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Four Days with the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Now with Subtitles

Welcome to the Lithuanian Jewish Community, welcome to Vilnius.

You will soon experience it for yourself. This isn’t a promotional film, it’s the reality, slightly beautified. Beautified, because you won’t see all the hard work that goes on every day and the people who do it.

I thank them. We work, we make mistakes, we fall down and we get back up and work harder. But we’re here. There are not so many of us, of course, and we are all different, and sometimes we argue, sometimes we embrace, but we are all here together and we are beautiful, able, talented, loving and dedicated. We’re the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the family of Lithuanian Jews, a part of our country. We have been here for six centuries now. We have experienced the greatest afflictions and disasters but we never gave up and we have remained.

We have to pass something on to our children and grandchildren. I personally want to pass on to them our Jewish identity, my story and deeds and those of my ancestors. I am trying to do this together with the community because I know that I alone will not succeed. I believe it is better to act and to make mistakes than to do nothing.

I wish everyone the greatest success. Let’s take pride in our Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Sincerely yours,

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

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The activities of the Lithuanian Jewish Community are broad-ranging and interesting, and the makers of the following film decided to include footage from just four days in the life of the LJC. To show more would require a series of films.

One of the most important goals of the Community is listening to and taking care of our members, children, adolescents and senior citizens. Care and aid from the Community’s Social Programs Department is allocated to Holocaust survivors, the ill, disabled and socially marginalized.

An important benchmark in our work recently was the restoration and protection of our country’s wooden synagogues, unique in Europe. The opening ceremony for the restored and reconsecrated synagogue in Pakrojis, Lithuania, is included in the film. Work was conducted with the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department under the Ministry of Culture and with local municipal and regional administrations.

If the film were continued, we would have included more young people, students, the young Jewish parents clubs, of course our regional Jewish communities and lots of fun moments from the different events and holidays put on by the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Enjoy.

© 2017 Lithuanian Jewish Community

Congratulations

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has been receiving congratulations from far and wide on the re-election of Faina Kukliansky as chairwoman for a second term. She participated at a reception for a team of disabled athletes at the Israeli embassy with Lithuanian social welfare and labor minister Linas Kukuraitis to mark the start of her second term, where Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon congratulated her on her re-election as chairwoman of the LJC. Guests were presented a specially minted coin as a keepsake.

Notes of congratulation have also been received from the Lithuanian bar association wishing the LJC unifying and fortifying work in the future. Mickey Kantor, chairwoman of the Association of Vilna Jews in Israel, congratulated Kukliansky, wished her success and hoped for the same quality of good work accomplished during Kukliansky’s first term.

Faina Kukliansky Wins Election to Head Lithuanian Jewish Community

Faina Kukliansky was elected to a second term as chairwoman at Lithuanian Jewish Community elections held last Sunday. Monika Antanaitytė, Chief of Staff at the LJC, said the chairwoman won with a majority of votes, explaining all votes were cast for her with three abstentions. No votes were cast for Simonas Gurevičius, Antanaitytė told Lithuanian media.

Vilnius Jewish Community Elections for 2017

Vilnius Jewish Community Elections for 2017

The Lithuanian Jewish Community’s webpage is providing information about election procedures for the Vilnius Jewish Community and there will be a method for commenting implemented for upcoming elections.

Vilnius Jewish Community Elections for 2017

 

Dates for Sittings of the Vilnius Jewish Community Board of Directors and Vilnius Jewish Community Conference

Section 7, point 7.1.1 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community provides a conference of the Vilnius Jewish Community must be convoked and organized by the Vilnius Jewish Community once annually and not more than 4 months after the end of the fiscal year and following independent audit. The Vilnius Jewish Community is planning to hold a meeting of the Vilnius Jewish Community board of directors in April, 2017, at which an annual activities and financial report of the Vilnius Jewish Community and the results of an independent financial audit will be presented, and a decision adopted on the convocation and agenda of a Vilnius Jewish Community conference. Section 7, point 7.1.2 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community provides announcement of the convening of a conference of the Vilnius Jewish Community must be made publicly in the Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos rytas at least 30 calendar days in advance of the conference. The announcement must include the date, location and agenda. Based on this point the Vilnius Jewish Community is planning to hold a conference in May or June of 2017.

