Tolerant Person of the Year and Donskis Prize Winner for 2017 Announced

According to the Lithuanian Government’s webpage, Marius Ivaškevičius was named Tolerant Person of the Year for 2017 at a ceremony at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Historian Saulius Sužiedėlis was award the Leonidas Donskis prize at the same ceremony Sunday.

Marius Ivaškevičius initiated a Holocaust memorial march in his native town of Molėtai in late August, 2016. Thousands travelled there to participate and the march is widely considered to have marked a sea-change in Lithuanian Holocaust awareness. Ivaškevičius’s appeal before the march called “I’m Not Jewish” remains the most-read item on in English translation.

Saulius Sužiedėlis is the Lithuanian-American professor of history who has written numerous works on the Holocaust in Lithuania, including what is still considered the definitive modern treatment, “The Persecution and Mass Murder of Lithuanian Jews during Summer and Fall of 1941,” co-authored with German historian Christoph Dieckmann. A recent interview called “Saulius Sužiedėlis Explains Why the Nazis Didn’t Need Gas Chambers in Lithuania” was extremely popular in the Lithuanian original posted at

Today We Witness Lithuanian Freedom

The March 11th Hall of the Lithuanian parliament had an overflow audience Thursday during a ceremony to commemorate 100 years of Lithuanian independence. The commemoration began with the singing of the Lithuanian national anthem and a reading of the February 16, 1918, Act of Independence and the names of the signatories to that act.

Parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis delivered a keynote speech and said that we are all equal in the context of 100 years since the restoration of Lithuania.

“Today we all witness Lithuanian freedom. Each person gives rise to a small individual world, merging seamlessly into a community,” he said. The Lithuanian people have always fostered and defended their identity, he said, and noted the Order of Vytis was awarded to members of 15 different ethnic communities for fighting for Lithuanian independence. He said 100 years wasn’t a long time in the life of a nation which recently celebrated their millennium. “Many people and events went into the creation of Lithuania, including the heroic deeds of the grand dukes and of nameless citizens, unions and partitions, occupations and uprisings. The deeds in song of those who proclaimed freedom and the paths trodden by the book smugglers,” he said at the ceremony.

Pranckietis said although only 20 Lithuanians signed the Act of Independence, the entire nation saw Vilnius as their capital. He called for celebrating the present as well as the history of Lithuania.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Netanyahu Congratulates Lithuania on 100th Birthday

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a letter to Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, a greeting from him and the people of Israel congratulating Lithuania on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lithuanian Republic.

Netanyahu wished the people of Lithuania a memorable and happy holiday. He noted the close historical connections between the people of Lithuania and Israel and the importance of the Lithuanian Jewish community to the entire Jewish people and their religious and intellectual development. The Jewish people who lived in Lithuania earned great respect and included famous philosophers, writers and scholars.

The Israeli PM also noted the current Lithuanian Jewish community and Israeli citizens from Lithuania celebrate a spirit of solidarity and close cultural contacts between the two peoples. Netanyahu noted Israel appreciates highly Lithuania’s promises regarding Holocaust education and in fighting anti-Semitism. He called Lithuania one of Israel’s closest partners in Europe at the present time, and said Lithuania had contributed significantly to fostering constructive dialogue between Israel and the European Union.

Lithuania’s 100th Independence Day was also observed by the municipality of Tel Aviv where the municipal building was lit in the colors of the Lithuanian flag.

Sergejus Kanovičius Receives State Award

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė awarded writer and founder of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund Sergejus Kanovičius the state honor “For Merit to Lithuania” February 15. He received the award for his work to preserve the Lithuanian Jewish heritage. The website, where Kanovičius frequently contributes, published his acceptance speech:

I share, because I have received. That’s what my Parents taught me. That’s what my Parents learned from their Parents, my grandparents, to share what you get with others. Always, whether you have a lot or a little, and someone else has even less. I share because this is not all my doing. It probably isn’t even mine at all. It belongs to my Parents, to my entire family without whom I wouldn’t be able to work the work I do in Lithuania, it is my brother’s example to share, to support and help, and so it belongs to all of them.

What would I have been able to do for Lithuania alone? How would I have received this sort of award if not for the wonderful people who work with me? How would we be able to work without our hard-working patrons, without whose help we wouldn’t be able to make my vision and our mission happen?

I won’t lie, it’s very nice to be awarded. But it’s even nice to know this award doesn’t belong to me alone. It belongs to all of us. As it does to Lithuania, for whom we all must try to make a contribution, through work seen and unseen. Love and respect for our fellow man, respect for historical truth and justice, for commemorating the past. For commemorating that which has come down to us and must remain after us.

We have all done merit for Lithuania because we are her children. Let’s love her and be loved.

I sincerely believe this award, although it was given to me, really does belong to all of you.

My grandfather, may he rest in peace, the suit maker from Jonava, Shloime Kanovich, always used to ask any customer who came in, “Do you have material?” We have an abundance of material. What’s important is that we sew it together honestly.

Thank you, everyone. And as my Father wrote on a similar occasion and on completely justified grounds, thank you, Lithuania.

