Learning

Dmitrijus Kanovičius Donates 250 Grigorijus Kanovičius Books to LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely thanks Dmitrijus Kanovičius for the wonderful gift of 250 books of the selected writings of Grigorijus Kanovičius.

Everyone, not just Jews, read Grigorijus Kanovičius’s books written with his great talent and profound emotional notes because they give the true story of the life of Lithuania made more charming with a sincere sense of nostalgia. These books are like living portraits with images of the past, of our forefathers, memories with color, words, laughter and pain. Today they stand as a monument and testament to all the murdered Jews… Grigorijus Kanovičius’s works for us are important as a treasury of memories, of those we have lost who shall live on forever in their shtetlakh, now mostly abandoned towns. It is said truly that Jews will live on even when there is no one left to remember them. We are so glad that thanks to the creative work of Grigorijus Kanovičius Lithuania has a rich saga of Jewish life featuring our ancestors from the 18th century to today.

Thank you, Dmitrijus.

Šiauliai Jewish Community Hanukkah Greetings

Šiaulių žydų benduomenės sveikinimas

May the light of Hanukkah envelop you in warmth and comfort, and may wisdom accompany your decisions, may success follow you in your work, may tolerance inform your relationships and may love, health and goodness dwell in all of your homes and families.

Sincerely,

Šiauliai Jewish Community

Lithuanian Prime Minister Sends Hanukkah Greetings to Lithuanian Jewish Community

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis greets the Lithuanian Jewish Community which today has lit the first Hanukkah light and has invited all people of good will to celebrate the holiday with such a long tradition.

“I sincerely congratulate the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community with the beginning of the holiday of light and faith. Hanukkah presents us the wonderful opportunity to remember old traditions and celebrate fundamental values. It is to be welcomed that this beautiful Lithuanian Jewish community holiday is receiving ever more public attention,” prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said in his holiday greeting.

On the eve of the holiday the PM thanked the Lithuanian Jewish Community for its exemplary cooperation with the Government and other institutions in solving constructively issues of concern to the Community.

“We can only be happy about the restored Jewish cultural heritage sites and the synagogues coming back to life. Today throughout the country these buildings are being utilized by the people of Lithuania for cultural and educational purposes. Jewish cemeteries are being restored and kept up, Jewish culture is being celebrated and old traditions are being revived. All of this allows to state confidently that our cooperation will only intensify in the future and we will accomplish many important things in the future through joint efforts,” the head of the Lithuanian Government said in his holiday greeting.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah

The first Hanukkah candles were lit at different locations around Lithuania Tuesday evening, beginning the eight-day holiday.

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, foreign minister Linas Linkevičius and Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius sent greetings to the LJC.

The Kaunas, Ukmergė, Šiauliai and Panevėžys Jewish Communities also sent holiday greetings and warm wishes.

“Let’s learn to be happy and as we celebrate, let’s remember what miracle Hanukkah signifies for us all,” LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said in her greeting to the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Members of the Community and honored guests celebrated the first night of Hanukkah together at one of the largest ceremonies held at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Irish ambassador David Noonan, US ambassador Anne Hall, Polish ambassador Urszula Doroszewska, Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, Vilnius archbishop Arūnas Poniškaitis and signatory to the Lithuanian act reestablishing independence in 1990 professor Vytautas Landsbergis attended, among others.

Simas Levinas, the chairman of the Vilnius Religious Jewish Community, said he was pleased by the large turnout. “I am very pleased that every year more and more people keep coming to celebrate Hanukkah at synagogue. This year there was a full house, full of good people and bright guests who came here to celebrate this holiday which is very important to us together,” he said.

Rabbi Aharon Shteinman Has Died

Litvak Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman passed away December 12, 2017. He was a famous Orthodox rabbi and the greatest legal and spiritual authority among religious Litvaks. He was 104.

Aharon Shteinman was born in Brest-Litovsk in 1913. He fled to Switzerland during World War II where he taught at yeshiva.

