Grateful

Israeli Citizen Borisas Joselovich Comments on Draft Amendments to Citizenship Law

Borisas Joselovich has sent Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky a letter from Israel in Lithuanian. A translation follows.

Your thoughts in the text published on the issue of proposed draft amendments to the law of the Republic of Lithuania on citizenship about returning citizenship to former Jewish citizens of Lithuania who left for Israel after 1990 exactly mirror my own personal thoughts and probably the position and hopes of a large number of Litvaks living in Israel.

Spain, which deported the entire Jewish community 500 years ago, adopted a fair and honest decision to return national citizenship to Jews exiled from Spain. This decision by the Spanish government has been carried out successfully for several years now.

Lithuania, in whose territory almost the entire Jewish community was physically exterminated, is simply morally obligated to take the exact same step towards those several thousand descendants of murdered Jews living in Israel, and to return them the citizenship taken away from them earlier.

You are doing very important work in restoring what was for centuries the natural Jewish element of Lithuanian society to the place it belongs, and so I wish you the highest success in achieving your goals in this difficult mission.

Respectfully,

Borisas Joselovich
(Israeli citizen since 1993)

Fayerlakh Group Competes at St. Petersburg International Music and Art Festival-Contest

The Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance ensemble performed at the White Nights music and art festival-contest in St. Petersburg, Russia, from June 8 to 11, 2017.

Fayerlakh competed in the category Folk Ensembles and Folk Songs, along with 65 other contestants. Fifty-nine finalists competed in the final concert, where Fayerlakh took first place. The Lithuanian Jewish group was also presented a gift certificate for high art in celebrating Jewish culture and traditions, which they will be able to use at the next festival-contest.

Their performances at such festivals not only demonstrate the ensemble’s excellence and professionalism, but also stimulates tolerance between peoples and faiths. Besides presenting Jewish culture, Fayerlakh also presents multicultural Lithuania on the international stage. These sorts of tours and performances abroad also build real solidarity among members of the song and dance collective, crucial for further creative work.

The competition also provided members of the collective the opportunity to see one of the world’s most beautiful cities, an important education inspiring and expanding the horizons of younger members of the ensemble. Fayerlakh performed a small concert at the Choral Synagogue in St. Petersburg.

Director Larisa Vyšniauskienė and the entire Fayerlakh collective thank the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Goodwill Foundation and the Joint Distribution Committee for their full support.

Catholic Priest Recognized as Righteous Gentile in Kupiškis

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman and Community member Grafman attended a ceremony at the Povilas Matulionis Pre-Gymnasium in Kupiškis, Lithuania, May 30 held by the Israeli embassy to Lithuania to award the title of Righteous among the Nations posthumously to the priest Feliksas Ereminas (1890-1962). The Catholic cleric rescued the Jewish girl Rachel Rozenberg during World War II. For rescuing and further taking care of her, ambassador Amir Maimon presented Ereminas’s relative Tauras Budzys the Righteous among the Nations medallion and certificate issued by the Yad Vashem Holocaust authority in Israel.

The ambassador said the event is a lesson for our future. Professor Aldona Vasiliauskienė told the moving story of the rescue and how she collected the material required for the award.

Ambassador Maimon said: “We are happy and proud to have the opportunity today to recognize Feliksas Ereminas. Eighty years have passed since that time. Today we can only imagine those difficult times when Jews had to seek asylum.”

Evening to Give Thanks to Rescuers of Jews in Kaunas

“It’s difficult to express in words our gratitude and respect. It is our duty to remember not just the victims of the Holocaust, but also those brave people who risked their lives and those of their families to rescue Jews, sometimes their neighbors, sometimes friends, but more often complete strangers,” Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas at an annual evening event to give thanks to rescuers and their children , grandchildren and now even great-grandchildren. He thanked those in attendance for their close and war ties with the Jewish Community and for so enthusiastically attending Jewish Community events.

Singer Judita Leitaitė, pianist Rūta Mikelaitytė-Kašubienė and violinist Paulina Daukšytė performed at the event. Kristina Kazakevičiūtė, the daughter of a rescuer and an actress at the Kaunas Chamber Theater, read some profound poetry and then lightened the mood with some Jewish jokes. Participants in school tolerance education centers also attended and there were discussions of how to teach Jewish culture to school pupils in a more interesting way. The evening ended with the presentation of small gifts.

LJC Support to Rescuers

The Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Social Programs Department is continuing the project begun in 2014 in 2017 to provide aid to elderly WWII-era rescuers of Jews from the Holocaust, financed by the Goodwill Foundation.

Seventy-six Righteous Gentiles received personal letters wishing them good health and wellness. Each rescuer will receive up to 326 euros this year.

