Holocaust

Jewish Community Proposes Cultural Museum in Vilnius Ghetto

Vilnius, June 27, BNS—The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proposing the creation of a cultural museum in the former Vilnius ghetto. There are considerations to include an open-air section beyond a single building housing the museum using modern technology. The LJC presented these ideas to Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius Thursday.

Creative analyst Albinas Šimanauskas, one of the authors of the idea, said they hadn’t decided on a specific location for the museum yet, but there was a proposal to establish it near Rūdininkų square.

“Rūdininkų square, for example, where there is a statue commemorating Tsemakh Shabad, could be the site for a memorial to Righteous Gentiles. It’s a fine square which could host international events, concerts, thematic festivals… this would be a Vilnius Jewish cultural museum exhibiting historical events and cultural phenomena through living story-telling,” he told BNS.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said they are waiting for basic confirmation of the idea from the municipality and will decide on a location for the museum after that.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Now Member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage

As of now, the Lithuanian Jewish Community is a member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, better known by the French acronym AEPJ. The AEPJ supports the preservation, appreciation and promotion of Jewish culture and heritage in Europe. The association is especially devoted to making Jewish cultural and heritage buildings and locations accessible to the public. To achieve that goal, the AEPJ conducts two main programs: the European Day of Jewish Culture and the European Jewish heritage tourism routes.

For more information, see here.

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.

June 22, 1941: It’s War

This is the story of fighter pilot Lida Litvak (Leu Volfovna). Lida was born in Moscow on August 18, 1922. Her father was arrested in 1937, tortured by Stalin’s regime and murdered. Lida became a professional pilot before the war. As a pilot and instructor, she became one of the first women to volunteer for service in the Soviet Air Force in response to an invitation from the famous pilot Marina Raskova.

After being graduated from the Kherson Military Pilots School, Lida, at the rank of sergeant, was deployed to a female unit and took part in the defense of Saratov. In September the slim, blonde pilot and several of her friends were transferred to Stalingrad where a special female military unit had also been formed. She flew a Yak 1 with the identification number 32 painted on its fuselage. They said she had the most success, and even called her queen of the fighter aircraft fighting on the southwestern front.

In March, 1943, after downing two German aircraft, she was wounded and taken to hospital, where she recovered and was released, returning to her squadron in May and earning the rank of lieutenant, after which she was transferred to the southern front. In July she flew two dangerous sorties, was again wounded and had to make an emergency landing. Her third sortie was the fateful one: after destroying two enemy aircraft on August 1, 1943, she came under fire, and only one of her other fellow pilots saw her plane disappear into the clouds. She was awarded the title of Heroine of the Soviet Union.

Scholar Aleks Veksler has a deep interest in and has done much research on Jews who fought on the fronts in World War II. In 1943 secretary of the Communist Part of the USSR Shcherbakov decided to limit presentations of medals to Jews for heroism on the front lines. At the same time the decision was made, shamefully, to “correct” names and surnames on lists of earlier awards. Jews fought Hitler’s army not just to protect the homeland, but also because they personal debts to repay to the Nazis who killed their people. Soviet Army leaders decided to undertake anti-Semitic measures against the Jews on the front lines because Jews were getting more medals than Russians. By then Stalin had already announced that it was Russians who had dealt the decisive blow against the fascists, but counting the number of Soviet military heroes, it was clear the majority of them were Jews. Soviet state leaders began to implement a horrible and shameful anti-Semitic line at the state level. By the end of the war the number of Jews who had been awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union was 167.

Veksler and former Soviet Red Army colonel F Sverdlov published books called In the Ranks of the Brave and Jews: Armed Forces Generals of the USSR. M. Shtainberg wrote a book called Jews in War over the Millennia. Their work has revealed the truth about Jews who fought in World War II and so resolutely for the State of Israel. Jews were never cowards.

