Gaon-Era Torah Scroll Returns to Vilnius

350 m. skaičiuojatis toros ritinys grįžta į Vilniaus choralinę sinagogą

Vilnius, June 27, BNS–A 350-year-old Torah scroll used in Jewish religious services in the Vilnius ghetto has returned to Vilnius. British photojournalist Judah Passow decided to turn the scroll over to the Lithuanian Jewish Community for use in the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

“What’s important is not the [scroll itself], but that he decided to give the Torah to our synagogue. The Torah belonged to his family, it was safeguarded during the war and the entire time. Boys became men during bar mitzvah in front of this Torah and began to read from this Torah, so it is a great honor for us,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS. According to Jewish religious tradition, Torah scrolls must be written by hand. Kukliansky said this Torah will replace the one currently being used, which is worn out.

Passow, whose roots are in Ukraine and Poland, told how Lithuanian Jewish community representatives gave the scroll to his father, a professor at an American university in Philadelphia, almost six decades ago when he visited Vilnius in 1960.

Samuel Kukliansky Remembered at 25th Anniversary of Lithuanian University

Minint Mykolo Romerio Universiteto 25-metį, pagerbtas Samuelio Kuklianskio atminimas

Samuel Kukliansky, father of Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, has had a tree planted in his memory at a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius (known as the Law University before 2004). Samuel Kukliansky, Lithuanian attorney, scholar of law, criminology expert, was also a professor at the university and a post-doctoral fellow in social sciences.  He was born and raised in Veisiejai, Lithuania. After surviving the Holocaust, he was graduated from the Law Faculty of Vilnius University in 1953 with the qualifications of attorney. He was a life-long scholar and published more than 150 academic papers on different aspects of criminology.

On June 23 Mykolas Romeris University celebrated honored alumni and friends. The event to mark the 25th anniversary of the post-Soviet incarnation of the university included the release of a book including those who have contributed to the university along with the names of rectors, professors, teachers and students. An arboretum of Japanese cherry trees and ash trees was planted to honor past professors, alumni and friends of the university. Rector Dr. Algirdas Monkevičius said at the ceremony to open the garden it was intended as a gift from the university community to the founders and boosters of the university, to the neighborhood and to the city of Vilnius.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Kukliansky Comments on Baltic Pride 2016 March

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A large crowd of upwards of 2,000 people turned out June 18 in Vilnius for the Baltic Pride march for equality. The marchers included several foreign ambassadors—Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, Norwegian ambassador Dag Malmer Halvorsen and others—as well as Lithuanian and European politicians human rights activists, LGBT community members and supporters, social organizations and large delegation from Vilnius University. Marchers carried flags and banners identified with thr gay rights movement and different organizations as well as the national flags of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia, the United States, Sweden and others.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky also attended and said she believes the march is not about gay or lesbian rights, but basic human rights, the right to be who one is.

“There are those who protest, who don’t like this right, they are disgusted and they don’t like people who are different. I would advise such people to read some medical literature. Being gay or lesbian is not a disease. One doesn’t need to be cured of it, and these people don’t have to be fixed. We should accept them as they are,” Faina Kukliansky pointed out.

Romanian Klezmer Concert

The Romanian embassy in Vilnius and the Lithuanian Jewish Community invite you to a concert by the klezmer group Mazel Tov from Cluj, Romania, called

Rumania, Rumania,

lekhaim briderlakh!

 

at 7:00 P.M. on Wednesday, June 29, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius

Lithuanian Parliament Passes Amendment to Ensure Citizenship for Litvaks

The Lithuanian parliament Thursday adopted amendments to Lithuania’s citizenship law to ensure the rights to citizenship of Jews who left Lithuania between the two world wars and their descendants. The vote was 98 for, none against and four abstentions. The amendments will come into force after president Dalia Grybauskaitė signs them into law. The new legislation was introduced to parliament this week and were scheduled for fast-track consideration and debate. The new language specifies citizenship is restored to an individual who left Lithuania before March 11, 1990, the date Lithuania formally declared independence from the Soviet Union, except for cases where the individual left Lithuania to live in another part of the Soviet Union after June 15, 1940, the date the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania. The current law on citizenship allows those who left Lithuania before March 11, 1990, to hold dual citizenship.

