Zagare: the place that we are from
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See page 2 for more information


Preamble: This is my own Midrash.

My Dad, Jack Coussins Zichrono Livracha, always told me that we came  from Zagar and that we farmed and had orchards. He said we lived outside Riga. So  I went to Riga in November 2005 to find  this mythical place. No one had heard  of  it. It was only when I came back I discovered that Zagar was Zagare and was in Lithuania and not Latvia.

 Zagare is around 50 miles from Riga and just below the border with Latvia. When I found that out I could then move quickly to gather information on where we we are from. Yes, Zagare is  outside Riga but its on the border of Latvia and Lithuania and at that time all this area was Russia and the district was Kovno  or what is known as Kaunis. That information was gleaned  from my great grandfathers and his brothers  naturalisation certificates which I found at Kew when I returned.

My Dad was right of course as the info he had was based on mid 19th century information passed down by my great grandfather. I thought that they were farmers living in wooden houses in a village called a shtettle. Well a shtettle was a small town with paved streets and many had nice stone buildings as well as wooden structures. My idealistic view was probably based on Fiddler on the Roof. The reality was somewhat different.

A shtot was the small village that Tevye would have lived in. Therefore our family came from a town. We were , apparently at some stage, growers of vegetables, fruit and particularly cherries. I have stories from my grandfather Louis of one relative whose party trick was to lift a pony (or a donkey)  on his shoulders while doing a hora. Well, we do have a long line of being very big fellas! I would have hated to see that relatives knees though. My only regret was that in 1998, a year before he died . Dad wanted to go there and when we were looking at Latvia and could not find Zagare, he was a bit depressed by that and we never did go to Eastern Europe together.

I was told that our name came from the word Khazan or Chazzan as we were cantors in the synagogue, I know now that we are Cohenim and that was a revelation to me. However our name has been linked to a common name in the Zagare are which is Rakuzin. That name , apparently, may have come from a nearby town of Rhokiskis. I am not sure about that though. My Dad used to say that (without any of the knowledge we now have) that maybe our name was based on Ra meaning sun and that our Kazin  name was from Chazzan as we were all great singers. Indeed my brother Ray is a professional singer and my brother Paul and me  have all sang on stage at one time or another.

We changed the name to Cusins, Cussins, Coussin and then to Coussins in our family branch. There are two distinct family branches of Rakusins jn the UK. One in Glasgow and one in Leeds.

Kol Tuv.

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Database of names from Zagare: Rakusins, Rakussins / Rhakusins / Katsins /Rakuzhin / Rakishin / Katsyn
Click any name to go to the  database
 


Zagare  1

Zagare had a Jewish community from the 16th century. The Jewish population in 1897 was 5500 - 60% of the total.  This was reduced to about 1,000 by 1939, due to emigration, and the remaining community was murdered in 1941.

 
2006

The umbrella website for Jewish genealogy is www.jewishgen.org . Many sites spin off from here, including one devoted to Lithuania: http://www.jewishgen.org/Litvak/ . In the last few years, a lot of East European Jewish records have been indexed online.  The surviving records for Zagare include Revision Lists (like censuses of the Jewish community) and taxation records. Amongst these I found a number of people called Katsyn, but now I'm thinking that your lot were probably the Rakishins and Rakuzhins. .

Harvey L. Kaplin, Glasgow.


Zagare  2

The town of Zagare, situated on the plain of northern Lithuania not far from the Latvian border, is over 700 years old. For several centuries there were two separate towns-Old Zagare and New Zagare. They did not merge until the end of 19th century. The towns were destroyed by the crusaders and Swedish and Russian armies, and the houses were repeatedly set on fire. Both parts of the town have preserved their 16th century planning.
Zvelgaitis fortified hill bears witness to the 13th century fights with the Knights of the Sword. The churches built in the 17th century and a manor house was built in the 19th century. Red brick or stucco houses surrounded the town's old squares.

The old parts of Zagare have been declared an urban reserve; the park and the manor house are a landscape reserve. Four nature reserves conserve coniferous forests, interspersed with broadleaved trees, characteristic of northern Lithuania, and rare plants and diverse wildlife. It is known for cherry orchards and other fruit that is grown here.Narishken Palace (Manor House)


Zagare Page 2

What lies behind the modern image of  Zagare. The Holocaust hit this little town very hard  and everyone was murdered with a very few exceptions. Here is the story of people  who remembered what happened. It is emotional reading. See Page 2


Stroll's Mill, The Strolls were a wealthy Jewish family in Zagare and were flour merchants. The mill run by wind power ground the corn.

I have created a further page about the history of Zagare and how that affects us. These pages have content I have received from a friend. Extracted from various books and journals, these are very important elements of this website and I urge you to read these reports to understand a  little about the region and what went on.

Zagare Page 2


 

Photographs of Zagare

Most of the Zagare images were furnished by Len Yodaiken  a researcher and Jewish family genealogist who lives in Israel( shoshly@kfar-hanassi.org.il ) We are very grateful to  Len for allowing us to use these. Len is also helping me with the historical aspect of the Coussins / Rakusens as he is an authority on this branch of the family. He has  succeeded in tracing the family back to two men, Efroim and Shachna Rakuzhin. They were born in the 1750s and believes that they were brothers

To view these images, click the arrows on either side to  scroll and then click any small  image to see a larger one.

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Welcome to Zagare

This is the entrance to Zagare from the South.


Going to Schul in Zagare:

The large building is one of the two main synagogues in New Zagare.

I have been told that the top floor was used for a few weeks before Passover as a bakery to manufacture Matza (unleavened bread). It is now used as a store house.

