A delegation from World Jewish Congress Israel visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The delegation included WJC Israel chairman Shai Hermesh (former MK), member of the board of directors J. Moshe Leshem, foreign relations council director Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, Knesset Christian Allies Caucus chairman MK Robert Ilatov, MK Yakov Margi, KCAC director Josh Reinstein and WJC Israel director general Sam Grundwerg. WJC Israel visits national capitals annually to meet with members of national parliaments and Christian community leaders to establish contacts and discuss shared problems, set up Israeli support groups and increase understanding of Jewish problems. This sort of support is especially sought by Israel now, when the Jewish state is increasingly facing isolation in the international arena and especially in the EU. Last year delegations visited Russia, Poland, Latvia and Estonia.
On June 1 the delegation visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community, met LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and were greeted with a musical welcome of Jewish song and dance provided by the Fayerlakh ensemble, which warmed everyone’s hearts and facilitated better communication. Former MK, current vice president of the WJC and leader of WJC Israel Shai Hermesh shared with everyone heartwarming news he received on the trip to Lithuania.
His whole life Shai Hermesh believed his mother in her youth, ca. 1915, left Latvia for Palestine, and when asked, she said she was a Latvian Jew whose maiden name was Dvolaitsky. When he was a member of the Israeli Knesset during a visit to Latvia he asked the Israeli embassy there to help him find more information about his mother in the Latvian archives. That’s when he learned his mother was born in Žagarė in Lithuania, not in Latvia. During the trip to Lithuania he received more documents from the archives, including photographs and his mother’s passport, which show his family’s roots are in Žagarė.
“I am a Litvak. I received this happy news at the age of 72,” he told those assembled at the meeting on the third floor of the LJC in Vilnius.
Dr. Weinbaum lived in Poland for two years and wrote his doctoral thesis there. He also translated the famous Sakowicz diary on the mass murder operations at Ponar from Polish to English (the Lithuanian translation is available in full on this website).
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“When you know about the history of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, all that has happened in recent history, it’s not easy to say anything, especially after we visited Ponar, the Jewish mass murder site, today. I come to Faina Kukliansky, the head of the community, understanding how important it is for her to maintain the psychological climate,” Dr. Weinbaum said.
“I respect your dedication, energy and efforts to support the people with whom you work here. You are a strong person. In Israel, a country where all Jews feel at home, where traditional holidays are everyone’s holidays, but here, where the surviving community is small, you have to make great efforts and be dedicated for everything to go smoothly. The WJC delegation was deeply moved seeing how the group of Fayerlakh musicians, dancers and singers greeted us. We were also welcomed in a friendly way at the Lithuanian parliament and heard that they support the state of Israel there. Not all of Europe has such a friendly disposition towards Israel. As were visiting Lithuania, we thought also about the fact the state of Lithuania had disappeared from the map of the world for 50 years. I see that Lithuania is watching Israel as an example to follow to stimulate the more rapid growth of the country, and considers the patriotism of the youth of the Israeli Army and Defense Forces as an example to follow. In Lithuania we received deep impressions on life and the struggle for the country’s independence. I must thank the Lithuanian Jewish Community and its chairwoman for their work,” Dr. Laurence Weinbaum said at the meeting at the LJC.