Learning, History, Culture

Dr. Esperanto Exhibit Opens in Panevėžys

A ceremony to open an exhibit about Ludovik Zamenhof, the medical doctor who invented the language Esparanto, was attended by a number of people including Polish Institute deputy director and Polish embassy chief advisor Pavel Krupka, and bishop emeritus Jonas Kauneckas. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman also attended the ceremony. The exhibit will run till April 15.

Senator Durbin Visits Exhibit “One Century out of Seven: Lithuania, Lite, Lita”

The mobile exhibit “One Century of Seven: Lithuania, Lite, Lita” created by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Jewish Community has gone on display at the Chicago Culture Center. The ceremony held jointly by YIVO and the Lithuanian consulate in Chicago honored senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) for his efforts including the return of Torah scrolls and YIVO archives. Durbin is the most influential Lithuanian-American in American politics. His mother Anna Kutkin aka Ona Kutkaitė hailed from Jurbarkas.

The exhibit illustrates the history of the Jews of Lithuania from their arrival in the Lithuanian Grand Duchy in the 13th century until today. Creators of the exhibit Pranas Morkus and the designer Victoria Sideraitė-Alon were able to show exceptional details in Jewish relations with local inhabitants of other ethnicities and to showcase important Litvaks.

Many Litvaks live in America and many visited the exhibit.

Sabbath Celebration

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to a Sabbath celebration with Righteous Gentile Ona Landsbergienė’s great-grandson Gabrielius Landsbergis. LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas will moderate.

The Sabbath ceremony will be held on the second floor of the LJC at 6:30 P.M. on Friday, March 23. The number of seats is limited and registration is required. Call 8 678 81514

Lithuanian Public Television Begins Righteous Gentiles Series

Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT has begun airing a series called “Righteous Gentiles,” presenting the stories of Lithuanians who rescued Jews from the Holocaust. Almost a thousand Lithuanians have now been officially recognized as Righteous Gentiles, per capita the largest percentage in any country. According to the national television broadcaster’s site, the series will tell hitherto unknown stories of Lithuanian heroism during the Holocaust.

Video and more information in Lithuanian available here and here.

Academic Ethics Ombudsman Fired for Anti-Semitism

Virgilius Sadauskas has been fired at academic ethnics ombudsman.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community welcomes this win for common sense and is grateful to the 29 MPs from the Liberal, Conservative, Social Democratic and Peasants factions for initiating a vote of confidence in Sadauskas.

The LJC feels the actions by this public servant, offering a monetary reward for collecting information “about people of Jewish ethnicity who contributed to deportations and torture,” incited ethnic discord and fall under the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the European Parliament on July 1, 2017.

We hope this decision becomes an example of best practices in the continuing fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred in our country at the national and community level.

In a secret poll, 77 MPs voted in favor of firing Sadauskas, 17 voted against and 13 abstained. Three ballots were ruined.

Abba Kovner’s 100th Birthday

Loss and renewal, the lot of victim and resistance, extermination and rebirth: these are the themes the writer Abba Kovner (1918-1987) wrote about from his own experience.

The first biography of the poet and partisan leader written by Dina Porat won the National Jewish Book Award for explaining history and bringing it to life.

Kovner was born in Oshmyani on March 14, 1918, a Lithuanian town in Belarus about 50 kilometers from Vilnius. After making aliyah to Israel following the war, he was often presented as a poet and prose writer, but Litvaks remember Kovner as a partisan leader who went on to help found the modern state of Israel.

In 1927 his parents moved the family to Vilnius and Kovner attended the Tarbut Gymansium. This building now houses the Lithuanian Jewish Community. He received a Jewish education there, including Hebrew and exposure to modern literature, and began to write poetry while in high school. In 1939 he was admitted as an auditor of classes at the Arts Faculty of Vilnius University. He engaged in illegal Zionist activities during the Soviet occupation of 1940. He became leader of the Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair Zionist youth movement.

Plaque Commemorating Abba Kovner Unveiled at LJC

To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet and Jewish partisan Abba Kovner, the Lithuanian Jewish Community March 14 unveiled a memorial plaque in his honor. The LJC is housed in the same building where Kovner attended high school until 1935, the former Tarbut Hebrew Gymnasium. The ceremony was attended by chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, fellow Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, among others. Brancovskaja told the small gathering her memories of the Jewish leader.

A Year of the Jews without Jews?

Position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community
March 13, 2018

Today the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania is scheduled to consider announcing 2019 the Year of the Jews. What the Lithuanian Jewish Community thinks about this is apparently of interest only to members of the media, not the initiators of the Year of the Jews measure.

