publish a separate book with that material.  The initial result  was  two books covering a total of 52 towns, Preserving Our Litvak Heritage, Volumes I and II, published by JewishGen in 2005 and 2007, respectively.  Now this current book, Protecting Our Litvak Heritage, covering an additional 50 towns, is being published by "The Friends of the Yurburg Jewish Cemetery."

"The Friends of the Yurburg Jewish Cemetery," (a non-profit organization) was formed by a group of relatives whose ancestors came from this small town in Western Lithuania.  During a visit to the town in 2001, a survivor from Yurburg, Zalman Kaplan, approached the group and asked them to rebuild the fence around the cemetery. This cemetery is one of the very few well-preserved cemeteries remaining in small towns in Lithuania.  In 2005 the group raised sufficient funds to rebuild the entrance to the cemetery.  In 2006 the group was approached by Rabbi Ed Boraz of Dartmouth College Hillel to cooperate with their program "Project Preservation," in which they bring 20 students, Jewish and non-Jewish, to restore Eastern European Jewish cemeteries.  In June 2007 15 student volunteers from Dartmouth College traveled to Yurburg. They performed restoration activities on the cemetery, erected over 700 yards of new fence, uncovered many buried headstones, and photographed  and catalogued all the headstones.  There was even cooperation from the municipality and participation by a group of local Lithuanian high school students on this restoration effort.

When an organization was sought to publish Josef's third book, "The Friends of the Yurburg Jewish Cemetery" was chosen, partly because Josef's grandparents came from Yurburg. All proceeds will support the further restoration and care of the Yurburg cemetery.

Joel Alpert, editor