Voting at the Vilnius Jewish Community Conference

Section 7, point 7.2.12 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community says each member of the Vilnius Jewish Community has a single vote. The number of members participating at the Vilnius Jewish Community conference is determined from registration pages where Vilnius Jewish Community members attending the conference have registered. A quorum is established by consent of the Vilnius Jewish Community and based on common sense. Once a quorum has been established, it is considered to be in effect throughout the Vilnius Jewish Community conference. Note that based on section 7, point 7.2.13 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community if there is no quorum determined for the Vilnius Jewish Community conference, a repeat conference must be called after 5 days but before 15 days have elapsed which has the right to make decisions on the agenda of the previous failed conference without regard to the number of Vilnius Jewish Community members participating. Member are to be informed of the repeat Vilnius Jewish Community conference in the same way as the first Vilnius Jewish Community conference was called. Therefore the Vilnius Jewish Community calls upon all Vilnius Jewish Community members to be active, to follow informational announcements and to participate at the Vilnius Jewish Community conference, so that a second conference wouldn’t be necessary.

Section 7, point 7.2.14 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community prescribes decisions are adopted by a simple majority of votes, i.e., a decision is made if more participating Vilnius Jewish Community members vote “for” than the number voting “against” (abstentions aren’t counted and those voting to abstain are not considered participants in the poll). Note that the chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community is elected if more than half of the members participating at the Vilnius Jewish Community conference vote for him (section 9, point 9.2.2 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community). If no candidate receives more than half of the votes, another poll is held. In the second poll the two candidates with the largest number of votes compete. The candidate in the second poll with the largest number of votes is considered elected (section 9, point 9.2.3 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community).

Under section 7, point 7.2.15 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community, decisions at the Vilnius Jewish Community are adopted through a public vote. Secret balloting may be held if more than half of the Vilnius Jewish Community members participating demand it.

Section 7, point 7.2.5 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community provides that a Vilnius Jewish Community member (real person) who is unable to participate at the Vilnius Jewish Community conference may authorize another member to cast a vote in his place on all items on the agenda of the Vilnius Jewish Community conference. Such authorization must indicate clearly how the proxy is to vote on each item on the agenda. Under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, these powers granted by a real person to represent another in relation with corporate entities must be confirmed by notary public.

Current Term of Office of Chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community

Faina Kukliansky was elected chairwoman of the Vilnius Jewish Community April 3, 2013. Based on the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community, the chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community is elected once every four years. That means the current term of Faina Kukliansky ends on April 3, 2017, but the person in the post of chairman/chairwoman of the Vilnius Jewish Community will remain in that post until a new person is elected if she is re-elected, in this case at the Vilnius Jewish Community conference in 2017, under the procedures set forth in the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community.

Additional Information

The Vilnius Jewish Community calls upon its members to take part actively in the election for the post of chairman/chairwoman of the Vilnius Jewish Community and recommends members become acquainted with the regulations and articles of incorporation and the membership roster of the Vilnius Jewish Community which may be inspected on work days at the office of Monika Antanaitytė (room 201, second floor, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Vilnius). Membership rolls will not be made available to the general public via internet. If you aren’t sure whether you are a member, find out by contacing Monika Antanaitytė, info@lzb.lt, telephone +370 672 40942.

Note as well that all Vilnius Jewish Community members planning to attend the Vilnius Jewish Community conference must have paid their membership dues for the period before the conference.

Under section 5, point 5.3 of the regulations of the Vilnius Jewish Community, the Vilnius Jewish Community board of directors may suspend a member’s activities on the Vilnius Jewish Community board of directors and/or in the Vilnius Jewish Community if that member has systematically (more than three times) failed to pay membership dues.