Thank You

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky received the following thank-you note from the granddaughter of a Lithuanian woman who rescued Jews from the Holocaust.

Hello,

My grandmother Stasė Minelgienė (a recognized Righteous Gentile) asked me to thank you for the card [debit card] which she received as a gift. She also asked me to wish you a nice day, good health and the highest success.

Respectfully,
Her granddaughter,
N. Žvirblytė

Misha Breakfast Program at Choral Synagogue

Dear Community members,

Before his death, long-time client of the LJC Social Programs Department Avishalom Moishe Fishman left a last will and testament donating his savings to the Lithuanian Jewish Community who had cared for him in his latter years.

To honor Moishe Fishman’s wishes, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky proposed using the funds for the needs of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

In furthering Jewish traditions of charity, it was decided with Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas to use the funds received to set up a free-breakfast program in the cafeteria on the second floor of the Choral Synagogue, Pylimo street no. 39, Vilnius.

Moishe lived alone and was a client of the Social Programs Department for about 18 years.

The Community and its members, and especially members of the seniors club, became his second home and family.

Let’s remember together this enlightened man beloved and honored by all who knew him.

For the first time a plaque will be placed on the wall of the synagogue to thank and remember a local philanthropist, rather than a donor from abroad.

Everyone knew him as Misha, so this has been dubbed “Misha’s Breakfast Project.” It will begin Monday, May 15. The breakfast program will take place at the synagogue from 9:00 to 10:00 A.M., Monday to Friday.

Abi Men Zet Zich Club Celebrates Victory Day

The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Victory Day 2017 inviting the public to the Abi Men Zet Zich Club at the Community. The event included a ceremony to honor the heroes of World War II, our veterans and Community members.

An overflow crowd of about 140 people crammed into the hall and foyer to honor the memory of the fallen and to celebrate humanity’s victory over the Nazi death machine. Time has taken its toll on our veterans and now there are only 14 Jewish WWII veterans still living in Vilnius.

The event was organized by LJC Social Programs Department coordinator Žana Skudovičienė with the aid of volunteers and colleagues, with musical performances by Michailas Filipovas ( Jablonskis), Vadim Volkov and Rita Alterman. The Bagel Shop Café and Natali Restaurant catered the event and Arikas Krupas provided special beverages to the veterans as he has for many years now.

Our thanks go to everyone who took part and especially to the students in the woodwind orchestra of the Santara Gymnasium and Pre-Gymnasium in Vilnius and orchestra conductor Linas Avižienis.

Thank You

LJC Social Programs Department coordinator Žana Skudovičienė thanks everyone who helped make this year’s Victory Day celebrations at the Community such a success for our members and veterans. About 140 people attended Community events for VIctory Day on May 8. A big “thank you!” goes out to the singers Michailas Filipovas ( Jablonskis), Vadim Volkov and Rita Alterman, and to the Bagel Shop Café and Natali Restaurant for the wonderful treats, and to Arikas Krupas who has provided and paid for special beverages for the veterans for many years now. Thank you!

Lithuanian Jewish Community Social Programs Department Clients Give Back

Last week the staff of the Social Programs Department at the Lithuanian Jewish Community received an unexpected gift: a giant Lithuanian šakotis pastry!

The brothers Antanas Kaplanas and Leonas Janušauskis of Raseiniai, Lithuania, rescued from death during World War II, sent the gift to thank SPD employees for the services they provide.

The SPD has been supplying them with coal for heating during the cold months along with help in acquiring needed medications and food products.

We are proud of our clients as well as our staff who work so professionally and with such great dedication.

Vilnius Seniors Visit Panevėžys

A group of members of the Vilnius Jewish Community’s Seniors Club, directed by Žana Skudovičienė, visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman spoke about the history and life of the Panevėžys Jewish Community in a pleasant setting, sipping tea around a table with fresh bagels brought from the Bagel Shop Café in Vilnius. Several of the Vilnius members’ parents had lived and worked in Panevėžys and were greatly interested in the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s Museum of History. Mutual interest led some of the seniors to tell about the life and fate of their parents in greater detail.

Guests visited the site of the Panevėžys Jewish cemetery and heard about its tragic destruction in 1966, and how headstones were used as decoration for the wall of the Juozas Miltinis Theater.

Žana Skudovičienė in the name of all club members expresses their gratitude for the warm reception.

