New LJC Project to Make Recommendations on Anti-Semitism at EU Level

Remembrance. Responsibility. The Future. These are the sequential steps leading to real changes in society. The future of democracy and tolerance depends on memory and responsibility assumed, allowing for moving forward. A step towards the future–after surveying, judging and adopting expertise from the best initiatives aimed at fighting discrimination–this is the goal of this new start-up project.

The new project is called Development and Publication of Recommendations for Actions to Fight Anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania.

The project is supported by the Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft foundation or EVZ in Germany. This foundation supports systematic and long-term studies of discrimination against and marginalization of Jews and Roma in Europe.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has brought together a group of leading experts from among Lithuanian human rights organizations, community activists, academics and specialists from abroad. This group is undertaking to come up with effective and valuable recommendations on actions for fighting anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania.

LJC Gešer and Kaveret Clubs Celebrate Purim

The Gešer and Kaveret Clubs of the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a joint Purim carnival/party last Friday. Since the party fell on the Sabbath, they kicked off the celebration with a Sabbath prayer by a young couple in the Kaveret Club.

The event was hosted by LJC program coordinator Žana Skudovičienė and Michailas Frišmanas. The theme was “hipsterism” from the 60s, 70s and 80s and participants were instructed to come dressed as hipsters from that era. There were skits performed on the story and traditions of Purim.

There was also a surprise in store for everyone: famous American cellist, composer and vocalist Ian Maksin showed up and performed. He said he was enthralled by the warm atmosphere and hospitality at the Lithuanian Jewish Community celebration.

Frankfurt Jewish Community Looks Forward to Passover

Frankfurto žydų bendruomenė taip pat laukia Pesacho šventės

Employees of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Social Programs Department are currently visiting the Frankfurt Jewish Community in Germany. Under the EU’s ERASMUS program, ten center employees will learn from colleagues in Germany, Poland and France this year how best to expand the care and services network for the elderly and how to provide higher-quality services to our clientele.

Our employees studying practices in Germany are being hosted by our partner-organization Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland or ZWST. This is one of the organizations with the longest experience serving the elderly. Their main clients are Jews and their families who have immigrated from Eastern Europe. The LJC Social Programs Department wants to learn more about the standards of services provided, European perspectives and how to apply them in dealing with the problem of aging in the Community.

Below you will find some pictures and descriptions of the Frankfurt Jewish Community, the second-largest Jewish community in Germany about 60% of whose members hail from Russia, Ukraine and other countries. Members pay a membership fee based on their income tax.

f33

Former Vilnius Ghetto Library Receives Protected Status

bns_logo_v2

Vilnius, March 22, BNS–The building of a former Jewish library in Vilnius has been entered on the registry of cultural treasures and there are plans to house a Vilnius ghetto museum there.

The Cultural Heritage Department announced the building with a commemorative plaque at Žemaitijos street no. 4 is being provided legal protection for its valuable archaeological, architectural and historical characteristics. The first council for assessing real estate cultural heritage at the department made the decision.

Cultural Heritage Department director Diana Varnaitė the surviving building which was part of the Vilnius ghetto and where the Mefitsei Haskalah library operated and later the Vilnius ghetto library is not currently being used and belongs to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.

“At [the museum’s] initiative there are plants to set up a museum commemorating the Holocaust in Lithuania and the Vilnius ghetto which will exhibit the vast Jewish cultural heritage and the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania. The names of Holocaust victims are read out there annually to mark the day of Jewish genocide,” director Diana Varnaitė said.

Žemaitijos 4 250px-Vilna1

Insults to Jews under the Sponsorship of Ramūnas Karbauskis

Lzinios.lt

The newspaper Ūkininko patarėjas [Farmer’s Helper], 30% of whose stock is owned by Union of Peasants and Greens [ruling] party leader Ramūnas Karbauskis, is printing articles raising doubt and uncertainty concerning the conferring of a state award to former ghetto inmate and Soviet partisan Fania Brancovskaja, articles which are insulting to the Lithuanian Jewish community. Historian and MP Arvydas Anušauskas says he thinks these sorts of publications bring to mind Nazi propaganda and contribute to the sowing of ethnic discord.

