Learning, History, Culture

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.

This Time We’ll Respond to the Anti-Lithuanian Hysteria, Ambassador to Israel Says

Lithuanian ambassador to Israel Edminas Bagdonas. Photo: Reuters/Scanpix nuotrauka
© 2018 Lietuvos žinios

“We usually decide not to react to these sorts of things. There’s no reason to keep telling the same people–[Efraim] Zuroff and [Dovid] Katz–the same thing over and over again. We don’t have the desire to do so, neither do we have the time, and there’s no rationality at play. But this time we will respond,” Lithuanian ambassador to Israel Edminas Bagdonas told Lietuvos žinios

When the Lithuanian parliament began considering banning the sale of goods which distort or belittle Lithuanian history or threaten Lithuanian statehood, there was a reaction in other countries. The Israeli press carried articles that this was allegedly aimed at books such as Rūta Vanagaitė’s “Mūsiškiai” about the Holocaust in Lithuania. This isn’t the first case in recent times where the shadow of anti-Semitism has been cast on Lithuania and Lithuanians. There was a report in March Lithuanians are the least favorable towards Jews in Eastern Europe. An American newspaper ran an article on March 30 accusing Lithuania of trying to hide the Holocaust.

Full story in Lithuanian here.


Sara Ginaitė-Rubinson died April 2. She was born March 17, 1924. She joined the underground resistance in the Kaunas ghetto, fought as a Jewish partisan, married a fellow partisan and was a professor of political science at Vilnius University after the war. She moved to Canada with her two daughters in 1983 following the death of her husband. She was the author of numerous books and was an outspoken proponent of Holocaust education in Lithuania. Her book “Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas, 1941–1944” was published in Canada and won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Holocaust History in 2008. She wrote several books about the Holocaust and lost Lithuanian Jewish communities in Lithuanian, including “Žydų tautos tragedijos Lietuvoje pradžia” [The Beginning of the Tragedy of the Jewish People in Lithuania].

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sends its deepest condolences to Sara’s entire family in Canada and her many friends in Lithuania. Her deep commitment to the memory of those murdered lives on.

Kalvarija Municipality to Renovate Synagogue Complex

Vilnius, April 2, BNS–Leaders from the Lithuanian municipality of Kalvarija have decided not to break off an agreement on the utilization of the synagogue complex there as they had planned and are considering how to continue with renovation, following a meeting with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department.

Financing pathways using EU structural funds were presented to municipal leaders at the meeting with discussion of financing from the Cultural Heritage Department as well.

Under the project drafted by the LJC several years ago, the total cost of work to fix the synagogue complex came to just under 2 million euros, but no funding was found.

The municipality and the LJC signed a use agreement in 2014, under which the municipality pledged to protect and utilize appropriately the buildings until financing was found to begin restoration to adapt the complex for public cultural, educational and academic use, for tourism and other uses.

“We really don’t have this kind of money, this is a small municipality and we can’t save up such sums or spend that much on synagogues,” Kalvarija mayor Vincas Plikaitis told BNS.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Responds to Proposed Legislation to Censor “Goods”

The Lithuanian Government has sent proposed amendments on the consumer-protection law to parliament for consideration which would ban sales of goods which “distort the historical facts of Lithuania or belittle Lithuania’s history, independence, territorial integrity and constitutional order.”

Proponents of the amendments say they’re needed to stop sales of toys which allegedly commemorate the incorporation of the Crimean Peninsula into the Russian Federation. Lithuanian legal, trade and consumer experts say the amendments aren’t specific and that anything which is sold is a “good,” meaning the law could be used to censor books.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has made the following statement regarding the matter:

“These kinds of amendments without precise explanation raise well-founded concerns and recall the dark times of government censorship. History and the writing of annual chronicles are two different things. Historical memory, especially concerning our country’s greatest historical tragedy, the Holocaust, is still in its beginning stages and probably won’t ever be final. These sorts of foolish, misguided attempts by the Government to protect consumer rights have given rise to anger, with foundation, in the international Jewish community. In Europe, where anti-Semitism is on the rise, and especially in Central and Eastern Europe, where laws are being passed on the ‘appropriate’ interpretation of history, Lithuania must remain open and democratic. Freedom of speech and human rights must be insured in our country just as actively as the calls to fight for the protection of consumer rights through these amendments.”

Tolreance Center Holocaust Commemoration Event

Dear friends of the Museum,

We kindly invite you to an event for Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom ha-Shoah), a screening of the documentary film “The Story of Irena Sendler” and to meet historian Dr. Marcin Urynowicz on April 11 at 5.30 P.M. at the Tolerance Center (Naugarduko street no. 10/2, Vilnius). The event is being organized together with the embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Institute in Vilnius.

Full Spectrum Passover at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a number of Passover seders Friday for all age groups and tastes. Besides the large hall of the Choral Synagogue, the LJC also put on a seder on the third floor of the Community building for the Gesher Club at the same time. Additionally, the Abi Men Zet Zich Club held a seder, and a seder is planned Thursday for members with children.