“I very much welcome the change in the law, and I am certain the Lithuanian state has lost nothing at all, and on the contrary, has received much more, a good name and living potential,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS.

One of the authors of the new language, conservative opposition leader MP Andrius Kubilius, noted the current regulations needed to be better defined because Migration Department staff and the courts had begun to demand Litvaks provide proof they or their ancestors were persecuted in Lithuania between the wars. The new language makes it explicit that “withdrawal” or “flight” from Lithuania and “leaving the country” are all used synonymously and people in both alleged categories are included in the right to restoration of citizenship.

Removal of Jewish Headstones from Electric Substation Begins in Lithuanian Capital

Sostinėje pradėta ardyti pastotė iš sunaikintų Žydų kapinių paminklinių akmenų
photo: Saulius Žiūra

Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius is keeping his promise: now that the centralized hearing season is over, work has begun to remove part of an electric transformer station whose construction during the Soviet era employed stones from Jewish graves. The mayor today surveyed the work to disassemble the electric substation on Olandų street. After consulting with the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the decision was made to remove the headstone fragments to the site on Olandų street where a Jewish cemetery memorial is being constructed.

It’s clear that 26 years after the declaration of Lithuanian independence, it has long been time to get rid of such symbols of disrespect for our history. Today the Jewish headstones are being removed from the substation and will be used for a Jewish cemetery memorial on Olandų street. We consulted with the Lithuanian Jewish Community on how to return the fragments of gravestones in the most honorable manner, showing due respect to the memory of the dead,” Vilnius mayor Šimašius said.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

LJC Seeks Driver

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is looking to hire an automobile driver. Candidates should hold a B category license, have at least 2 years experience as a chaffeur, have a basic command of English and Russian and have a sense of duty, professionalism and responsibility. Light maintenance will also be required as well as some heavy lifting. Priority given members of organizations under the LJC umbrella. For more information, contact rokas@lzb.lt or call 865209915.

Neo-Nazi Rally Turns Violent in California

neos at sac
Police protect wounded skinheads. Photo courtesy FOX news

At least ten people were wounded, two with life-threatening wounds, during a neo-Nazi rally in front of the state capitol building in Sacramento, California Sunday.

A white nationalist group called the Traditionalist Worker Party and a neo-Nazi group calling themselves the Golden State Skinheads assembled just before noon local time for the march they planned to make across the capitol grounds, but were met by counter-protestors carrying anti-Nazi signs.

Fights broke out before the planned march began and lasted for about 20 minutes despite a heavy police presence, including officers on horseback. Armed battles were conducted with knives and baseball bats leaving at least seven stabbing victims, two of them in grave condition, and a total of 9 hospitalizations. One of the neo-Nazis was allegedly stabbed in a major artery and might not survive.

Glimpse into Azerbaijan’s Hidden Jewish Village

ganceman
by Lee Gancman

KRASNAYA SLOBODA, Azerbaijan –“Not good,” Rabbi Yona Yaakobi says in Hebrew, expressing his distaste while pointing to a grave featuring a statue of a man who died in 1988.

Carved in white marble, the nearly life-size statue of the deceased portrays him staring ahead, cane in hand, flanked by two pots of artificial flowers. Just below, on a black tombstone, is inscribed the man’s name, date of birth and the day he died in Hebrew. But lower it is engraved again much more prominently in Russian.

“All of this is influenced by the Muslims who got it from the Russians,” Yaakobi continues.

Although this particular grave is among the more ostentatious in the three cemeteries of Krasnaya Sloboda, an all-Jewish town in the mountainous north of Azerbaijan, it is surrounded by hundreds of others showing lifelike pictures of the dead in various poses, sometimes bordering on the absurd.

“I knew all of these people personally. I know the story of each one of them,” Yaakobi laments as he strolls past a large tombstone depicting a middle-aged man in a business suit reclining on a throne-like chair. “This guy for instance went fishing one day, and when he cast his line, it ended up hitting some wires, he got electrocuted and died.”