“The Lithuanian Jewish Community strives to base its words on facts, documents checked a hundred times before making a statement. These sort of accusations and this kind of rhetoric being published by Ūkininko patarėjas is, in my understanding, at the very least unethical,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told [the newspaper] Lietuvos žinios.

She was talking about publications in Ūkininko patarėjas which raise doubts concerning the actions during World War II of Fania Brancovskaja. Brancovskaja was conferred the Order of the Cross of the Knight “For Merit to Lithuania” on February 16 this year. Some publications have claimed Brancovskaja, who fled the Vilnius ghetto and joined the Soviet partisans, is complicit in the mass murder of residents of the village of Kaniūkai [Lithuania] carried out in January of 1944, although research by experts from the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania found she had not taken part in that operation.

Going on Speculation

The March 14 issue of Ūkininko patarėjas contained an article stating: “On February 21 Ūkininko patarėjas was the first media organ in Lithuania to report to the public the President’s Office on the occasion of February 16 [Lithuanian Independence Day], by awarding the ‘knightess’s’ cross to a Soviet agent of diversion, to member of the Jewish gang which exterminated the village of Kaniūkai in Eastern Lithuania Fania Brancovskaja, in truth awarded and rehabilitated all the perpetrators of the genocide of the Lithuanian nation.”

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Department of Ethnic Minorities Presents Virtual Tour of Heritage Sites

The Department of Ethnic Minorities under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania invited those interested in cultural heritage to the launch of their multimedia DVD March 16. The DVD presents moveable and non-moveable heritage objects and sites of ethnic minorities living in Lithuania. The disc contains panoramic photographs of Lithuanian ethnic minority heritage sites by photographer Kostas Šukevičius. This section of the disc includes heritage associated with the Polish and Jewish communities in Lithuania.

Speakers and participants at the event included Cultural Heritage Department director Diana Varnaitė, senior archivist of Lithuania Ramojus Kraujelis, acting director of the State Tourism Department Indrė Trakimaitė-Šeškuvienė, journalist and author Aurelija Arlauskienė who has written a number of books about Lithuanian cultural sites including about the Paulava Republic, and Lithuanian Jewish Community heritage specialist Martynas Užpelkis. Donatas Puslys, editor-in-chief of the website bernardinai.lt, was moderator.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Holocaust Researchers Meeting in Vilnius

Vilniuje susitinka Holokausto tyrėjai

Vilnius, March 22, BNS–The two-day conference “The Beginning of Mass Murder: Identification and Remembrance of Mass Murder Sites from Summer and Fall of 1941” began at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius Wednesday. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky was a speaker.

IHRA3

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance with 31 member-states and a number of historians, educators, museum specialists and other Holocaust researchers from around the world organized the conference. Lithuania acceded to IHRA membership in 2003 but this is the first time an international IHRA conference has been held in Vilnius, a museum representative said.

The two-day conference is being hosted by the Tolerance Center of the museum and is dedicated to identifying, marking and commemorating mass murder sites in the Baltic states, Romania, Ukraine and Belarus.

Remembering the Children’s Aktion in Kaunas

The Kaunas Jewish Community invites you to come and remember the victims of the Children’s Aktion in the Kaunas ghetto during the Holocaust. Approximately 2,000 children were murdered during the mass murder operation. This will be the 73rd anniversary of that tragic day. The event will be held at 4:00 P.M. on March 24 at E. Ožeškienės street no. 13 in Kaunas.

American Hebrew Academy Director Visits LJC

Glenn700

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky met with Glenn Drew, chief executive officer of the American Hebrew Academy, the international Jewish college preparatory boarding school with a distance-learning program via internet, on March 17 to discuss educational opportunities for members of the LJC and their children. The Baltic Council for International Education facilitated the meeting.

Mr. Drew first visited Vilnius in October, 2016. Reading recently about the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s chairwoman and her work, he decided to make contact with the Community directly.

In a letter to the chairwoman sent before the meeting, Mr. Drew wrote:

“I spend a considerable amount of time traveling around the world visiting Jewish communities to inform them about opportunities for Jewish teenagers to study and the American Hebrew Academy in the United States. During my visit to Vilnius, I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your board. I believe we share many common interests and would like to explore how we may collaborate in the future.

Matzo Is Here!

