LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on the Annihilation of Jewish Communities in the Lithuanian Shtetls

In the final days of August we mark the 75th anniversary of the extermination of the large Jewish communities who once lived in the Lithuanian shtetls (small towns). Neither the shtetls nor the Jews survived the brutal mass murder. For 75 years no one has spoken Yiddish any longer in those small towns. No one celebrates Sabbath, the synagogues are boarded up or are now storehouses or workshops. What does this anniversary mean to the Jews and the shtetls of Lithuania?

Fainos portretaa

We mark the anniversaries because the people are no longer with us. Those who still remember the Holocaust must mark the anniversaries of the mass murders, otherwise the small towns will forget entirely the murder of their Jewish neighbors, including men, women and children. Lithuanian society as a whole–and not without a lot of effort by the Jewish community–twenty-five years after Lithuanian independence has all of a sudden remembered that there were Jews here, and their contribution to everything we have in Lithuania today is huge. Jews created and built the centers of these small towns. They are no longer, or they are very few, and what will the old-timers in these towns tell their children and grandchildren?

After World War II Jews maintained the keyver oves tradition (from Yiddish keyver, “grave,” + oves “parents, ancestors”) where Jews would visit the mass murder sites where their relatives were buried, to remember them. They used to do it on exactly the anniversary of the day when the Jews of that shtetl were exterminated. I remember from my childhood how we used to go visit our murdered grandparents, and how others went to visit their murdered sisters, brothers and parents. No one marched in a procession, there were no marching bands playing. Keyver oves was a sad occasion. People were repentant, they cried and they prayed, hoping it such atrocities would never happen again. They went to the mass murder sites, of which there are 240 in Lithuania, not to give speeches. What else can be said after all these years? They gathered not to talk, but so that the town community would think about where they lived and with whom they lived, and so that they wouldn’t be ashamed to look their children and grandchildren in the eye. You cannot hide the truth, after all. You don’t need popular novels, and large print-runs cannot replace open communication about what happened. Everything was known long ago. It’s not the Jews who need public commemorations, we already know it all, for us it is sufficient to stand and to pray. Telling the truth and talking sincerely and openly is needed in every small town where Jews lived before the war.

European Day of Jewish Culture 2016

Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street No. 4, Vilnius, September 4


Vilnius speaks Yiddish again!

10:00 Bagel breakfast Boker Tov-בוקר טוב – A guten morgn – Labas rytas!
Location: Bagel Shop Café, Pylimo street No. 4, Vilnius

11:00-11:45 Hebrew lessons for kids and parents with Ruth Reches Registration required
Meet at the Bagel Shop Café, Pylimo street No. 4, Vilnius

12:00-12.45 Rakija Klezmer Orkestar performance
Location: White Hall, LJC

Showing of Art from Plein Air Outdoor Painting and Ceramics Workshop

A showing of artworks by students in Raimondas Savickas’s latest “in plein air” outdoor art workshop will open to the public at a ceremony at 5:30 P.M. on August 25, 2016, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Artworks are to include painting and ceramics. The ceremony and exhibit is open to the public and will be held on the third floor of the Community.

March to Commemorate Murdered Jews of Molėtai, Lithuania on August 29

A march to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the mass murder of the Jews of Molėtai is scheduled for August 29 in Molėtai, Lithuania.

There will be a conference and exhibit at the Molėtai Art Gallery at 3:00 P.M.

A procession will then walk down Vilniaus street in Molėtai at 4:00 P.M.

Unveiling of a monument by Davidas Zundelovičius follows at 5:00 P.M. at the mass murder site and mass grave of the Jews of Molėtai. Teachers Ela Pavinskienė and Roza Bieliauskienė of the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium in Vilnius have organized an exhibit about cleaning up the old Jewish cemetery in Molėtai with photographs by Yehuda Vagner and Maceva volunteer Marius Lukoševičius.

