Learning

Photography Exhibit Remembers Jewish Rescuers

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky took part in an opening ceremony for an exhibition of photography about Lithuanian rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, part of a joint project by the LJC and the Sovereign Order of Malta to commemorate and provide aid to rescuers. Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė and Order of Malta ambassador to Lithuania Manfred Leo Mautner Markhof also took part at the opening ceremony in the exhibit space of the Tuskulėnai Memorial Park Complex in Vilnius May 29.

The Lithuanian president said the exhibit, which will go on display around Lithuania, documents Righteous Gentiles who saved hundreds of Jews at great risk to themselves. They shared hope, bread and their homes with Jews during the Holocaust. She said by extending a helping hand, they also saved humanity and the dignity of the Lithuanian nation. They have become a source of inspiration in the lives of Lithuania’s people today, she said, adding their attitude towards others and their self-sacrifice is needed daily.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said:

“More than 800 Lithuanians made the fateful decision during World War II to resist the axiomata of hate. Their only weapon was their conscience which, led by the choice to remain human, made these non-Jews an eternal and spiritual part of our people. Our gratitude cannot be expressed in words, nor measured in numbers; it is limitless and intangible, having become as it were a light of God’s being in the imperfect grey ghetto or in hiding in a forest hideout. These are people thanks to whom we were reborn to new life, thanks to whom we gout back our energy for the old faith.

Educational Meeting at Panevėžys Jewish Community for Students from Region

Students and teachers from the Dembava Pre-Gymnasium in the Panevėžys region visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community. They have established a Tolerance Center at the pre-gymnasium and wanted to make contact with the Panevėžys Jewish Community to learn about the history of the Lithuanian Jewish community before and during World War II, Jewish traditions and holidays and also to learn about the Holocaust in Lithuania.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community places special emphasis on the education of young people and teaching tolerance to dispel negative myths about the Jewish people, and to teach what happened in Panevėžys and other Lithuanian cities and towns when so many innocent people were murdered. A special game-show like panel was suggested during which students answer questions.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told the students about the Jews who lived in common with Lithuanians before World War II, often owning joint businesses and living as neighbors. They celebrated holidays together, shared the good and the bad, and often shared their last morsel of bread as well. During Tsarist times and in independent interwar Lithuania, Russian, Jewish and Lithuanian children attended the same school, Kofman recounted.

Jews in Lithuania Experiencing Crisis in Values

by Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman, Lithuanian Jewish Community

Jews as with any people are not homogenous. The history of Jews in Lithuania stretches back almost 700 years and during that time all sorts of things happened, rises and declines, and the effects of the Holocaust were especially painful in Lithuania, and following the attempt at physical annihilation the Soviet occupation attempted to destroy the Jewish people spiritually.

People often ask me, Jews are so united, why is it different in Lithuania? It’s not different in Lithuania, divisions exist in secular and religious Jewish communities in Israel as well as the rest of the world. The wealth of the Jewish people is our diversity, our knowledge, our faith and our ability to remain Jews.

I am proud of my people. Unfortunately, all sorts of things go on inside the Jewish community. It’s sad, but we have only partially passed our “trial by money.” On the one hand, we have the well-functioning Goodwill Foundation, which only adopts decisions by consensus and allocates compensation for Jewish communal/religious properties, and which has been audited for many years now by the Office of State Auditor, the highest auditing institution, and has always received a glowing review. On the other hand, we have over-ambitious community members who believe they can do everything the best, in the most transparent manner and preferably all by themselves. They claim the opinion of the majority is merely a simulation of democracy.

In Lithuania, as in the world, volunteer leaders lead the Jewish communities. This post is for me first of all an honor and a pleasure. Before I assumed responsibility, I learned much from the earlier chairmen, Grigory Kanovitch and Dr. Simon Alperovitch. Much of what is needed for this work I learned from active Community members and intellectuals attorney professor Jurijus Bluvšteinas, Josif Levinson and Maša Grodnikienė.

Protests for and against LJC Leadership

About 50 people gathered near the headquarters of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius Monday. One group protested against, the other counter=protested for the leadership of the LJC.

The group against protested the process of electing the chairman of the community and the way state funds are disbursed, while the other group expressed support for LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. The protest took place Monday during the annual reporting conference of the LJC which is to adopt financial and activities reports. Today also marks one year since Kukliansky was elected chairwoman for a second time.

We Don’t Need a Queen

Protestors said last year the election process was changed before elections took place, limiting the power of the regional Jewish organizations and leading to Kukliansky’s victory.

