Grateful

International Tolerance Day in Panevėžys

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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

Lithuanian Prime Minister Sends Birthday Greetings to Markas Petuchauskas

Premjeras sveikina Marką Petuchauską jubiliejaus proga

Lithuanian prime minister Algirdas Butkevičius has sent birthday greetings to art history and theater scholar Markas Petuchauskas on the occasion of his 85th birthday.

“You are an important creator of the cultural history of Lithuania and have dedicated many years of your life to the study of art and art history, and especially the development of our theater. Led by mature wisdom and relying upon your wide erudition, you have revealed to us the unique nature of works by famous artists and have painted detailed and colorful pictures of celebrated personalities. You have always been a person of wide horizons and constructive dialogue, and therefore have contributed much to the understanding and to the good cooperation between the Jewish and Lithuanian peoples.

“I sincerely thank you for your great contribution to the spiritual fortification of our state and enrichment of cultural life,” the Lithuanian prime minister said in his birthday greeting.

Happy 85th Birthday to Markas Petuchauskas

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes professor habil. Markas Petuchauskas a happy 85th birthday! The doctor of art history has written many books on theater and drama over many years.

We wish him continuing health, continuing creativity and hope for another of his wonderful books. Let’s all wish him inspiration, success and love.

Today Markas Petuchauskas is the only person who can speak with real authority about the Vilnius ghetto theater which operated in 1942 and 1943. He was a ghetto prisoner and miraculously survived, as did his mother, after being rescued by good people. For many years he has sought to renew the interrupted dialogue between Lithuanians and Jews, which, he says, is best understood through art.

Happy Birthday! Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

Aerial Daredevil Senior Rescued Jews in Youth

Sparnuotas senjoras, jaunystėje gelbėjęs žydų gyvybes

Vladas Drupas, a Kaunas resident who saved ten lives during the Holocaust, doesn’t consider himself a hero at all. It was like pulling teeth to get him to remember the events of 1943 and 1944 in Šiauliai and the surrounding area where a battle took place in secret from the Germans for the survival of individual Jews and their families.

Rescuer and Pilot

This year as the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust in Lithuania was marked there were many events, monuments were unveiled, mass murder sites were marked, rescued Jews and their rescuers were interviewed and 50 people were honored at the President’s Office (most of them posthumously). There are lists in the archive of the Department of the Righteous at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum of hundreds of well-known teachers, doctors, attorneys, writers, musicians, professors, servants, priests, monks, farmers and people from other professions. These include Šiauliai gymnasium student Vladas Drupas who rescued ten Jews from destruction.

This 94-year-old Kaunas resident even now is surprising for his courage. As Lithuania’s oldest aerobatic pilot, several weeks ago he spent a half hour at the Pociūnai airport diving in the sky with his one-seat airplaine.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian President Awards Rescuers of Jews

VILNIUS, September 28, BNS–Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė Wednesday awarded nearly 50 persons with Life Saving Crosses for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust during World War II.

The majority, 44, were awarded posthumously.

Speaking at the ceremony at the President’s Office, Grybauskaite invited all participants to stand in a minute of silence to honor the memory of Israel’s former president Shimon Peres who passed away earlier that day.

Lithuanian President Awards 46 Rescuers

VILNIUS, September 26, BNS – Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė on Monday signed a decree to award Life Saving Crosses to 46 people who rescued Jews from the Holocaust during World War II.

Most of them were honored posthumously.

The president honors Jewish rescuers every year on the occasion of the National Memorial Day for the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews, which is marked on September 23 to commemorate the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto on that day in 1943.

The Nazis assisted by Lithuanian collaborators murdered more than 90 percent of the Lithuanian pre-war Jewish population of around 208,000 during World War II.

Around 3,500 Jews currently reside in Lithuania.

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Israeli President Sends Condolences over Death of Leonidas Donskis

VILNIUS, September 26, BNS – Israeli president Reuven Rivlin has expressed his condolences to Jolanta Donskienė, the wife of Lithuania’s late philosopher Leonidas Donskis.

“We grieve together with you and all people of Lithuania as the world has lost a remarkable man, a prominent philosopher, a devoted defender of human rights and civil liberties, a true humanitarian and an outstanding political figure, a great person, who always opposed violence in all its forms,” the president said in his letter to Donskienė, a copy of which was shared by the Israeli embassy with BNS.

Rivlin said that as a deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Donskis “greatly contributed to preserving the country’s Jewish culture and heritage and promoted the highest human values of tolerance, love and respect toward every individual”.

“Professor Donskis was a great friend of Israel, who has never hesitated to stand together with our country. He will always remain in hour hearts,” he said.

Vilnius Mayors Change, But None Can Find Suitable Place for Monument to Rescuers

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photo courtesy BNS

An interview by Nemira Pumprickaitė on the Lithuanian state television program Savaitė, www.LRT.lt

The Day of the Genocide of the Jews of Lithuania is marked on September 23. For long years there was silence on the topic of the Holocaust in Lithuania, and when [former late] Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas apologized to the Jewish people, there was hardly unanimous support. Now even Germans are saying Lithuania is the first country in Eastern Europe to openly raise the question of its own citizens’ complicity. About a month ago the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a feature on Lithuania’s efforts to address the history of the Holocaust. Lithuanians didn’t earn condemnation alone during the Holocaust; there were those who risked their lives of those of the families to save Jews. The appellation Righteous Gentile has been awarded to 889 Lithuanian citizens. Experts say proportionally, according to population size, Lithuania has the most rescuers among the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on the Lithuanian state television program Savaitė…

Full interview in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian Parliaments Hosts Conference “They Rescued Jews, They Rescued Lithuania’s Honor”

Seime organizuota konferencija „Gelbėję Lietuvos žydus, gelbėję Lietuvos garbę“

Vilnius, September 25, BNS– The Lithuanian Seimas Sunday hosted a conference to mark the Jewish Genocide Memorial Day.