Let’s Remember Together: Steps for Life in Riga

The Shamir Association and the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum are holding an event called Steps for Life on Holocaust Memorial Day in Riga. The event starts at 11:00 A.M. on July 3 at the corner of of Lomonosov and Ebreju streets in Riga. Participants will walk through the Riga ghetto area to the Great Choral Synagogue on Gogola Street. Shamir is inviting those able to come participate and remember, together.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/545798345593250/
facebook.com/samir.latvija
facebook.com/rigaghettomuseum

The Significance of Holocaust Memorial Day in Latvia

In Latvia Leaders Ahead of Curve on Jewish Programming for Young Adults

When I spoke to Benny Fischer, president of the European Union of Jewish Students back in April, he told me European Jewish communities must focus more on programming and investment for students and young adults.

“Communities stop investing in members aged 18 to 35,” he said. “They do not see the urgency in investing in this particular group of people and it’s reflected in the inclusion of young people in community politics and work” which he described as “shocking.” Young adults are “the exact age group where you have to invest,” for it is out of this cohort that the next generation of community leaders will emerge.

Indeed, but perhaps on this, the Jewish community of Latvia is ahead of the curve–and might provide an instructive example to other communities across Europe. Last month I met Inna Lapidus-Kinbere, who has been running the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Riga for two years. She moved to Latvia from Estonia after she completed her master’s degree and after meeting and then marrying someone from the Latvian Jewish community, with whom she now has two children. Energetic and highly engaged, her phone didn’t stop ringing throughout our entire meeting.

Read full story here.

Lithuania: Vilnius Begins Dismantling Building Constructed of Jewish Gravestones

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The destroyed Uzupis Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, showing part of the memorial there

Work has begun to remove part of an electric transformer station in Vilnius which was built during the Soviet era using gravestones from Jewish graves of the once-vast Užupis Jewish cemetery on Olandu street, which was almost totally razed.

The Viilnius city web site, and the Lithuanian Jewish community web site, said Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius personally surveyed work begun this week to dismantle the electric substation on Olandų street and posted a video of him (see below).

Full story here.

Lithuanian Makabi’s Mini-Maccabee Games Held for Lithuanian Jews Going to Olympics

Lietuvos “Makabi” mažoji “Makabiada” skirta Lietuvos žydams (dviratininkams I. Anolikui ir T. Murnikui), dalyvavusiems olimpinėse žaidynėse

On June 19 Lithuania’s Makabi Athletics Club held a mini-Maccabee games in Kaunas dedicated to the bicyclists I. Anolik and T. Murnik. Over 72 athletes from all over Lithuania divided into six teams according to larger nearby city participated in field soccer, basketball, volleyball, table tennis and chess. The veteran team defeated the younger team in basketball in Kaunas with Erikas Griškevičius and Elvis Ušpicas taking home prizes for their efforts.

Eight athletes competed in chess. Sergey Alifanov won with 6.5 points, with tournament organizer Roza Joffė coming in second with 5.5 points. Aleksandr Korkhatov was a close third with 5 points. Unfortunately Makabi board member Roman Burštein with the highest rating in chess was scoring goals in soccer during the chess matches.

Team Klaipėda easily beat Kaunas in volleyball with a score of 3:1. The best players, Eugenijus Tarachovskis and Samuelis Ušpicas, were awarded prizes.

Alytus Regional Administration Sells Synagogue on Protected Heritage List as Sports Facility

Kultūros vertybių sąraše esančią sinagogą Alytaus rajono valdžia parduoda kaip sporto salę

The Alytus regional administration in Lithuania might be on the verge of causing an international scandal. The synagogue in Simnas near the city of Alytus, registered as a cultural heritage treasure, is being put on the auction block for sale. The regional administration says the synagogue isn’t of any use even to Jews, while the Cultural Heritage Department is demanding an immediate halt to the planned sale. Regional authorities say they will sell the building anyway.