Signs in Lithuanian and English called for an end to “despotism” within the LJC and one read “We don’t need a queen.”

LJC Reporting Conference

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will hold its annual reporting conference May 28, 2018, during which annual financial and activity reports will be considered.

The conference is the highest governance body of the LJC convoked and organized once per year by the LJC board.

Under LJC rergulations only real members of the LJC participate at the conference, meaning association members which are corporate entities and whose activities are connected with Jewish culture, education, religion, tradition, learning, sports and so on. All the regional Jewish communities are LJC members.

The LJC was especially active in 2017 in the areas of social welfare, culture and Jewish heritage. We are happy that hundreds of Jewish senior citizens, community members in difficult financial situations and young families across Lithuania received home care services, aid in acquiring household and hygiene items, help in preparing for school and appropriate heating during winter. More than 400 people made use of aid provided by the Community for acquiring food and medicine.

Happy Birthday to Professor Pinchos Fridberg!

Our best wishes go out to Holocaust survivor, resident of Vilnius, Jewish intellectual, doctor habil. of physics, author of numerous articles, great Yiddish speaker and true Jewish and Litvak patriot Pinchos Fridberg!

We wish you the best health, patience, much happiness, more smiles and a care-free life filled with gentleness and happiness. Your sense of humor is endless and ironic, and everyone has greatly enjoyed your Motke Chabad stories published in Obzor.

Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

March of the Living 2018 at Ponar

For the eleventh time now in Lithuania the March of the Living walked the route from the Ponar train station to the Ponar Memorial Complex to commemorate the Jews murdered there. Among the marchers were Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman and Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moshe Šapiro. Other participants included Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius, Lithuanian ambassador to Israel Edminas Bagdonas and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, as well as members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, students from the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium, members of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel and Holocaust survivors Fania Brancovskaja and Sameul Bak.

The Lithuanian foreign minister, the Israel ambassador, representatives of the Vilnius mayor’s office, the LJC and former ghetto and concentration camp prisoners among others laid wreaths at a monument in the center of the Ponar Memorial Complex to the accompaniment of violin music.

Fania Brancovskaja spoke: “Ponar was a murder machine where from 1941 to 1943 before Vilnius was liberated from Nazi occupation murder was carried out continuously. Seventy-thousand Jews were murdered in Ponar just because they were Jews, all that remains of them is ashes mixed with sand. Not many of us are left, but we are here. I am one of those who went through the entire ghetto and please, do not forget them. As long as we live, we ask you to pass on the information to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren so that they do not forget the victims who died.”

Busy Week for Kaunas Jewish Community

The second week in May saw numerous events and meetings at the Kaunas Jewish Community.

The hectic and hot week began with a meeting between representatives of the Kaunas Jewish Community and the Denkendorfer Kries für christlich-jüdische Begegnung (Denkendorf Association for Chirstian-Jewish Encounter) from Germany. Association board members Eva and Otmar Vöhringer have been inviting their compatriots for several years now to undertake what are in a sense pilgrimages to Holocaust sites in Poland and the Baltic states and to meet survivors and descendants of survivors in those countries. More than 20 years ago now Dr. Hartmut Metzger began and became the spiritual inspiration behind this initiative. He also worked with late Kaunas Jewish Community member Judelis Ronderis to organize aid for impoverished Jews who had been evacuated to the Soviet Union during the Holocaust.

On May 8 the members of the association of family and friends of deportee convoy no. 73 visited Kaunas and the Ninth Fort in Kaunas. The group comes to Kaunas from France once every two years and warm and friendly friendships have been made with the Kaunas Jewish Community. LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas attended the ceremony at the Ninth Fort this year. On May 15, 1944, convoy no. 73, a train from Drancy, France, delivered 878 Jews to the Baltic states, most of whom were taken off the train in Kaunas and shot at the Ninth Fort. Others were taken to the camp in Pravieniškiai, Lithuania, and to Estonia.

Sholem Aleichem School Holds Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony at LJC

The Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium held their annual bar and bat mitzvah ceremony at the Choral Synagogue and Lithuanian Jewish Community. According to the Torah, boys became adults at age 13 and girls at age 12. The rite of passage was led by Hebrew teachers Motti Feigin and Ruth Reches. Principal Miša Jakobas recalled his own bar mitzvah ceremony 55 years ago in Telšiai. He congratulated each participant individually. LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas presented the warm wishes of the Community and presented all of the participants presents. Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon also sent a letter of congratulations. The new adults lit candles for their grandparents, parents, for the LJC, Jerusalem, Israel and child Holocaust victims. They also performed skits, scenes from Jewish life, and spoke Hebrew on stage, then performed a final song to great applause.

Chess Tournament

A chess tournament to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel will be held at 3:00 P.M. on Sunday, May 27, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. For more information and to register, write info@metbor.lt or call 8 655 43 556.

LJC Chairwoman Delivers Holocaust Diary to Yad Vashem

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky met Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, on May 15. She personally gave him a copy of the LJC’s Lithuanian translation of the Holocaust diary of Vilnius ghetto prisoner Yitzhak Rudashevski. They discussed the influence the book would have in the future on Holocaust consciousness in Lithuania. Avner Shalev praised the LJC and the chairwoman’s continuing efforts and work in raising Holocaust awareness and promoting Jewish culture.

Seeking Todes Family Roots in Panevėžys

Two families from the United States and Israel visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community May 15. Jack and Rose Todes came from Philadelphia and his sister Phillipa and husband Benjamin Segan arrived from Israel. Their ancestors lived on Ukmergės street in Panevėžys. Grandfather Todes was a member of the Panevėžys city council in 1890. The family owned real estate, shops and factories.

Phillipa Segan was greatly interested in archival photographs of the city and promised to keep in touch.

Following the visit, Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman took the guests to the Holocaust mass murder site in Kurganava Forest where 24 members of the Todes family were murdered in the early days of World War II in Lithuania.

Busy Week of Events at the LJC

The second week in May was especially busy and event-filled this year at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. May 8 and 9 saw different Victory/VE Day celebrations, with veterans and members laying wreaths at the Sudervės road Jewish cemetery and at the military cemetery in Vilnius. Veterans and LJC members were invited to a special concert May 10 with a performance by the Fayerlakh ensemble in Yiddish. LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas gave a moving speech and so did Lijana Jagniatinskytė, granddaughter of the veteran Levas Jagniatinskis, who was unable to attend. Other children and grandchildren of deceased veterans also attended.

The Sunday lecture series on May 13 was a lesson in Gaucher’s diseases, an inherited condition which affects Ashkenazi Jews disproportionately. A free screening for the disease was offered following the lecture.

The LJC youth clubs that same weekend took children to the theater and shot bows and arrows under expert supervision at Vingis Park in Vilnius.

Europe Day Celebration in Kalvarija, Lithuania

The Kalvarija Public Library held events to celebrate Europe Day on May 9, 2018. Historian Alvydas Totoris led a large group on a tour of Jewish features surviving in the small Lithuanian town. The walking tour concluded at the large synagogue complex in Kalvarija where there was an exhibit of old photographs of the city.

More information in Lithuanian here.

Vilnius Dance Troupe to Perform in Tel Aviv

The Vilnius dance troupe Low Air will give a performance called Game Over at the Tmuna Theater, Shontzino 8, Tel Aviv, Israel, at 8:00 P.M. on May 24.

Inspired by the author Julio Cortázar, Low Air presents an innovative live dance installation which connects both visual and performing arts.

The performance Game Over revolves around the gaming perspective, inviting audience to witness the collision of reality and dreams. Spectators imagine themselves in a particular situation and considers their relationship with others and themselves. Subtle feelings interfere with fiction and magic, while becoming an inevitable element of movement and sight.

Cortázar writes magical realism which has inspired artists for some time now. The writer’s stories are particularly vivid and have become a map for motion and choreography.

More information here.

Lithuanian Translation of Rudashevski Diary Presented in Tel Aviv


Photo: Milda Rūkaitė

The Beit Vilna association of Litvak survivors from Vilnius hosted a presentation of the new Lithuanian translation of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary in Tel Aviv May 16. Rudashevski’s two surviving cousins Sora Voloshin and Golda Rudashevsky attended the event. Voloshin escaped while her family and Ytizhak and his parents was being sent to Ponar to be executed. She later found the diary written in school notebooks in the ruins of a location where the Rudashevski family hid.

The Lithuanian translation was the initiative of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Lithuanian ambassador to Israel Edminas Bagdonas attended the event in Tel Aviv, as did Beit Vilna director Miki Kantor and Arie Ben-Ari Grozdensky, the chairman of the executive board of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Isrsael.

Rudashevski’s diary is one of only a few Holocaust chronicles recorded as events happened, and one of even fewer such diaries written by children. He wrote the diary in Yiddish. The Lithuanian edition contains the same Yiddish text in the second half of the book.