Litvaks

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.

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.

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.

And There Shall Be No Jewish Museum at the Palace of Sports, Lithuanian PM Decrees

Vilnius, June 13, BNS–A new tender for construction of a proposed Congress Center to replace the former Vilnius Palace of Sports is planned for this fall and there will be no Jewish history museum there, Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said.

“We confirm an international tender will be announced very soon, taking into account that the earlier process was halted because of a possible lack of transparency. This project will be continued and developed further, but, unfortunately, the deadlines will be extended now,” the prime minister told BNS after meeting with Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. “I will check, but this should be accomplished by the month of September,” he said after being asked when the tender for a new contractor would be announced.

A few months back Skvernelis and Šimašius met and said following that meeting that they were considering setting up a Jewish history museum inside the building during reconstruction. The idea drew swift criticism from Jewish representatives in Lithuania and the USA. Skvernelis now says the idea for a museum isn’t being considered any longer.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Faina Kukliansky Re-elected Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman

Vilnius, May 28, BNS–Faina Kukliansky was re-elected for a second term at Lithuanian Jewish Community elections Sunday. Competitor Simonas Gurevičius called the poll illegitimate and said he would take the matter to court.

Monika Antanaitytė, the director of the LJC secretariat, told BNS “Faina Kukliansky won with a majority of votes. Electors either voted for Kukliansky, or abstained. No votes were cast in favor of Gurevičius.” She said she was unable to provide the exact breakdown of votes at the current time.

Simonas Gurevičius told BNS the Vilnius Jewish Community would bring a case to court over decisions by the election conference to create artificial barriers to Jews who wanted to observe the election, and what he alleged were irregularities in the election violating the regulations of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Apology

We apologize for the appearance on the Community webpage of a hasty, unedited news item on the evening of May 24. The contents did not and do not reflect the official position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community nor that of the Vilnius Jewish Community. In line with completely justified criticisms our readers sent in by email, we completely re-edited and updated the news item, but because the continuing impassioned, unproductive and offensive discussions on social media, we decided to remove it entirely.

Sincerely,

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

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.

Arkadijus Vinokuras: A Community Divided

15min.lt

Yesterday, on May 24, 2017, in an uprising against Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, the 15 men of the executive board conducted, according to the current chairwoman, illegitimate elections, thus dividing the community.

I, Arkadijus Vinokuras, a legitimate candidate, refused to take part in these elections for three reasons, which can be summed up in the cynical words of newly elected [sic] Vilnius Jewish Community chairman Simonas Gurevičius: “The unity of the community is important. But unity was never a synonym for idiocy. The community is united in pursuing its goals, in improving conditions, in mutual aid, in growth, in perfection, in other positive matters. Not in silence over dishonesty and apathy.” Did you get it? The unity of the community is considered a synonym for stupidity. Apparently striving for the unity of the community (but not confusing this in any way with a uniform opinion) is also idiotic. That the new “chairman” considers members of the VJC idiots and fools, and that the defense of morality has become a farce, was shown by him immediately during the election, when I withdrew from the elections and that very same minute a new candidacy was raised “in the name of democratic elections.”

Why I Refused to Participate

First. Because of the moral dilemma. There are 2,200 members in the Vilnius Jewish Community. These elections for the post of VJC chairman were attended exclusively by Gurevičius’s supporters, just 260 people. I, on the other hand, want to be a candidate for all members, regardless of whether they are proponents or opponents. That’s the correct and fair way. Thus my legitimate hopes and expectations as a legitimate candidate were not satisfied.

Second. Only Gurevičius’s supporters participated in these “elections.” He was elected by 246 people. I cannot countenance these elections turned farcical with no chance for an independent candidate.

Third. These elections didn’t contain even a trace of democracy. First of all, the conflict which arose between the executive board and the chairwoman was born in immorality. Whether there were good grounds for it or not, I won’t get into, I won’t go into the legal arguments. But it’s not just the legal aspect that matters in this small community, it’s the aspect of fairness and justice. So the chairwoman was accused of usurping power and manipulating the regulations of the VJC. All the problems of the VJC were placed at the feet of the chairwoman.

Flawed Regulations

But–at least the question arises in my mind–where were these members of the executive board of the VJC, these allegedly intelligent 15 men, these last four years? Why didn’t they over the course of those years do anything to change these flawed rules and regulations which allowed for manipulations using these regulations as seen fit and as desired by the chair and the executive board? Why did these 15 men, who placed the blame for the conflict on one woman, begin this conflict which has led directly to the schism in the community?