Žana Skudovičienė was MC and guided guests to their places at table. All seats except one were filled.

Laurina Todesaitė, a Hebrew teacher and expert in Jewish cuisine and traditions, among her other talents, introduced the Hagadah in Lithuanian and asked Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky to light the candles and to speak. Chairwoman Kukliansky lit the candles, said the blessing in Hebrew and welcomed celebrants briefly:

I would like to thank very much everyone who has come. It would be better if even more came, so many that we wouldn’t fit in the space. Perhaps we will remove this wall someday [indicates wall between hall and foyer] and then we can use the entire floor. Nonetheless I am very grateful to those who have come, and of course you didn’t come to listen to my speech. I want to say that Passover, besides all of its significance as [the holiday of] freedom and liberation, and whatever else, Passover is a family holiday. And if today you have come here, to our Jewish Community, I think the people who have turned out consider themselves a large family. I would like that family to grow, and that as many people as possible would contribute, so that our family would raise more children, gain more friends, more acquaintances, and bring more Jews here, into our Community. So I wish you all a good seder, a great celebration… I have to leave soon, but I do so with joy, because there are seders being held other places at the same time. It’s not easy to get around to all of them, but it’s a good thing when a person can choose whichever venue is more pleasant, and young people can be meet separately. Maybe we’ll hold macro-seder next time, we’ll see. Good evening to everyone.

Boris Traub and other musicians then played a stirring number, after which Laurina Todesaitė read from the Hagadah.

Choral Synagogue Preparing for Passover, Everyone Welcome

The Choral Synagogue in Vilnius is preparing for a Passover seder. This Passover will include young people, who have in past years held separate seders. The photographs above and below show the general section and a special section for young people. Tickets for the seder are still available and may be purchased at the door. The service begins at 7:00 P.M. tonight, Friday, March 30, and the seder begins at 7:30. Rabbi Krinsky and Rebbetzin Dina are preparing the seder.

Pesakh kasher v’sameakh!

Smuel Levinas, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Discovering Jewish Roots in Panevėžys


For the second time a group of 18-and-under young people from Odessa, Kiev, Minsk, Gomel, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kherson and Krasnoyarsk–85 people in all–have visited Panevėžys as part of a project called Return to Roots. The goal of the journey was to learn about the culture, heritage and history of Litvaks in Panevėžys and Lithuania. Visiting surviving cemeteries, the synagogue and the school, the students witnessed Jewish heritage with their own eyes. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told the story of the destruction of a Jewish cemetery in 1966 to exploit the headstones as construction material. He said the local Jewish community had gone to great efforts to have the stones returned to the cemetery where the “Sad Jewish Mother” monument now stands. The students showed keen interest in the history of the Jews in the city and World War II. The delegation visited the former Ponevezh yeshiva established by the famous rabbi, Josef Kahaneman. After touring the city the students visited the town of Subačius and the Jewish cemetery there, where rainfall prevented any clean-up work. Alderman Vidmantas Paliulis came to meet the students there. Paliulis has exerted enormous efforts to clean up and maintain the Subačius Jewish cemetery, nicknamed “Paris.” He explained it was called that because of the name of the small neighboring village Paryžius.

The students were then received warmly and fed at the Panevėžys Jewish Community.

Jewish Theater in Inter-War Lithuania

An event to launch the new book “Žydų teatras tarpukario Lietuvoje” [Jewish Theater in Inter-War Lithuania] by Dr. Ina Pukelytė will be held at 6:00 P.M. on the second floor of the Grand Dukes Hall in Kaunas on Wednesday, April 4.

All theater and book lovers are invited to attend to learn more about Jewish activities in Lithuania and other countries in the period between the two world wars, the place Lithuanian Jewish theater holds abroad and about the evolution of Lithuanian theater after the war.

Head of Vytautas Magnus University’s Theater Studies Cathedral Dr. Edgaras Klivis is to moderate the event.

Public Launch of Rudashevski Vilnius Ghetto Diary at LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a second, more public launch of the new Lithuanian translation of the Yitzhak Rudashevski Vilnius ghetto diary Tuesday, following last month’s and exclusive initial presentation at the Vilnius Book Fair.

Rudashevski was 14 when he and his parents were imprisoned in the Vilnius ghetto. He celebrated his 15th birthday there. The family hid during the ghetto liquidation, were discovered and then murdered, presumably at Ponar outside Vilnius. Over the last two decades Rudashevski’s diary has emerged as one of a handful of testimonies by children. It was initially published in extracts in the original Yiddish in Israel, and then in English in 1973. An older and newer French translation ha4xandra Zapruder’s books about children in the Holocaust and in a documentary on the same topic aired on MTV.

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.

