Greetings

Israel Celebrates 70th Birthday

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday with a concert on Israeli Independence Day, Iyar 5, which is April 19 this year. The day marks Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, 70 years ago.

You are invited to a performance by the students from the Saulėtekis school in Vilnius at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The birthday bash will be held on the third floor of the LJC at Pylimo street no. 4 at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, April 19. Admission is free.

Passover Greetings from Former Prime Minister

Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania

Honored chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Faina Kukliansky,

I sincerely greet you personally and the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the occasion of the holiday of Passover.

The recollection of the remarkable pages of Jewish history allow us to take joy in the achievements which have been achieved over its long journey.

The liberation from the yoke of slavery in Egypt occupies a special place.

The holiday of Passover allows us to understand the value of the price of freedom and that the unity of the nation, of the community, is an essential precondition for not losing that freedom.

I greet the members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community a great holiday, in the spirit of joint effort and forgiveness towards one another.

With great honor and good wishes,

[signed]

Gediminas Kirkilas, chairman of the European Affairs Committee, deputy speaker of parliament

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Passover

Armed with a festive mood members of the Kaunas Jewish Community met for one of the happiest times of the year to commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people from the Land of Egypt and to celebrate the coming of spring during Passover. There was a musical program and a quiz to test knowledge of holiday traditions. The winners–Filomena Jančiuvienė, Raja Verblinskienė and Robertas Baltusevičius–received health-care products as prizes. It was endlessly good to see how warmly members got along and how much fun we all had together, without regard to age.

Beloved and much-missed Fayerlakh musicians Michailas and Leonardas helped put the icing on the cake and seemed willing to play till dawn.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community Social Programs Department and the Goodwill Foundation financed the event.

Congratulations to Arkadijus Gotesmanas, Winner of the Birštonas Jazz Festival Grand Prize

The grand prize at the Birštonas Jazz Festival has been presented to improvisational percussionist Arkadijus Gotesmanas. The jazz festival in the Lithuanian town attracted over 3,000 audience members over three days. Performers noted an increasing interest in Lithuanian jazz by younger musicians.

Gotesmanas was awarded the grand prix statuette for a drum performance of an improvisation by the artist Marijus Petrauskas. In addition, he received tickets for two to stay at the Eglė health resort in Birštonas, which is known for its health spas.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulates Arkadijus Gotesmanas on this, his most recent recognition.

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 www.lzb.lt/en 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 www.lzb.lt

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 bernardinai.lt 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 https://youtu.be/118HN2_NYHs

You can read more about this and last year’s Hanukkah activities and about Heiny and his shtetl at http://elirab.me/chanukah-in-the-park/

Eli Rabinowitz
Perth, Western Australia
December 13, 2017