a small town in Southern Lithuania
Where the Jewish Community is no more
My earliest known ancestor was Moses, who was born in 1769 (probably in Vilkaviskis or nearby). He had a brother named Leib. There is a family story that Leib met Napoleon in June of 1812 when Napoleon came through Vilkaviskis. The story in my family is that Napoleon apologized for his Quartermaster using the synagogue as a stable and told the Jewish Elders of the town (apparently Leib among them) that, "You Jews will never get fair treatment until you fight your way to Jerusalem". I have found "Mozessohn, Szlomo, son of Mowsza" on an 1826 - 1828 Taxpayers List for the Town of Vilkaviskis and, from an 1866 List of Jewish Taxpayers from Wolkovyszki, I have found, "Mozesohn, Gabriel - shopkeeper". Family tradition has it that Moses had 4 sons: one took the surname Mozessohn (after his father), another took the surname Bernstein, another Shapiro, and the other took the name Freidberg. Moses's brother, Leib, took on the surname Kishiniski (but his son took the name Ritevsky - shortened to Rits in modern times). I see from your website that, in the old Jewish Cemetery, you have found headstones with the names "Kishiniski", "Freydburg" and "Freiberg", and that the name Shapiro is mentioned by a survivor and a water mill for grinding flour was once owned by a "Kishninsky". It was also exciting to see that there was a strong Sephardic tradition in the town (in 1920, the Jewish school there taught in Hebrew with Sephardic pronunciation - and I have also heard that the Torah Scrolls in the Great Synagogue were ancient illuminated Sephardic scrolls) because there is another tradition in my family that the original family name was Orabuena or Orabena, from Tudela, Navarre Province, Spain (pre-1490s).
Moses Mozesessohn (1769 - 1862), taken in Kovno in 1861, when he was 92 years old.
all the information was kindly provided by George Mason