Lithuanian Jewish Community Now Member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage

As of now, the Lithuanian Jewish Community is a member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, better known by the French acronym AEPJ. The AEPJ supports the preservation, appreciation and promotion of Jewish culture and heritage in Europe. The association is especially devoted to making Jewish cultural and heritage buildings and locations accessible to the public. To achieve that goal, the AEPJ conducts two main programs: the European Day of Jewish Culture and the European Jewish heritage tourism routes.

For more information, see here.

Catholic Priest Who Saved Jews Beatified

Vilnius, June 25, BNS—Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, persecuted by the Soviets, was beatified and a ceremony was held to commemorate the event at Vilnius Cathedral Square Sunday.

The first-ever beatification ceremony held in Lithuania drew over 15,000 people where the Pope’s Franciscan envoy cardinal Angelo Amato made the announcement.

Matulionis was imprisoned for 16 years under the Soviets and he received his longest sentence in 1946 after refusing to collaborate with the Soviet regime in their demand he help squash the partisan movement in Lithuania and after criticizing the Communists for persecuting religious people. He was allowed to return to Soviet-occupied Lithuania after ten years of imprisonment. Although he was constantly followed, he was able to receive secret permission from the Vatican to consecrate bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius. Matulionis passed away in 1962 at the age of 89. Some believed he was poisoned by the KGB, although that hasn’t been demonstrated conclusively.

Matulionis becames the second person from Lithuania beatified. Bishop Jurgis Matulaitis’s beatification was announced in Rome in 1987. In order for Matulionis to be canonized, i.e., made a saint, evidence of a miracle must be presented, including those that occur posthumously, such as any which occur in invoking his name in a prayer to God.

Lithuania has a patron saint, Casimir, the grand duke of Poland and Lithuania who was canonized in 1602.

Teofilius Matulionis helped rescue a Jewish girl from the Holocaust. Dalia Epšteinaitė speaks about her childhood friend Estera Elinaitė whom he helped rescue.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Restricted Access to Lithuanian Jewish Community

Due to danger to the public from falling bits of masonry, work will continue on the front portion of the Lithuanian Jewish Community building at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius and the front doors will remain closed and off-limits. Staff and visitors must use the entrance to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum at the same address and just to the right of the main doors until further notice from 9 to 5 on week days and from 9 to 3:30 on Friday, June 23. The Bagel Shop Café will remain closed until further notice and all weekend activities are cancelled inside the LJC building for the time being.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Historical Attention to Historic Lithuanian Jewish Buildings

by Martynas Užpelkis, LJC heritage protection specialist

An historical event! In recent days, almost a coincidence of sorts but more likely the result of dedicated and constant preparation, three historical Jewish community buildings in Vilnius have been repaired and restored at the same time. In spite of the temporary convenience, our thanks go out to everyone who contributed to the preservation of these Jewish historical heritage sites.

Renovation on the synagogue on Gėlių street in Vilnius, the Zavl Germaize and David Levinson Synagogue, continues, but work has been completed on the façade and floor, and new doors and windows in line with the traditional ones were installed. The Lithuanian Jewish Community owns the building. The role of contractor for renovation work was carried out by the public sector Lietuvos Paminklai [Monuments of Lithuania] enterprise and renovation was conducted by the Nivara company. This year as in the foregoing three reconstruction work was financed by the Lithuanian state and the Goodwill Foundation. In 2017 the Cultural Heritage Department under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture allocated 120,000 euros and the LJC contributed 16,000 euros allocated by the Goodwill Foundation.

Cipla Does It Again

India’s pharmaceuticals giant Cipla Ltd., headed by the son of a Lithuanian Jewish mother and who was born in Vilnius, is at it once again.

Known for their defiance of Western drug companies in the battle to provide cheaper medications to patients in poorer countries, especial HIV treatments, Yusuf Hamied’s company is now teaming up with the American Cancer Society and pharma corp Pfizer to provide sixteen anti-cancer medications including chemotherapeutics to sufferers in the sub-Saharan countries of Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Kenya in Africa.