Statement by Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on Shrovetide

Parliamentary Culture Committee chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis on his social media page invites everyone to celebrate Užgavėnės [Lithuanian Shrovetide, or Carnival] in Naisiai, Lithuania. Event organizers used illustrations reminiscent of anti-Semitic propaganda used by the Nazis. This was reported on the internet site of the newspaper Lietuvos žinios on February 24, 2017.

“At the invitation of the most influential member of parliament R Karbauskis [Karbauskis is the chairman of the ruling Peasants and Greens Union party], the public is called upon to celebrate Shrovetide at the Naisiai location, associated with the politician, where, it seems, anti-Semitic ideas not only thrive, but are a part of everyday communication. Under the header of “Big Shrovetide in Naisiai” on social media, the invitation and publicity for the event provides more than just an events program, it also includes [anti-Semitic] sayings…”

It didn’t take long for the Lithuanian public to react. A wave of outrage appeared, as did anti-Semitic comments on the internet. One of the leaders of the governing coalition of the nation, after all, presented an invitation to celebrate Shrovetide using fascist propaganda from 1939. “Lithuanians know the Holocaust began soon after that,” LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky commented.

“Following the February 16 march in Kaunas where it was hard to tell the ultra-nationalists from the patriots, this is continuing now into Shrovetide,” chairwoman Kukliansky said. “Is this the policy of the new ruling party? How are we to understand this? An innocent holiday celebration is transformed in the Naisiai announcement into clearly anti-Semitic jingoism, a return to the pre-World War II era. How should Lithuanian Jews feel? The Shrovetide celebration is a holiday, we understand ethnology, but this is beyond Shrovetide and even its masks, these are anti-Semitic Nazi masks which arrived in Lithuania from Hitler’s Germany. We would like to hear from Mr. Karbauskis’s lips whether he is or is not an anti-Semite. I am the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and I am requesting an answer to the question about what his views are regarding Jews, if he has the courage to display such masks in public. Existing Lithuanian laws criminalize the spreading of fascist propaganda,” Kukliansky said.

Greetings from Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

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Dear members of the Jewish community, greetings to all on this holiday of Hanukkah!

I hope good feelings and warm and pleasant moments with loved ones will accompany you as you light the first Hanukkah candle. I wish you health and concord in your family, and that our children would grow up safe, dignified and happy and be proud of their parents and their roots.

It is a happy thing that there is ever-growing interest in the rich history of the Jews, and I probably won’t be making a mistake to say that there was never so much interest in the Jewish community as there is now, although so few Jews are left in Lithuania. The Jewish Community works actively to insure the rights and freedoms of our members and to promote Jewish interests. Unfortunately we weren’t able to achieve all our goals in 2016, but we will continue to strive after them in the coming year: monuments to those who shot Jews need to be removed, and Vilnius needs to have a monument commemorating those who rescued Jews from the Holocaust. We will continue to work on the issue of restitution of private property.

The Jewish Community is investing in the future, issuing scholarships and stipends for Jewish students and accomplished athletes. Plans for a new kindergarten have been completed, a kindergarten which will insure Jewish values are passed down to the youngest members of our community and prepare them for further education at the Jewish school.

One of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s top priorities is to improve the living conditions of clients in our Social Programs Department. We help when emergencies and misfortune occur. This will remain our priority in 2017. We also help rescuers of Jews, whose humility and sincere gratitude encourage us to grow and improve. I would like to thank Jewish rescuer Regina for the gloves and socks she knitted.

The Community building itself has become lighter and cozier. We have new audio-visual equipment in the Community concert hall and there are always new and different exhibitions on display. It’s a great joy that there is cultural life, ferment and creativity in the community, and that performers from Lithuania, Israel, the USA, the Netherlands, Romania and other countries perform concerts here. It is also a happy occasion that we have deepened our contacts with the foreign embassies, other countries, municipal institutions and NGOs. Thanks to this cooperation legal amendments were finally adopted to make it easier for Litvaks to restore Lithuanian citizenship. We signed an agreement on cooperation with the American Jewish Committee, we are enjoying wonderful relations with other world Jewish organizations and we are expanding contacts in the West as well as in the East, with the Jewish communities in India and Japan.