The conference called “They Rescued Jews, They Rescued Lithuania’s Honor” was organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the parliament’s press service said.

Those taking part in the conference included Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Andrew Baker, director of International Jewish Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Howard Solomon, chargé d’affaires ad interim at the US embassy in Vilnius.

The program includes presentations by historian Alvydas Nikzentaitis on the life of Jews in Lithuania, Joachim Tauber of the University of Hamburg on “Hitler, Stalin and Anti-Semitism in Lithuania in 1939-1940” and historian Algimantas Kasparavicius on “Lithuanian Political Illusions, the ‘Policy’ of the Provisional Government of Lithuania and the Beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania.”

Kaunas Jewish Community Visit Balbieriškis and Prienai

Kauno žydų bendruomenė lankėsi Balbieriškyje bei Prienuose.

The Kaunas Jewish Community visited Balbieriškis and Prienai, Lithuania at the invitation of Balbieriškis Tolerance Center director Rymantas Sidaravičius on the European Day of Jewish Culture, September 4. The delegation toured a Balbieriškis Tolerance Center exhibit on the history of the Jews of the town and reflecting the center’s current relationships and friendships with Jews from around the world. They also toured the town, where Jewish homes and buildings from before the war still stand, and honored the memory of the dead with a prayer at the old Jewish cemetery in Balbieriškis.

Representatives then went to Prienai and honored Holocaust victims there. In Prienai they attended a museum event dedicated to the European Day of Jewish Culture. The museum event included a stirring presentation of the history of the Jews of Prienai, funny stories from Jewish life from before the war, significant achievements, good relations between Jews and other town residents and the Holocaust. The event included passages in Hebrew and Yiddish. The hosts made the delegation feel right at home at every stop on their visit, as if they were visiting old friends.

Happy 75th!

Sveikinimas

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes member Dr. Eva Ščupak a happy 75th birthday! Eva is a neuropathologist who has devoted so much of her time to doing volunteer work at the Community. We wish you great health and long and peaceful life! Joy and success to you, your children and your grandchildren! Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

Thank You Card for Ema Jakobienė

A thank you card to Ema Jakobienė for her contributions as one of the directors of the LJC project to support Lithuania’s aging Righteous Gentiles.

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Dear Ema,

We thank you very much for your wonderful project, for your concern and your love of your fellow human beings.

Thanks to you, we received a [debit] card–this is a great gift and support to our family.

Thank you!

So please keep going, keep working and touch those people who are already slipping from our fingers…

May God grant you health, strength of soul and smiling eyes…

In gratitude,

Antanas Poniškaitis
Staselė Poniškaitienė
September, 2016

Thank You

Speaking on behalf of the Committee of Jews from Zarasai Living in Israel, Grisha Deitz deeply thanks Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky for her concern and help in organizing a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Jewish community of Zarasai, Lithuania, and for the presence of the rabbi at the ceremony in Krakynė Forest, where 8,000 Jews from the Zarasai region were murdered in 1941.

Book about Ona Šimaitė, Righteous Gentile

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Epistolofilija by Julija Šukys. Biography of Ona Šimaitė. Translated from English by Marius Burokas. Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, Vilnius 2016. 256 pages

From 1941 to 1944 she visited the Jewish ghetto and work camps of German-occupied Vilnius and brought food, clothes medicine, money and forged papers to the people imprisoned there. She saved those who had lost hope, listening to their fears and replying to their letters, often the last letters ever written by these people. It is unknown how many lives she saved. It would have seemed strange to the librarian to count, and by intentionally forgetting the names and addresses of those she helped, she protected both herself and them. Instead of hard statistics, we have the personal stories, anecdotes and recollections of those who survived.

Full story in Lithuanian here

Lithuanian and Japanese Cities Join in Commemorating Righteous Gentile

Pasaulio tautų teisuolio atminimas sujungė Japonijos ir Lietuvos miestus ir žmones

Events to commemorate Chiune Sugihara, Japanese WWII-era consul in Kaunas and a Lithuanian festival were held in Sugihara’s hometown of Yaotsu, Japan, from July 31 to August 7.

Sugihara rescued thousands of Lithuanian Jews from the Holocaust and has been recognized as a Righteous Gentile and awarded the status of Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority in Israel.

The week of commemorations was opened by the signing of a memorandum of cooperation by Yaotsu mayor Masanori Kaneko and Kaunas municipality representative Inga Pukelytė.

Acting Lithuanian ambassador to Japan Violeta Gaižauskaitė noted the events came on the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Japan and Lithuania and characterized ties between the people of Japan and Lithuania as sincere, and relations btween the two nations friendly. She also said both countries were dedicated to preserving the memory of the noble Japanese diplomat for future generations.

Happy 80th!

Liusia Sperling

On August 3, 2016, Liusia Šperling, the volunteer Community doctor of many years, turns 80!

For 15 years Dr. Šperling has volunteered in the Community’s Social Center.

We all wish her and her family perfect health!