Jusuf Hamied inherited the company his Indian father began in Bombay in 1935. The younger Hamied was born in Wilno July 25, 1936. His Lithuanian Jewish mother and Indian father Khwaja Abdul Hamied met in Berlin at the university where they were both doing graduate work. Originally based in Bombay (now Mumbai), Cipla Ltd. now has additional headquarters in Miami, Cape Town, Surrey (UK) and in Belgium, and manufacturing facilities in Goa, Bangalore, Baddi, Kurkumbh, Pune, Patalanga (India) and Sikkim, and field stations in Durban (South Africa), Hyderabad, Delhi and Pune.

Lithuanian Film Festival Features Experiences of Discrimination

„Nepatogus kinas“ skatina prabilti apie patirtą diskriminaciją
Image courtesy Nepatogus Kinas

The Lithuanian documentary film festival Nepatogus Kinas [Uncomfortable Cinema] is to present a thematic program on discrimination this fall. To bring attention to how widespread this problem is, organizers are inviting people to share specific examples of the violation of their rights. The festival organizers are hoping their call to the public for personal experiences of discrimination will help break the existing wall of silence surrounding the subject. All examples provided, publicly or anonymously, will be presented to readers in the press and on social media.

“The word ‘discrimination’ often doesn’t mean anything, it’s an abstraction. But very specific personal stories are described by this word. Sometimes painful, sometimes inspiring. These stories allow us to realize we will all face discrimination at some stage in life,” festival director Gediminas Andriukaitis commented.

Lithuanian law forbids direct or indirect discrimination and harassment based on age, gender, sexual preference, disability, racial and ethnic identity, religion and beliefs. Uncomfortable Cinema organizers have also provided categories of language, social status, gender identity and family status for people who want to tell their stories.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Vilna Gaon to Screen Defiance

The Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum invites the public to come watch the film Defiance (2008) made in Lithuania and based on historical facts, and to meet some of the Lithuanian actors in the film as well as meet attorney Leora Tec, the daughter of the author of the book upon which the screenplay was based, Nechama Tec.

The film, slightly over two hours, tells the story of the Bielski brothers and the partisan group they founded in Belarus near the Lithuanian border. Their struggle for life ended up saving around 1,200 Jews from the ghettos in Belarus and Vilnius.

Defiance is one of the highest-budget and most successful films ever made in Lithuania. The main roles were filled by English “James Bond” actor Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, Liev Schreiber as Zus Bielski, Jamie Bell as Asael Bielski, and George MacKay as Aron Bielski. The Lithuanian side of the cast comprises a constellation of stars from the dramatic and musical stage as well and includes Leonardas Pobedonoscevas, Antanas Šurna, Rimatė Valiukaitė, Dalius Mertinas, Edita Užaitė, Dalia Michelevičiūtė and Vidas Petkevičius, among others.

The screening and meeting will take place at 5:30 P.M. on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, at the Tolerance Center located at Naugarduko street no. 10/2 in Vilnius. The film will be screened in the Lithuanian language and the discussion to follow will be in Lithuanian and English. The event is free to the public and members of the film crew, actors, extras and others involved in the making of Defiance are highly encouraged to come.

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


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.


© 2017 Lithuanian Jewish Community

Position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community on New Amendments to the Law on Citizenship

One hundred and fourteen members of parliament have registered draft amendments to the law on citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania to provide for the preservation of Lithuanian citizenship for people who left the country for European Union and NATO countries after Lithuanian independence in 1990 and who acquired citizenship in those countries.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is in favor of dual citizenship for Lithuanian citizens who have emigrated, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said, “but we believe the rights of Lithuanians of Jewish origins should not be less than that of other Lithuanians. Lithuanians of Jewish origin who left Lithuania after independence for the historical homeland of Israel do not have less ties with Lithuania than those of an ethnic Lithuanian living in the European Union or the United States of America. The current draft amendments to the law on citizenship, however, would allow Lithuanians of Jewish descent who moved to the United States to hold dual citizenship, whereas Lithuanians of Jewish descent who moved to Israel after independence would not. For Litvaks in South Africa this doesn’t matter so much, because the majority of them left well before World War II,” the chairwoman commented.