Interest in religion is reviving as well. We have two rabbis working at the Community who give lessons educating young and old on various topics in Judaism.

In cooperation with international Jewish organizations and based on their recommendations, we have increased security at the Community and synagogue buildings, and are approaching western standards of security.

We have the only kosher café in Vilnius. The Bagel Shop has attracted significant attention and television crews from Canada, Germany and of course Lithuania, too, have featured the café. It has become a place where not only Jews gather, but also aficionados of Jewish cuisine and culture. Our challa-baking event was a good time for all, and US ambassador Anne Hall was enchanted by the experience. The Jewish languages project carried out with the Cultural Heritage Department attracted much attention by many residents of the Lithuanian capital and visitors from elsewhere. In greeting you all, I invite Community members to show even greater initiative and self-confidence in proposing ways to make their hopes and dreams come true, because the Community exists to benefit its members.

My holiday greetings go out as well to Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon and the chairmen of the regional communities: Gennady Kofman, Gercas Žakas, Artūras Taicas, Feliksas Puzemskis, Moisej Šapiro and Josifas Buršteinas. Thank you all for the active roles you play and for working together.

Khag Khanuka Sameakh!

Keeping the Faith in Vilnius

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photo © Delfi/K. Cachovskis

Ellen Cassedy, author of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (ellencassedy.com), has written about the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Bagel Shop initiative.

Amit Belaite adores the long ode to the city of Vilna that was penned by writer and poet Moyshe Kulbak 90 years ago. Lines from the poem about Vilna’s stones and streets were running through her head on a warm summer afternoon as she led a walking tour through the narrow, winding streets of the city now known as Vilnius, the capital of the small Baltic nation of Lithuania.

Belaite, 23, heads the Lithuanian Union of Jewish Students. When she posted the announcement for the group’s tour of Jewish Vilnius, she expected a couple of dozen people to be interested. To her amazement, 400 signed up, many of them non-Jews.

“People know the city is rich in Jewish history,” she said. “They feel a big need to learn about it.”

Lithuanian Citizenship for Litvaks

According to various reports in the Israeli media, there has been a sharp increase in South African Litvak applications for Lithuanian citizenship.

Some authors have even mentioned some sort of “Lithuanian Citizenship Programme,” whose existence is unknown to the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Because of the seemingly increased interest, we are placing some of our earlier reporting back at the top of page one of the English version of the webpage.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind readers the amendment to the Lithuanian law on citizenship, the initiative of both the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian parliament, only removed and changed language which might have led to discrimination against Jews and Litvaks by individual public servants. There is no language about welcoming Litvaks with open arms, unfortunately. The amended law only levels the playing field to make sure Litvaks are treated equally with ethnic Lithuanians and others in the application process.

While the law doesn’t express welcoming Litvaks with open arms, the Lithuanian Jewish Community does welcome Litvaks from around the world, including South Africa, to become members, and does support Litvaks’ bids for Lithuanian citizenship. It has been our honor to have played a part in the amended legislation signed into law by the president of Lithuania last month.

Happy Birthday to Levas Jagniatinskis on His 90th!

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May he live in health to 120!

Levas Jagniatinskis and his family were active participants in the reestablishment of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish Communities around the time of Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union. In 1992 he was elected to the Community’s Council of World War II Veterans and worked with recompense, putting finances in order and organizing events with the veteran’s council and the executive board of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Those first years were financially hard for the Community, and so he donated his car three times per week winter and summer, parking it in the courtyard of the LJC for use by the Community. He was very active in preparing documents for the Claims Conference and tried to find greater funding for the Community. His son was one of the organizers of the Community’s union of scholars, Vilnor, and later became its director. When he left, the union stopped operating. The family’s third generation, his granddaughters, began attending children’s events put on by the Community, and now, in adulthood, continue their activities, trying to mitigate the losses from the Holocaust.

