Cultural Historian Violeta Davoliūtė: Deportations to Siberia Were Lithuanianized, Catholicized


by Jūratė Juškaitė

Historians reckon about 17,000 people were deported from Lithuania during the first Soviet occupation. Cattle cars were sent deep into Russia from June 14 to June 18, 1941, and many of the deportees didn’t survive the first winter. Most people in Lithuania know these facts well, but June of 1941, often called the tragedy of the Lithuanian people, isn’t all that Lithuanian.

Research recently performed by cultural historian Violeta Davoliūtė soon to appear in the book “Population Displacement in Lithuania in the Twentieth Century” (Brill, 2016) attempts to bring the experiences of deported Lithuanian Jews back into collective memory regarding those days in June. The researcher says the narrative of deportations formed during the push for Lithuanian independence in the late 80s and early 90s contained ethnocentric elements and was often too “Catholicized.” Although the official politics of memory seem complicated if only for the widespread “Jewish Communist” stereotype, Davoliūtė says these and similar stereotypes have failed to divide this group of deportees, which is a tight-knit community based on shared experience.

In a recent discussion historian Dr. Arvydas Anušauskas was the first to call the 1941 deportations multiethnic. Why are they called this?

Ethical Will of Leonidas Donskis: Kaddish for Butrimonys

photo courtesy Milda Jakulytė-Vasil

In line with the expressed wish of the recently deceased Lithuanian philosopher and author Leonidas Donskis, a group will assemble in the Lithuanian town of Butrimonys Sunday, October 23, to say kaddish for the Jewish community murdered there in 1941.

“I would be happy, if while I am still alive, something similar would happen in Butrimonys… I feel a moral obligation to say kaddish there with Jews,” Donskis said in an interview on Delfi TV on July 31, 2016. The interview in Lithuanian is available here.

Kaddish will be performed by Lithuanian Jewish opera soloist Rafailas Karpis.

Time: 3:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M., Sunday, October 23, 2016
Location: Jewish mass grave site in Butrimonys, Lithuania

Israeli Antiquities Chief Equates UNESCO with ISIS

A March 31, 2016 picture shows the remains of the Temple of Bel’s “Cella” in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, blown up by Islamic State jihadists. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

by Ilan Ben Zion

UN cultural body’s resolution on Jerusalem akin to jihadist group’s destruction of Palmyra, says Yisrael Hasson

The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority slammed UNESCO on Wednesday for its resolution on Jerusalem holy sites, comparing the UN cultural body to Islamic State jihadists.

Speaking at the opening of the new IAA headquarters in Jerusalem, director Yisrael Hasson said the resolution adopted last week and confirmed on Tuesday put the UN organization in the same league as ISIS jihadists who have destroyed and looted hundreds of archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq to fund their caliphate.

Four Arrests in Beating of Rabbi in Ukraine

Mendel Deitsch is in serious but stable condition after a violent assault earlier this month.

Ukrainian police arrested four suspects, two of them minors, in connection with the brutal assault of Rabbi Mendel Deitsch in the Ukrainian town of Zhitomir earlier this month.

Deitsch, who serves as Chabad Lubavitch emissary to the former Soviet Union, remains in serious but stable condition at an Israeli hospital after a group robbed and beat him in the early hours of October 7.

According to reports in Ukrainian media, two males and two females from the Carpathian mountain region attacked Deitsch outside Zhitomir’s main train station, a press release reported.

Anti-Semitism on Steroids

Pasaulio žydų kongreso prezidentas S.R. Lauderis pavadino UNESCO balsavimą dėl Jeruzalės “antisemitizmu, kuris stiprėja nuo steroidų”

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder has characterized a UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem as “anti-Semitism on steroids.”

The UNESCO resolution appears to deny Christian and Jewish ties to the city. Lithuania voted against.

Israel has frozen ties with the UN agency following the vote.


WJC president Lauder condemned the resolution on Jewish holy sites and called it shameful, but cautioned against taking the Palestinian-initiated resolution too seriously, since there is no argument about Jewish ties to Jewish holy sites in the city.