Holocaust Commemoration in Biržai August 28

A series of events in Biržai, Lithuania, to commemorate the Jewish community murdered there during the Holocaust are scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. on August 28. The events include an initial “March of the Living”-type procession culminating in a conference and discussion. For more information, contact Sania Kerbelis at 370 698 85131 or Simona Ražinskienė at 370 699 03023. There is a possibility those needing a ride from Vilnius might be able to get one provided by the Lithuanian Jewish Community; contact info@lzb.lt to find out.

Commemoration in Dusetos of 75th Anniversary of Krakynė Massacre

August 26, 2016, marks the 75th anniversary of the massacre which was perpetrated in the Krakynė Forest (Degučiai alermanship, Zarasai region) when 2,569 Jews from Zarasai region and surrounding areas were murdered.

The unveiling of a commemorative monument will take place where the Dusetos Synagogue once stood on Independence Square in Dusetos, Zarasai district, at 2:00 P.M. We will commemorate the Dusetos Jews who were murdered between 1941 and 1944, visit the mass murder site in Krakynė Forest and distribute a publication called “Desetų žydai” (Jews of Dusetos).

Zarasai regional administration
Dusetos aldermanship
A joint project by the Dusetos aldermanship and parish community

Keeping the Faith in Vilnius

photo © Delfi/K. Cachovskis

Ellen Cassedy, author of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (ellencassedy.com), has written about the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Bagel Shop initiative.

Amit Belaite adores the long ode to the city of Vilna that was penned by writer and poet Moyshe Kulbak 90 years ago. Lines from the poem about Vilna’s stones and streets were running through her head on a warm summer afternoon as she led a walking tour through the narrow, winding streets of the city now known as Vilnius, the capital of the small Baltic nation of Lithuania.

Belaite, 23, heads the Lithuanian Union of Jewish Students. When she posted the announcement for the group’s tour of Jewish Vilnius, she expected a couple of dozen people to be interested. To her amazement, 400 signed up, many of them non-Jews.

“People know the city is rich in Jewish history,” she said. “They feel a big need to learn about it.”

European Days of Jewish Culture: September 4

Come learn about the Jewish cultural and historical legacy. European Days of Jewish Culture, September 4. This time the theme is Jewish languages. Event begins at 2:00 P.M. on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius.


Commemoration of the Holocaust in Šeduva, Lithuania

UPDATE: Event organizers are providing transport from Vilnius and several free seats are left! Please register for a place before August 23 by sending an email to info@lostshtetl.com

You are invited to an event to commemorate the Šeduva Jewish community murdered in the Holocaust. The event is on on August 30 and will be a kaddish at the 3 mass murder sites and the old Šeduva Jewish cemetery.

Commemorative program

9:00–9:30 Kaddish at the Jewish mass murder site in Pakuteniai forest

9:45–10:15 Kaddish at Liaudiškiai Jewish mass murder site I

10:30–11:00 Kaddish at Liaudiškiai Jewish mass murder site II

11:15–11:45 Kaddish at the Šeduva Jewish cemetery

12:00–12:30 Coffee break at the Šeduva Culture and Crafts Center

12:45-1:30 Mass at the Holy Apparition of the Cross Church in Šeduva

1:30–2:15 Yiddish song concert by Rafailas Karpis and Darius Mažintas at the church in Šeduva

Download PDF format event program

More here.

Commemoration of Holocaust Victims in Biržai and Molėtai in August*

Biržai: Commemorative ceremony to remember the Jewish community annihilated in the Holocaust, 11:00 A.M. on August 28.

Molėtai: Procession from the Molėtai synagogue to the mass murder site (~1.5 km) where 2,000 local Jews were murdered, marking the 75th anniversary of that event.

*There is a possibility the LJC might be able to provide transportation from Vilnius for those wishing to attend these events. Please contact info@lzb.lt or call 8 5 2613 003 before August 8 if you need transportation.