Condolences

On March 15, 2016, Neli Bolotina, a member of the LJC Social Club, passed away. She was born on May 11, 1924. Our deepest condolences to professor Adolf Bolotin, chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community from 2000 to 2005, over the loss of his beloved wife Neli. During this time of loss our hearts are with their son Viktor, daughter Ina, the grandchildren and the entire Bolotin family.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Welcomes New Youth Programs Coordinator

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The LJC welcomes to our staff Pavel Guliakov, the new coordinator of youth programs for the community.

The son of members of the community, former Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium student and college student graduated with honors, Pavel is now our coordinator of youth programs and assistant to Valentin Solomiak. His bachelor’s work, not coincidentally, focused on the history of Jewish Vilna. Many of us already know him since he has worked as a volunteer at youth clubs for about a decade now. Pavel has the true calling of a teacher and likes working with children. Currently the work schedule of the coordinator is filled with meetings and lessons at the regional communities. Events will be held in Šiauliai and Kaunas in the near future. Last week Pavel attended the seminars held by the JDC for Jewish communities aimed at providing greater academic qualifications called “Project Organization, Problem Solving.” The new coordinator says he learned a lot of useful things he will apply in his main work with the Ilan, Knafaim and Students Clubs.

We wish him all the success in the world in his new post, coordinating the very future of the Community.

The Jewish Community of Lithuania

The Jewish Community of Lithuania:

  • Address: Pylimo str. 4, 01117, Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Tel.: (8 5) 2613 003
  • Fax: (8 5) 2127 915
  • E-mail: info@lzb.lt

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Faina Kukliansky – Chair of The Jewish Community of Lithuania

  • Chief of Staff Monika Antanaitytė +370 672 40942, info@lzb.lt
  • Executive Director Renaldas Vaisbrodas +370 672 16114, renaldas@lzb.lt

The Lithuanian national revival movement and initial struggle for liberation from Soviet oppression which occurred at the end of the 1980s also provided the conditions for a Jewish national rebirth. Jewish cultural support groups began to form in many institutions and towns.

On August 25, 1988 it was officially decided to create a Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Society; the founding meeting took place on March 5, 1989.

Mission and Vision

Mission

TO unite the Lithuanian Jewish community scattered around the world, to celebrate Jewishness, to preserve the true traditions of Litvak culture, to bring together Jews of all age groups, so that the Yiddish language would ring forth again, so that the Jewish Holy Days are celebrated and observed, so that the Jewish identity would be celebrated and so that the historical memory of the Holocaust is never forgotten.

Vision

The Community is a home where every Lithuanian Jew may celebrate their Jewishness, receive support and lend a helping hand to others.

The Community is a home in which every Jew from anywhere in the world may come and learn about their roots, the history of the Litvaks and their important contribution to world learning and culture.

The Community is a home for everyone who wants to learn about the distinct culture of the Jews.

The Community is a cozy home where everyone is welcome.

 

Vilnius Jewish Community

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Contact: Faina Kukliansky, Vilnius Jewish Community chairperson,

tel. (8 5) 2613003 email info@lzb.lt


There are around 2 thousands Jews in Vilnius Jewish community.

We in the Vilnius Jewish community sometimes feel paradoxical currents. It is thrilling to be heirs to such a magnificent, world-famous Jewish community: the city once known as “Jerusalem of Lithuania” or “Jerusalem of the North” and to be able to walk streets and “Vilna through-yards” that lead from one old-city street to the next, knowing we are walking in the footsteps of one of the most creative Jewish communities of the European past.

But it also places a great burden on us: We are a tiny remnant, we have no illusions about our role in today’s Jewish world, and we want to work hard to maximize what we can so that we can together build a community that one hundred years from now will be more substantial than it is today. Not easy, but roots in the past give reason and inspiration for thinking also about the future. And the future starts with the present.

