An Evening to Remember Saulius Sondeckis and Simonas Alperavičius Z”L

The Destinies series of events invites you to come mark the 90th birthdays of the late Simonas Alperavičius and the maestro Saulius Sondeckis.

Program:

Discussions and recollections
Piano trip Musica Camerata Baltica
Screening of film “Aš kažkaip laimingas” (“I’m Happy Somehow,” 2014) by Berznitski and Gintarė Zakarauskaitė

Special television program “Svyatoslaw Belza Interviews Saulius Sondeckis”

6:00 P.M., October 18, Jascha Heifetz Hall, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius

Initiated and moderated by Maša Grodnikienė

We will visit the graves of Saulius Sondeckis and Simonas Alperavičius, Z”L, in the morning on October 11.

Disinformation Campaign against LJC Continues Even after Lithuanian Supreme Court Ruling

Exhausting legal arguments for over a year now regarding standards for representation within the Lithuanian Jewish Community have now ended, but the destructive efforts continue by the Vilnius, Klaipėda, Ukmergė and Šiauliai Regional Jewish Communities to prove that equality before the law and the rule of law are not the principles which should guide the LJC, which includes 27 organizations as members.

Disputes arose at the LJC conference held back in May of 2017 over the representation of members, disputes which, despite the LJC’s efforts to find consensus, grew into open conflict. The newly-elected leadership of the Vilnius Jewish Community wanted proportional representation at the conference, so that every associated member would have a number of votes proportional to their number of physical members, thus giving their organization a monopoly on decision-making at the LJC conference.

This sort of representation is out of line with the Lithuanian law on associations, whose article 8, part 4 says each association member has one vote at a general meeting of the association; this insures the equal rights of members of the association and their equal participation in decision-making. This is the law, the rule providing for equal voting rights among members, which the Board of Directors of the LJC followed before convening the LJC reporting and election conference.

On November 22, 2017, the Vilnius district court found LJC statute point 7.1 on proportional representation of regional communities at LJC conferences null and void for failing to adhere to Lithuanian law. LJC associate members the Vilnius Jewish Community, Klaipėda Jewish Community, Ukmergė Jewish Community and Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community sought to appeal this decision and renew hearings, but on June 12, 2018, this appeal was rejected by court decree.

The Vilnius Jewish Community, Klaipėda Jewish Community, Ukmergė Jewish Community and Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community have entered a cassation case with the Lithuanian Supreme Court to review the finding by the Vilnius district court on June 12, 2018. The Lithuanian Supreme Court, the only venue which hears cassation complaints, ruling on the application of law rather than the facts of the case, issued a finding on September 19, 2018, declining to accept the cassation complaint for a hearing, and thus again confirming the necessity of applying the rule for equality among members of an association. This finding by the court is final and cannot be appealed.

The LJC encourages members, the public and interested parties to ignore information of a mendacious nature appearing in the media and social media about the allegedly illegitimately elected leadership of the LJC and we are making every effort to insure maximum transparency in our actions. At the same time, we regret the disagreements which have taken root, which divide the community and which are dissonant with the fundamental values of our people. Despite ongoing disagreements, the LJC is open to a further search for compromise with members questioning the legitimacy of the leadership of the association.

Remembering the Holocaust Victims in Švenčionys

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and residents of Švenčionys remember the victims of the Holocaust from this Lithuanian city at the Menorah statue in the city park October 7. Those who turned out for the event then went to the Švenčionėliai polygon [military reservation] mass murder site in the forest between Platumai village and Šalnaitis lake where about 8,000 Jews from around the Vilnius region were murdered.

The commemoration is always held on the first Wednesday in October by the Menorah statue in what was formerly the Jewish ghetto.

Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moshe Šapiro personally thanked all who arrived, especially those who travelled long distances. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, Beit Vilna [Association of Jews from Vilna and Vicinity in Israel] president Mickey Kantor and Polish ambassador to Lithuania Urszula Doroszewska attended the event, among others. Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yatom performed the prayer.

Free Concert to Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Kaunas Jewish Community

The Kaunas State Philharmonic invites you to a unique concert dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Kaunas Jewish Community, “…from Mendelssohn to Latėnas…,” at 6:00 PM on October 22 at the Kaunas State Philharmonic.