Ponevezh Yeshiva Rabbi Kaanman asked Rabbi Shteinman to lead the Ponevezh Yeshiva for Young Men in Israel in 1955, where he was director to the end of his life. He also opened other yeshivot, Gaon Jaakov and Orkhot Torah.

The rabbi’s students published a collection of their teacher’s commentaries on Torah and Talmud.

In 1988 Rabbi Shteinman was a member of the Degel haTorah Torah sages’ executive board.

He was recognized in 2001 as one of the leaders of Litvak Judaism, and in 2012 Rabbi Shteinman became the leader of the Degel haTorah party.

Forbes magazine in 2012 reported Rabbi Shteinman was among the top three most-influential rabbis in Israel. Thousands flooded the streets for his funeral on December 12.

Nine-Hour Israeli Dance Seminar with Ilai Szpiezak

On December 9 the long-awaited Israeli dance seminar with teacher Ilai Szpiezak took place in Vilnius. Over 60 lovers of dance from five countries attended.

The nine-hour seminar covered 11 Israeli dances.

Szpiezak, who lives in London, is one of the best, most energetic and charismatic teachers of Israeli dance in the world. He began at age 15 and by 20 he was working as a choreographer at the Institute of Israeli Dance in London.

Originally from Argentina, he spent four years in Israel as well, and said song, dance and music are some of the best things Israel has to offer.

Return Jerusalem to the Arabs? Fine. Let’s Return Vilnius to Poland, Too


by Arkadijus Vinokuras

Well, I’ll present a somewhat more modest proposal to Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius. To those who say East Jerusalem should be returned to the Arabs of Palestine.

He missed an opportunity to stay silent. It is unseemly for the foreign minister of Lithuania to say the same thing over and over like a parrot, or more precisely, to recognize the rules of the Middle Eastern game thrown down by the United Nations which is inimical to Israel. So my modest proposal would be this: let’s return part of Vilnius, with the Gates of Dawn, to Poland. After all, for centuries they’ve had an historical and religious connection with Vilnius. If Lithuania opposes it, Poland can appeal to the United Nations whose 151 member-states, full of hate for Lithuania, will recognize the Vilnius Old Town with the Gates of Dawn Polish territory. How does that scenario suit you, Mr. Foreign Minister? If you don’t like it, then recognize all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Full editorial in Lithuanian here.

Czech President Backs US Stand on Jerusalem


While many world leaders slammed US president Donald Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy there, Czech president Miloš Zeman has welcomed the move, saying that the Czech Republic should follow his example.

Following Trump’s speech in Washington on Wednesday, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Czech head of state praised his US counterpart, noting his own past support for such step.

In an interview for commercial TV Barrandov on Thursday Mr. Zeman said he was very happy that Donald Trump had proceeded in accordance with his election promise.

EU’s Anti-Israel Stance on Jerusalem Is Cowardice, Czech President Says


Czech president Zeman welcomes president Rivlin, Prague Castle. Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO

He went even further, calling on the embassies in Tel Aviv to be moved to Jerusalem during a speech he gave in New York at a gala event by the newspaper The Algemeiner.
2 minute read.

“The European Union, cowards, are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement,” Zeman said, according to the AFP news agency.

He spoke Saturday at an event of the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party.

Zeman and the Czech Republic are known for their strong support of Israel. Immediately after Trump’s speech on Wednesday, the Czech Foreign Ministry announced its recognition of west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Full story here.

Recognition of Jerusalem Makes Peace Possible

Brussels, December 11, AFP/BNS–Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “makes peace possible,” although most of the international community criticized the US move.

Several days of protests and demonstrations in the occupied territories and the Islamic world followed US president Trump’s announcement last week the US recognizes Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.

The European Union expressed concern over Trump’s decision which reverses US policy on the disputed city.

The Israeli PM said Trump had simple presented the facts in recognizing Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and of the state of Israel for 70 years now.