The writers of the measure have not consulted with the LJC, the largest Jewish organization in Lithuania, at any stage of their initiative, which compels us to question the contents of the proposed resolution and its sincerity. The laconic legislation contains nothing that doesn’t happen every other year, except for, one supposes, allocation of funding for a special commission or commissions. We hope if the measure is adopted it won’t turn into the formation of yet another commission which takes students on Holocaust “excursions” through mass graves during Sabbath.

With no prospect of learning the plans and intentions of the authors of the idea first-hand, this strange initiative looks like some sort of atavism of former times, as when Thursdays were fish day. On other days the people were not provided fish, but on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Lithuania, is the issue of Jews really so uncomfortable and uninteresting? A whole slew of important dates for Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jewish Community are yet to come this year, including the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Community; the 100th anniversary of the unification of Lithuanian Zionists, who supported Lithuanian statehood; the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto and the 115th anniversary of the founding of what is now Vilnius’s only working synagogue. We therefore call upon the authors of this Year of the Jews to begin that year this year, to celebrate 100th anniversary of the modern Lithuanian state together with the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community esteems the progress of the state in solving issues topical for all of us, but political games using the Jews but not including the Jewish community are not an appropriate way to insure effective dialogue between ethnic Lithuanians and Jews.

Lithuanian Jewish Community

Pylimo g. 4
LT-01117 Vilnius
T:+370 5 261 3003

Passover, the Holiday of Liberation and Freedom

Passover Seder by Malcah Zeldis, © 2018

Natalja Cheifec invites you to attend her lecture on Passover in Russian at 6:00 P.M. on March 14 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Short synopsis:

-How the Jews were enslaved in Egypt
-How the Egyptians oppressed the Jews
-Moses, the leader of the Jewish people
-Why the Jews needed liberating
-How G_d punished the Egyptians, the 10 plagues
-Preparing for the Passover holiday: why yeast is avoided
-Celebrating Passover:

*four cups of wine
*required elements of the Passover table
*why leavened foods are not eaten or drunk on Passover

To register, see goo.gl/JbypwU

Chess Tournament

A chess tournament will be held to celebrate Lithuanian Independence Day at 3:00 P.M. on Sunday, March 25, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Boris Rositsan, FIDE master, will be tourney director. For more information and to register, write to info@metbor.lt or call 8 655 43 556.

Passover Seder at Choral Synagogue

Everyone who wants to experience and learn the true spirit of this holiday is invited to come celebrate Passover at 7:30 P.M. on March 30. The seder will include a large selection of kosher Italian and French wines. One ticket costs 15 euros if you buy it before March 25, 20 euros after that and there’s a family package for 40 euros (for parents and children). Preschool-age children admitted without tickets. Tickets are available at the synagogue from 9:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. every day except on Sabbath, and at the LJC from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on workdays from Liuba on the second floor.

Hundredth Birthday of Abba Kovner

Dear members,

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will hold a ceremony to unveil a plaque commemorating Jewish partisan leader and poet Abba Kovner at 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, outside the LJC conference hall on the second floor at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. Participants will include chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja and Punchos Fridberg, who will speak about Kovner in Yiddish.

You are invited to attend a brief meeting in the conference hall following the unveiling.

Rudashevski’s Ghetto Diary Now in Lithuanian

Books link us to freedom, books connect us to the world.
–Yitzhak Rudashevski, December 13, 1942, Vilnius.

Teaching the Holocaust to children is a difficult matter. At what age is it appropriate to expose children to man’s greatest inhumanity to man and the horrible atrocities which took place throughout Europe, culminating in the calculated genocide of millions of people? The Maus comic book was one approach, but children aren’t stupid and they get the full impact of the horror anyway, despite the window dressing.

Teaching adults the Holocaust can be just as problematic. A large body of Holocaust literature including straight histories, survivors’ testimonies and even theological works, not to mention a signficant cinematic canon, can lead to burn-out quickly, the Holocaust hangover syndrome. It is too much to take in all at once, the mind rebels.

Some Holocaust commemoration projects and museums have recognized the old maxim, that a picture is worth a thousand words, and often an object–an abandoned shoe, a lost set of house keys, a broken doll–speaks louder to the soul of the visitor than any text, photograph or video.

Pakruojis Wooden Synagogue Featured on Lithuanian Public TV Culture Channel

“Lithuania is slowly restoring the country’s rich legacy of synagogues. Synagogues are still standing in towns, the former shtetlakh, where not a single Jew has remained. Braver and cleverer mayors and communities, encouraged by the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and the Lithuanian Jewish Community, have begun restoring what has now become the priceless Jewish legacy, wiped out by the Holocaust. The synagogues are coming back and are being used for the cultural needs of the towns.