“What happened today in Paris is anti-Semitism on steroids. It is a total travesty and an insult to the Jewish people to pretend that the holy sites in Jerusalem are only Muslim sites, and to ignore the fact that Temple Mount was already the holiest place of Judaism well before the advent of Islam,” Lauder declared.

Israel Freezes Ties with UNESCO

Baltic News Service reports Israel has frozen ties with UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, following the adoption of two resolutions on occupied East Jerusalem in the run-up to an important vote next week. In a letter to UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett accused the organization of ignoring millennia of Jewish ties to the holy city and of supporting terror in this manner. He added the Israeli National UNESCO Commission had been instructed to cut all ties with the international organization.

NGO Monitor, an organization which monitors the activities of anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian NGOs, issued a statement on related activities in the Security Council the day after UNESCO adopted the controversial resolution:

“NGO Monitor’s research has focused on the disproportionate political impact of Israeli NGOs and the role of funding provided by European governments. From this perspective, we note the debate over and political responses to the presentation by the director of B’Tselem [the pro-Palestinian Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories ] at a UN Security Council special session (convened by Egypt, Malaysia, Venezuela, Angola and Senegal) on Friday October 11. In this highly politicized statement, he implored the UN to take ‘decisive international action’ against Israel, and made no mention of Palestinian terror attacks or incitement. This event highlights the ways in which influential NGOs distort reality for ideological objectives and contribute to international political campaigns against Israel, under the façade of human rights, bypassing Israel’s internal democratic processes.”

Happy Sukkot!

sukkot-lzbSukkah at Bagel Shop Café on central Pylimo street in Vilnius

Sukkot, the Jewish feast of tents which is often translated in English as the feast of tabernacles, begins on the evening of October 16 this year, or Tishrei 15 on the Jewish calendar. A booth is built for Sukkot called a sukkah where for seven days the family has dinner, children play and as much time as possible is spent. That’s how it works in warmer climates, and today there are sukkah houses outside homes across Israel. Many Jews build the shelters in their yards or even on apartment balconies.

Why spend time in temporary shelters? The answer comes from Leviticus (Vaikra) 23:42-43: “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

It’s traditional to place the four species or arba minim in the tent or booth during the holiday. These are the etrog (a specific kind of citrus fruit), and branches from palm trees, willows and myrtle trees. Leviticus 23:40: “And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” The branches and fronds are traditionally used to decorate the booths and waved during the holiday.

Jews often take their evening meal in the shelter and recall the flight of their people from Egypt. However you choose to celebrate the holiday, the Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes you and your family a happy Sukkot!


Israeli Embassy to Present Awards to 3 Lithuanian Righteous Gentiles in Kaunas

The Israeli embassy in Vilnius is holding a ceremony to honor and award three Righteous Gentiles October 21 in Kaunas. The ceremony will confer the Yad Vashem title of Righteous among the Nations upon Antanas Blažaitis (1897-1949), his wife Adelė Blažaitienė (1903-1988) and their daughter Valentina Eugenija Blažaitytė Liutikienė (1927-1993). The Yad Vashem medals and certificates are being awarded posthumously and will be accepted by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The ceremony is scheduled for 1:00 P.M. on Friday, October 21, at the Kazys Grinius Pre-Gymnasium, Šiaurės prospect No. 97, Kaunas. Those who wish to attend should contact the Israeli embassy before October 20, telephone +370-5-2502510, fax +370-5-2502555, email

The Junta, the Park, and the Sukkah: A Lesson in Community Architecture


by Andres Spokoiny

We’re more affected by architecture than we might want to believe. The built environment conditions our thoughts and behaviors. Every building sends a message.

Totalitarian regimes know this well; they often have explicit architectural doctrines. Stalinist architecture favored monstrous, colorless buildings, exalting the collective over the individual. Creating monumental structures for Nazi rallies, Albert Speer evoked submission, aligning the crowd toward a single leader, rather than fostering talk among the people.