Simas Levinas Remembers Hanukkah in Šiauliai

Vilniaus žydų religinės bendruomenės vadovas Simas Levinas prisimena savo paauglystės Chanuką Šiauliuose

Šiauliai was a strange town in 1960. It was the Soviet time, there were still some “synagogues” illegally operating in apartments. Almost all of the local Jews used to go there to pray. It wasn’t entirely clear whether this was to satisfy a religious need, or the need to spend time with people of the same ethnicity. Or to speak Yiddish. Or to remember the horrible experiences of the Holocaust.

Or perhaps it was the instinctual psychological need to heal one’s wounds. Everyone wanted to enjoy the life which the miraculous lottery of fate had given them.

The town’s Jews stuck together and were ready to support anyone who needed it. This really wasn’t any kind of official community. Its leader was… a family with a larger apartment. We held all traditional and Sabbath evenings of Saturday talks and meetings there. This took place at the home of Josif Burshtein (the chairman of the Šiauliai Jewish Community until last summer) where Jews congregated right up until the restoration of independence.

Hanukkah was the holiday to which the town kids (they called us little Jewies) really looked forward. We were treated to hanukkahgelt, ponchikes and latkes. The parents carved dreidls out of wood. Some had managed to preserve their family heirlooms, a really miracle!, and we lit candles on pre-war menorahs.

Now I realize our parents did everything they could so that we wouldn’t know what they experienced. Everyone chipped in and used to hold the holiday, the miracles of Hanukkah, for us.

And even today most of the Jews who come from Šiauliai know and speak Yiddish. Those us “fun Shavl” [from Šiauliai] scattered around the world by fate maintain our ties.

This year on the eve of Hanukkah another miracle has taken place! We are witnesses to history. The world has begun to remember that King David’s city, whose age goes back more than 3,000 years, is the capital of the state of Israel!

The victory of the Macabbees has again lit the oil lamps of the Hanukkah miracle.

Vilnius Ghetto Chronicler Yitzhak Rudashevski: The Teenager Whose Thoughts Were Beyond His Years

Yitzhak Rudashevski, the young chronicler of the Vilnius ghetto, would have turned 90 today (December 10). Imprisoned in the ghetto with his mature values and a gift for writing, he wrote down in his school notebook the reality around him, images of the ghetto, struggle and faith in the future.

Trapped in the ghetto and seeing the suffering, Yitzhak didn’t stop taking pride in his Jewishness and he wasn’t overcome by hopelessness and self-pity. On the contrary, his thirst for life propelled him forward.

“I am ashamed to be seen on the street, not because I’m a Jew but because I am ashamed of my powerlessness. The yellow patches are sewn to our clothes, but not to our minds. We are not ashamed of the patches! Let those who put them on us be ashamed,” he wrote in his diary.

The young man’s thoughts about the dignity of man and freedom might seem obvious today, but the entries from 75 years ago paint a much different picture of that period. They speak of a world where the concept of human rights didn’t exist. Taken in context, we marvel at the maturity, courage and talent it took for a teenager to write about what he did.

Birthday Party and Award for Daumantas Todesas at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Daumantas Lveas Todesas’s 70th birthday this week and the director of the Lithuanian Department of Ethnic Minorities presented him an achievement award at the party.

Department of Ethnic Minorities director Vida Montvydaitė personally awarded him a golden badge of honor called the For Merit award in recognition of Todesas’s life-long dedication to improving society and to preserving ethnic culture and identity.

Lebn zolstu biz hundert un tsvantsik yor! Mazl tov!

Under the White Star

Judita Letaitė and Marianna Slobodeniuok will perform a concert called Under the White Star on Thursday, December 7, at 6:00 P.M. at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Admission is free.

Trump Recognizes Israel’s Capital at Jerusalem

United States president Donald Trump announced Wednesday the United States will henceforth recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.

In the original United Nations partition plan creating Palestine and Israel from the territory of the formerly British Mandate of Palestine, Jerusalem was to become an international city along the lines of pre-war Danzig and Trieste. Israel never agreed to the UN plan and always claimed Jerusalem.

Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against neighboring Arab countries led to the occupation of East Jerusalem, which had been administered by the Kingdom of Trans-Jordan.

Most states have refused to recognize Israel’s claim to Jerusalem and have maintained embassies in Tel Aviv instead. According to internet sources there are zero foreign embassies in Jerusalem and 86 embassies in Tel Aviv, but a number of countries operate what they call consulates in Jerusalem, including Belgium, the US, Vatican City, the UK, Spain, Sweden, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, among others. Costa Rica and El Salvador removed their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in 2006. Costa Rica and El Salvador were the only countries with embassies to Israel after 1982, according to internet sources.

Trump’s announcement calls for the eventual removal of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem with immediate effect, instructing the US State Department to select appropriate architects for building an embassy which would be “a tribute to peace.” White House officials said the move could take from 3 to 4 years.

Critics of the move say it will destroy the perception of US neutrality in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Proponents point out this perception hasn’t had currency among Arab-speaking states for at least a decade now, most of which don’t recognize the state of Israel in any case. Trump said he remained committed to an enduring peace agreement between Israel and Palestine leading to a two-state solution. He also called for maintenance of the status quo regarding the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Authority had planned to make the capital of the Palestinian state East Jerusalem, despite its de facto inclusion in the territory of the state of Israel.

Trump promised during his campaign to make the move. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton all said they would do the same previously.

Forgetfulness Is an Incurable and Dangerous Disease

An interview with Litvak writer Grigory Kanovich by Stephan Collishaw

SC – To what extent is the novel Shtetl Love Song autobiographical?

GK – True, Shtetl Love Song is an autobiographical novel.

Your character in the novel seems very close to his grandmother and goes with her regularly to the synagogue. Is the synagogue still a part of your life?

My grandmother Rokha was a very religious person. When I was a child the synagogue played a big role in my life. There was not a single Saturday, nor a Jewish holiday when my grandmother wouldn’t take me to synagogue. My grandfather was religious, but didn’t go to synagogue so often. He joked, ‘If you hear something interesting from Him, you won’t be able to keep it from me long, you’ll tell me.’ I, myself, am not religious; the synagogue doesn’t play such a strong role in my life now as in my childhood.

Gešer Club Invites Seniors to Come Celebrate Hanukkah

The Gešer Club will hold a holiday meal with a concert and great company at 7:00 P.M. on December 12 at the Draugai restaurant located at Vilniaus street no. 4 in Vilnius. Tickets cost 20 euros. To register contact Žana Skudovičienė, zanas@sc.lzb.lt, +370 678 81514. Tickets are available from Irina Slucker, +370 612 40875, in room 306 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius, from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. on December 8.

Come Celebrate Hanukkah at the Ilan Club

The Ilan Club invites 7-12-year-olds and their parents to come celebrate Hanukkah together at 1:00 P.M. on December 10. There will be a rocking concert, we’ll learn how to make Hanukkah treats together and watch performances and Jewish music by talented performers!

It’s all happening on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. For more information contact Sofija at +370 672 57540 or Žana at+370 678 81514.

Magical Hanukkah Journey

Lithuanian Jewish Community children are invited to go on a magical Hanukkah journey with their parents on December 16 and 17.

During the trip we will:

▪ visit the dolphinarium in Klaipėda
▪ search for treasure in the “upside-down house” (http://dino.lt/apverstas-namas-radailiai/)
▪ celebrate Hanukkah on the seaside at the Žuvėdra vacation home
▪ hold the havdalah ceremony to complete the Sabbath

Please note: space is limited. Registration is open until December 10.

Registration and information:

children aged 2-4: contact Dubi Mishpokha Club coordination Alina Azukaitis at alina.roze@gmail.com or by telephone at +370 695 22959

children aged 5-7: contact Margarita Koževatova, Dubi Club, margarita.kozevatova@gmail.com, +370 618 00577

for additional information, contact:

Žana Skudovičienė, zanas@sc.lzb.lt, +370 678 81514