Friday, 6 November 2009

Pig Bristle Factories in Vilkaviskis

Just got this answer from Josef Rosin

"Dear Ralph,
you can't imagine any Lithuanian Jew touching pig bristles if according to any Rabi it was Taref. There were in Lithuania many Jews who dealt with the bristles or by trading with them or processing them. The Jewish workshops employed to my best knowledge mostly Jewish workers and the working conditions and the salary was very poor. I think that in Vilkavisk even a strike was initiated by the Bund- the anti-Zionist workers movement."


  1. But would the rabbis have permitted Jews to touch pigs in any way, even if not using them for food? Surely they would have been considered unclean and therefore unacceptable under any circumstances? Or would this view only have been take by the ultra-orthodox and not the majority of the Jewish community?

  2. Dear Tony,

    I have checked this with Josef Rosin, he is one of the authors of the main books about Lithuanian Jewry.

    He says that brush making in Vilkaviskis was
    almost entirely in the hands of the Jews. It
    was obvious that the had permission to handle the pigs. We are talking about the period before the First World War.

    Vilkaviskis Jews were religious but not fanatical.

    If you read the memories of the late Shmarihyu Pustapetski you should get a "feel" for the atmosphere.

    I hope this helps !

    With kindest regards,


  3. Ralph,
    About bristle factories; besides Vilkaviskis, there were factories in many of the towns in southeastern Lithuania before WWI. My greatgrandfather, Isaac Sudarsky, had a factory in Vistytis which he moved to Verblin. I know that there were other factories in both towns. My understanding is that most of the bristles were imported from China, but that is just hearsay.

  4. Ralph,
    I have a question that I wish to ask all bloggers on this site; where can I find information regarding people who are mentioned in the shetetl descriptions on JewishGen. In the Vilkoviskis description, under education, it mentions Moshe Sudarsky as a well respected melamed in the town; no time frame, but I assume late 19th Century. Where can I obtain more info, hopefully in English, about personalities in Vilkoviskis.

  5. Ralph,
    Does Josef Rosin have any idea when the pig bristle industry began in Vilkaviskis? I am trying to get an idea of how many generations were involved in this industry. I find Tony's questions very interesting regarding the issue of the Jewish people handling the pigs. Perhaps the rabbis did not view handling of the pigs the same as using them as a food source.


  6. Ralph,
    My Kalvarija family, the Spektorsky's, started a feather-duster business very shortly after arriving in New York in the 1860's. I wonder if they had experience with the industry in Lithuania & if it was connected at all to the bristle business. Have you seen any family names of people from the bristle business?