Having come from a well-to-do family, the young Strashun, at the age of 13 or 14, married Sarah Hanah, the eldest daughter of the wealthy Joseph Elijah Eliasberg. The couple had two daughters, Gita and Itta, who both died very young. With the help of his father-in-law, Strashun founded a business, which was managed mostly by his wife and her brother. Strashun remained financially independent throughout his life.
By the 1840s Strashun had publicly revealed himself as a Maskil, or supporter of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment movement. In 1841, when a group of educated Jews led by Nisan Rosenthal established two Haskalah-inspired schools in Vilna, where children studied both secular and religious subjects, Strashun was a teacher at one of the schools. Around the same time, on the occasion of the visit in Vilna of Max Lilienthal, a representative of the Russian ministry of education, Strashun lent support to Lilienthal's project for government-sponsored secular and religious education, taking the position of the maskilim in the intensive debates that arose between maskilic and traditional groups about the educational reforms.
The Strashun Library of rabbinical and other works, often spoken of as the largest library of Jewish learning in the world and which he gave to the community, became an important landmark in Vilna. Looted and destroyed by the Nazis from 1941, books recovered after 1945 went to YIVO (20,000 volumes) and the Hebrew University.
- "Mattityahu Strashun's biography," excerpted and translated from Ir Vilna (Vilna, 1900), by Hillel Noah Maggid Steinschneider. In: "Mattityahu (Mathias) Strashun (1817-1885): Scholar, leader and book collector." YIVO Institute for Jewish Research online exhibition. Accessed January 19, 2013.
- Warhaftig, Shillem, and Yehuda Slutsky, "Strashun, Mathias." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Retrieved from: Jewish Virtual Library website.
- "ShtetlLinks: VILNA" at JewishGen.org. Accessed January 19, 2013.
- Zalkin, Mordechai. "Strashun, Shemu’el and Matityahu." YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe 21 October 2010. Accessed January 19, 2013.
- Zalkin, Mordechai, "Samuel and Mattityahu Strashun: between tradition and innovation" (trans. Dror Abend-David). In: "Mattityahu (Mathias) Strashun (1817-1885): Scholar, leader and book collector." YIVO Institute for Jewish Research online exhibition. Accessed January 19, 2013.
- Shep Zitler's Story
- The City that could not be Vanquished Mann, Stanley
- Jewish Community of Vilna
- The Great City Synagogue of Vilna
- The Vilna Collection at YIVO.
- Herman Kruk, Library and Reading Room in the Vilna Ghetto, Strashun Street 6, in Jonathan Rose, ed., The Holocaust and the Book, 171-200.
- Mattityahu Strashun 1817-1885: scholar, leader, and book collector. New York: YIVO Institute, 2001.
- Strashun, Mathias, Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901–06
- Biography at Vilna Stories
- Samuel and Mattityahu Strashun: Between Tradition and Innovation
- Strashun Library history
- Lithuanian Jewish libraries
- The Strashun Library in Yad Vashem website