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© 2023 Rumsiskes Market-Town Museum Corp.


There are many worthy places to visit to learn how residents of Eastern European towns fought and died.
There must be somewhere to visit to experience and study how they lived.  A visit to the past will promote mutual understanding, respect and peace in the future.  These are our missions for the Rumsiskes Market-Town Museum.


History of market towns in Eastern Europe

There were some 1500 small market-towns in Eastern Europe before World War I – some with just a few hundred residents, others with several thousand. The main inhabitants in these towns were Christians (Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox or Roman Catholics) and Jews. The daily life and culture of these residents was complex, rich, and fraught with issues that are ripe for exploration and analysis.


Hundreds of thousands of people emigrated from Eastern European towns, and there are millions of their descendants in diaspora.


A Lithuanian-American neighborhood in Chicago. 

There are numerous and compelling sites to visit to learn how the lives of Eastern Europeans were lost to war and conflict throughout the 20th century. But there is nowhere in the world where descendants of residents of these Eastern European towns, or historians and interested students, can visit to accurately see and understand the daily life of their ancestors and residents of these towns.


The plan for an Eastern European Market-Town Museum in Lithuania offers this opportunity to understand the inter-dependent and vibrant lives Christians and Jews lived—together. 


Watch a short video about the Rumsiskes Market-Town Museum!



There are numerous and compelling sites to visit to learn how the lives of Eastern Europeans were lost to war and conflict throughout the 20th century. But there is nowhere in the world where descendants of residents of these Eastern European towns, or historians and interested students, can visit to accurately see and understand the daily life of their ancestors and residents of these towns.


The plan for an Eastern European Market-Town Museum in Lithuania offers this opportunity to understand the inter-dependent and vibrant lives Christians and Jews lived—together. 



Why should there be an accurate, objective depiction of market-town life In Eastern Europe?

There are many myths and exaggerations about life in pre-World-War-I Eastern European market towns, and the daily-life cooperation and struggle between Christians and Jews was complex.


In order for there to be peace and cooperation among ethnic and religious groups, there must be mutual understanding, and there must be accurate knowledge of history.


Open-air museums in Eastern Europe and in Lithuania

Lithuania, home to Vilnius – the city that was nicknamed “The Jerusalem of the North” because of its large Jewish population and its center of Jewish culture and learning – has one open-air museum in the town of Rumsiskes (Rumshishok in Yiddish), situated between Lithuania’s two largest cities – Vilnius and Kaunas – and an easy drive from each.


The Museum was established while Lithuania was under Soviet rule, and consequently omitted what were then politically-incorrect depictions of upper-class life, town markets, and religious observances. Before Lithuanian independence in 1990, the museum’s displays were mainly re-creations of farming hamlets from the various ethnographic regions of Lithuania. Buildings had been moved from other parts of the country and re-constructed in Rumsiskes to create an open-air museum.  


After Lithuanian independence in 1990, more features were added to the open-air museum, including representation of non-Soviet “Lithuania Minor,” a re-creation of an anti-Soviet partisan bunker, and a Siberian Yurt, typical of those in which Lithuanians who were forcibly exiled were forced to live.


In addition, a representative town “market square” has been added more recently. However, with the addition of the town market square, there is scant representation of the sizeable Jewish community that was in most market towns, including in the original, now-submerged Rumsiskes.


While the Jewish community ranged from 20% to 60% of market towns’ populations (approximately 40% in the original Rumsiskes), and while business-owners and residents of most market town squares were 90% Jews, there is currently only one re-created Jewish home on the re-created square, and two Jewish-owned shops.


There is nowhere, currently, where the diversity and vibrant interactions within these market towns are fully depicted or explored.






This proposal offers an interactive opportunity to explore and understand the history, the benefits and challenges of Christians and Jews co-existing—their inter-dependencies, their prejudices—their lives together. 


Rumsiskes at 9 AM on July 15, 1944, before the town was flooded.  German Luftwaffe photo from US Government World War II archives.

Steps toward an addition to The Open-Air Museum of Lithuania at Rumsiskes

  • Set up a not-for-profit corporation (completed) to fund and develop a complementary addition to the existing Open-Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumsiskes – accurately re-creating an Eastern European town and market square. The end result will be a small complex of nearby museums – as at Colonial Williamsburg – with the existing museum specializing in rural life, and the new additional exhibit showcasing town life.


  • With enthusiastic support from the citizens of the Town of Rumsiskes, purchase nearby land, and reconstruct the original town of Rumsiskes, as a proxy for the thousands of market towns in Eastern Europe. 