Tu b’Shvat

Today is the Jewish holiday of Tu b’Shvat, the 15th day of the month of Shvat, the New Year for trees also known as Israeli Arbor Day. It is traditional to eat of the shvat ha’minim (seven species endemic to the Land of Israel): wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Hag sameakh!

Happy Birthday to Adomas Jacovskis

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes the renowned Lithuanian artist, scenographer and painter Adomas Jacovskis a happy birthday. Jacovskis is a recipient of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Art and has done much to make Lithuania known in the world.

He calls himself an individualist from birth. He dreamed of painting and became a painter after choosing to study scenography under the famous painter Augustinas Savickas. He currently teaches at the Vilnius Art Academy. His sister, daughter and son are all artists as well.

We wish you great health, inspiration and resolution in your continuing remarkable work. We are honored by and proud of your achievements and recognition.

Šiauliai Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Birthday

An exhibit of artwork by the students of the Savickas Art School opened at the Povilas Višinskis Public Library in Šiauliai Sunday celebrating the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Šiauliai Jewish Community. The exhibit is open to the public till January 28.

Accomplished painter and teacher Raimondas Savickas began offering classes at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in the summer of 2015. The classes and the outdoor painting and drawing workshops in natural settings were so successful led to the formal creation of the Savickas Art School at the LJC in the fall of 2015. The outdoor plein air workshops have become a summer tradition and regular classes are held for beginners and more advanced artists. Currently there are about 20 students, Savickas said. The program includes theory and practice, and Savickas said they are learning about more than just technique, with students learning about Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classic styles and Judaica in general. Students paint synagogues and have the opportunity to meet and learn from accomplished Litvak artists.

“We have been noticed,” Savickas said, “and have been invited to show our work in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and Šiauliai,” Savickas said.

Happy Birthday to Irena Veisaitė

Lithuanian Jewish teacher, scholar and theater expert Irena Veisaitė is not just a legend among students. Elegant, with an inherent sense of communicability, a woman of broad erudition, at home in any number of languages and filled with an inner inspiration, Irena is able to engage in warm conversation in any circle.

Her biography is full of the experience of tragedy, which she survived unbroken. The entire Jewish community remembers her words as a kind of mantra: “While even one anti-Semite still lives, I will be a Jew.” As a child during World War II imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto, she lost her mother. Stefanija Ladigienė became her adoptive mother, rescuing Irena and raising her in her own home as her own daughter. Irena still calls all rescuers holy people, to whom Lithuania has still not erected a single monument.

Dear Irena, the Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes you a very happy birthday. May you always enjoy strong health, much joy and days of happiness! May your heart never age. Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

Greetings, Thank-You Note and Mittens from Righteous Gentiles Elvyra and Regina in Biržai

The Lithuanian Jewish Community received the following wonderful holiday greetings, thank-you note and accompanying mittens:

We sincerely congratulate you on the upcoming holidays. May the purity of snow fill your days. Let success and strength follow you all of your days. We wish you strength and determination. Our sincerest thanks for your sympathy and understanding.

Elvyra Čyžauskienė and Regina Kežienė

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah, Menorah on Town Square

The last Hanukkah light was lit at the large public menorah display on Kaunas’s town square, ending the eight-day holiday. Hanukkah wasn’t just a home celebration this year for many Kaunas Jews, who met, partied, danced, took part in friendly competitions, listened to great Jewish music and ate their fill of latkes and doughnuts at a number of locations, from Kaunas Town Hall to music clubs and even outdoor tents. Rafailas Karpis and Darius Mažintas gave moving performances at different venues this year and for the first time an ensemble of Kaunas and Riga residents with vocalist Ania Judelson in front performed in Kaunas as well. Ania Judelson is someone to watch, her talent promises great things.

The celebrations this year also included lots of friends of the Jewish community, from well-known public figures and politicians to average citizens. The holiday has ended, but the memory of its warmth and light will carry us through the dark months ahead.

Hanukkah Greetings from LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

As I celebrate Hanukkah every year with my grandchildren, I remember the Hanukkah of my childhood with my grandmother. The holiday wasn’t as fun then as it is now and we didn’t get treats. My grandmother, hiding in the kitchen where there were no windows, lit the candles and prayed. We didn’t have a menorah, it was lost with all the family heirlooms during the Holocaust. She prayed, but her prayer wasn’t happy or celebratory, because she was always thinking about her son, and she always thought someone was coming, and she used to warn me: “hide, the children’s aktion is coming.” There weren’t fun times after the war. My grandmother was probably not the only one who remembered not just the Temple in Jerusalem, but also her murdered children.

Now we have better celebrations, we live better, so let’s learn to be happy and as we celebrate, let’s remember what miracle Hanukkah signifies for us all. I wish every member of the Jewish community more light, more understanding and warm and happy feelings. May the Hanukkah flame spread goodness in your home and provide the children waiting for their Hanukkah gelt happy moments, and the adults and everyone who sits at the family table to try the tasty Jewish latkes.

Happy Hanukkah, dear members of the Jewish community!