I have personal experience with totalitarian architecture. Argentinean juntas didn’t build huge buildings (mostly because they embezzled the money allocated for that), but they did renovate many Buenos Aires squares and parks. One of the most emblematic is Plaza Bernardo Houssay, tucked amid University of Buenos Aires buildings. The junta redesigned this space to make it impossible for students to stage demonstrations. The square was filled with irregular steps and levels. A water basin and a new church were built to leave no room for large crowds on the lawn. Beautiful art nouveau benches were replaced by uncomfortable concrete seats, placed so as not to face each other. Ancient jacaranda trees were uprooted, making it unappealing for students like me to fraternize under the baking sun. The traditional Spanish square, which serves as a focal point for diverse people to meet, chat, play dominoes, and philosophize, was no more.

The Jewish people is not particularly known for its architectural exploits. Our most important building in the world is a patched-up, badly eroded wall. Yes, there are great individual Jewish architects, but as a people, words are our forte — not bricks. As we celebrate Sukkot, however, suddenly Jews are forced to become architects. And it’s worth asking: if a building always sends a message, what does the sukkah tell us?

Lithuania Stands with Israel in Battle over Temple Mount at UNESCO


UNESCO, the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, gave preliminary approval to a resolution which denies Judaism’s two most holy religious sites, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, are Jewish in a 24-6 vote Thursday.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the vote stating: “The theater of the absurd continues at the UN.”

“Today UNESCO adopted its second decision this year denying the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site for more than 3,000 years,” he said. “What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock ‘n’ roll?”

Twenty-six nations abstained from the vote and two were absent.

The six countries who voted in support of Israel were Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United States. The resolution specifies Jerusalem is holy to three religions, but that the Temple Mount is exclusively a Muslim holy site.

Full story here.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Sends Birthday Greetings to Markas Petuchauskas

Premjeras sveikina Marką Petuchauską jubiliejaus proga

Lithuanian prime minister Algirdas Butkevičius has sent birthday greetings to art history and theater scholar Markas Petuchauskas on the occasion of his 85th birthday.

“You are an important creator of the cultural history of Lithuania and have dedicated many years of your life to the study of art and art history, and especially the development of our theater. Led by mature wisdom and relying upon your wide erudition, you have revealed to us the unique nature of works by famous artists and have painted detailed and colorful pictures of celebrated personalities. You have always been a person of wide horizons and constructive dialogue, and therefore have contributed much to the understanding and to the good cooperation between the Jewish and Lithuanian peoples.

“I sincerely thank you for your great contribution to the spiritual fortification of our state and enrichment of cultural life,” the Lithuanian prime minister said in his birthday greeting.

Greater Security Measures in Vilnius Following Terrorist Attack at Moscow Synagogue


The Lithuanian Jewish Community is alarmed by the armed terrorist attack at a synagogue in Moscow on October 1 and in order to insure greater security has announced a set of rules for the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, in light of ever-more-frequent attacks against Jews in Europe and the increasing danger posed by terrorism around the world. These rules must be followed strictly and are aimed at insuring the physical safety and spiritual dignity of those praying at the Taharat ha’Kodesh (aka Choral) Synagogue in Vilnius. The rules may be found here:

On October 1 a synagogue in Moscow was attacked. A security guard was wounded during the attack. There are reports the attacker might have been suffering mental illness. He has been arrested. Armed with a gun, the attacker stormed the synagogue with a canister of flammable liquid as well and threatened to burn down the Jewish house of prayer. He shot the security guard in the head and chest after he tried to refuse the attacker entry.


The attacker has been arrested but the police are not reporting any motive for the attack or further details, except that he has been identified as Ivan Lebedev, aged 40, and has been hospitalized for mental illness in the past. About 150 people were gathered at the synagogue for Sabbath services. The attacker reportedly demanded to meet with Moscow’s Chief Rabbi Pinkhas Goldschmidt.

Anti-Semitic attacks of this nature have been rare in Russia and are more often committed in Western European countries with large Jewish communities such as Great Britain and France.

Happy 85th Birthday to Markas Petuchauskas

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes professor habil. Markas Petuchauskas a happy 85th birthday! The doctor of art history has written many books on theater and drama over many years.

We wish him continuing health, continuing creativity and hope for another of his wonderful books. Let’s all wish him inspiration, success and love.