Preparations Under Way for Švenčionėliai Mass Murder Site Renovation

Ruošiamasi Švenčionėlių masinių žydų žudynių vietos tvarkymui

Work to renovate the Švenčionėliai mass murder site under the current plan is scheduled to begin in August and September, Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moisiejus Šapiro says. The period from June to November of 1941 was the most horrible and tragic period in the genocide, when about 80% of Jews in Lithuania were murdered. A ghetto was established in Švenčionys and mass murder operations were begun there. According to different sources, 7,000 to 8,000 Jews were shot across the Žeimena River in Švenčionėliai. A memorial marks the site.

Determining the exact identity of those murdered and buried near Švenčionėliai has been fraught with difficulty. After approaching numerous archives, only the names of seven Holocaust victims buried there were found. Chairman Moisiejus Šapiro is asking Holocaust survivors from the Švenčionys region and the small shtetls there and their children, grandchildren and relatives, wherever they might live now, to tell their stories and send him the names and surnames of those murdered at Švenčionėliai

He can be reached by email at moisa50@mail.ru

The Road to Death (75th Anniversary of the Murder of the Jews of Molėtai)

Attorney Kazys Rakauskas sent the following to the Lithuanian Jewish Community webpage.

On central Vilniaus street in Molėtai the flowers bloom and the brightly-painted kindergarten greets the eye of passers-by. The bridge next to the statue of St. Nepomuk is also festooned with garlands of flowers. Small fish flash in the sun in the pure lake water flowing into the river. Cars quietly pass and young people flex their muscles on bicycles. The people of Molėtai hurry to work on foot.

They are a different generation of people. Even their parents only heard vaguely of the terror, tears and suffering which once overtook this street. Seventy-five years ago hundreds of Jews of Molėtai realized where they were being taken at this bridge. They threw their things they had taken with them when they were removed from the synagogues under armed guard into the Siesartis river. This street leading from the three synagogues on Kauno street became the road to death for two thousand people. They had been held prisoner there [in the synagogues] for days without food or water.

Headstone Fragments Returned to Jewish Cemetery

Paminkliniai akmenys pagarbiai sugrįžta į senąsias Žydų kapines Olandų gatvėje

Fragments of Jewish headstones, removed from a transformer substation and other locations in Vilnius where they were used as construction material by the Soviets, have been returned to a Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian capital. The city municipality this week ordered all fragments, both with legible fragments of inscriptions and without, to be removed to a clearing at the former Jewish cemetery on Olandų street. The move begun today was supervised by architects and representatives of the municipality, the Cultural Heritage Department, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Verkiai and Pavilniai Regional Park administration.

Photos by Martynas Užpelkis, heritage protection expert, Lithuanian Jewish Community

“It’s clear that it was time long ago to make sure Jewish gravestones be returned with dignity to the old Jewish cemetery and that such examples of the barbarism of the Soviet regime no longer remain in the city. Today I am glad that these thoughts have turned into concrete deeds: the city has renovated a vast territory of the old cemetery, and slowly alleys and paths have emerged there, and now the commemorative stones are being returned with dignity to the renovated territory. There has been exemplary and very constructive cooperation with the Jewish community and different institutions, and even though we haven’t had great resources, we’ve managed to find solutions which allow us to show due respect to the memory of the dead and testify to our values and culture,” Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius said.

Šimašius Akmenys


Full story in Lithuanian here.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Zilber Visits Latvia and Lithuania

Rugpjūčio 15-16 Latvijoje ir Lietuvoje lankėsi rabinas Bentsiyonas Zilberis

Rabbi Ben Tzion Zilber, son of legendary Rabbi Yitzchok Zilber, visited Latvia and Lithuania August 15 and 16.

Rabbi Kalev Krelin of the Vilnius Jewish Community escorted Rabbi Zilber to locations where the latter’s ancestors lived. His father Rabbi Yitzchok Zilber belonged to a long line of scholars and suffered under Stalin, both at labor camps and under the atheist policies of the Soviet Union. Despite extremely difficult circumstances, Rabbi Yitzchok Zilber not only managed to hold steadfastly to his faith in the Creator and to keep His laws, but also to deepen his Torah study and teach others. After making aliyah to Israel Rabbi Yitzchok Zilber had hundreds of followers in whom he inspired faith in the Creator and adherence to the Torah.