LŽB logo paveiksliukas1Macai

Members of the Vilnius Jewish Community are invited to pick up a box of matzo bread in room 201 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius on workdays between 8:30 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. from March 22 to March 28. On Sunday, May 26, please come between 11:00 A.M and 5:00 P.M. Try to remember to bring you membership card!

Please note: Matzo will be distributed to social program clients separately. They are invited to pick up a box of matzo bread in the computer classroom on the first floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius on workdays between 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. from March 21 to April 4.

Every member will receive a full box of matzo without charge, but due to financial constraints we are unable to provide more than one box per member. Additional boxes may be purchased at the Bagel Shop Café for €3.50 per 1 kg box.

Michael Oren, Deputy Minister for Diplomacy at Israeli PM’s Office, Visits LJC

Oren M.

Michael Ben Oren, deputy minister for diplomacy at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and Israeli MK in the Kulanu party as well as former Israeli ambassador to the United States (2009-2013) visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community March 16, where he met and spoke with LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. He asked about current events in the community and took in the architecture of the building. On March 17 the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University is hosting a lecture by Mr. Oren on Israel’s foreign policy, to be followed by a discussion with students, teachers and the public.

Michael Ben Oren is an American-born Israeli historian, writer and politician. He was visiting professor at Harvard in 2006 and visiting professor at Yale in 2007. He is the author of New York Times-bestseller Power, Faith and Fantasy, and also of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

The public event at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University located at Vokiečių street no. 10 is scheduled for 10:00 A.M. March 17 and is being co-sponsored by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For more information contact Viktorija Gailutė at the email address viktorija.gailiute@spmi.stud.vu.lt or call (5) 251 4148.

Were We Not Strangers in the Land of Lithuania?

by Geoff Vasil

Shrovetide is the Catholic period of confession and repentance marking the transition from winter to spring in the calendar year. In Lithuanian it’s called Užgavėnės, which is how the Lithuanian language used to indicate the period before Gavėnia, or Lent, the period leading up to Easter. Both the English and Lithuanian names are rather obscure—the English name almost sounds like “shroud” and to shrive is an archaic verb for confession and absolution by the Catholic priest—but the holiday is immediately recognizable to people around the world in its more popular names Carnival, Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday.

Tuesday is really the last day of the Shrovetide period and represents European pagan/Catholic syncretism, the mixture of pagan bachanalia and saturnalia-type celebrations with the Christianity emanating out of Rome. The excesses and parties of Carnival have always been condemned by ecclesiastical authorities and yet have continued to the present. Carnival in many ways mirrors Halloween, which precedes All Saints’ Day, and in Lithuania there is a tradition of Shrovetide “trick-or-treaters,” children in costume going door to door seeking pancakes.

These costumed characters are a reflection of earlier and larger Shrovetide processions in Lithuania. In the post-1990 period of Lithuanian independence great efforts have been made to revive what was for all intents and purposes a dead tradition, public Shrove Tuesday events. The Soviet regime consciously sought to extinguish the tradition as a religious manifestation, but doing away with the traditional holiday was accomplished in different ways in different locations. The most effective manner of getting rid of the holiday was co-opting it in a more general Soviet “Ushering-out of Winter” holiday using a cast of costumed characters slightly more acceptable in Soviet society, but even the best-laid plans of the Soviet methodologists never really did away with the mischief inherent in the celebration and against which the Catholic Church had fought unsuccessfully for centuries.

Jared Kushner, Trump Aide and Son-in-Law, Has Litvak Roots

Kushner

Jared Kushner is the son-in-law and chief adviser to US president Donald Trump. His roots are in traditional Litvak lands, the areas where Jews lived in the mediaeval Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His grandmother Reichel Rae Berkowitz-Kushner hailed from Novogrudok, known in Lithuanian as Naugardukas, south of Grodno (Gardinas) in Belarus. She was imprisoned in the famous ghetto there where prisoners dug an escape tunnel and fled to the Jewish partisans in the forests.

Born on February 27, 1923, Rae Kushner was the second-oldest of four children in Novogrudok, then part of Poland and spelled Nowogródek.