Lithuanian Political Illusions: The “Policy” of the Lithuanian Provisional Government and the Beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania in 1941

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is publishing a series of articles by the historian Algimantas Kasparavičius, a senior researcher at the Lithuanian History Institute.

kasparavicius

Part 5

At the beginning of summer in 1941 it wasn’t just the LAF political leadership in Berlin and the Provisional Government in Kaunas who adhered to a pro-German, pro-Nazi strategy for the restoration of Lithuanian statehood, but also some of the Lithuanian diplomatic service in exile. That includes, for a time at least, the head of Lithuania’s diplomatic corps, Stasys Lozoraitis, Sr. At least two facts bear testimony to Lozoratis’s questionable actions at the end of June, 1941. As early as June 23 the head of Lithuanian diplomacy then in Rome sent congratulations by special telegram to fascist Italy’s foreign minister Gian Galeazzo Ciano on the Nazi invasion of the USSR, and then tried, unsuccessfully, to meet the ambassador of the Third Reich in Rome, again, “to express congratulations on the war against the Bolsheviks”. [1] Lozoraitis was unable to congratulate the Nazi ambassador at the time because the Nazi official refused the meeting and wouldn’t receive the Lithuanian diplomat. The sources show this activity by Lozoraitis was the result of his conviction that “the replacement of the Bolshevik occupation by the German occupation is a great step forward for us in the direction of the restoration of Independence.” [2]

Bearing in mind that from the beginning of the summer of 1940 Germany and Great Britain had been engaged in an existential battle on land and sea in what became known to history as the Battle for Britain, [3] that beginning June 16, 1941, United States president Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered all Nazi diplomatic representations in US territory shut down, that all of Hitler’s diplomats were expelled from the country and suspect people of German origin were imprisoned in special camps; and if we consider charismatic British prime minister Winston Churchill on the afternoon of June 22, 1941, in his address on BBC radio promised “we shall give whatever help we can to Russia and to the Russian people. We shall appeal to all our friends and Allies in every part of the world to take the same course and pursue it as we shall, faithfully and steadfastly to the end. We have offered to the Government of Soviet Russia any technical or economic assistance which is in our power and which is likely to be of service to them,” and pledged His Majesty’s government “are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime,” then we cannot pretend the actions by the head of Lithuanian diplomacy in those days was not at the very least strange and controversial.

In effect is proves Lozoraitis was unable in practical terms of orienting in a rapidly shifting situation and that he for some time naïvely swam in the wake of events dictated by the Third Reich. We cannot refuse to admit the policy of the remaining Western democratic world was headed in one direction and the policy of the head of Lithuanian diplomacy as well as of the Provisional Government in Kaunas was headed in the exactly opposite direction. If we fully understand the dichotomy of the political situation, of the vectors of international relations, can we feign surprise that Lithuanians abroad failed to form a government in exile during World War II, or at the political status into which Lithuania fell following the war?

Vilna Gaon to Screen Defiance

The Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum invites the public to come watch the film Defiance (2008) made in Lithuania and based on historical facts, and to meet some of the Lithuanian actors in the film as well as meet attorney Leora Tec, the daughter of the author of the book upon which the screenplay was based, Nechama Tec.

The film, slightly over two hours, tells the story of the Bielski brothers and the partisan group they founded in Belarus near the Lithuanian border. Their struggle for life ended up saving around 1,200 Jews from the ghettos in Belarus and Vilnius.

Defiance is one of the highest-budget and most successful films ever made in Lithuania. The main roles were filled by English “James Bond” actor Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, Liev Schreiber as Zus Bielski, Jamie Bell as Asael Bielski, and George MacKay as Aron Bielski. The Lithuanian side of the cast comprises a constellation of stars from the dramatic and musical stage as well and includes Leonardas Pobedonoscevas, Antanas Šurna, Rimatė Valiukaitė, Dalius Mertinas, Edita Užaitė, Dalia Michelevičiūtė and Vidas Petkevičius, among others.

The screening and meeting will take place at 5:30 P.M. on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, at the Tolerance Center located at Naugarduko street no. 10/2 in Vilnius. The film will be screened in the Lithuanian language and the discussion to follow will be in Lithuanian and English. The event is free to the public and members of the film crew, actors, extras and others involved in the making of Defiance are highly encouraged to come.

Israeli Citizen Borisas Joselovich Comments on Draft Amendments to Citizenship Law

Borisas Joselovich has sent Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky a letter from Israel in Lithuanian. A translation follows.

Your thoughts in the text published on the issue of proposed draft amendments to the law of the Republic of Lithuania on citizenship about returning citizenship to former Jewish citizens of Lithuania who left for Israel after 1990 exactly mirror my own personal thoughts and probably the position and hopes of a large number of Litvaks living in Israel.