  • An extraordinary opportunity presented itself to research the pre-submerged town of Rumsiskes through an archaeological exploration by Dr. Richard Freund. Dr. Freund is a well-known archaeologist specializing in the use of high-tech non-invasive equipment and in researching the history of Jewish communities and historic sites. His explorations have been turned into historical documentaries sponsored by, and broadcast on, National Geographic TV, the History Channel, Nova and others. Dr. Freund conducted an exploration of the submerged village of Rumsiskes in July of 2019, with a report and a documentary (in partnership with the Rumsiskes Community Organization) now completed. The Museum will benefit from the research provided by this archaeological expedition.  The documentary, "Stories From The Depths Of The Lagoon," has been released in 2021.


  • Engage world-class researchers and exhibition designers to plan the re-creations and the live exhibits. Engage world-class specialty architects, engineers, construction firms and staff trainers to execute the plans.


  • In partnership with professorial/academic advisory staff at Vilnius University (Professor Jurgita Verbickiene) and at Yeshiva University (Professor Shay Pilnik), include in the exhibit components for resident scholars to research and learn from the dynamics of the rich, centuries-long, mixed society that was Eastern European market-town life.


Benefits of making Rumsiskes the destination for learning and research about Eastern European life

The new, expanded museum complex will benefit the economies of Lithuania and the Baltic States by generating the economic multiplier effects of increased tourism. Given the ever-increasing interest in family roots and genealogy, it is probable that this type of historical model and research center will be built somewhere in Eastern Europe. If Lithuania does not produce this historically accurate center for learning, study of the past and reconciliation, it will likely happen in another location in Eastern Europe.


Lithuania should be home to this world-class learning destination and reconciliation center.





Contact us to learn how you can bring the Eastern European Market-Town Museum to life.  Help us continue to develop:

  • a panel of experts in designing and building a complementary museum near the Open Air Museum of Lithuania at Rumsiskes that will be an accurate, compelling living-history museum depicting the complex cooperation and struggles of two cultures co-existing in Eastern European market towns as they did for hundreds of years.

  • an academic university-related entity devoted to the study and analysis of how people of different cultures co-existed.

  • the only destination for millions seeking to experience how their and our ancestors lived.



Watch a short video about the Rumsiskes Market-Town Museum!




A distinguished team is currently on board lending their expertise to the Rumsiskes Market-Town Museum project.

Zilvinas Beliauskas

Head of the Vilnius Jewish Public Library.


Merritt Chesley

  • Agricultural attaché, U.S. Department of Agriculture, retired.

  • Docent, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

Glenn Dynner, Ph.D.

  • Professor and Chair of Religion at Sarah Lawrence College, Fairfield University.

  • Co-Editor-in-Chief of Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies..

  • Author of Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland..


Peter Inker, Ph.D.

  • Theresa A. and Lawrence C. Salameno Director of Historical Research and Digital History at Colonial Williamsburg-the world’s largest living history museum.

  • PhD in Archaeology from the University of Wales, UK.  Extensive field experience in Archaeology, University research, and material culture studies.

  • Recent work has been in museum and heritage environments, specifically digital heritage through virtual and augmented reality. Board member of EXARC network of open-air museums, interpretation and experimental Archaeology.


David M. Kleinman

  • Former consultant on US market to Lithuania Travel, the national tourism organization for Lithuania, at a time when the emerging destination for US travelers is ramping up its marketing efforts.

  • Former Director of Travel Division of Spring, O’Brien Company where he directed award-winning destination marketing campaigns for the likes of New Zealand; Hong Kong; Morocco; the Yangtze River Valley, China; St.Vincent and the Grenadines; and ran or was part of campaigns for  many of the world’s leading airlines, hotels, cruise lines and tour operators. His public relations work has resulted in major broadcast and cable TV coverage for clients.

  • Investigative journalist for Ford Foundation’s criminal justice magazines and managing editor/columnist for labor union newspaper serving Brooklyn District Attorney detective investigators. Also reported for magazines covering management and marketing issues, travel and tourism, hotels and resorts, publishing, restaurant hospitality, food service and others.

  • Co-created a “Trans-Atlantic” event for the European Travel Commission (ETC) in May 2013, which marked its re-entry into conference management arena for its 33-member countries.

  • Consults for a range of projects including in entertainment and social media.

Shay Pilnik, Ph.D.

  • Founding Director of the Emil and Jenny A. Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Yeshiva University.

  • Former Executive Director of the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Amy Shapiro, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Alverno College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

  • Teaches philosophy, Holocaust studies and feminist theory.

  • Former Director of the Holocaust Education Resource Center at the Milwaukee Coalition for Jewish Learning. Has led Holocaust travel courses to Eastern Europe.

  • Co-editor with Myrna Goldenberg, Different Horrors Same Hell: Gender and the Holocaust.

Darius Suziedelis

  • Member of the first Lithuanian delegation to the United Nations, New York.

