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KEDAINIAI (Rus. Keidany ; Yid. Kaidan ), town in central Lithuania, founded during the 14th century. From 1490 the locality was ruled by the Kishkis family, which invited Jewish merchants to settle there. The town became a Calvinist center in 1560 under the rule of the princes Radziwill, and the Jews were granted civic rights and religious freedom. Jews there engaged in the import and export trades, winemaking, and moneylending. Jewish craftsmen, ritual slaughterers, butchers, and cattle dealers were organized in guilds. The community played an important economic and social role in the Council of Lithuania (see *Councils of the Lands). There were 501 Jewish poll-tax payers in the town in 1766. The rabbis of the *Katzenellenbogen family made Kedainiai a center of Jewish learning. After Kedainiai passed to Russia in 1795, the Jews there lost their specific rights. The community, which numbered 4,987 in 1847, decreased by emigration during the 1880s, and by 1897 numbered 3,733 (64% of the population). During World War i, in May 1915, the Jews were expelled from Kedainiai to the interior of Russia, but some returned after the war. There were 2,500 Jews living in Kedainiai in 1923 (33% of the population), of whom approximately 15% were engaged in the cultivation and marketing of vegetables and agricultural exports. In 1939 Jewish refugees from Poland including the scholars of the yeshivah of *Mir settled in Kedainiai. On June 24, 1941, the Germans occupied the town, executing around 325 Jews in the forests by July, and on Aug. 28, 1941, with the cooperation of the Lithuanians, the rest of the Jewish population – including 1,000 from surrounding towns – was massacred at the Smilaga Creek. Senior *Sachs and M.L. *Lilienblum were born in Kedainiai.


B.H. Kasel, Kaidan (1930).

[Dov Levin]

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