“Lithuanian public television channel Kultūra is producing a series called Reflections devoted to heritage. On this page you will find and be able to watch a film about restored synagogues. At the beginning you will see the oldest surviving wooden synagogue in Lithuania, restored in 2017. The synagogue operated as such until World War II, when the Holocaust exterminated the Pakruojis Jewish community. The regional administration of Pakruojis has renovated the Pakruojis Jewish synagogue and adapted it for public use. The project was financed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The restorers did great work and the interior is dominated by characteristically Jewish elements of decor and Jewish ethnic symbols, and the painting is filled with floral and faunal motifs. The former aron kodesh of this synagogue is especially decorative and impressive.

“After the Pakruojis synagogue, you will also see restored synagogues of Kaunas and Joniškis in the film”

Video program in Lithuanian here.

Purim Celebration and Concert in Panevėžys

The Israeli embassy sponsored a free concert to celebrate Purim in Panevėžys.

Mayor Rytis Račkauskas spoke before the concert and said: “As Lithuania celebrates one hundred years since the restoration of statehood, Israel is also marking its own celebration of 70 years. But we are connected by more than shared celebrations. I am impressed by our beautiful cooperation and warm communication with the embassy. Soon Panevėžys will experience an Israeli film festival, and today I am pleased to welcome you to this concert which is also a gift from the Israeli embassy and ambassador Amir Maimon. I’d like to use this occasion to thank the ambassador for this cooperation and bringing our cultures together.”

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon thanked those who attended to listen to the performers Iris and Ofer Prtugaly from Israel. After the concert Maimon, Račkauskas and the musicians attended a Purim celebration with the Panevėžys Jewish Community.

Ambassador Maimon said the Israeli embassy is planning to hold a cinematic event called “Israeli Cinema in Your City” in Panevėžys in May.

Purim at Choral Synagogue 2018

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Religious Jewish Community hosted a Purim spectacular at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius February 28 including a reading of the Book of Esther accompanied by audio-visual aids in English and a concert.

The cold snap enveloping Eastern Europe precluded a large number of children turning out, but those who did had adorable costumes, including a small bear, a policeman, at least one doctor, a king with golden crown and perhaps the most contemporary costume, a slightly older child wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and seemingly dressed in full-body ninja attire. Some adult women also dressed up, including synagogue regular Ruth Bloestein with wig, hat and ultra-rosy cheeks sitting in the women’s gallery.

Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky began the event slightly after the starting time of 6:30 and presented a number of gift baskets to leaders in the Community including Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. He also greeted Litvak guests visiting from Israel in the women’s gallery. He followed with an animated reading of the Book of Esther during which he exchanged hats with children in the wings, first adopting an undersized top hat and then exchanging it for a London bobby’s helmet about three sizes too small for him. While he read from the scroll, a projection television system played a series of comic panels from the story of Esther in English.

Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius Ghetto Diary Launched at Vilnius Book Fair

Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary is one of the most important testimonies to reach us from the Vilnius ghetto, an authentic eye-witness account of history as it happened. The Lithuanian Jewish Community went to extreme efforts to insure the diary finally be published in Lithuanian translation.

“I think my words are written in blood,” the young Rudaashevski wrote in his diary inscribed in school notebooks. After reaching the age of 15 in the ghetto, Rudashevski and his family were murdered in Ponar.

Chess Tourney to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of Lithuania

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a chess tournament on February 25 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Lithuania. Chess players young and old flocked to the tournament. Tournament director and FIDE master Boris Rositsan and Lithuanian Chess Federation president Aleksandras Černovas told those who came the chess player is a person who never abandons hope. Chess player and Lithuanian MP Julius Sabatauskas, who often organizes chess tournaments in Alytus, Lithuania, attended and competed, and said he was very happy to see the Lithuanian birthday celebration at the LJC with so many people there. Former prime ministerial advisor and veteran Lithuanian journalist Vilius Kavaliauskas spoke about Litvak history and former late president Algirdas Brazauskas’s trip to Israel, during which Brazauskas made a controversial apology to the Jewish people for Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust. Kavaliauskas accompanied PM Brazauskas on that trip and recalled how the late prime minister said Lithuania lost her greatest and brightest people to the Holocaust. Where would Lithuania be now if they had lived and worked for her future, he wondered.

Purim at the Choral Synagogue

Beginning at 6:30 P.M. on February 28 the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius will host a Purim celebration, including a reading of Megilat Ester, the Purim story, followed by a performance of classic Jewish and new Israeli songs by vocalist Yevgeni Valevich. A special program for children includes a magic show, clowns and lots of prizes. There will also be a contest for best Purim costume, and of course Purim treats for young and old.

Tickets are 5 euros (to be given to charity and can be bought starting February 19 either at the synagogue at Pylimo street no. 39 in Vilnius or from Liuba at the Lithuanian Jewish Community at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius.

See you there!