The Alytus regional administration is offering to sell the unique Jewish synagogue as a sports hall, although the former house of prayer enjoys legal protection. Public servants have even set an opening price for the building, 19,600 euros. The date of the auction has been as June 30, with tours of the property being made available next week.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Discussion of Litvak Heritage Protection at Lithuanian Government

Vyriausybėje aptarti Lietuvos žydų paveldo ir istorinių vietų išsaugojimo klausimai

On June 23 a second sitting of the commission investigating issues associated with Litvak culture and history was held at the Lithuanian Government. Discussion included Litvak heritage, protection of Jewish cemeteries and mass graves, plans for the Ponar Memorial Complex, restoration of property and inclusion of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in centennial celebrations of the restoration of the Lithuanian state.

“Lithuania is proud of her rich history and opulent ethnic culture legacy. That includes synagogues, communal buildings, different documents and other heritage. I can say resolutely that it is very important to us to maintain existing Jewish heritage sites and to adapt them for public use,” first deputy chancellor and chairman of the commission Rimantas Vaitkus said.

Condolences

With sadness we announce Yuri Alesin, a member of the LJC Social Center, passed away June 22. He was born on April 26, 1930.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community send our deepest condolences to his widow, Frida Alesin, his son Ernestas and his grandchildren and many friends and relatives.

Jewish Gravestones Removed from Electric Substation

Iš elektros pastotės išimami žydų antkapių akmenys

VILNIUS, June 22, BNS–This week removal began of fragments of Jewish headstones used in the construction of an electric substation in Vilnius. The fragments will be removed to the Jewish cemetery on Olandų street to be used in a Jewish cemetery memorial to be erected there, the municipality informed BNS. “Currently work is underway to remove stones set in different walls,” Kęstutis Karosas, acting director of the city’s Heating and Water Department said. The plan is to remove all the stones by September 1.

The cost to the municipality is unknown so far. Karosas said payment will be made for work done. The electric substation on Olandų street was constructed during the Soviet period using headstones from the Jewish cemetery there. Jewish headstones, especially from the cemetery on Olandų street, were used all over Vilnius for construction during the Soviet era.

Archaeologists Find Burners Brigade Tunnel at Ponar

Mokslininkai žydų žudynių vietoje Paneriuose aptiko pabėgimo tunelį

A team of archaeologists from the US, Canada, Israel and Lithuania have discovered the escape tunnel dug by the burners’ brigade at Ponar as well as new killing pits.

“New pits were discovered, overgrown paths were also found along which the victims were taken, and the ashes of burnt corpses distributed over the area. And also, the most important thing, the act of resistance, the escape tunnel, about which so much is said in the literature… Now without margins of error its length has been measured, about 30 meters, very exactly, Markas Zingeris, director of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum told Lithuanian Radio and Television Wednesday.

He said the findings at Ponar will lead to new information stands and exhibits. The tunnel might also become part of the new museum planned at Ponar.

Lithuanian Parliament Begins Consideration of Amendments to Citizenship Law

VILNIUS, June 21, BNS—The Lithuanian parliament Tuesday began consideration of amendments to ensure Lithuanian Jews and their descendants who left Lithuania between the two world wars would enjoy the right to restore their Lithuanian citizenship. After initial presentation of the draft amendment, 92 MPs voted in favor of further consideration, none voted against and one abstained. The decision was adopted to put the proposed amendment up for fast-track consideration Thursday. Conservative MP Andrius Kubilius, leader of the opposition and one of the authors of the amendment, said the law needed amending because the year before last and last year Migration Department officials and courts began demanding Litvaks provide proof they or their ancestors were persecuted in interwar Lithuania.

Lithuanian Parliament to Consider Amendment for Litvak Citizenship

VILNIUS, June 21, BNS–Legislative amendments paving the way for Litvaks, i.e. Jews of Lithuanian origin, and their descendants who left the country in the interwar period to restore their citizenship rights, should be submitted to the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) Tuesday.

Amendments to the Law on Citizenship have been drafted by the European Affairs Committee.

According to the amendments, people who left Lithuania prior to March 11, 1990, except those who changed their place of residence within the territory of the former Soviet Union after June 15, 1940, should have their citizenship rights restored.