The town of Pandėlys (Yiddish: Ponedel) was first mentioned in historical sources in 1591. In the book of the Vilkmergė (Ukmergė) Land Court, Pandėlys was mentioned as being on the estate of Ivan Boboyed.
It is not known exactly when the first Jews settled in Pandėlys. However, a 17th Century record shows a Jew living here who rented a tavern.
A September 1765 list of those who paid taxes on the sale of alcohol refers to taverns of the manor, and taverns operated by Jews, Christians, and the local government. A 1775 list of members of the council for Vilkmergė (Ukmergė) county states that there were three Catholics and 18 Jews in Pandėlys.
A 1787 inventory of the local estate provides, in addition to a detailed description of eight houses belonging to the manor, 25 homesteads belonging to Jews, most of whom were merchants. The inventory also mentions the presence of a rabbi, a Jewish religious teacher, three tailors, a butcher, a shopkeeper, and a Jewish tenant of the manor inn. There were also several free people living in the town.
An 1846 list of Jews in the Pandelys kehilla (Jewish community) who paid the candle tax contains 54 names. (The tax on the sale of Sabbath and holiday candles raised money for Jewish school purposes.)
Data collected in 1883 for the Czarist-Russian Ministry of the Interior states that there were two brick and 49 wooden buildings in Pandėlys. There were 14 stores and three taverns.
An 1889 Pandėlys map shows the town’s lots and buildings and a list of their owners, which includes the names of many Jews. The map also shows the Jewish community’s buildings, which were concentrated in the western part of the town, specifically, the synagogue, the house of prayer, the smaller building of the house of prayer, the Hebrew school, and the Jewish ritual bath – the mikvah.
In 1897 1,131 Jews lived in Pandėlys. They constituted 95% of the town’s population.
The Jews of Pandėlys were active participants in various social events. It is known that in April 1863 the Jews welcomed the rebels led by Z. Sierakauskas with the traditional symbolic offering of bread and salt. They were also active in the 1905 uprising against the czar.
During World War I, as the Imperial German army advanced into Lithuania, the local Jewish community was ordered to leave for the interior of Russia within 24 hours. When the Germans took control, some of the Jews managed to return. However, most became refugees in deep in Russia. They returned only after Lithuania became independent.
In 1919 the town of Pandėlys grew rapidly, with a population of over 2,500, two thirds of whom were Jews. Most were artisans and small merchants. On Tuesdays, markets were held in the town, which attracted tradesmen and customers, not only from the Pandėlys area, but also from other towns and villages.
According to the 1923 general census of Lithuania, 7,729 inhabitants lived in Pandėlys parish, of whom 671 were Jews. There are 611 Jews in the town itself. As a result of Lithuania’s diplomatic disagreement with Latvia in the early 1920s, the border with Latvia closed, which weakened the town’s economy. For that and other reasons, the population decreased. Some Jews were able to emigrate, primarily to South Africa. In 1939, there were 300 Jews, out of a total population of 1,000.
During the inter-war period, Pandėlys had two Jewish houses of worship, a school, and a ritual bath (mikvah). Nearly all were Chassidic.
During the 1930s, about 25 Lithuanian and 90 Jewish families lived in Pandėlys. The Jews were primarily engaged in business, including four or five restaurants. They also had an active cultural and social life. There were many organizations, various political and religious groups, a theater, a sports club, and a community library in Pandėlys.
The quiet life of the Jews of Pandėlys abruptly ended in 1940 when the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania. The Soviets targeted all successful people for repression and much private property was confiscated. The Soviets also opposed religion. For the Jews, teaching in Hebrew was prohibited and all private Jewish organizations were disbanded.
After Nazi Germany invaded Lithuania in June 1941, organized persecution and killing of Jews began. In its first stage in Pandėlys, the Jews were ordered to gather in the market square. Rabbi Michael Pun and several others were shot. The rest of the Jews were removed from their homes and imprisoned in a temporary camp that was established by Dr. Zablockis.
After three weeks the Pandėlys Jews were transported to a temporary regional concentration camp in Rokiškis.
The captives of the Rokiškis camp were shot in the Velnioduobė (Devil’s Sinkhole) Forest, a few kilometers from Rokiškis, on August 15 and 16, 1941.
After the war, no Jews remained in Pandėlys.