Vilna Gaon Museum on New Jewish Museum Proposal

The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum has issued a statement via press release about a recent proposal by Lithuanian officials to set up a Holocaust-free new Jewish museum in the Palace of Sports or next to it on land which contains the centuries-old historic Jewish graveyard of Vilnius.

Let’s Create a Strategic Strategy for Jewish Heritage, Not Disneyland

The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum was disappointed by information appearing in the press last week about plans by government institutions to establish another Jewish museum in the Lithuanian capital instead of assuring support for existing projects.

The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, whose sections are housed in authentic buildings closely connected with the Jewish history of Vilnius, has recently been undergoing an intense and productive period. We host international events at the highest level, for example, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance conference held on March 22 and 23, and the number of visitors is constantly growing. New permanent exhibitions are being created for installation in our historic buildings, including the opening this fall of a new Samuel Bak Museum, showcasing the Litvak painter’s life and works, and in the near future we also intend to open the Museum of Lithuanian Jewish Culture, aka the Litvak Center and a dedicated Lithuanian Holocaust and Vilnius ghetto memorial museum, which has attracted the attention of international museum organizations including ICOM.

The latter museum is to be housed in the historical building on Žemaitijos street (former Strashun street) which was listed as a cultural treasure last month. This is the building which housed the Mefitsei Haskalah library before World War II and the Vilnius ghetto library during the war. which organized cultural events inside the ghetto and served as a secret meeting place for members of the ghetto resistance organization. In 1945 Holocaust survivors established the short-lived Jewish Museum in the building, quickly shut down by the Soviet government. The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum intends to reutilize the building for Holocaust education. After the museum has these additional sections, a unique route will be created for the visitor to explore Jewish Vilna.

Another museum section will operate in Druskininkai, Lithuania, the hometown of famous Litvak sculptor Jacques Lipshitz, the Jacques Lipshitz Memorial Museum.

Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum director Markas Zingeris says the reestablishment of the Lithuanian Jewish Museum in 1989 was a moral stand taken by the proponents for the restoration of Lithuanian independence and signatories to the act of parliament reconstituting the country independent of the Soviet Union. They were able to make this stance a reality, but today there is no strategy or vision for promoting the preservation of Jewish heritage in Lithuania.

“A strategy for promoting Lithuanian Jewish heritage protection is only in its initial stages now, while decisions are being made without discussion or consultation with the existing community of professionals–staff of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum only learned of plans to establish a new museum from reports in the media–or with the ethno-religious community–as demonstrated by Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s commentary on the Lietuvos žinios newspaper’s web page). Ideas are being released from above without discussing them competently, as if there weren’t enough grandiose projects for funding by the nation’s budget already. Vilnius doesn’t need an unprofessional Jewish Disneyland, but seeing how decision-making is being improvised, one cannot expect anything else,” Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum director Markas Zingeris says.

The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, which includes Lithuanian Jewish artistic, cultural, historical, Judaism and Holocaust exhibitions, hosts local and international events, seminars and film screenings and organizes and holds educational activities, hopes existing projects rather than new ones created impromptu will be supported in order to insure quality and effectiveness in transmission and preservation of the cultural and historic legacy of the Jews of Lithuania.

For more information, contact:

Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum administration
telephone: (8 5) 231 3178
web page: