Learning

US Ambassador Anne Hall Visits Oldest Wooden Synagogue in Pakruojis

Seniausią Lietuvoje medinę Pakruojo sinagogą aplankė JAV ambasadorė Anne Hall

US ambassador Anne Hall with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and the chairmen of the Panevžys and Šiauliai Jewish Communities toured the renovated Pakruojis wooden synagogue in late December. The oldest wooden synagogue in Lithuania was restored using period photography. The synagogue features unique paintings on the ceiling and wall paper. The interior and primitive paintings have been the subject of much interest. The restored synagogue has become a draw for Jews, Lithuanians and tourists from different countries.

The small synagogue on the banks of the Kruoja River was built in 1801 and operated as a synagogue until the Holocaust when the Pakruojis Jewish community was murdered. After the war it was used a recreation center and then as a movie theater. At some point it was used a gym. It caught fire several times, doing great damage. The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department went to great efforts to save the building.

The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Jewish Community signed a 99-year use agreement on January 21, 2011, on the synagogue’s administration and adaptation for cultural use.

The Pakruojis Jewish community formed in the early 18th century. Most of the resident Jews were merchants who contributed to the economic development of the town. The growing Jewish population also influenced the overall development of the town and its public life.

There are no Jews living in Pakruojis now.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on the Vilnius District Court Decision

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has issued a statement regarding the Vilnius District Court decisions of November 22 and December 21, 2017:

Two contradictory findings have been made by the same court regarding the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The legal format of the Lithuanian Jewish Community is that of an association, and the corresponding principles and means of operations are regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Law on Associations. On December 21, 2017, the court issued a finding without regard to the imperative of law guaranteeing the right of every association member to vote and each member’s equality of rights, and without regard to the articles of incorporation and regulations of the Association providing for discretion of action by its board of directors.

Likewise, on November 22, 2017, the court based its findings on a resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on proposed amendments to section 4 of article 8 of the Law on Associations rather than on existing law. Basic principles of law were ignored, and therefore the LJC plans to utilize its right to appeal this decision through the appeals process in the immediate future.

Furthermore, the court finding of December 21 contradicts a finding by the same Vilnius District Court on November 22, which determined the section of LJC regulations regarding differentiated numbers of votes by members at a Conference is in violation of existing and binding Lithuanian law and was therefore found to be null and void.

On April 19, 2017, the board of directors of the LJC initiated an annual report and elections conferences following the letter of the law and correspondingly seeking to insure the equal representation of the rights of all members of the LJC. At that time it was regretfully impossible to find agreement on this issue based on dialogue and negotiation, and it had to go to court.

This in itself is a defeat, not of the organization, but of all of us, all Jews. The internal disagreements made public will not bring greater honor to anyone, will not quell expressions of anti-Semitism, will not help tear down stereotypes and will not contribute to consolidating energies for meaningful in service of the members of the community. It is regretable that this small Jewish community has been divided when it would be possible to consolidate efforts for achieving greater things, including battling anti-Semitism, caring and providing for the needs of community members, promoting Jewish culture and history and preserving Jewish heritage. In November of 2017 the Lithuanian Jewish Community proposed to the Vilnius Jewish Community we disengage from legal battles through a peace treaty or through mediation. We do not withdraw this offer even now, but to date the Vilnius Jewish Community has ignored the proposal to solve disagreements through negotiation.

Joint Statement by European Jewish Congress and Lithuanian Jewish Community


The European Jewish Congress and the Lithuanian Jewish Community acknowledge the important contribution of Lithuania in creating a positive climate for Jewish life and Jewish tradition to flourish.

We also commend Lithuania for pursuing friendly relations with the State of Israel. This is undoubtedly a positive example for many European countries.

We encourage further respectful discussion on the topic of the tragedy of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust in order to allow for the restoration of historical justice. Those who try to reopen the dark pages of the history of Lithuanian collaboration, such as the renowned author Rūta Vanagaitė, should not be victimized or persecuted; instead, their efforts should be acknowledged.

We praise Lithuanian historians such as prof. Saulius Sužiedėlis, Dr. Valentinas Brandišauskas and Dr. Algimantas Kasparavičius who have spoken out on many occasions and written extensively on the topic of the Lithuanian Activist Front’s role in perpetrating the Holocaust in Lithuania. There is a lack of such content, however, to this day in Lithuanian textbooks. Neither is there sufficient mention of the vast Jewish contribution to Lithuanian society over the centuries. In a pluralist society those who speak out on the largest tragedy in European history should not be rendered incapacitated by inappropriate measures taken against them.

Having just concluded the celebrations of Hanukkah which signifies the victory of the mind and the soul against coercion, and just a few days after International Human Rights Day, we wish a happy and peaceful festive season to all the people of Lithuania and call for continued respectful discussion to enable the Lithuanian people to come to terms with their past.
https://eurojewcong.org/ejc-in-action/statements/joint-statement-european-jewish-congress-lithuanian-jewish-community/

Court Finds LJC Articles of Incorporation Did Violate Lithuanian Law on Associations

The Lithuanian Jewish Community reports the Vilnius District Court issued a finding on November 22, 2017, ruling that point 7.1 in the LJC’s regulations and articles of incorporation on proportional representation of the regional Jewish communities at LZB elections was invalid.

Article 8 paragraph 4 of the Lithuanian Law on Associations provides every member of an association has one vote at general meetings of members (including elections), without regard to how many actual people are represented by that member of an association, meaning each member is equal with all others and has an equal vote in decision-making.

Perceiving this conflict between the law and the articles of incorporation and regulations of the LJC, the LJC board voted back on April 19, 2017, to delegate one representative each from every association member of the LJC, in order to insure the legality, legitimacy and transparency of upcoming elections.

In line with the court’s finding of November 22, the next general conference of the LJC will have on their agenda the question of adopting the necessary amendments to the articles of incorporation and regulations.

Relations between Israel and Lithuania Important to Jewish Community and Foreign Ministry

Lithuanian public television’s Sunday news program featured successful efforts by Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius to get EU foreign ministers at the same table with Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The overture for the first informal meeting with an Israeli PM in 22 years came before US president Donald Trump’s controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Linkevičius said he was motivated by the need for face-to-face contact between the parties, even if they do not agree on all the issues. President Trump’s decision made the meeting more urgent in the search for ways to control increased tensions. After the meeting Linkevičius presented Netanyahu a replica of the statue of a small girl the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation commissioned from sculptor Romas Kvintas and erected in central Šeduva to commemorate the former Jewish shtetl there.

The television program also featured an interview with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. An excerpt translated to English follows.

“We are very glad our foreign minister invited Mr. Netanyahu. We are very glad a Lithuanian representative has become the leading mediator between the Israeli prime minister and the European Union. Relations between Lithuania and Israel are very important to us. This is quite natural. Lithuania is our homeland but Israel is our historical homeland. It should be said that since Lithuanian independence relations between Lithuania and Israel have never been better than they are now. …”

Greetings, Thank-You Note and Mittens from Righteous Gentiles Elvyra and Regina in Biržai

The Lithuanian Jewish Community received the following wonderful holiday greetings, thank-you note and accompanying mittens:

We sincerely congratulate you on the upcoming holidays. May the purity of snow fill your days. Let success and strength follow you all of your days. We wish you strength and determination. Our sincerest thanks for your sympathy and understanding.

Elvyra Čyžauskienė and Regina Kežienė

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah, Menorah on Town Square

The last Hanukkah light was lit at the large public menorah display on Kaunas’s town square, ending the eight-day holiday. Hanukkah wasn’t just a home celebration this year for many Kaunas Jews, who met, partied, danced, took part in friendly competitions, listened to great Jewish music and ate their fill of latkes and doughnuts at a number of locations, from Kaunas Town Hall to music clubs and even outdoor tents. Rafailas Karpis and Darius Mažintas gave moving performances at different venues this year and for the first time an ensemble of Kaunas and Riga residents with vocalist Ania Judelson in front performed in Kaunas as well. Ania Judelson is someone to watch, her talent promises great things.

The celebrations this year also included lots of friends of the Jewish community, from well-known public figures and politicians to average citizens. The holiday has ended, but the memory of its warmth and light will carry us through the dark months ahead.

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin on Quantum Physics, Restitution and the Lithuanian Jewish Community


lzb.lt

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin is an honored member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the former chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community. He also holds a doctorate in physics and mathematics, is the recipient of the Republic Prize, has received awards as a Lithuanian teacher and is a member of the Israeli and New York Academy of Sciences. He is now 92 years old. Most of his life has been centered around Vilnius University. Aspirantura, doctorantura followed by successful defense of his work, earning him a doctorate in quantum physics. He has published more than 250 and “raised” more than 20 doctors of the sciences. He has two children he raised together with his wife. He is highly respected by his friends, colleagues and the Lithuanian scientific community in general.

We spoke with Dr. Bolotin about the Jewish community and Jewish life.

“Very soon my book translated to English should appear in America. I have written a textbook for students on how to solve problems in quantum mechanics, not just about theory, but how to do this practically, with examples. I imposed upon one of my former students who now lives in the USA to translate it. The translation was sent to a publisher I was not familiar with and we received the immediate reply: ‘Great, we will publish it within one year, if you want to change anything.’ The book ‘Solution of Certain Problems in Quantum Mechanics’ by Adolf Bolotin should hit the shelves very soon.

“The publisher paid me, I didn’t pay them to publish it. They came up with the agreement and paid me under very good conditions.

“My wife and I lived together 71 years until her death. I am a widower; my daughter lives with me. I don’t lack anything, I am well taken care of, I get a good pension and I can’t complain about anything. Now I feel it has become difficult to fix the car, even though I have good hands, and I like to work on things because I graduated from university as an experimental physicist and then transferred to theoretical physics later.”

Hanukkah at the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium in Panevėžys

For more than 10 years now the Panevėžys Jewish Community has been doing educational work and participating at events held by the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium’s Tolerance Center under director Genutė Žilytė.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman together with Žilytė, who is also an historian, told pupils the story of the Jewish struggle against the Greeks of Syria and the main points in that history. Steady work in education has borne good fruit in pupils’ understanding of Jewish history. The students asked many questions of all sorts, including for an explanation of the Lithuanian Jewish athletics club Makabi, and wondering what other Jewish organizations which existed before the war used the same name.

Students in the upper grades and their teachers made latkes for everyone. At the close of the event Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium principal Aida Adiklienė thanked everyone who participated, students, teachers and others, for their tolerance towards Jews.

Israeli Delegation Visits Panevėžys

Delegacijos iš Izraelio viešnagė Panevėžyje

On the sixth day of Hanukkah guests from Netivot, Israel, visited the Panevėžys Jewis Community and lit Hanukkah candles with Rabbi Pinchas Koen. The group of about 20 prayed together and sang Hanukkah songs.

They also learned about Panevėžys Jewish life with a special focus on religious activities by the city’s rabbis, including Grozbuh, Kagan, Kahaneman, Mihel and Brener, who have all left behind a strong legacy in Lithuania.

The guests toured the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s new religious activities room scheduled to open very soon. The topic of Torah scrolls came up, and Community representatives had to admit they still don’t have their own.

Rabbi Koen signed the guest book and expressed gratitude for the warm reception they received and to Viljamas Židkauskas who escorted them. He expressed joy as well that one of the oldest Jewish communities in Lithuania is still in existence under the steady leadership of chairman Gennady Kofman. All other guests signed the guest book as well.

Hanukkah Greetings from LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

As I celebrate Hanukkah every year with my grandchildren, I remember the Hanukkah of my childhood with my grandmother. The holiday wasn’t as fun then as it is now and we didn’t get treats. My grandmother, hiding in the kitchen where there were no windows, lit the candles and prayed. We didn’t have a menorah, it was lost with all the family heirlooms during the Holocaust. She prayed, but her prayer wasn’t happy or celebratory, because she was always thinking about her son, and she always thought someone was coming, and she used to warn me: “hide, the children’s aktion is coming.” There weren’t fun times after the war. My grandmother was probably not the only one who remembered not just the Temple in Jerusalem, but also her murdered children.

Now we have better celebrations, we live better, so let’s learn to be happy and as we celebrate, let’s remember what miracle Hanukkah signifies for us all. I wish every member of the Jewish community more light, more understanding and warm and happy feelings. May the Hanukkah flame spread goodness in your home and provide the children waiting for their Hanukkah gelt happy moments, and the adults and everyone who sits at the family table to try the tasty Jewish latkes.

Happy Hanukkah, dear members of the Jewish community!

Panevėžys Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah

For the first time children were allowed to light the candles of the menorah at the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s Hanukkah celebration.

Chairman Gennady Kofman welcomed celebrants and read out Hanukkah greetings sent to the Community from around the world, as well as from Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Then the attendees listened to greetings from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin to all Jews around the world.

Before lighting the candles everyone listened to the traditional prayers and blessings for the Hanukkah miracle. The story of Hanukkah was recalled for guests, the victory of the Jews over the Greek and Syrian conquerors and the liberation of the Temple of Jerusalem.

The most memorable moment was when the youngest members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community lit the Hanukkah candles with their parents for the first time at the Community.

