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KELME (Lithuanian Kelme̊; Rus. Kelmy; Yid. Kelm), town in W. central Lithuania. It became known as a center of the *musar movement in Lithuania. The Jewish community there may have been in existence for several hundred years; its synagogue was said to be 300 years old, and there was a tradition that its reconstruction had been financed by a Polish landlord, Graszewsky. The Jewish population numbered 759 in 1847, and 2,710 (69% of the total) in 1897. The town became associated with the "Kelmer Maggid" Moses Isaac Darshan. According to the 1923 census there were 1,599 Jews living in Kelme. Most were occupied as small shopkeepers and artisans, but there were also grain and timber merchants, and owners of brush factories and tanneries. Communal institutions included two Jewish elementary schools (*Tarbut and Yavneh), a Jewish preparatory school, and a bank, among others. A number of prominent scholars served as rabbis in the town, among them Eliezer *Gordon, later rabbi of Telsiai. A musar yeshivah in Kelme was established by Simḥah Zissel *Broida, which also attracted students from other places; it existed until World War II.

During World War II, Kelme was occupied by the Germans shortly after the outbreak of the war between Germany and Soviet Russia. Most of the Jews were murdered in July and August 1941.


H. Karlinski, in: Lite, 1 (1951), 1438–51; M. Karnovich, ibid., 1 (1951), 1846–50; Yahadut Lita, 1 (1959), index; 3 (1967), 350–2.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.