Greetings

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.

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.

Enjoy.

© 2017 Lithuanian Jewish Community

Makabi Athletics Club Holds Mini-Maccabiah Games to Celebrate 100th Birthday

The Makabi Lithuanian athletics club held a mini-Maccabiah May 21 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the club’s founding in Lithuania. The Maccabiah Games are an annual international sporting competition in Israel to which Lithuanian Makabi sends athletes. In the mini-Maccabiah, 74 athletes from Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Panevėžys, Šiauliai and Ukmergė competed in five sports: indoor soccer, three-on-three basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s table tennis and chess. Everyone received participation medallions.

The Kaunas basketball team defeated the Vilnius and Klaipėda teams. Kaunas player Elvis Ušpicas won in foul shots (9 players) with six hoops in a row.

The Vilnius team on home ground won in indoor soccer and volleyball.

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.”

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.

Annual ORT Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony


Photos by Eli Rabinowitz

As the school year comes to an end and summer vacation begins, the ORT Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium held their annual combined bar and bat mitzvah ceremony Monday at the Choral Synagogue and the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Parents and children arrived in their finest attire for the symbolic coming-of-age service which was conducted in Russian and Hebrew. Proud parents watched their boys and girls of different ages receiving Rabbi Samson Izakson’s blessing as they stood under the hoopa or canopy, praents took pictures and the audience rained candies down on the hoopa as the service concluded. Sholem Aleichem school principal Miša Jakobas delivered a moving address to his students in Russian. The service ended with children passing by the Torah scroll but no readings by boys or girls.

The party then moved to the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community where the children or young adults had a candle-lighting ceremony to honor their parents, school, homeland, Israel and fallen Israeli soldiers. The festivities here were in Lithuanian and Hebrew. Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon spoke in a very genuine manner, translated to Lithuanian by Sholem Aleichem Hebrew teacher Ruth Reches, and recounted the parable of rabbi asked to repeat the whole of the law while standing on one foot. The young people performed songs, dance and did short skits in Lithuanian based on the writings of the author Sholem Aleichem and other Yiddish writers. After the young people were presented token gifts from the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the party moved into the foyer where there was abundant snacks, juice, coffee, wine and water. A series of artworks by students made especially for the occasion lined a long table as people helped themselves to hors d’oeuvres and waiters and waitresses circulated through the crowd with plates laden with food.

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.

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.

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthdays to all our members and clients born in May:

Vilnius

Basia Markus
Fania Brancovskaja
Jurijus Greismanas
Nelja Voronova
Mere Leja Zagin
Arkadijus Kogan
Ženia Sokolovskaja
Mira Imbrasas
Liudmila Kovner
Arkadij Kac
Sofja Vysockaja

Klaipėda

Michail Kravec

Visaginas

Ilja Skulovič

Šilutė

Galina Lopatkina

Contest Winner’s Trip to Strasbourg

Viktorija Stundžytė, a tenth-grader from the Dukstyna School in Ukmergė (Vilkomir) and a participant in her school’s Tolerance Education Center, took part in the awards ceremony for the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania’s nation-wide contest “On the Trail of Suffering for Freedom and Struggle” held in Vilnius May 5. The high-school student and her teachers visited the Museum of Genocide Victims, the Lithuanian parliament and the Palace of Teachers, where the awards were presented. Viktorija won a trip to Strasbourg.

She submitted an entry about the woman Stasė Ruzgytė-Staputienė who lost her mother in childhood, was adopted and experienced the Soviet and Nazi occupations. Viktorija set the story down in 100 pages after transcribing and typing it.

Viktorija called the project an invaluable experience which she will be able to use in her life and pass on to her children and grandchildren to remind them what goes on in this world. “As I was listening to the audio recording sometimes I wanted to go to the places about which she spoke, but sometimes I just wanted to be a heroine and get all those people out of there so they wouldn’t have to suffer anymore and experience everything the people in these recordings experienced,” she said about her work.

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.

Happy Birthday to Ilja Lempertas!

The Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulates Ilja Lempertas on his 60th birthday and hopes he never stops sharing his youthful energy with all around him. Birthdays creep up on us even when we don’t expect them, so let’s celebrate them and the onset of a beautiful spring. Happy birthday, Ilja!

Mazl tov!

Lithuanian Jewish Community Celebrates Leonidas Melnikas’s Birthday

The Destinies program of evening cultural events celebrated the birthday of Lithuanian musician and composer Dr. Leonidas Melnikas last Thursday, May 11.