Today Markas Petuchauskas is the only person who can speak with real authority about the Vilnius ghetto theater which operated in 1942 and 1943. He was a ghetto prisoner and miraculously survived, as did his mother, after being rescued by good people. For many years he has sought to renew the interrupted dialogue between Lithuanians and Jews, which, he says, is best understood through art.

Happy Birthday! Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

Greetings from LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky for New Jewish Year 5777


Happy New Year to all members of the Community, young and old! We are ushering out what was a successful year, and we have reason to be happy and proud of it, and now we look forward to an even better year. I wish everyone strong health and a sweet and successful year ahead for you and your families. I invite everyone to do at least on good deed for the community over the coming year, and I especially invite those to do this who believe there are things that aren’t right within the community. Do what you think is right, don’t be afraid to do good deeds and let’s not fear the consequences. I wish you love of the country in which you live, to love Israel, and to raise your children as Jews, the future members of our community.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

How Much Can Happen in Seven Seconds: Rosh Hashana 5777

by Andrés Spokoiny

In 2007, at Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, scientists conducted a troubling experiment. They put people into an MRI machine and asked them to press one of two buttons in front of them. The subjects were told to do this several times, and to choose freely which button to press.

One part of the results was nothing new: around a second before the button was pressed, the parts of the brain associated with conscious decision-making lit up. But looking more carefully, the scientists noted that there was a pattern of neural activities around six or seven seconds before the decision was actually taken. That pattern predicted with great accuracy the decision that the person ended up taking.

The researchers were shocked, because these findings suggest that decisions are not really conscious. Rather, they are subconscious neural processes that are complete before our “command and control” functions ever activate. We may think that we’re about to consciously decide something, but in fact, our subconscious has already (and irrevocably) decided.

Fifteen Ways Being Jewish Is Meaningful

by David Harris

Surveys reveal a disturbingly large number of American Jews who feel disconnected from their Jewish identity. How painfully sad! In response, and with the High Holy Days just around the corner, let me share, as I have on occasion in the past, what being Jewish means to me.

1. It means championing what is arguably the single most revolutionary concept in the annals of human civilization—monotheism—introduced to the world by the Jews, and its corollary, the inherent belief that we are all created in the image of God (in Hebrew, B’tzelem Elohim).

2. It means embracing the deep symbolic meaning the rabbis gave to the story of Adam and Eve. Since all of humanity descend from the “original” couple, each of us, whatever our race, religion, or ethnicity, shares the same family tree. No one can claim superiority over anyone else.

3. It means entering into a partnership with the Divine for the repair of our broken world (in Hebrew, Tikkun Olam), and recognizing that this work is not to be outsourced to a higher authority, or to “fate,” or to other people, but that it’s my responsibility during my lifetime.

4. It means affirming life – “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse, therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Hebrew Bible) – and the moral choice that lies in the hands of each of us to bring a little closer the Jewish prophetic vision of a world at peace and in harmony.

5. It means celebrating the fact that Jews were early dissidents, among the very first to challenge the status quo and insist on the right to worship differently than the majority. Today, we call this pluralism, and it is a bedrock principle of democratic societies. It also ought to be an essential component of Jewish communities everywhere.

6. It means welcoming the pioneering Jewish effort to establish a universal moral code of conduct and seeking to act as if that code of conduct were my daily GPS—to pursue justice, to treat my neighbor as I would wish to be treated, to welcome the stranger in our midst (and, I might add, the newcomer to the Jewish people), to be sensitive to the environment, and to seek peace. It’s not by accident that America’s Founding Fathers chose words from the Hebrew Bible for our nation’s Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Or that the Ten Commandments continue to be an ethical guidepost for so many around the world.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Position on the Reconstruction of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius

The following is an official letter sent by the Lithuanian Jewish Community to concerned government agencies.

September 27, 2016

Remigijus Šimašius
mayor, city of Vilnius

Alminas Mačiulis
Government chancellor

Šarūnas Birutis
minister of culture

Linas Linkevičius
minister of foreign affairs

Diana Varnaitė
director, Cultural Heritage Department under the Ministry of Culture

On the Reconstruction of the Great Synagogue

As public interest has grown recently in the history and cultural legacy of Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) and specifically regarding artifacts uncovered at the site of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius, we feel it our duty to again present our view, that of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, regarding the issue of the conservation of surviving parts and the possible reconstruction of the Great Synagogue, a building with extraordinary significance to the Lithuanian and the global Jewish community.