“Nonetheless, there are a large number of people who left Lithuania after 1990. In light of the current geopolitical situation and current events, the geographical selection in the new draft amendment—EU and NATO countries—hardly seems rational or well-founded. This is especially true of an ethnic group which was one of the largest ethnic minorities in Lithuania but which was almost exterminated during World War II. In light of that and regarding these people, the law should make use of so-called positive discrimination instead, with the aim not of providing special rights or status to a specific group, in this case Lithuanians of Jewish ethnicity, but to redress their existing inequality with other subjects under law, in this case, other people of Lithuanian origin who left Lithuania after 1990. Criteria of concentration also apply: there is a large percentage of people in Israel who have connections and ties with Lithuania, and an interest and valid hope to hold Lithuanian citizenship,” chairwoman Kukliansky continued.

“The doctrine of Lithuanian citizenship since 1919 has lacked clarity and this continues now. The first law on Lithuanian citizenship appeared on January 9, 1919, and was amended and changed many times over. Debates as to whether the law conforms to the aspirations and hopes of the majority of Lithuanians are on-going right up to the present day,” she said.

“Currently preparations are underway to change article 7 of the law on citizenship. The draft language says a citizen of Lithuania may be a citizen of another country if he is a citizen of Lithuania and left Lithuania after March 11, 1990 and subsequently acquired citizenship in an EU or NATO member-state. In light of this geopolitical element in the language of the draft amendment, the Lithuanian Jewish Community wonders what values, principles and logic led the authors of the legislation to appreciate the Lithuanian-Israeli and partnership less than other partnerships, and to the interpretation that a Lithuanian of Jewish ethnicity living in Israel has less of a civic, social and historical relationship with Lithuania than, for example, someone who went to live in Ireland based on economic motivations,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky stated. She added it wasn’t fair Lithuanians of Jewish origin living in Israel have a lower legal status than that ofa compatriot living in an EU of NATO state.

Under Lithuanian law, a Lithuanian citizen is a person who has acquired or holds Lithuanian citizenship, which entails specific rights and duties and is based on a relationship with the state. The majority of Lithuanian Jewish community members have children or relatives who have gone to Israel since 1990, many of them Lithuanians of Jewish origin.

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.

Choral Synagogue under Repair

The electrical system and roof of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius are being replaced thanks to financial aid from the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department. The schedule for services will not change. During construction tourists will not be admitted into the synagogue. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience.

Shmuel (Simas) Levinas, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Abi Men Zet Zikh Club Celebrates Shavuot

The Abi Men Zet Zich Club and the Social Program Department invite their clients to come celebrate Shavuot at 2:00 P.M., May 30, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Rabbi Samson Izakson, cantpr Shmuel Yaatom and Markas Volynskis will be there. Traditional Shavuot foods will be served. For more information contact Žana Skudovičienė at +3706 78 81514.

Faina Kukliansky Re-elected Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman

Vilnius, May 28, BNS–Faina Kukliansky was re-elected for a second term at Lithuanian Jewish Community elections Sunday. Competitor Simonas Gurevičius called the poll illegitimate and said he would take the matter to court.

Monika Antanaitytė, the director of the LJC secretariat, told BNS “Faina Kukliansky won with a majority of votes. Electors either voted for Kukliansky, or abstained. No votes were cast in favor of Gurevičius.” She said she was unable to provide the exact breakdown of votes at the current time.

Simonas Gurevičius told BNS the Vilnius Jewish Community would bring a case to court over decisions by the election conference to create artificial barriers to Jews who wanted to observe the election, and what he alleged were irregularities in the election violating the regulations of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.