That is why we close our eyes and smile inside, and don’t listen when people say we are finished. Like the generations of Litvaks (“Lithuanian Jews”) we hail from, we have no time for defeatism. There is too much work to do! We just roll up our sleeves and get to work on new projects to keep alive the spirit and ethos of our community.

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We want people to know that we are proud of our community. It includes a healthy (some would say too healthy!) diversity of opinions and approaches to the Jewish and wider questions of the day, and it includes an amazing mix of people (nobody would say too amazing!).

You will be reading about some of them when we soon start our series of Profiles of Modern Jewish Vilnius, but for the moment let it be said that our ranks include factory workers and professors, musicians and artists, philosophers and writers, newborn babies and 100 year olds, doctors and lawyers, and frankly, people in many many walks of life. In diversity lies strength.

Many people ask us about the roots of our community. As in the case of all Lithuanian (or American, or British, or Israeli, or any country’s) citizens, all citizens are equal, those with centuries-old roots and those from more recent migrations.

There is one thing we want to make clear at the outset: We love it when people from every corner of the world with roots in Jewish Vilna or Jewish Lithuania (or even just historic interest in the Jewish heritage here), come to visit us and partner with us to ensure that their experiences here are fulfilling and pleasurable in every possible way! If you are planning a Jewish-interest trip or project, we are here to work with you to help realize the results in the best possible way! Please remember that a warm welcome and solid advice awaits you at the Vilnius Jewish Community!

Please make Pylimo Street no. 4 one of your first stops in Vilnius. Or even better, contact us (email: info@lzb.lt), long before you come so we can help you design, streamline and maximize your time in the land of some of your forefathers and foremothers.

Jewish Community of Panevėžys

Contact Gennady Kofman, chairperson of the Panevėžys Jewish Community; Jurij Smirnov, deputy chairperson, address: Ramygalos g. 18, Panevėžys, telephone: 8611 20882 email: genakofman@yahoo.com Panevėžys Jewish Community webpage: www.jewishpanevezys.lt

Activities of the Panevėžys Jewish Community The community includes about 75 people. The community holds various religious events, celebrates Jewish holidays and marks important dates on the Jewish calendar. They maintain close ties with public figures, embassy staff, the Rožynas High School in Panevėžys, the Gabrielė Petkavičiatė-Bitė Library and Christian religious communities. The Panevėžys Jewish Community organizes exhibits, the Jewish Cultural Days and international conferences, tends the Panevėžys Jewish Cemetery and carries out active social activities.

History of the Jews of Panevėžys

From the 17th Century to the First World War

Jews have lived in Panevėžys (Yiddish Pónevezh) since the 17th century. They came from the Ukraine and Western Europe and slowly settled in the town. In 1766 Jewish families built many new brick houses in Naujasis Panevėžys (New Panevėžys) which housed 254 Jews. The development of crafts and trade developed rapidly in Panevėžys at this time. Jews were engaged in the production of small trade items and goods, metalwork and timber processing. The Jews of Panevėžys were among the first to become involved in banking in Lithuania. Jews opened lending offices which lent to smallholder farmers.

There were 410 Jewish families for a total of 1,447 Jews living in Panevėžys in 1847. This community was close-knit and adhered to the life of the Torah and its traditions. Relations between Jews and people of other ethnicities were exemplary.

The Pónevezh Jewish community spared no effort to ensure that all their children would become literate, without regard to the social position their parents occupied. A Jewish primary school was opened in 1863 with five teachers and about sixty boys. The other children were taught at Jewish study houses. A religious school for girls was opened the same year. In 1897 the Jewish community had one main synagogue, built in 1764, and 12 houses of prayer. Panevėžys had 14,733 residents in 1904, of whom there were 3,088 Jewish men and 3,556 Jewish women. The population would have been higher if not for massive immigration to Hungary and North America.

Ten years later about 17,000 people inhabited the city of Panevėžys and surrounding areas. About half of city residents were Jewish. Before the First World War, there were 60 Lithuanians and 351 Jews engaged in trade in Panevėžys.