The city had a thriving Jewish population, comprising just over half of the town’s 12,000 inhabitants. In the summer of 1941, the Nazis invaded Poland at the start of Operation Barbarossa. Though rumors of mass killings had reached Novogrudok by that point, few Jews actually believed that the Germans would carry out such atrocities. Following several massacres, the remaining Jewish population was forced into a ghetto. Rae lived in the city’s courthouse with her family and nearly approximately 600 other Jews. Rae’s mother and older sister were killed in a subsequent massacre on May 7, 1943. Before long, Rae, her father and younger sister were among only 300 Jews left. These remaining Jews managed to dig and escape through a 600-foot tunnel during the nights, using special-made tools in the workshops and hiding the dirt in the walls of buildings. When completed, the 600-foot tunnel was only large enough for one person to crawl through. Upon emerging from it, the escapees were met with gunfire, darkness and disorientation. Consequently, only 170 survived out of the 250 that escaped. Rae’s brother was among the fallen, having lost his glasses during the crawl through the tunnel. Rae and her surviving family spent ten days hiding in the woods, eventually making their way to the home of an acquaintance. The woman fed them and allowed them to sleep in her stable with the cows for one week–a risk that carried the penalty of a violent death. Shortly thereafter, the Bielski partisans took in the escapees from Novogrudok–including Rae and her family.

Matzo Brei with Spinach

The Bagel Shop Café has started selling matzo and matzo flour, so we’d like to present some traditional Jewish dishes made from these items.

Matzo brei also known as matzo metugenet is a simple Ashkenazi dish whose name refers to matzo being fried. The dish is often made for breakfast during Passover.

You will need:

2 cups boiling water
5 eggs
6 matzo bread wafers

Dramatic Outcome in Lithuanian Chess League

The third round of the Lithuanian Chess League was held in Vilnius over the weekend during which two tournaments were played and the strongest Lithuanian clubs emerged.

After two rounds (five parties) it seemed there would be no surprises this time. The MRU team dominated the championship winning all five matches for 10 points. Gigant Chess of Panevėžys was a close second with 8 points while Makabi and Margiris from Kaunas (a Lithuanian Chess League champion many times over) each lagged behind by a point at 7. In the sixth round MRU lost 1.5:3.5 to Makabi and Gigant Chess and Margiris each gained a point (2.5:2.5).

Before that fateful round MRU was still out in front with 10 points, but Makabi and Gigant Chess were already hard on their heels, both teams holding 9 points. In the last round the chess players weren’t entirely focused on their own games and kept track of the competition as the situation dramatically changed and made mental calculations about the points needed to end with a higher standing.

Update from the Europe Israel Public Affairs Newsletter of March 17, 2017

“There’s no difference between one’s killing and making decisions that will send others to kill. It’s exactly the same thing, or even worse.”

Everyone remembers Golda Meir. The original Iron lady and the author of this striking and, entirely accurate, quote.

But how many of us remember Hallel Yaffe Ariel? It takes a while, doesn’t it? And then that horrible feeling appears in the pit of your stomach when the penny drops.

The thirteen-year-old was murdered while she was sleeping after 19-year-old Mohammad Tra’ayra jumped the settlement fence and entered her home in June last year.

South African Visitor at Panevėžys Jewish Community

Psychiatrist Danella Eliasov from the Republic of South Africa visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community March 16. Her grandparents, great-parents and relatives lived in Kupiškis where there was a large Jewish population before the Holocaust. Danella talked about her family and wanted to learn more about the fate of the Jews in Lithuania during the Holocaust. After a fruitful discussion she thanked Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman for the warm reception.

Special Celebrations at the Šiauliai Jewish Community

Last weekend was special for the Šiauliai Jewish Community. Friday many members of the community gathered to celebrate the Sabbath conducted properly by Rabbi Kalev Krelin. The men went for prayer to the synagogue and the women lit the candles to the kiddush and challa. We had a special guest: Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon paid an unofficial visit.

At the culmination of the evening the entire community enjoyed kosher floimen-tzimmes.

Early Saturday morning the men gathered again for prayer at synagogue with the rabbi.

In the evening all members of the community dressed up in carnival costumes and masks and gathered to celebrate Purim. Rabbi Kalev Krelin read from the Book of Esther and all of us, together and loudly, wiped the name of Haman from history.

This year the holiday coincided with the 27th anniversary of modern Lithuanian independence and the community didn’t neglect that holiday either, singing the Lithuanian national anthem (and Hatikvah).

With our feasting and fun we celebrated Purim according to all the Jewish traditions.