As we have said before many times, we support all meaningful initiatives to preserve, protect and commemorate the legacy and heritage of the Jews of Lithuania, but we do not support unreasonable projects to rebuild non-existing buildings which are carried out in the name of Jews. It seems that is what we are facing again in the idea developing over many years by certain government institutions and possibly including hidden business structures to rebuild the Great Synagogue complex in Vilnius.

In 2015 the municipal government enterprise Vilniaus Planas was commissioned by the municipality’s Urban Development Department to prepare draft construction proposals for a memorial to the Great Synagogue under pre-project proposals submitted by the architect Tzila Zak. The terms of reference of the planning task itself revealed the client’s attitude towards the rebuilding of the Great Synagogue as an attractve real estate development project: the primary task presented to planners was to submit a list of the buildings proposed for rebuilding, to name the rooms and premises slated for reconstruction and to calculate floor space.

The authors of project proposals submitted three alternatives under which the site of the Great Synagogue complex would have from 2,000 to more than 6,000 square meters of building space. In a meeting with the mayor of Vilnius on February 5, 2015, regarding questions by the Economic and Investment Department and the Urban Development Department [of the city of Vilnius], they resolved to approve the “minimal” option (to rebuild a maintenance building, the Strashun Library, the Gaon’s shul, the Gaon’s museum and to construct only the façade in the place of the Great Synagogue), “leaving open the option, if needed, to recreate the aforesaid complex to the maximum in the future.”

Several other “preparatory” works testify to the seriousness of the plans. Under directive No. 30-1394 by the administrative director of the municipality of the city of Vilnius dated May 30, 2014, and titled “On the approval of the plan for the parcel of land at Vokiečių street No. 13a as an official planning document,” a parcel of land comprising 5,217 square meters is defined next to the building, including a 432 square-meter parcel to serve as temporary access road “until the project to reconstruct the synagogue is implemented.” Another matter which possibly demonstrates there are real estate development interests at work at and around the Great Synagogue site is special management plan for the Vilnius Old Town currently under preparation (the first draft version of the plan was released in 2015 but that document remains unapproved and is still being altered according to input from the public and various organizations, including from the Lithuanian Jewish Community). This plan allows for a maximum building height of 2 to 5 storeys plus attic space and a construction density of 80 to 100% at land parcel No. 269, the site of the Great Synagogue where a primary school now operates. If the plan were to be approved, it would open the door to construction on an even greater scale than that prescribed in the “maximum” option in plans proposed for the reconstruction of the Great Synagogue complex.

From another perspective, the reconstruction of the Great Synagogue complex is not the problem. The problem is that the project as formulated now would incur losses to the state and is unnecessary as far as Lithuanian Jews are concerned. There is one working synagogue in Vilnius currently whose preservation, maintenance and operations cost significant amounts. Furthermore, the LJC is paying for the protection and restoration of another synagogue in Vilnius located at Gėlių street No. 4 [Zavl shul]. Beyond that, there are several dozen more synagogues in Lithuania, most of which are on the verge of collapse. Finally, the Lithuanian Jewish Community itself is housed (under a free lease agreement) in a building belonging to the state at Pylimo street no. 4 which is in serious need of repair, with a leaking roof and a wholly ineffective heating system. The aforementioned project proposals entail the reconstruction of a number of non-extant (above ground) buildings whose uses and functions remain quite vague: “information center,” “Gaon museum,” “Jewish art gallery,” “restaurant” and so on. We would like to remind you that the Jewish Culture and Information Center is located less than 400 meters away at Mėsinių street No. 3a/5, while the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum has four exhibition branches in Vilnius, including the “Future Center of Litvak Culture and Art” planned for Pylimo street no. 4 and the former ghetto library at Žemaitijos street No. 4, which are also in dire need of repair.