Jewish Community of Klaipėda

Contact Feliks Pozemskij, Klaipėda Jewish Community chairperson, tel. 8-650-21335 email felix.bonasta@yahoo.com

Activities of the Klaipėda Jewish Community The Klaipeda Jewish Community currently has more than 200 members. The community organizes celebrations of Jewish holidays, marks important dates on the Jewish calendar, holds cultural programs, organizes Sunday school for children and leisure activities for the elderly, and provides and distributes welfare, including money, services and material goods.

History of the Jews of Klaipėda

From the 15th to the 20th

Century Klaipeda was formerly called Memel. Jews appeared in Memel probably sometime in the 15th century, although the first historical source is from 1567. On April 20, 1567, Albrecht, Grand Herzog of East Prussia, ordered Jews to leave the city within 21 days and never to return. The ban lasted until the mid-17th century. Even after it was lifted, Jewish settlement in Memel was strictly controlled and limited.

Only in 1662 did Fredrich Wilhelm, elector of Brandenburg, grant the right to live in the city to an individual Jewish merchant. Frederich Wilhelm sought to strengthen Memel’s trade ties. Moshe Jakobson the Younger because the first legal Jewish resident of Memel. Within several years, however, he, his children and servants were exiled from the city for his overactive speculation in salt.

As late as the 18th century the ban on Jewish settlement in Memel was still in force. In 1777 Moses Mendelssohn came to Memel to trade. Besides being a merchant, he was also a famous Jewish philosopher, the spiritual father of the Jewish Haskalah (enlightenment dedicated to modernization and incorporation of secular culture in a renewed model of European Jewish life). He was also the grand-father of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the well-known composer. Mendelssohn’s renown in Europe was of no aid to him in getting permission to settle in Memel. He was forced to live in Konigsberg.

The situation only changed a century later. The French Revolution gave equal rights to Jews of France. This revolutionary innovation spread to the countries conquered by Napoleon and partially survived even after Napoleon was toppled. The favorable situation of Memel (a large port that didn’t freeze over in winter and with autonomy, located far from the capital of Prussia) and a favorable turn of events (the Crimean War, which isolated Russia from the normal trade routes) led to a marked increase in the number of Jewish residents: from 45 people in 1813, to 887 people in 1867, to 1,214 people by 1880.

Jewish Community of Kaunas 

Contact: Žakas Gercas, chairperson of the Kaunas Jewish Community, tel. 8-686-54585 email kzb@pub.vdu.lt. Activity The Kaunas Jewish community currently has more than 400 members. The community is actively involved in the following:

  • Organizing Jewish holidays and marking important Jewish dates.
  • Commemorating sites and personalities, as well as people who have helped the Jewish people.
  • Organizing cultural programs: plays, films, concerts, museums and exhibitions.
  • Honoring Holocaust survivors and providing a space and framework and support for their activities.
  • Helping World War II veterans’ organization by providing facilities.
  • Helping members of the Kaunas chassidic community organize prayers at the synagogue, providing facilities and covering expenses.
  • Maintaining the working cemetery at Aleksotas and the old Jewish cemetery in Raudondvaris, and maintaining the graves of famous Jewish personalities of Kaunas and the Kaunas region.
  • Visiting old Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust sites in the Kaunas region, providing information about them to visitors from around the world.
  • Providing advice to courts in legal disputes.
  • Fostering a positive image of the Jewish people and community in the media and other public forums.
  • Providing Yiddish language classes to the elderly  (and hopefully soon for younger people too!).
  • Providing and distributing charity: money, services and material goods for Jews and Holocaust-era rescuers of Jews.
  • Visiting ill and elderly Jews and Holocaust-era rescuers in hospital.
  • Seeking out previously unknown rescuers of Jews, ghetto and Holocaust victims and possible new members of the Jewish community.
  • Honoring rescuers of Jews and righteous gentiles who fought against Hitler in World War II.