Jews began settling in Rokiskis in the late 17th Century. During the 19th Century, the town's importance as a regional commercial center increased with the completion of a railway line that connected it to the Baltic ports of Riga and Libau / Liepaja and to the interior of the Russian Empire. By 1897, the Jewish population had grown to 2,067, 75% of the town's population. There was a strong Chasidic presence in the Rokiskis area, which was unique to Lithuania. Prior to the Holocaust, about 3,500 Jews lived in Rokiskis. By the end of August 1941 nearly all were murdered.
In 1952, Jews from the area who had emigrated to South Africa before the war published a collection of Yiddish-language articles and related images under the title Yisker-bukh fun Rakishok un umgegnt (Memorial Book for Rokiskis and Environs). Countless hours of volunteer effort have been devoted to translating that work into English and recently to gathering additional materials that were not available when the original book was published. Together, these translations, images, and new material provide English-speaking readers a composite picture of the history, culture, institutions, and daily lives of the Jews of the Rokiskis area and will be a lasting memorial to them.