Spain, which deported the entire Jewish community 500 years ago, adopted a fair and honest decision to return national citizenship to Jews exiled from Spain. This decision by the Spanish government has been carried out successfully for several years now.

Lithuania, in whose territory almost the entire Jewish community was physically exterminated, is simply morally obligated to take the exact same step towards those several thousand descendants of murdered Jews living in Israel, and to return them the citizenship taken away from them earlier.

You are doing very important work in restoring what was for centuries the natural Jewish element of Lithuanian society to the place it belongs, and so I wish you the highest success in achieving your goals in this difficult mission.

Respectfully,

Borisas Joselovich
(Israeli citizen since 1993)

Jewish Deportations Just as Painful as Lithuanian Deportations, Forgotten by Lithuanians

Žydo tremtinio sąvoka Lietuvos visuomenėje šiandien yra beveik užmirštama. Ji tokia pat skausminga kaip lietuvių tremtis

About 1.3% of members of the Lithuanian Jewish community were deported to the Soviet Union in 1941. This percentage of deportations is the highest for any ethnic group in Lithuania. The deportations failed, however, to extinguish Jewish nationalism, and Zionist groups operated underground, organizing Hebrew education and exerting all efforts to allow Jews to leave for Palestine. According to Jewish historiography, in June of 1941 alone about 3,000 Jewish activists from the right and the left and Jewish owners of large industrial concerns and factories were deported. It is a great shame Lithuanian society today has almost no understanding of these deportations, or has chosen to ignore them, designating deportation an exclusively ethnic Lithuanian tragedy.

Historian Solomon Atamuk found there were 16 Jewish daily newspapers, 30 weeklies and 13 intermittent periodicals along with about 20 collections of literature published in Lithuania before World War II. After the June 14, 1940, ultimatum by the Soviet Union to Lithuania and the occupation which quickly followed, the Jewish community bore the brunt of social and cultural repressions. All leftist and rightist Jewish newspapers were shut down. Even Folksblat, popular among Communists and the organ of the Jewish People’s Party, was banned. Beyond the ban on the Jewish newspapers, editors of Jewish publications were fired and the new regime undertook a complete reorganization and shutting down of existing academic institutions. YIVO was made to heel, employees were fired, various books, newspapers and collections were seized. Opportunities to read in Hebrew were systematically lessened and Jewish libraries were shut down.

Jokūbas Furmanas Has Died

Long-time member of the Šiauliai Jewish Community doctor Jokūbas Furmanas passed away at the age of 102 on June 14, 2017. He was born April 25, 1916.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sends our sincere condolences to his entire circle of friends and relatives. The Šiauliai Jewish Community and the Lithuanian Jewish Community have lost a remarkable man, a real Shavl Jew, a doctor and an intellectual.

Furmanas’s life was inseparable from health care, to which he devoted five decades of his life, almost 45 of them as department head at the Šiauliai Municipal Sanitary Epidemiological Station (now Šiauliai department of the National Public Health Center under the Lithuanian Ministry of Healthcare). The station was established in 1944. Then it was constituted of one room on Vasario 16-osios street, with a microbiology lab at Pakalnės street no. 5. The lab conducted clinical bacteriological and serological tests for the entire region. Transportation was a cart and horse. Furmanas was appointed sanitary hygiene inspector in 1946. His job dealt with controlling infectious disease, including spotted fever, typhoid fever, Salmonella paratyphi B (paratyphoid fever), dysentery and others.

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

Position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community on New Amendments to the Law on Citizenship

One hundred and fourteen members of parliament have registered draft amendments to the law on citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania to provide for the preservation of Lithuanian citizenship for people who left the country for European Union and NATO countries after Lithuanian independence in 1990 and who acquired citizenship in those countries.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is in favor of dual citizenship for Lithuanian citizens who have emigrated, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said, “but we believe the rights of Lithuanians of Jewish origins should not be less than that of other Lithuanians. Lithuanians of Jewish origin who left Lithuania after independence for the historical homeland of Israel do not have less ties with Lithuania than those of an ethnic Lithuanian living in the European Union or the United States of America. The current draft amendments to the law on citizenship, however, would allow Lithuanians of Jewish descent who moved to the United States to hold dual citizenship, whereas Lithuanians of Jewish descent who moved to Israel after independence would not. For Litvaks in South Africa this doesn’t matter so much, because the majority of them left well before World War II,” the chairwoman commented.

