PANEVEZYS (Panevezhis; Lith. Panevežys; Rus. Ponevezh), city in N. Lithuanian S.S.R. In 1766 the Jewish community numbered 254; in 1847, 1,447 Jews were registered, and in 1897, 6,627 Jews (50% of the total population) lived in Panevezys. An ancient *Karaite community is also known to have existed there. A number of noted rabbis officiated in Panevezys, among them Isaac Jacob *Rabinovich (Itzele Ponevezher), Joseph Sh. *Kahaneman, and Jeroham Leibovich. The Hebrew poet Judah Leib *Gordon served as a teacher in the city from 1853 to 1860. Naphtali *Friedman, a noted advocate, served as delegate from Panevezys to the third *Duma.
In May 1915, during World War I, the Jews of Panevezys were sent along with other Lithuanian Jews to the interior of Russia by the Russian military authorities. Most of them returned after the Russian Revolution. In 1923 there were 6,845 Jews living in Panevezys (35% of the total population), most of them occupied in small trade and crafts and some in larger business enterprises and industry.
The community had an active social and cultural life. Its educational institutions included Hebrew and Yiddish primary schools, two Hebrew secondary schools (one belonging to the Zionist-orientated *Tarbut educational system and the other, for girls, to the religious Yavneh), a Jewish pro-gymnasium, and libraries.
The Panevezys Yeshivah, which had a high reputation, was founded by Liebe Miriam Gavronsky, daughter of K.Z. Wissotszky. When the Jews were expelled during World War I, the yeshivah was first moved to *Ludza in Vitebsk province and then to Mariupol (*Zhdanov) in the Ukraine. After World War I Rabbi Kahaneman founded the great Ohel Yiẓḥak yeshivah in Panevezys with about 200 students. In 1944 the yeshivah was reestablished by Rabbi Kahaneman in *Bene Berak, Israel.
Panevezys was occupied by the Germans in 1941 a few days after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war. A ghetto was established from which Jews were transported and murdered in September 1941. They were buried in 12 mass graves. In 1968 the Jewish cemetery at Panevezys was destroyed.
Lite, 1 (1951), index; 2 (1965), index; Yahadut Lita, 1 (1959), index; 3 (1967), 335–7; J. Gar, in: Algemeyne Entsiklopedie: Yidn, 6 (1964), index.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.