Performances by the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra (directed by Mindaugas Bačkus), Gabrielė Ašmontaitė (on harp), soloists Vilhelmas Čepinskis (violin), Stein Skjervold (baritone) and Mindaugas Bačkus (cello).

The concert is free.

Exhibit of Michailis Duškesas’s Document Collection

The third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community is now hosting an exhibit of documents to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. All of the documents relate to Vilnius and the people of the city, including Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Dr. Tsemakh Shabad, banker Israel Bunimovich, the businessman Isak Shuman and others. The documents are from around the world with the majority from Germany, the USA and Israel.

One interesting document appears in the first display case at the new exhibit. It carries the inscription in Russia “Proyekt ustava dukhovnogo obschestva Vilniuskoy sinagogi” and the date 1888. It was acquired in Israel and comes from the collection of Leizer Ran, a well-known collector of Judaica.

There are many photographs from various angles of the Great Synagogue and the Choral Synagogue.

Document collector Michailis Duškesas says he began collecting pre-Holocaust Lithuanian Jewish documents about 15 years ago, and began collecting stamps since about 1980. He has an extensive stamp collection from around the world featuring the game of ping pong. He says he’s constantly enlarging his Judaica collection and now has a great number of documents concerning Lithuanian cities and towns where Jews lived. His documents have been exhibited before at the Lithuanian parliament, the National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum and the Lithuanian Historical Presidential Palace in Kaunas. He says they have also been used in documentary films about Jewish life in Lithuania before the Holocaust.

Street in Šiauliai To Be Renamed after Prominent Jewish Family


Jakob, Dora and Haim Frenkel ca. 1893, Šiauliai. From the collection of the Aušra Museum.

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community learned October 4 the Šiauliai city municipality had decided to rename Elnio street after a famous local Jewish family, the Frenkels.

Haim Frenkel was a Jewish industrialist in Šiauliai.

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community would like to thank the city council for adopting their proposal so quickly, and singles out Zina Žuklijienė, Gintaras Karalevičius and Domas Griškevičius for special mention, as well as MP Stasys Tumėnas and his team of advisors, the politician Vytautas Juškas, the Aušra Museum, Laiptai Gallery director Janina Ališauskienė, Šiauliai Tourist Information Center director Rūta Stankuvienė and others.

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community believes this is a lesson in civics which will help restore historical justice to some extent.

Condolences

With deep sadness we report Lithuanian Jewish Community member Jakovas Pilianskis has died. He was born in 1946. Our deepest condolences to his loved ones.

Lithuanian Public Television Features Program about Litvaks

The Lithuanian Radio and Television television program Misija: Vilnija [Mission: Vilnius Region] about ethnic communities and minority cultures in Lithuania featured Litvaks as the program entered its fourth season at the beginning of October.

In the interview with Miša Jakobas, the principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius, he remarked how much freer children have become in Lithuania, which he said has its plusses as well as minuses. He said he never sees students carrying books during breaks between classes anymore and that the current student body was born into a technological society they know better than his generation does. Hostess and interviewer Katažina Zvonkuvienė and Jakobas discussed the sense of loss and sadness in which the post-war generation of Lithuanian Jews lives and which is sometimes unperceived as such. They also talked about the role of the state in guaranteeing the rights of all ethnic communities in Lithuania and the multiethnic and interfaith composition of the Sholem Aleichem school’s student body.

Interviewed at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas spoke about the glorious reputation for scholarship Jewish Vilna once had, and the slow path to drawing back more Jewish families to tradition and to restoring what existed before.

Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Hebrew teacher Ruth Reches spoke about the durability of Jewish tradition in the face of assimilation. She said rather than grandparents passing on tradition to children, the reverse process seems to be at work now: children are learning Jewish traditions at school and teaching their parents.

Riva Portnaja, the chief chef and baker at the Bagel Shop Café, recalled her childhood in Žemaitija when keeping a kosher kitchen was the customary thing, and spoke about the great demand in Vilnius for Jewish cuisine among Lithuanians.

Cardiology Lesson for Elderly at Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

A class and consultation by cardiologist Virginija Ežerskienė was held for senior citizens of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community October 4. Our elderly learned about modern heart treatments and the doctor gave individual consultations and answered questions following the lecture.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community senior citizens said they find these sorts of lessons very useful. In line with the wishes of our seniors we will try to hold lectures with consultations by medical specialists once a month. The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community is deeply grateful to Dr. Virginija Ežerskienė for her gift of expertise and advice to our senior citizens.