Anniversary of Intellectuals Aktion, Mass Murder of Jews of Petrašiūnai

The Kaunas Jewish Community will mark the 75th anniversary of the murder of the Jews of Petrašiūnai and the Intellectuals Aktion on August 26, 2016. The ceremony will begin at 3:30 P.M. at the stele in memory of the Jews of Petrašiūnai. Then we will move to the Fourth Fort in Kaunas where the Intellectuals Aktion, the first mass murder of Jews imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto, was perpetrated.

Happy 70th!

Sveikiname mūsų bendruomenės narę Michlią Lorman su 70-uoju jubiliejumi!

We sincerely congratulate long-standing and very active Vilnius Jewish Community member Michlia Lorman on her 70th birthday.

We wish you eternal beauty and happiness, health and continued energy! And may all your birthday wishes come true.

Mazl tov!

Chess Tournament Dedicated to Memory of Kaunas Chess Club Director Abraomas Šulmanas

Kviečiam į šachmatų turnyrą, skirtą, Kauno šachmatų klubo direktoriaus Abraomo Šulmano atminimui

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Rositsan and Maccabi Elite Chess and Checkers Club invite you to a chess tournament dedicated to the memory of Kaunas Chess Club director Abraomas Šulmanas at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius at 11:00 A.M. on August 21.

Tournament director Boris Rositsan, FIDE master

For further information and to register, contact:
tel.: +3706 5543556


Vladimir Kavleiskij, a member of the Vilnius Jewish Community and the Social Club, passed away August 12. He was born July 19, 1946. We extend our deepest condolences to his family members for their loss.

En Plein Air Outdoor Painting Workshop at Įlanka Farm in Šaukšteliškiai Village

Plenerassu R.Savick2

Another outdoor painting workshop, or “plein air,” took place from August 8 to 14 at the Įlanka farmstead in Šaukšteliškiai village in the Molėtai region of Lithuania, organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Participants stayed in and painted a scenic natural location where the surrounding lake, skies and fresh air inspired creativity. The program included ceramics as well as painting and featured professional teachers and lecturers and a significant recreational component. Participants included two recognized Lithuanian folk artists.

Lithuanian and Japanese Cities Join in Commemorating Righteous Gentile

Pasaulio tautų teisuolio atminimas sujungė Japonijos ir Lietuvos miestus ir žmones

Events to commemorate Chiune Sugihara, Japanese WWII-era consul in Kaunas and a Lithuanian festival were held in Sugihara’s hometown of Yaotsu, Japan, from July 31 to August 7.

Sugihara rescued thousands of Lithuanian Jews from the Holocaust and has been recognized as a Righteous Gentile and awarded the status of Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority in Israel.

The week of commemorations was opened by the signing of a memorandum of cooperation by Yaotsu mayor Masanori Kaneko and Kaunas municipality representative Inga Pukelytė.

Acting Lithuanian ambassador to Japan Violeta Gaižauskaitė noted the events came on the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Japan and Lithuania and characterized ties between the people of Japan and Lithuania as sincere, and relations btween the two nations friendly. She also said both countries were dedicated to preserving the memory of the noble Japanese diplomat for future generations.

Nazi Victim Enzys Jagomastas to Be Commemorated

Pagerbs nacistinio rėžimo auką E. Jagomastą

Jagomastas was an activist for the rights of the Lithuanian minority in East Prussia and a publisher. He and his wife, two sons and daughter were shot at Ponar outside Vilnius in August of 1941. On the 75th anniversary of his death the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania is calling on the public to remember him and the murder of his family. An event is scheduled for 12 noon on August 23 at the marked grave of Jagomastas in Ponar.

More information in Lithuanian here.