  • Former advisor to the President of the Lithuanian Supreme Council (Parliament).

  • Former president, Lithuanian American Youth Association, and board member of the World Lithuanian Youth Association and the Lithuanian-American Community, Inc. 

  • Translator and English content advisor for cultural organizations in Lithuania, including the National Museum of Lithuania and MO Museum (Vilnius).

Jurgita Verbickiene, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor, Faculty of History; Research and Theory of Cultural History, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania.

  • Specialist, researcher and author on Jewish history and culture in Lithuania.

Jill Vexler, Ph.D.

  • Cultural anthropologist who curates exhibitions about cultural identity and social history.

  • Graduate studies were at the National School of Anthropology in Mexico City and at the University of California, Los Angeles, from which she received her MA and Ph.D.

  • Since 1997, her exhibitions have focused on pre-war Jewish life and Holocaust-related themes. She curated Oświęcim, Oshpitzin, Auschwitz: Portrait of Memories, the inaugural exhibition at the Auschwitz Jewish Center. For the NYPL, she organized Letters to Sala – A Young Woman’s Life in Nazi Labor Camps. She curated Images of Resistance – The Photography of Partisan Faye Schulman for the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation and the Holocaust Museum and Studies Center at the Bronx High School of Science. In 2014, she served Department of State as a Visiting Specialist in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.


Elliot S. MatzFounder

  • Elliot Matz is a C-suite executive with extensive experience in managing large-scale complex enterprise responsibilities that encompass operations, finance, IT and real estate within not-for-profit and for-profit environments.

  • In his most recent role as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Elliot for over 15 years oversaw property maintenance, construction, security and IT and transportation for the 4 million square foot industrial and commercial facility and economic development project on the Brooklyn waterfront. As a member of the senior leadership team, Elliot has contributed to developing this former naval facility into a not-for-profit engine of job growth and economic development for Brooklyn and the City of New York.

  • In addition, Elliot spearheaded the team that developed, and in 2011 opened, BLDG 92, a state-of-the-art exhibit/museum that reviews the rich and lengthy history of the Navy Yard, and explains its significant role in New York City’s vibrant economy and cultural melting-pot. 

  • Prior to his career at the Navy Yard, Elliot was Managing Director of Corporate Real Estate for CBS Corporation where he managed acquisitions and dispositions and formulated and executed strategy for a real estate portfolio of up to 29 million square feet.

  • Elliot’s other appointments include 11 years as Director of Corporate Commercial Properties in the Corporate Real Estate Department of Chemical Bank; and Project Manager at the New York City Public Development Corporation.

  • Elliot has authored several articles and chapters on corporate real estate strategy in periodicals and books. He earned a BA in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from Harvard.

  • Personal Interests

  • Elliot Matz currently serves on the boards of directors of: the Baltic American Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is to promote business and trade between the three Baltic State (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and the United States, Stockade Works, a not-for-profit corporation that trains Hudson Valley residents in the television/video and film production film production crafts - a job generator for the Hudson Valley; and UpRiver Studios, a B-Corp., state-of-the-art television and film production facility in the Hudson Valley.

  • Elliot has an avid interest in music, and is an accomplished pianist specializing in the American Songbook.

  • He is also his family’s genealogist and historian, and has researched and produced an extensive family tree and history of the Matz family, which traces its origin to Lithuania and, in diaspora, includes histories in the United States, Canada, England, Israel and Argentina.





Getting back our cruelly stolen history is not easy work. It takes time, effort, and a lot of initiative and creativity. All of this I find in the fantastic vision of the proposed Old Rumsiskes museum reconstruction project. It has huge potential - historical, educational, cultural, touristic and economical. It would be a great gift for Lithuania, and a big contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the whole of Eastern European intercultural relations.

Zilvinas Beliauskas

Director, Vilnius Jewish Public Library



Besides its interesting and tragic history, the town of Rumsiskes is known mostly because it is home to one of the largest ethnographic open-air museums in Europe. The idea to establish an additional museum of the Rumsiskes town, which would be a realistic "live" reconstruction of the town including all of its ancestral residents, is great. It would give people a deeper understanding about the mode of life of their ancestors.

Darijus Rimkus

Chairman, Rumsiskes Community Organization

Lithuania used to be a huge and vibrant center of Jewish life, creation and thought, a vast green country, scattered with Jewish shtetls among Lithuanian towns, Jewish urban centers, yeshivas, and market places. I believe it would be a wonderful and thrilling human experience to walk through the time machine and to see how this lost world of Christian-Jewish cohabitation in Lithuania looked until the destruction. The Rumsiskes project could demonstrate this cohabitation and multiculturalism in the most wonderful way.

Yossef Levy

Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania




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