Condolences

Maestro Eugejijus Paulauskas whose 90th birthday we celebrated one year ago in the Jashca Heifetz Hall at the Lithuanian Jewish Community has passed away. He shared his memories with us then and we want to share some of ours about him as well. Paulauskas was a violin virtuoso and a wonderful teacher. The Lithuanian Jewish Community sends sincere condolences to his family for their loss.

Born September 6, 1927, Paulauskas began his musical career more than 70 years ago. The talented musician went on to become one of Lithuania’s most notable violinists. He began studying music in Šiauliai and completed violin class under professor J. Targonskis at the Vilnius Conservatory in 1949. Last year at the birthday celebration Eugenijus Paulauskas said: “My teachers were very good, all of them were Jewish. After all, the best violinists in the world are Jews because this is a talented people. Chamber music is one of the subtlest, most profound and most intellectual forms of music and performance. I am convinced no other genre of music has so many pearls, so many masterpieces, as the quartet does. All the musical geniuses compose quartets. These compositions are made in such a way that as you perform them you forget the musical fabric, the architectonics of form, because you enter into the very depths of emotion from which emerge as if cleansed, enlightened. This sort of rebirth isn’t something just we musicians need. Everyone who comes to a concert needs it,” the master violinist said.

Paulauskas’s solo concert activity was greatly limited by his deep engagement with the Lithuanian Quartet and his pedagogical work, which have become an important part of his activities. He had innate talent, the characteristics of a solo virtuoso which was developed very early, passion to perform and passion for communicating with people of all ages and experience in his audience. Paulauskas’s rich solo repertoire was dominated by music from the Baroque, classical and romantic ages. His performance on the violin was exquisite and full of style, and his duets were subtle. His violin duets with piano met with great approval from audiences and critical acclaim.

Rest in peace, Eugenijus Paulauskas, beloved and respected by all.

A Special Evening in Panevėžys

Professor Rita Aleknaitė-Bieliauskienė, formerly a resident of Panevėžys, invited the Panevėžys Jewish Community to attend an event to present her book “Iškilūs XX a. Lietuvos atlikėjai ir pedagogai Aleksandras Livontas ir Olga Šteinberg” [“Notable 20th Century Performers and Teachers Aleksandras Livontas iand Olga Šteinberg”], a screening of the documentary films “Žmogus su laiko žyme” [“Person Marked by Time”] and “Dainos galia” [“The Power of Song”] and a discussion of other remarkable 20th century performers and teachers. The professor’s book has real historical value, presenting the cultural inheritance and the past through contemporary eyes to readers. Not everyone is able to do this, but Rita Aleknaitė-Bieliauskienė has succeeded, as she always does. Panevėžys poet Elvyra Pažemeckaitė helped organize this cultural event.

It’s impossible to picture Lithuanian cultural life and the Lithuanian past without the Jewish contribution to cultural evolution. In her book the professor describes longevity in the words of the writer Grigory Kanovitch: the development of the individual begins with the number of books he’s read.

Condolences

Leonas Balevičius, a member of the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners, passed away October 1. We have lost an honest, good and just man who knew how to sympathize, to give advice and to help. Our deepest condolences to his daughters Giedrė and Rūta, son Saulius and beloved grandson Leonas.

Sidney Shachnow Has Died

Kaunas ghetto inmate, legendary Litvak and US military officer major general Sidney Shachnow has passed away. He was born in 1934.

He survived the Holocaust in Lithuania and went on to become a legendary member of US military special forces. After spending three years in the ghetto, he escaped and later resettled in the United States.

His military career there was impressive. He did two tours in Viet Nam and served as a highest-ranking US military officer in West Berlin as the Cold War was grinding to a halt. US Special Forces, the Green Berets, are said to venerate Shachnow to the point of hero worship. He retired in 1994. He passed away at the age of 83 on Friday, September 28. His autobiography is called Hope and Honor.

More information in Lithuanian available here.

The Pharrajimos and the Shoah: The Uncomfortable Photography of Richard Schofield and Andrew Mikšys

by Agnė Narušytė

Two photography exhibits which don’t exist provoked me to write this article. One was supposed to open next week, but will not, and the other ran for just one day in a synagogue full of construction platforms. Neither artist was born in Lithuania but they live here now. Both exhibits concerned ethnic groups who were victims of the Holocaust: Jews and Roma.