Until June of this year the Lithuanian Jewish Community had never been made acquainted officially with any of these pre-project and project proposals, no one had asked us for our opinion of the idea ever, never invited us to discuss it or to cooperate in its implementation, so there could never have been any approval by the Community for any of these different plans.

It is unfortunate that the noble idea of commemorating the Great Synagogue by preserving and presenting to the public that which has survived has turned into a kind of business plan under which the synagogue building itself would not in fact be restored, and instead they would seek to create several thousand square meters of real estate. The Lithuanian Jewish Community does not approve of these sorts of plans and definitely will not be involved in them. If the state is satisfied by these plans, using aspirations for the reconstruction of the Great Synagogue as a cover story to reconstruct buildings of questionable value, function and use, it is not within the power of the Lithuanian Jewish Community to put a stop to it, but if that is the case, we do demand that the project not be connected in any way with Jews, and that the word “synagogue” not be used in its title.

And in the end we should think the public have to be told who the real authors of this idea are, what their real intentions are, and why and in what manner the architect Tzila Zak was chosen for these pre-project and project proposals, who is paying for the work by the architects and planners, and how much money from the national and Vilnius municipal budgets has been spent on this so far.

Presentations of the idea emphasize that the architect Tzila Zak won a competition or tender which was supposedly held by the Ministry of Culture and the Lithuanian Jewish Community, or people associated with it, in 1989. If that were true, then the Community should have been involved for the last 27 years in all stages of the development of the project. But, as noted above, we were only officially acquainted for the first time with the architects’ proposals in June of this year after we demanded it. Furthermore, to the best of our knowledge, neither the leaders of the Community then, nor later leaders ever participated in organizing these sorts of tenders or competitions, nor did they ever express any support for this project, contrary to the claims made in presentations of the project. That the Community was never involved in this project is also shown on the webpage of former Vilnius mayor Artūras Zuokas, where the project is presented at, with an organizational chart which includes heads of state and national politicians (former and current), Lithuanian members of parliament, a foundation of Jewish emigres from Lithuania, a world-famous architect, a well-known attorney, an honorary consul, the Lithuanian Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs, Zak’s architectural studio and several enterprises of the Vilnius city municipality, but no role assigned for the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Would this be possible if the Community had participated in the inception of this project, and Community leaders had expressed support for the project?

The project proposals for the Great Synagogue memorial, as stated, were drafted by the munipality’s Vilniaus Planas agency under order from the Urban Development Department of the Vilnius municipality. The terms of reference define the goal for drafting proposals: “to perform the procedure of preparing architectural proposals for the Great Synagogue memorial according to the pre-project proposals of architect Tzila Zak.” In other words, the Vilnius city municipality paid for architectural and planning proposals, and most likely for earlier architectural and planning work, including the services of Tzila Zak. How much they paid, and whether it was justified, is, again, beyond our jurisdiction to decide. We think other institutions with the proper jurisdiction might be interested in taking a look.

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman

Mini-Limmud 2016

The LJC and the EJF Mini-Limmud educational conference on Judaism will take place November 25 to 27, 2016, at the Trasalis resort and spa in Trakai near Vilnius, Lithuania. Participants must register between October 19 and 28. For more information contact Žana Skudovičienė, telephone +370 678 81514, email

Sara Lapickaja Has Died

Netekome Saros Lapickajos

Following prolonged illness Sara Lapickaja, 79, died in Ashdod, Israel, on October 11, 2016. An active former member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, she was also a Yiddish language and literature expert and a held a doctorate in philology. The Lithuanian Jewish Community express our deepest condolences to her surviving family and relatives.

Sara Lapickaja was born in Kaunas on June 14, 1938. She and her 10-year-old brother managed to escape the Holocaust and flee to Russia without their parents, where they were sheltered at an orphanage in the Kirov oblast. Lapickaja was in the first class of the Vilnius Jewish School in 1945, but the school was shut down within several years and she transferred to a Russian school, then graduated from the Vilnius Music School where she received a degree in choir conduction. She taught high school in Vilnius and Kaunas until 1988 while devoting much of her energy to the Jewish community, setting up an amateur volunteer choir which she conducted and helping establish the Jewish kindergarten in Vilnius, among other things.