We apologize for the appearance on the Community webpage of a hasty, unedited news item on the evening of May 24. The contents did not and do not reflect the official position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community nor that of the Vilnius Jewish Community. In line with completely justified criticisms our readers sent in by email, we completely re-edited and updated the news item, but because the continuing impassioned, unproductive and offensive discussions on social media, we decided to remove it entirely.


Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Litvak Artist on Exhibit at LJC

Solomon Teitselbaum’s paintings will go on display at the Lithuanian Jewish Community exhibit called “In Search of Spiritual Support” with an opening ceremony at 5:00 P.M., May 25, 2017, on the third floor of the LJC, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius. Prints will be available for purchase at the opening.

Good Will Foundation Invites Public to Book Launch, Concert

Good Will Foundation Invites Public to Book Launch, Concert

The Goodwill Foundation invites you to a presentation of Rūta Guzevičiūtė’s book “Wanderings of Jewish Costume in Time and Space” and a Jewish music concert at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 1. The group of well-known musicians will perform for you: dr. Marija Krupoves-Berg – vocals, Andrius Balachovičius – accordion, Arkadijus Gotesmanas – percussion, Borisas Kirzneris – violin.

Update: Vilnius Jewish Community Conference WILL NOT TAKE PLACE May 24

Dear members of the Vilnius Jewish Community,

I would like to inform you that the meeting called for 6:00 P.M., May 24, 2017, of the conference of the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) is not sanctioned for the following reasons:

1. Secretary of the VJC executive board meeting Simon Gurevičius failed to apprise the chairwoman of the VJC of the contents of the agenda by the executive board of the VJC within the time-frame defined in the articles of incorporation and regulations of the VJC, whereas under the requirements of the legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania the meeting secretary must first of all draft the contents of the agenda in collaboration with the chair and provide the presiding chair the opportunity to present criticisms and suggestions, correct portions of the agenda and only then is the official act for the meeting agenda signed;

2. The secretary of the meeting of the executive board in presenting the proposed agenda and not providing the opportunity for making criticisms and amendments has violated point 8.3.4 of the VJC regulations, which require performance of this within five days of the preceding meeting;

3. In not drafting the agenda with the chair of the VJC and in not drafting together the text of the announcement for the VJC conference, the secretary of the meeting of the executive board of the VJC on his own initiative and wantonly published it as a paid advertisement in the April 22, 2017, (Saturday) edition of the newspaper Lietuvos rytas;

4. Furthermore, in personally on his own volition posting the announcement, the secretary of the meeting of the executive board of the VJC violated the April 19, 2017, resolution of the executive board of the VJC in his April 22, 2017, announcement on the calling of a VJC conference in the newspaper Lietuvos rytas by saying that he alone was holding and organizing the conference, instead of the organizational committee. “Concerning all questions related with the conference, please contact Simonas Gurevičius, email, telephone +370 659 96 690.” Information about the candidates should be accessible equally and uniformly, and therefore one of the candidates cannot personally assume all functions connected with the provision of information about the elections;

5. The same situation occurred in the choice of venue for the VJC conference, the venue for the VJC conference (conference hall, Karolina Park Hotel, Sausio 13-osios street no. 2, Vilnius) was chosen without consulting the chairwoman of the VJC;

6. The announcement presented by the secretary of the meeting of the VJC conference to the newspaper Lietuvos rytas at his own behest concerning the upcoming meeting of the VJC conference is rescinded because it was not drafted in conformity to the laws of Lithuania with a decision adopted by the executive board of the VJC and was drafted without consultation concerning its contents.

Based on the above material, I would like to inform you that a new meeting of the executive board of the VJC will be called in the near future (with a preliminary date of June 8 of this year) where it will be decided anew on the issue of the date, venue and agenda of a conference of the executive board of the VJC in 2017.


Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Vilnius Jewish Community