British photo-journalist Richard Schoefeld came to Vilnius in 2001 and lived there until 2013 when he moved to Kaunas to work on a project connected with Litvaks. Since then Litvak culture has been his main theme. In 2015 he established the International Centre for Litvak Photography, an NGO which seeks to make Jewish history and culture topical and especially for young people to learn about Litvak culture using photography, art installations, workshops and other means. For several years now he has been trying to convince the intellectuals and government of Kaunas of the need to restore the Šančiai synagogue which is falling into ruin. He hasn’t succeeded.

So then Schofield drew up a list of about one hundred Lithuanian synagogues and set for himself the task of visiting each one. He hitchhiked for 12 days, kept a diary and used his mobile phone to record some of the people he met and the surviving and ruined synagogues. Only a very few had any signs of restoration work: bags of cement, bricks, tools. Many are simply falling down, although they are protected by the Lithuanian state as “monuments of great cultural, historical and architectural value.” As an example, the entry in his diary about the synagogue in Žemaičių Naumiestis reads: “Trees and bushes are growing in the middle of the building. Rays of sunlight shine through holes in the roof. Someone needed some flooring so they just stole it.”

Sukkot Celebration in Panevėžys

This year the Panevėžys Jewish Community and the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community celebrated Sukkot together. According to tradition, during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (or more simply “tents”), everyone sets up a sukka, a booth or tent, together in which the ancient holiday associated with the annual harvest is celebrated. It recalls the sojourn of the Jews in Sinai when the people lived in tents. The usual practice is to make a sukka according to one’s means. This year in Panevėžys a buffet table stood next to the sukka featuring fruit and vegetables grown by community members. The main feature of the Sukkot table is the four species, the lulav, hadas, aravah and etrog, bound in palm fronds.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman said Sukkot is a continuation of the Jewish high holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Many of the older participants spoke about how their families used to celebrate Sukkot when they were children. They used to make the sukka out of green wicker and put the table next to the sukka, where the whole family sat. The children received gifts rare at the time: bananas, oranges and tangerines. They also recalled the times of difficulty for the Jewish people when they wandered in the deserts of Sinai.

Condolences

The Lithuanian Jewish Community expresses deep condolences to the family of Gintautas Kirkilovskis on his loss. The family living in Riešė only recently joined the Vilnius Regional Jewish Community. We are deeply saddened by his loss.

Maria Krupoves Performs Holocaust Commemoration Concert at LJC

Maria Krupoves performed Vilnius ghetto songs in Yiddish accompanied on piano by Artūras Anusauskas at the Jascha Heifetz Hall at the Lithuanian Jewish Community September 27. Krupoves holds a PhD and is a scholar and folklorist as well as an outstanding musician. A polyglot, her repertoire include songs from across Central and Eastern Europe sung in Yiddish, Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Romani, Karaïte, Tartar and a number of other languages. Her performance this time included the songs Es is geven a sumer-tog; Vilne, Vilne, undzer heymshtot; Unter dayne vayse shtern; Zog nit keynmol and others.

Information Stands Recall Tragedy of Zapyškis

The Kaunas administration and the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania have placed information stands at two sites in the village of Zapyškis.

Zapyškis in 1923 had a population of 589, over half of them Jewish. The center of the community’s cultural life was the Zapyškis synagogue and there was the Bal-Makhshov cultural association, a library, pharmacy, several shops and a Jewish primary school.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Condolences

Moišė Tarnaride passed away September 28. He was born in 1937. Our deepest condolences to his son Leonidas and daughter Jevgenija.

Come Learn Hebrew and English

Everyone is invited to come learn some Hebrew or improve the Hebrew skills they already have. On Sundays the long-awaited lessons for children will be held as well. To register contact teacher Ruth Reches by email at ruthreches@gmail.com

Sunday

9:30-11:00 A.M. Hebrew for adults, level 2 (continued, conference hall at the LJC)
1:00-2:30 P.M. Hebrew for adult beginners (conference hall)
2:45-4:15 P.M. Hebrew for adults, level 1 (continued, conference hall)

Sunday school for kids

10:00-11:00 A.M. English lessons by English teacher Viačeslav Mlynkovskij (Ilan Club)
11:15-12:00 noon Hebrew (conference hall)
12:00-12:45 P.M. Traditions (conference hall)