In 1988 with help from the Lithuanian Jewish community she travelled to Israel on a Soviet passport to study at Bar-Ilon University. In Israel she devoted herself to Yiddish language and literature and earned a master’s degree, then furthered her education in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she successfully defended her doctoral thesis, “Ber Gelpern: Editorial and Educational Work” in 1997. She taught Yiddish language and literature in Israel for many years at Bar-Ilon and other institutes of higher learning.

She had a deep and significant relationship with Vilnius’s famous writer Abraham Karpinovich who wrote in Yiddish. They often attended conferences together, including in Vilnius. Karpinovich devoted much of his creative fervor to Jewish life in interwar Vilnius and after his death in 2004 the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum set up a special room in his name containing much of his archives and other items.

Everyone who knew Sara loved her and we will remember her goodness, sincere and open nature and her goal of being useful to her people.

Let her rest in peace in the Land of Israel.

The Nazi Hunter: Holocaust Collaborators Can No Longer Be Excused

German soldiers search the belongings of Jews rounded up in the Warsaw ghetto after the uprising in 1943. This year Europe remembers the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust (Getty)

By Efraim Zuroff @EZuroff
Thursday, October 6, 2016

Dr Efraim Zuroff is one of the world’s foremost Nazi hunters, as well as a renowned Holocaust historian.

Here, in his first article for talkRADIO, he talks about the widespread refusal to admit the Nazis didn’t act alone

This summer and autumn, we mark the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the systematic murder of European Jewry by the Nazis and their local collaborators in the areas which were then part of the Soviet Union.

The murders were carried out individually by shooting, and the names of places like Ponar, Fort IX, Rumbula, and Babi Yar became bywords for Holocaust atrocities.

Although the historical record of these crimes is crystal clear, and the identity of the perpetrators well-known, the new democracies of Eastern Europe are having great difficulties in admitting that it was not only Germans and Austrians who carried out these atrocities, but that their nationals also played an important role in implementing the Final Solution.

Rabbi in Ukraine Assaulted

On October 7 the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry’s representative in Kiev Ilya Bezrychko reported a Chabad rabbi in the western Ukrainian city of Zhitomir had been beaten severely. No motive for the attack is known.

Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, an emissary in France and Israel, was assaulted at the city’s central train station early Friday morning, October 7. Media reported that the rabbi remained in hospital after undergoing surgery.

NCSEJ pledged to monitor the situation and issue updates about any new developments in connection with the attack.

Book about Lithuanian Public Figure Irena Veisaitė Launched in Paris

Paryžiuje pristatyta knyga apie Lietuvos visuomenės veikėją I. Veisaitę

The Lithuanian embassy in Paris hosted the launch of Yves Plasseraud’s new biography in English, “Irena Veisaitė: Tolerance and Involvement,” October 3. Lithuanian ambassador to France Dalius Čekuolis spoke and said he was happy to have the opportunity to present a French author’s book in English about a noble Lithuanian person who has inspired and set an example of tolerance, and who is an active champion of European values.

The presentation was followed by a discussion with the author, academic and attorney Yves Plasseraud, and the guest of the evening, Irena Veisaitė herself, professor of literature, drama critic and human rights activist. The discussion was moderated by professor Šarūnas Liekis, dean of the Political Science and Diplomacy Faculty at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Veisaitė’s daughter Alina also attended with her son and friends.

Veisaitė, born in Kaunas in 1928, is a well-known public figure in Lithuania, a celebrated scholar of the theater, a professor of literature, one of the founders of the Lithuanian Open Society Fund and a member of the Lithuanian national UNESCO commission from 1999 to 2007. She is a member of numerous international and national NGOs and has received many awards and distinctions in Lithuania and other countries. Veisaitė has consistently emphasized the need for dialogue and tolerance even in the most difficult situations life has to offer in all her work.

Rules for the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community’s Taharat ha’Kodesh aka Choral Synagogue

Vilniaus žydų religinės bendruomenės Taharat ha‘Kodeš sinagogos taisyklės

Adopted by a meeting of the executive board of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community on September 22, 2016, act no. 06


The rules have been put in place in light of ever-more-frequent attacks against Jews in Europe and the growing danger posed by terrorism around the world. These rules must be followed strictly and are aimed at insuring the physical safety and spiritual dignity of those who pray at the Taharat ha’Kodesh aka Choral Synagogue.