The evening began at the Jascha Heifetz hall at LJC headquarters in Vilnius with the airs of a tango, an overflow crowd and the birthday boy smiling on stage. Leonidas Melnikas is a piano player, organ player, musicologist, a tenured doctor, the head of his cathedral at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, chairman of the academy’s senate and professor. He’s also a member of the board of directors of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. He turned 60 Thursday.

The birthday celebration was part of the Destinies program of evening cultural events initiated and organized by LJC deputy chairwoman Maša Grodnikienė, who used the occasion to honor the memory of Melnikas’s father Isaiah Melnik, who would have turned 110 that same day. He was a well-known pharmacist at the Vilnius Central Pharmacy (on what is now Gedimino prospect) and at the Žvėrynas Pharmacy in Vilnius, where he made his own preparations in his time. He survived both Stutthof and Dachau. He was beloved by all and was a calm and warm person who enjoyed attending all sorts of concerts. His son Leonidas’s musical career began when his mother took him to the Ąžuoliukas school. His first teacher was the famous pianist Nadežda Duksdulskaitė. “My entire childhood was illuminated by my parents, the very best, the very wisest people, and family remains extremely important to me,” Melnikas said of himself before embarking on a performance of tango melodies with violinist Boris Traub, cellist Valentinas Kaplūnas and accordion player Gennady Savkov.

Birthday Evening with Dr. Leonidas Melnikas at the Lithuanian Jewish Community

The organizers of the Destinies series of evening events are pleased to invite you to come celebrate the birthday of professor Leonidas Melnikas at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Program:

Dr. Leonidas Melnikas on piano, Boris Traub on violin, Valentinas Kaplūnas on cello, Gennady Savkov on accordion

Participating:

Silvija Sondeckienė and composer Audronė Nekrošienė-Žigaitytė, president of the Union of Lithuanian Musicians.

Time: 6:00 P.M., Thursday, May 11
Location: Third floor, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius

Event planned and moderated by Maša Grodnikienė, deputy chairwoman, Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Kaunas Jewish Community Commemorates Victims of WWII

On May 9 the Kaunas Jewish Community commemorated the victims of the Holocaust and World War II and recalled victory and the joy of liberation from the Nazi terror. Memories sweet, bittersweet and sad were shared by the widows and children of veterans at the evening event, and Abraham Leizerson recalled his attempts to join the war effort as a very young man. Aleksandr Rave’s song performance unified and brought together the crowd, while Lucija Laverenova unexpectedly lightened the mood with a comedy routine. Basia Šragienė helped organize the event, as she did two years ago with her husband, now the late WWII veteran Shmuel Shrage, whose bright spirit lives on in our memory.

Vilkomir Remembers Victory

The Ukmergė Jewish Community marked the 72nd anniversary of Victory Day commemorating the victims of mass murder in the Pivonija forest.

Community members also visited the graves of late members of the community and war veterans at the Old Believers cemetery.

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.

Israeli Independence Day Celebration at Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium

“I thank God He has sent us the sun. And I thank God we will be celebrating the 70th birthday of the State of Israel next year,” Miša Jakobas, principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium told a large crowd of students, teachers, parents, prominent members of the Jewish community and well-wishers on Tuesday at a celebration of Yom haAtzmaut, Israeli independence day, in the athletics field behind the school.

Children assembled well before the official start of the celebration to practice singing and dance moves, and slowly the crowd coalesced into a ring around pupils performing songs in Hebrew, including haTikvah, the Israeli national anthem, and Yerushalayim shel zahav, Jerusalem the Gold, as a warm golden sun promised the belated onset of spring. Small plastic Israeli flags were distributed to everyone who wanted one. On the track field a group of primary-grade students performed a flag marching ceremony, followed by a group of speakers on the opposite side of the crowd where the children had sung.

Principal Miša Jakobas was followed by Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky who asked some of the wilder children to settle down, joking such behavior didn’t belong on the playground, although it is acceptable at synagogue. She pointed to a building in the back corner of the school yard and said if things go to plan, this would be a new Jewish kindergarten in Vilnius where Jewish children would receive priority of place. Currently the Jewish kindergarten in Vilnius, Salvija, just across the river from Sholem Aleichem, accepts a large number of non-Jewish children as well and promotes itself as a inclusive multicultural environment, although it emphasizes Jewish holidays and culture.