Bravery of a Japanese Diplomat on Exhibit in Cape Town

moirashanghairefugees
“Sugihara didn’t only save my grandfather, he also saved me. Because if not for Sugihara I may very well not be standing here today.” These were the words of Rebbetzen Sarah Feldman of the Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town, speaking on Monday at the opening of the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibition at the South African Jewish Museum. Her grandfather, Rabbi Shimon Goldman, hailed from the city of Shedlitz in Poland.

by MOIRA SCHNEIDER | Feb 02, 2017

When Hitler invaded Poland, signalling the start of the Second World War, Rabbi Goldman, then a teenager, escaped to Lithuania and was fortunate to have been issued a visa by the Japanese consul there, Chiune Sugihara, acting contrary to his government’s express instructions.

“Sugihara was faced with a huge moral dilemma,” Rebbetzen Feldman related.

“His humanity won. Together with his brave wife Yukiko, this righteous couple worked non-stop issuing 300 visas a day – the amount that would usually take a month to issue.” In so doing, the couple saved 6,000 Jewish lives.

Full story here.

Lithuanian National Radio and Television Hosts Exhibit on Righteous Gentiles

LRT atidaroma paroda, skirta Pasaulio Teisuoliams

An exhibit of photographs of upstanding and courageous Lithuanian Righteous Gentiles who rescued Jews from the Nazis, performing the highest service to their nation, will open at the Lithuanian National Radio and Television Gallery at Konarskio street no. 49 in Vilnius at 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, January 19. The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority and museum in Israel bestows the title Righteous among the Nations, or Righteous Gentile, on citizens of other countries who rescued Holocaust victims. This exhibition was shown earlier at the Lithuanian parliament. As readers will recall, the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s annual calendar features Lithuanian Righteous Gentiles this year as well, with a photograph of Lithuanian president Kazys Grinius and wife Kristina on the cover.

Writer Icchokas Meras, the winner of the Lithuanian National Prize for Art and Culture who was saved from the Holocaust by Lithuanians, wrote about the rescuers: “They were the blooms of the morality of the nation, the spiritual giants of the nation, no matter whether they were educated or simple people, whether they were illiterate, clergy who carried with them the true love of one’s neighbor or simple peasants broadcasting seed to the ground by hand. They, intentionally or unintentionally, opposed the destroying power of the Nazis and its tool: those who murdered. We should remember and honor their heroism based on conscience, goodness, love of one’s neighbor and simply human pity.”

Panevėžys Jewish Community to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Dovydo žvaigždė

January 27 marks the day in 1945 when the victims of the Auschwitz death camp were liberated. Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp set up by Nazi Germany where about 1.5 million people were murdered, including children, and approximately 1 million of the victims were Jews, according to the best estimates.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community will observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 26 at the “Sad Jewish Mother” statue on Memory Square at Vasario 16 street next to the Vyturis Pre-Gymnasium.

Program:

2:00 P.M. Assembly, wreath-laying ceremony, speeches;

2:45 P.M. Wreath-laying ceremony at the statue “Ghetto Gate” (at the intersection of Klaipėdos and Krekenavos streets);

3:00 P.M. Forum dedicated to International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Panevėžys Jewish Community (Ramygalos street no. 18). Documentary film about the Holocaust.

Let’s remember the heroic rescuers.

Event supporters:

LZB _LOGO2GVF_logo-01

Ona Šimaitė: Quiet Warrior for Life

Ona Šimaitė
Ona Šimaitė in Israel. Courtesy Vilnius University Library

lzinios.lt

One hundred and twenty-three years have passed since the birth of Ona Šimaitė, who rescued dozens of Jews of Vilnius from death during World War II. Let’s recall the quiet heroism of this Righteous Gentile. Her name isn’t uttered often in Lithuania. Her commemoration consists of a plaque at Vilnius University and a small and narrow street named after her, winding from Kūdrų park at the edge of the Užupis district up, ending in steep steps leading to the Old Town. To the place which became the symbol of suffering and death to thousands of our fellow citizens 70 years ago who were fated to be born Jewish. To the Vilnius ghetto, where at the will of the Nazi occupier those condemned to die spent their final days. To the place whence the humble librarian Ona Šimaitė, without fear of death, rescued many who had lost hope.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Litvak Holocaust Historian Dov Levin is Dead

dov-levin

Dov Levin, scholar and Jewish historian, passed away December 3. The Lithuanian Jewish Community mourns the loss of the great Litvak scholar and extends our condolences to his loved ones. May his memory shine on.