Toasts, gifts and latkes were shared around the holiday table to the strains of Jewish music.

Raoul Wallenberg Exhibit in Kaunas

Sugihara House in Kaunas is hosting an exhibit by the Swedish Institute called “I Didn’t Have Another Choice” dedicated to architect, businessman, Swedish diplomat and rescuer of Jews Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg distributed Swedish passports to Jews in Budapest in 1944. He is credited with saving more Jews from the Holocaust than anyone else, approximately 20,000 Hungarian Jews out of the 120,000 Hungarian Jews who survived. Wallenberg was arrested and disappeared without a trace in the Soviet Union on January 17, 1945.

Photos by Raimundas Kaminskas.

Hanukkah Menorah Lit for First Time Ever at Lithuanian Presidential Palace

The candle marking the sixth day of Hanukkah was lit for the first time ever Sunday in the Hall of Columns of the Lithuanian Presidential Palace in Vilnius. Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, Choral Synagogue Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, Lithuanian Bishops Conference chairman archbishop Gintaras Grušas, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, chairmen of the regional Jewish communities, ministers and politicians attended.

The Hanukkah story was told at the event and tenor Rafailas Karpis and pianist Darius Mažintas delivered a performance of Yiddish song. Composer Anatolijus Šenderovas’s work “From a Forgotten Book…” was also performed.

The Israeli embassy to Lithuania organized the event.

Hanukkah Menorah Lit at Kaunas Town Hall

A Hanukkah menorah was lit for the first time at Kaunas Town Hall. Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas lit the candles and Kaunas Hassidic Synagogue chairman Iser Shreiberg said a prayer. With invitations sent out by the Israeli embassy, the Kaunas Jewish Community and the Kaunas municipality, a large number turned out for the event, including young people and honored guests. Members of the city government, Catholic Church representatives and people who care about the Litvak legacy also came. deputy chief of mission for the Israeli embassy to Lithuania Efrat Hochstetler welcomed the guests. Tenor Rafailas Karpis and pianist Darius Mažintas delivered a concert of Yiddish song. Guests were treated to traditional doughnuts, called suvganiyot in Israel. The Israeli embassy in mirth said doughnuts baked in Lithuania should be called spurganiyot, based on the Lithuanian word for doughnut, spurga, with the Hebrew feminine plural suffix added.

Historian Vygantas Vareikis: Lithuanian Anti-Semitism Is Not an Ideology

by Izabelė Švaraitė
manoteisės.lt

We should start by saying the headline doesn’t mean at all that there aren’t people in Lithuania who dislike Jews. There are abundant examples of hate in the past and the present, but as Klaipėda University historian professor Vygantas Vareikis says, anti-Semitic sentiments in the country formed under the influence of religion and neighboring states, ignorance or simply economic considerations. Unlike German, Austria or Poland, they were never consciously constructed into a political doctrine.

Professor Vareikis, who studies Jewish-Lithuanian relations, said religious animosity, or anti-Judaism, began to spread in Lithuania with the intensification of the ideology of the Catholic Church among the nobility. Vilnius University’s first rector Jesuit Petras Skarga wrote about Jews in terms of the theses used by St. Paul. that they were allegedly a nation which did not recognize the Christ and had murdered their prophets. But according to the way of thinking back then, Jews could return to the true faith by accepting Christianity. They weren’t the main target of the Catholics. “Conversion was always acceptable, and at one time, under the law of the Polish-Lithuanian state, a Jew who converted to Christianity could even acquire the status of nobleman,” the professor said. The public held a different view, there were widespread beliefs the Jews were trying to con Christians.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Perps and Victims to Be Named at Mass Murder Sites in Lithuania

December 14, BNS–There is a proposal to set up information boards at Holocaust mass murder sites in Lithuania containing the names of both the perpetrators and the victims.

MP Eugenijus Jovaiša, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Education and Learning Committee, tabled the proposal Thursday, saying it had been proposed earlier by Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, and considered within the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents for some time, although the Center said it would need additional financing to implement the idea.

“It’s not easy to do because there aren’t complete studies and we cannot say for every site exactly who is buried there. Yes, there are studies of this kind, there is some material, but to include all of Lithuania, to set up these signs, similar to the one in Leipalingis, as an example of a memorial, all across Lithuania, there’s not enough material. So it’s clear the activity of the Genocide Center will need financing, it will require funding, and we’ll find it,” Jovaiša said.