The smaller building also coupled as a synagogue, but was in fact the Bet Medresh - study house and has now been turned into the Fire Station. Under it is the Mikve or ritual bath where Jews immersed themselves on the eve of festivals and the Sabbath and on all other solemn occasions. Today it functions as the headquarters of the Zagare swimming club.-(Its being restored for community use) Sarah Rabagliati has reported that the White Synagogue in Zagare is now a Special Needs School Sports Hall.
In the bigger picture , this is indeed a wonderful use for what was the centre of the Jewish community in Zagare.
Failing being restored as a Shul, I could not wish for a better use in such a building (Craig)


 

Joniskis Synagogues in Zagare.
Perhaps your ancestors from northern Lithuania could have worshiped here.
The Joniskis red and while synagogues are in Joniskis, about 25 kilometres from Zagare.

The complex of 2 synagogues in Joniskis is a rare and endangered site. 

In June an application was submitted to the World Monument Fund, for funding to eliminate the then emergency condition of the complex of two synagogues,
and to restore them to a functional state. The application was written jointly by Sarah Rabagliati, Ieva Vozbutaite, and Cliff Marks. Although the application
was unsuccessful, since it’s submission, various positive actions have taken place with regard to the Joniskis Synagogues.

Red Synagogue (built in 1865) pictured in May 2004, after strong winds removed part of the roof.

 
The remaining White Synagogue is used for concerts and functions as a meeting place.

In the evening of the 2nd October 2004, a concert took place. The Lithuanian Jazz Trio – whose Drummer – Arvydas Joffe is Jewish, played to a packed synagogue. It is hoped, that with further funding, future events like these will be possible

Tomas Butautis from Joniskis Historical Ethnographical Museum


  White Synagogue (built in 1823) pictured in May 2004, showing construction work taking place before funding dried up

Synagogue has since been temporarily repaired. The reconstruction of the roof of the White Synagogue has now also been completed.

During September 2004, a week of events took place in Lithuania called “Jewish Cultural Heritage in Lithuania”.
As part of this programme events were organised involving the Joniskis Synagogues.
 
European Cultural Heritage Flag inside Red Synagogue

An exhibition was organised by the Joniskis Museum, which presented historical photos of the area.
This exhibition was displayed in the Red Synagogue, and opened during a tour of Jewish Heritage in the Siauliai Region.
There were 2 coach loads of visitors to this exhibition during the tour. On 2nd October 2004, as an extension to the events
during “Jewish Cultural Heritage in Lithuania”, two further events were organised in the red Synagogue.
During the day a talk was given, about the culture and history associated with Synagogues.

Boris Stainas, the head of the Siauliai Jewish Community giving a talk in front of the Aron Codesh in the Red Synagogue.

2004 :2008 four years later
Update from Cliff Marks January 2010
 

January 2010: A terrible thing happened two years ago - the red synagogue in Joniskis collapsed.  
And I don't know what the present status is - the locals wanted to fix it but I don't think they have
the funds, and there is probably not much political will at the upper levels.  And I am sure the art
work inside has been destroyed.  But I don't know the details.  Anyway, here is a picture of the
synagogues in Joniskis, with the white synagogue in the background:
 

The proposed future usage of the Synagogue complex will not be a religious one. It is unrealistic to suggest that it will be as there is currently no Joniskis Jewish Community, and it is too far for the Siauliai Jewish Community to travel regularly for worship. However, the restoration of these Cultural Heritage Monuments is still a valuable one. The white synagogue was to house the Joniskis Region History Museum (which is currently in temporary premises) and the white Synagogue is presently used for concerts. The Red synagogue was to  function as a more formal venue for concerts / lectures / seminars, and films. Now that the entire roof and part of the walls have collapsed, it seems unlikely that there will be any finding to rebuild and the Red Schul will be little  more than a memory.

The tragic events that took place in World War II, resulted in the extinction of the Joniskis Jewish Community, but this should not mean that their Cultural Heritage should also be left to disappear. The Jewish Cultural Heritage Events that took place in the Red Synagogue on the 2nd October showed that there is a great potential for these buildings to be adapted to new and sustainable functions, whilst still maintaining an element of the history that is associated with them. The newly adapted synagogue complex aims to open the history of this area to dialogue and discussion, through integrating it into present day life and learning.
 

Please see the fuller version of your history on the Zagare page 2 section

Town: Zagare
Also known as: Nei Zhagar, Novo Zhagory, Zager, Zager Ch= adash, Zagere, Zagory, Zhagar, Zhagare, Zhager, Zhagory
Country: Lithuania
Date: May 15 1996
Description: Isaac Mendelson with his rifle
Negative #: 4501
Description: Isaak Mendelson
Negative #: 1404
Description: Isaak Mendelson in Jewish cemetery
Negative #: 1411
Description: Isaak Mendelson introducing us to Zagares
Negative #: 1416
Description: Isaak Mendelson with military medals in his = apartment
Negative #: 1415
Description: Just outside Jewish cemetery where 80 strong= est men killed
Negative #: 1413
Description: Mass killing site
Negative #: 2919
Description: Former Synagogue
Negative #: 2921
Description: Mass killing site (3000 Jews)
Negative #: 1400
Description: Mass killing site (3000 Jews)
Negative #: 1401
Description: Matzah factory and Mikvah
Negative #: 2923
Description: Memorial at site where strong men were killed outside cemetery in new Zagare
Negative #: 2920
Description: Former Synagogue
Negative #: 3001
Description: Isaac Mendelson with his rifle
Negative #: 4501
Description: Isaak Mendelson
Negative #: 1404
Description: Isaak Mendelson in Jewish cemetery
Negative #: 1411
Description: Isaak Mendelson with military medals in his = apartment
Negative #: 1415
Description: Isaak Mendelson introducing us to Zagares
Negative #: 1416

Copyright =A8 1996, Bruce E. Kahn
 

 


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