Professor Levin was one of the most accomplished researchers working in Eastern European Jewish community history. Born in Kaunas in 1925, he attended a Zionist school with instruction in Hebrew and was a member of the Youth Zionist movement. He and his family were imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto. His father Tzvi Hirsh, his mother Bluma Wigoder and his nine sisters all perished and Dov was the only survivor. In 1943 he fled the ghetto and joined the partisans. After Soviet liberation his partisan group, Death to the Occupiers, was moved to Vilnius, and Levin resolved to go to Palestine. He left Vilnius on foot for Israel in 1945. He was part of the founding of the State of Israel and fought in battles for independence. He completed his education and Hebrew University in Jerusalem and received a doctorate in history. He was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Chicago and became director of the Oral History Division of the Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University. Over 50 years he recorded more than 610 interviews with Holocaust survivors from the Baltic states. In 1960 he spearheaded efforts to record the testimonies of survivors in Israel and elsewhere. He is the author of over 520 academic articles and 16 books in Hebrew and English, including Lithuanian Jewry’s Armed Resistance to the Nazis 1941-1945 (1985); Baltic Jews under the Soviets (1994); Lesser of Two Evils: 1939-1941 (1995) and Litvaks: A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania (2000). Most of his work is dedicated to preserving the memory of the murdered communities, the history of the Holocaust and Holocaust denial in the Baltic states.

Thank You for the Wonderful Organization of Events

Padėka už renginių organizavimą

Recently events held by the Lithuanian Jewish Community have surpassed one another in the quality of organization and the positive emotional interest and participation by Community members have been a source of joy. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky would like to thank organizers and participants:

“All of your contributions have made the life of Community members more interesting and diverse. We will remember the warm and moving moments we spent together when we all kneaded dough together with our daughters and grand-daughters, with our friends and guests during Sabbath challa-making events at all the communities in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Panevėžys, Ukmergė and Šiauliai, all of us joining together for the first time in the global Jewish Shabbos Project. I thank project coordinator Dovilė Rūkaitė, all the heads of the regional Lithuanian Jewish communities and the Bagel Shop cooks who participated together. I also thank the Lithuanian Cultural Council who supported the project.

I would also like to thank the organizers of the Mini-Limmud conference and its main supporters, the European Jewish Fund and the Goodwill Foundation, who supported the preparation of the program and the organization of interesting meetings. The traditional Limmud conference never fails to attract a group of concerned and engaged members of the LJC and their families to its ceremonial Sabbath dinner. It is important for us to come together and talk, to spend time in a pleasant environment, so we always strive to gather on weekends, in a beautiful natural setting at a good hotel, and to invite interesting guests to take part in a meaningful program, see famliar faces and discuss current events. Mini-Limud coordinator Žana Skudovičienė, who fields all preferences and ideas for the conference and balances different interests, insured that this year’s Limmud was memorable and event which provided good emotions and rest and recreation.

Thank you, all of you!

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

International Tolerance Day in Panevėžys

gennprin

In 1996 the General Assembly of the United Nations passed resolution 51/95 inviting member-states to observe November 16 as the International Day for Tolerance. The day has been observed in Lithuania for over a decade now. Each year’s commemoration has featured a different symbol. This year it was a bird. More than 700 cultural and educational institutions marked the day. Tolerance birds decorated schools, kindergartens, private educational agencies and daycare centers.

The Šviesa special education center organized Tolerance Day events for November 14 through 16 in Panevėžys, in which the Panevėžys Jewish Community participated. Also participating were representatives from the Panevėžys primary school for the deaf and hearing-disabled and students and teachers from other primary and secondary schools. Sign-language interpreters conveyed speech to deaf members of the audience.

Long Awaited Changes Come to Sugihara House

Sugihara House

Long-awaited renovation work has finally begun at the museum set up at the house and office of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara in Kaunas, Lithuania. So far renovation is going on inside the house. The façade also requires repair, but there are reports there are problems in financing all the repairs needed at this point in time.

The second floor of Sugihara House is currently being refurbished and all exhibits have been placed on the ground floor temporarily. The ground floor houses the diplomat’s office. When the second floor is finished, there will be more exhibit space drawing even more visitors from Japan, Lithuania and around the world fascinated by this man who rescued so many Jews from the Holocaust.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Israeli Embassy to Present Awards to 3 Lithuanian Righteous Gentiles in Kaunas

The Israeli embassy in Vilnius is holding a ceremony to honor and award three Righteous Gentiles October 21 in Kaunas. The ceremony will confer the Yad Vashem title of Righteous among the Nations upon Antanas Blažaitis (1897-1949), his wife Adelė Blažaitienė (1903-1988) and their daughter Valentina Eugenija Blažaitytė Liutikienė (1927-1993). The Yad Vashem medals and certificates are being awarded posthumously and will be accepted by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The ceremony is scheduled for 1:00 P.M. on Friday, October 21, at the Kazys Grinius Pre-Gymnasium, Šiaurės prospect No. 97, Kaunas. Those who wish to attend should contact the Israeli embassy before October 20, telephone +370-5-2502510, fax +370-5-2502555, email press@vilnius.mfa.gov.il