The mitnagedim Taharat ha’Kodesh synagogue, built in 1903 and belonging to the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community, is the only synagogue in Vilnius which has survived the Holocaust and the Soviet occupation.

Every Jew has the right to visit and pray at the Taharat ha’Kodesh synagogue on the condition she or he follow the rules provided below.

Rules of Behavior at the Taharat ha’Kodesh Synagogue

1. The synagogue is public place of worship where the proper human respect for the site and the congregation is shown.

2. All synagogue activities, prayer and services are based on mitnagedic traditions.

3. Public order must be maintained during all prayer services and afterwards in the synagogue. Public order means the general rules of public behavior operating in society based on principles of morality and mutual respect.

4. Adherence to these rules insures the normal course of life in society, tolerant communication, civilized manners of resolution of conflicts arising between people and abstinence from aggression in pursuing individual interests. The following are banned in the synagogue: rude or belligerent behavior, issuing threats, demonstrating disrespect to those around you or the location itself through mockery or acts of vandalism, disturbing the public order and peace, use of profanity or lewd behavior, disrupting services, making noise or otherwise disturbing prayer.

5. Prayer services are performed exclusively in one of the halls, rooms and spaces of the synagogue.

6. A person who wants to make a public address at the synagogue must receive permission to do so from the rabbi working at the synagogue.

7. Personal arguments as well as arguments over the performance of prayers and other religious rites are banned in the synagogue. Suggestions on the performance of prayers and other religious rites may be discussed with the rabbi only when prayer and other religious rites are not happening. These rules also apply to the Kiddush and lecture room.

8. The opening and closing times of the synagogue are set by the executive board of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community and are publicly announced. Security and technical personnel are hired and their working hours are set based on these times. In special circumstances they may be subject to the discretion of the chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community.

9. The person reading the Torah, leading the prayer service, is designated and hired by the chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community with the approval of the executive board of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community. All people in the synagogue during that time must adhere to this established order.

10. People visiting the synagogue must be dressed appropriately. For men, that means wearing a yarmulke (kippah), a hat or a scarf to cover their head. Mobile or cell telephones are prohibited during prayer.

11. People armed with firearms or other weapons, or items which could be used as weapons, are not allowed to enter the synagogue (except for security guards). Also, intoxicated people or people arousing suspicion are not allowed to enter. It is also forbidden to bring in bags containing food products and larger packages (backpacks, purses, suitcases, luggage or other packages). These must be left with the person on duty at the entrance.

12. Without permission from the chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community, it is forbidden to hold meetings, protests and rendezvous in the synagogue, or to set out a table with food, or to engage in commercial activity.

13. Members of the congregation and visitors to the synagogue are required to obey the directions of the chairman, elder and security personnel operating in the name of the executive board of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community.

14. People who violate these rules are asked to leave the synagogue and might be barred from entry in the future. Violation of public order and other actions prohibited by the laws of the Republic of Lithuania could also incur legal accountability.

15. The keys to the synagogue and entry to all communication are protected and managed by the chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community.

16. All people inside the synagogue must obey the orders of security personnel. The security guard is equivalent to the person in charge of performing the functions of public administration.

Shmuel Levin, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

LJC Camp Counselor Seminar in Dubingiai

LŽB Vadovų (madrichų) seminaras Dubingiuose

The recreation and conference center ORO Dubingiai hosted a seminar of LJC camp counselors in September. The seminar was intended to raise the qualifications of counselors and better coordinate the Ilan, Knafaim and Regional Clubs. Attendants were the team of counselors and experienced coordinators who shared their knowledge with the young group directors.

The counselors were able to demonstrate their leadership characteristics and other talents and abilities, revealing themselves as good people capable of working in a team. They demonstrated that teamwork playing group games and preparing a program for period until the next season, the winter children’s camps. The coordinators were able to come up with interesting programs for children and adolescents to make this season a memorable one and attract more participants next year.