Jovaiša said there are only two mass Jewish graves in Lithuania today where visitors can read the names of the victims. He said it would require 86,000 euros to conduct a year-long study and erect the signs. He also said the stands would include information about the Holocaust, the local mass murders, the names and ages of victims, but also information about the perpetrators. Another commemorative sign was just installed in Leipalingis near Druskininkai, with an official opening ceremony scheduled for Friday.

Jovaiša told BNS this was “a project of the future” which would take longer than one year. He believed additional financing could come from the Lithuanian Government without increasing the budget for the Genocide Center.

Genocide Center director Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė said it has been the long-term goal of her institution that the names of the victims of the Nazi as well as Soviet regime wouldn’t remain nameless. She said the proposed signs would present the life of the local Jewish communities before World War II as well as the names of the perpetrators of mass murder based on historical sources and testimonies, and the local population’s view of the Holocaust.

“Sometimes the behavior of the local population is presented in a very one-sided way. Our goal is to show more fully what happened. Not just in Kaunas and Vilnius, where there has been much research, including our own and that of Western scholars, of our former fellow citizens, the memories and stories of the descendants of Litvaks. Everything which is accessible now should be included: all documents, testimonies. If we simply undertook to present a list of the names of all victims… we could name about 80% of them. But we think it’s very important to present the entire process and all of the participants, so that this history would be available at every site,” Burauskaitė told reporters.

She also admitted it would take more than one year to do this, and said Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and others “who understand the value and necessity of this work” might also be able to contribute.

According to Genocide Center statistics, there are about 200 Jewish mass murder and grave sites in Lithuania. More than 90% of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust in Lithuania out of a total of approximately 200,000. Today about 3,000 Jews live in Lithuania.

Lithuanian Students Experience Hanukkah in Perth for Second Time in Two Years

For the second year in a row students from Atžalynas High School in Kėdainiai, Lithuania, experienced Hanukkah in Perth, Australia, via skype on a large screen in their classroom.

Last year they heard Dylan Kotkis, Carmel School captain for 2018, sing Maoz Tzur while Western Australia’s Chabad Rabbi Shalom White explained the festival and the message of Hanukkah to the 15-year-olds.

This was probably the first time in 75 years this Hanukkah song had been heard in this town in central Lithuania once so important to Jews. No Jews live in Kėdainiai today.

This year teacher Laima Ardavičienė and her class attended the candle-lighting ceremony at Ben-Gurion Park in Perth with members of the Western Australian Jewish Community via skype. The ceremony performed by Rabbi Shalom White of Chabad Lubavitch House was preceded by an enjoyable performance by the entertainer Mickey Shaked. The Lithuanian students also had the opportunity to meet some of the locals via skype.

One of these was Heiny Ellert, a 95-year-old Lithuanian Holocaust survivor from Neishtot-Tavrig, today known as Žemaičių Naumiestis. I filmed his testimony for the Western Australian Holocaust Institute in 2014. It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/118HN2_NYHs

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

Eli Rabinowitz
Perth, Western Australia
December 13, 2017

Happy Hanukkah from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

December 13, 2017

Dear Friends,

Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles and a festival of light when Jews all across the world reflect in the darkest time of the year on hope and optimism in the face of seemingly perilous obstacles.

Miracles occur in the holiest of places, and in the most difficult–and even in the most mundane. As we light the Hanukkah candles this week, we recall the heroism of the Maccabees who rebelled against the oppression of a society which refused to allow them to live and practice as Jews. We remember in awe how oil meant for just a single night burned for eight days.

The miracles possible today are just as light and just as hopeful as they were thousands of years ago.

It is true that anti-Semitism and xenophobia are on the rise, and that in many parts of the world, Jews are afraid to live as Jews, and minorities continue to be persecuted. Even our Jewish communities face internal division over their religious practices and acceptance. We often wonder how our candle of tradition and Jewish unity can hold up in such trying times. So let us remember: miracles happen.

This Hanukkah, let the miracles so familiar to us from the past guide us as we move forward. We will triumph over anti-Semitism and hatred, and we will work toward a future of harmony and unity among all Jewish people.

As we bask in the glow of the Hanukkah candles over these eight days, let us remember that we are indeed a light shining among nations. Let us remember that there are nations standing by our side, who understand that the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, have a miraculous history of overcoming all odds. Let us hope for miracles, for peace, tolerance, and safety for all Jews, and for all peoples of this world. Chag Orim Sameach. Happy Festival of Lights to us all.

Yours,
Ronald S. Lauder
President, World Jewish Congress