“Nonetheless, there are a large number of people who left Lithuania after 1990. In light of the current geopolitical situation and current events, the geographical selection in the new draft amendment—EU and NATO countries—hardly seems rational or well-founded. This is especially true of an ethnic group which was one of the largest ethnic minorities in Lithuania but which was almost exterminated during World War II. In light of that and regarding these people, the law should make use of so-called positive discrimination instead, with the aim not of providing special rights or status to a specific group, in this case Lithuanians of Jewish ethnicity, but to redress their existing inequality with other subjects under law, in this case, other people of Lithuanian origin who left Lithuania after 1990. Criteria of concentration also apply: there is a large percentage of people in Israel who have connections and ties with Lithuania, and an interest and valid hope to hold Lithuanian citizenship,” chairwoman Kukliansky continued.

“The doctrine of Lithuanian citizenship since 1919 has lacked clarity and this continues now. The first law on Lithuanian citizenship appeared on January 9, 1919, and was amended and changed many times over. Debates as to whether the law conforms to the aspirations and hopes of the majority of Lithuanians are on-going right up to the present day,” she said.

“Currently preparations are underway to change article 7 of the law on citizenship. The draft language says a citizen of Lithuania may be a citizen of another country if he is a citizen of Lithuania and left Lithuania after March 11, 1990 and subsequently acquired citizenship in an EU or NATO member-state. In light of this geopolitical element in the language of the draft amendment, the Lithuanian Jewish Community wonders what values, principles and logic led the authors of the legislation to appreciate the Lithuanian-Israeli and partnership less than other partnerships, and to the interpretation that a Lithuanian of Jewish ethnicity living in Israel has less of a civic, social and historical relationship with Lithuania than, for example, someone who went to live in Ireland based on economic motivations,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky stated. She added it wasn’t fair Lithuanians of Jewish origin living in Israel have a lower legal status than that ofa compatriot living in an EU of NATO state.

Under Lithuanian law, a Lithuanian citizen is a person who has acquired or holds Lithuanian citizenship, which entails specific rights and duties and is based on a relationship with the state. The majority of Lithuanian Jewish community members have children or relatives who have gone to Israel since 1990, many of them Lithuanians of Jewish origin.

Animated Documentary for Teaching Children about the Holocaust

To date Fettle Animation, a Marsden-based company, have won a BAFTA and two Royal Television Society awards for their animated Holocaust documentaries. We wanted to know how they’re being used to help children understand this pivotal moment in history

From the Cold War to the bombing of Hiroshima, our children learn about important but traumatic moments in history while they’re at school. But although most of us are aware of the atrocities of the Holocaust, can anyone truly understand what it felt like to be a child in the concentration camps? It’s an emotionally complex scenario for anyone to comprehend. But a Marsden-based company, Fettle Animation, are leading the way with engaging and educative animated films for children. We spoke to their founder and Producer Kath Shackleton to find out more about this great company and their award-winning films.

Fettle Animation was created by Kath (a former art development officer) and her partner Zane Whittingham, who has over 25 years of experience working in animation. After the birth of their daughter, they decided to leave London and move back to Kath’s native Yorkshire, to set up in Marsden. “We set the company up hoping to get some work-life balance, but I think we’ve exploited ourselves far harder than any employer would in the end,” Kath jokes, “But it’s definitely worth it.”

Surrounded by rolling hills and the idyllic countryside, Kath and Zane have an enviable lifestyle. But both have they worked hard. In the five years since they set up their company, which specializes in the production of animated films from freehand drawings, they’ve flown all over the world appearing at prestigious film festivals and collecting awards. Alongside the Children’s BAFTA, and two Royal Television Society awards, they have countless other international commendations. They’re so popular that two awards that they’ve been nominated for recently, the Japan Prize in Tokyo and the Prix Europa in Berlin, are being presented on the same night. What to do?

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.”

Are Russian-Speaking Jews Less Worthy? No Way!

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

You have to have malice to call me a Russophobe. I am addressing several Russian-speaking Jews of Vilnius who are spreading this lie. I have the highest regard for all kinds of Russian art. By personal invitation of legendary clown Yuri Nikulin I performed in his circus in Moscow. Also at the invitation of legendary Taganka Theater director Yuri Lubimov, I performed in his presentation of Master and Margarita at Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theater. Several of my best poems were written in Russian. Incidentally, I write poetry in Lithuanian, Russian, Swedish, English and Spanish.