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Most Active Members

The Kaunas Jewish Community has been honoring its most active members for over two decades now. This year KJC chairman Gercas Žakas invited such members to an evening party to thank them for their sincerity, presence, communication and individual contributions of the most varied sort, including contributing homemade pastry for the Hesed Club, cakes cooked with love for various occasions, furthering traditions and the Yiddish language, honoring Holocaust victims, broadening individual horizons through excursions and cultural events, sharing memories and experience, participating at sporting events and extending a helping hand to other members of the community.

Live musical performances contributed to the fun with performances by the collective including Mihail Javič on saxophone, Arvydas Joffė on percussion, Rolandas Babraitis on keyboard and the young vocalist Viktorija. We all know small gifts can cement friendships and everyone who attended received valuable books.

Sabbath Celebration with MP Gabrielius Landsbergis

The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Sabbath last Friday with Gabrielius Landsbergis, a member of parliament, leader of the Conservative/Christian Democratic Party and great-grandson of Righteous Gentile Ona Landsbergienė.

Lansdbergis completed a degree in history from Vilnius University in 2003. In 2005 he was graduated from the International Relations and Political Science Institute of Vilnius University with a master’s in international relations and diplomacy. He worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and the Chancellery of the President of Lithuania. In 2007 he joined the staff of the Lithuanian embassy in Belgium. Landsbergis returned to Lithuania in 2011 and worked in the Chancellery of the Government of Lithuania. He was elected a member of the European Parliament in 2014 as a member of the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats faction. Landsbergis was elected chairman of the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats (Conservative Party) in April of 2015.

During the cozy meeting at the LJC, the young politician spoke of his family and early years, his work at the Lithuanian embassy in Belgium and his thoughts about the domestic political situation.

Landsbergis said Lithuanian schools aren’t dedicating enough attention to Lithuanian Jewish history and the Jewish contribution to the development of the nation.

“I don’t think many people know the major portion of the law of the land, the Lithuanian constitution, was written in Yiddish. Attorneys, Jewish legal experts, worked on this document. There are so many facts testifying to the Jewish contribution to the development of Lithuania. This is little discussed, unfortunately. I am interested and read as much as possible about Lithuanian Jewish history. I tell my children about it as well. We can only create an open European society through education,” MP Landsbergis said.

LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas moderated the discussion with Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Rudashevski Vilnius Ghetto Diary Presentation March 27

The literary monument of a fifteen-year-old chronicler of the Jewish ghetto to the suffering of the Holocaust, Yiddish culture, the will to survive and hope. For those who haven’t yet had a chance to learn about the Vilnius ghetto diary of Yitzhak Rudashevski, we invite you to come to the Lithuanian Jewish Community at 6:00 P.M. on March 27, 2018, for a public books launch. Participants: LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, translator Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, designer Sigutė Chlebinskaitė, Holocaust historian Neringa Latvytė-Gustatienė. Dr. Lara Lempert will serve as moderator.

Zionist Political Aspirations

Sionistų politiniai lūkesčiai
Photo: Students and reporters from Lithuania at the 17th World Zionist Congress, Berlin, 1931

The LJC webpage is publishing a series of articles by Dr. Eglė Bendikaitė called “Zionist Priorities in the Struggle for Lite (1916-1918)” dedicated to marking the 100th anniversary of union of Zionist organizations in Lithuania. The first part was published here February 15 here.

The World Zionist Organization was established at the August, 1897, meeting of the First World Zionist Congress in Basel. Lithuanian Zionism disappeared as a subject of inquiry along with the Lithuanian Jewish community slaughtered in the Holocaust. Following Lithuanian independence more scholarly attention is being paid to the movement.

The word Zionism comes from Mount Zion, where the original Temple was built in Jerusalem. Early in Jewish history it came to serve as a synonym for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. As a symbol of the desire to return to the Promised Land, it was an element of Jewish prayers for centuries. It was only towards the end of the 19th century it acquired a political meaning and began to stand for a social movement whose goal was to create a political home for the Jewish people in their historical homeland, in other words, to reestablish a Jewish state.

“Returns” Music Festival

The Lithuanian Musicians Support Fund in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Goodwill Foundation present the 20th annual international music festival Returns at 6:00 P.M., March 29, 2018, on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius.

Musica Camerata Baltica, with Leonidas Melnikas on piano, Boris Traub on violin and Valentinas Kaplūnas on cello, will perform along with cantor Shmuel Yatom.

Admission is free.

For more information call 8 655 25898 or 261 3171, or see www.lmrf.lt

Makabi Swimming Competition in Kaunas

LSK “Makabi” plaukimo varžybos Kaune

The best swimming pool in Lithuania, the one at the sports and recreational facility Girstutis in Kaunas, hosted a swimming competition by the Makabi athletics club on March 18 with swimmers from Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys and–for the first time–Šalčininkai, as well as Israeli foreign exchange students studying in Kaunas. Some swimmers from Vilnius were unable to attend because they were competing in the Lithuanian swimming championships at the same time. Male and female swimmers in five age-groups competed in 25-meter freestyle and 50-meter breast-stroke categories.