Panevėžys Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah

For the first time children were allowed to light the candles of the menorah at the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s Hanukkah celebration.

Chairman Gennady Kofman welcomed celebrants and read out Hanukkah greetings sent to the Community from around the world, as well as from Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Then the attendees listened to greetings from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin to all Jews around the world.

Before lighting the candles everyone listened to the traditional prayers and blessings for the Hanukkah miracle. The story of Hanukkah was recalled for guests, the victory of the Jews over the Greek and Syrian conquerors and the liberation of the Temple of Jerusalem.

The most memorable moment was when the youngest members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community lit the Hanukkah candles with their parents for the first time at the Community.

Toasts, gifts and latkes were shared around the holiday table to the strains of Jewish music.

Lithuanian Students Experience Hanukkah in Perth for Second Time in Two Years

For the second year in a row students from Atžalynas High School in Kėdainiai, Lithuania, experienced Hanukkah in Perth, Australia, via skype on a large screen in their classroom.

Last year they heard Dylan Kotkis, Carmel School captain for 2018, sing Maoz Tzur while Western Australia’s Chabad Rabbi Shalom White explained the festival and the message of Hanukkah to the 15-year-olds.

This was probably the first time in 75 years this Hanukkah song had been heard in this town in central Lithuania once so important to Jews. No Jews live in Kėdainiai today.

This year teacher Laima Ardavičienė and her class attended the candle-lighting ceremony at Ben-Gurion Park in Perth with members of the Western Australian Jewish Community via skype. The ceremony performed by Rabbi Shalom White of Chabad Lubavitch House was preceded by an enjoyable performance by the entertainer Mickey Shaked. The Lithuanian students also had the opportunity to meet some of the locals via skype.

One of these was Heiny Ellert, a 95-year-old Lithuanian Holocaust survivor from Neishtot-Tavrig, today known as Žemaičių Naumiestis. I filmed his testimony for the Western Australian Holocaust Institute in 2014. It can be viewed at

You can read more about this and last year’s Hanukkah activities and about Heiny and his shtetl at

Eli Rabinowitz
Perth, Western Australia
December 13, 2017

Happy Hanukkah from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

December 13, 2017

Dear Friends,

Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles and a festival of light when Jews all across the world reflect in the darkest time of the year on hope and optimism in the face of seemingly perilous obstacles.

Miracles occur in the holiest of places, and in the most difficult–and even in the most mundane. As we light the Hanukkah candles this week, we recall the heroism of the Maccabees who rebelled against the oppression of a society which refused to allow them to live and practice as Jews. We remember in awe how oil meant for just a single night burned for eight days.

The miracles possible today are just as light and just as hopeful as they were thousands of years ago.

It is true that anti-Semitism and xenophobia are on the rise, and that in many parts of the world, Jews are afraid to live as Jews, and minorities continue to be persecuted. Even our Jewish communities face internal division over their religious practices and acceptance. We often wonder how our candle of tradition and Jewish unity can hold up in such trying times. So let us remember: miracles happen.

This Hanukkah, let the miracles so familiar to us from the past guide us as we move forward. We will triumph over anti-Semitism and hatred, and we will work toward a future of harmony and unity among all Jewish people.

As we bask in the glow of the Hanukkah candles over these eight days, let us remember that we are indeed a light shining among nations. Let us remember that there are nations standing by our side, who understand that the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, have a miraculous history of overcoming all odds. Let us hope for miracles, for peace, tolerance, and safety for all Jews, and for all peoples of this world. Chag Orim Sameach. Happy Festival of Lights to us all.

Ronald S. Lauder
President, World Jewish Congress

Šiauliai Jewish Community Hanukkah Greetings

Šiaulių žydų benduomenės sveikinimas

May the light of Hanukkah envelop you in warmth and comfort, and may wisdom accompany your decisions, may success follow you in your work, may tolerance inform your relationships and may love, health and goodness dwell in all of your homes and families.


Šiauliai Jewish Community

Lithuanian Prime Minister Sends Hanukkah Greetings to Lithuanian Jewish Community

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis greets the Lithuanian Jewish Community which today has lit the first Hanukkah light and has invited all people of good will to celebrate the holiday with such a long tradition.

“I sincerely congratulate the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community with the beginning of the holiday of light and faith. Hanukkah presents us the wonderful opportunity to remember old traditions and celebrate fundamental values. It is to be welcomed that this beautiful Lithuanian Jewish community holiday is receiving ever more public attention,” prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said in his holiday greeting.

On the eve of the holiday the PM thanked the Lithuanian Jewish Community for its exemplary cooperation with the Government and other institutions in solving constructively issues of concern to the Community.

“We can only be happy about the restored Jewish cultural heritage sites and the synagogues coming back to life. Today throughout the country these buildings are being utilized by the people of Lithuania for cultural and educational purposes. Jewish cemeteries are being restored and kept up, Jewish culture is being celebrated and old traditions are being revived. All of this allows to state confidently that our cooperation will only intensify in the future and we will accomplish many important things in the future through joint efforts,” the head of the Lithuanian Government said in his holiday greeting.