So what horrible thing has happened to begin this malicious campaign against my person? Is it that I have foundation to say the Vilnius Jewish Community elections for chairman initiated by Simonas Gurevičius have nothing in common with democratic principles? If that’s it, no one has even attempted to rebut my arguments. So what else is left? To turn my well-founded criticism into the accusation that I am insulting the Russian-speaking Jews of Vilnius. That’s just cheap. But if anyone does feel falsely “suspected” of something, I sincerely apologize.

The accusation is without basis. When the fascists of any European state murdered our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, they didn’t care a bit which language they were speaking. After the 1917 Revolution around 100,000 Jews were murdered in pogroms. When Lithuanian Jews were deported to the gulag by order of Josef Stalin, it didn’t matter what language they spoke. Before and after World War II Russian Jews were subject to “cleansing” and tens of thousands of Russian Jews died in the gulags.

This is my statement which brought on the storm: “There is another problem, that of mentality, afflicting the Vilnius Jewish Community. For instance, the majority of those 260 VJC members who assembled speak Russian exclusively among themselves. They only watch Russian television channels. The don’t understand terms such as democratic elections and democratic election and democratic election campaign procedures.” I am clearly talking only about 260 people and I stress “the majority of them.” In other words, my statement has nothing to do with the 2,000 other Jews in Vilnius, many of whom are Russian speakers. On what considerations was my statement based? I wanted to explain what I believed were the reasons the democratic rules of the game were violated and ignored. After all, 260 people voted in elections which clearly violated the principles of fair elections and the community was divided. The easiest thing to do was to reject my arguments at a primitive and emotional level, shouting “Gospodin Vinokuras padsadnaya utka Faini.” And also by accusing me of belittling Russian-speaking Jews.

Pre-Internet Viral: Songs of the Vilna Ghetto


by Geoff Vasil

The ORT Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium in Vilnius had a special guest Monday. Eli Rabinowitz from Perth, originally Cape Town, tries to make it to Lithuania every summer, and says he’s been here seven times now in the last six years. He comes from a long line of Litvaks in South Africa and has been quietly going to schools around the world to get them to teach their students the Partisan Song.

For those who don’t know what that means, there is a world-famous song which came out of the Vilnius ghetto, one treated as a sort of national anthem in Israel, where people stand at attention when it is sung. Most people in Vilnius and Lithuania today have never heard it, but over the decades before the internet came along, the song went viral in slow motion.

Much Noise, Few Jews


photos by V. Ščiavinskas courtesy of lrytas.lt

Faina Kukliansky Says Election of Simonas Gurevičius as Vilnius Jewish Community Chairman Invalid

Is this an insurgency against the current leadership of the community, or also against dialogue with the Lithuanian state? This question needs to be asked because of the growing conflict among Lithuanian Jews.

Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) and Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said she still hasn’t decided whether to offer hew candidacy for a second four-year term. But long-time former Simonas Gurevičius, who left the community earlier, is already attacking the current leader on all fronts.

Incidentally, one of Gurevičius’s main supporters is US Jewish activist Dovid Katz, who constantly accuses the Lithuanian state of anti-Semitic policies.

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.

Launch of Judaic Studies Center

The exhibition “People and Books of the Strashun [Mefitse Haskalah] Library” opened May 22 to mark the public launch of the Judaic Studies Center at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library. Dr. Lara Lempertienė, director of the new center, is the curator of the exhibition and the designer was Center researcher Miglė Anušauskaitė.

The exhibit documents the Mefitse Haskalah Jewish Public Library located on what was then Strashun Street from 1902 to 1940 (and which became the Vilna ghetto library under Herman Kruk until 1943), but also pays homage to Mattityahu Strashun (1817-1885), the bibliophile whose collection was housed at the Strashun Library proper, next to the Great Synagogue, but large portions of which passed through the Strashun street library during the Holocaust. The exhibit includes items from the collections of the Lithuanian national library as well as documents on load from YIVO, the Lithuanian Central State Archive, the History of the Lithuanian State Archive and the Lithuanian Art Museum.

National library general director Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas opened the exhibit at the ceremony Monday. YIVO director Jonathan Brent and Frida Shor, the author of an article about the Strashun Library, were also there.

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.