Abba Kovner’s 100th Birthday

Loss and renewal, the lot of victim and resistance, extermination and rebirth: these are the themes the writer Abba Kovner (1918-1987) wrote about from his own experience.

The first biography of the poet and partisan leader written by Dina Porat won the National Jewish Book Award for explaining history and bringing it to life.

Kovner was born in Oshmyani on March 14, 1918, a Lithuanian town in Belarus about 50 kilometers from Vilnius. After making aliyah to Israel following the war, he was often presented as a poet and prose writer, but Litvaks remember Kovner as a partisan leader who went on to help found the modern state of Israel.

In 1927 his parents moved the family to Vilnius and Kovner attended the Tarbut Gymansium. This building now houses the Lithuanian Jewish Community. He received a Jewish education there, including Hebrew and exposure to modern literature, and began to write poetry while in high school. In 1939 he was admitted as an auditor of classes at the Arts Faculty of Vilnius University. He engaged in illegal Zionist activities during the Soviet occupation of 1940. He became leader of the Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair Zionist youth movement.

Plaque Commemorating Abba Kovner Unveiled at LJC

To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet and Jewish partisan Abba Kovner, the Lithuanian Jewish Community March 14 unveiled a memorial plaque in his honor. The LJC is housed in the same building where Kovner attended high school until 1935, the former Tarbut Hebrew Gymnasium. The ceremony was attended by chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, fellow Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, among others. Brancovskaja told the small gathering her memories of the Jewish leader.

A Year of the Jews without Jews?

Position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community
March 13, 2018

Today the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania is scheduled to consider announcing 2019 the Year of the Jews. What the Lithuanian Jewish Community thinks about this is apparently of interest only to members of the media, not the initiators of the Year of the Jews measure.

The writers of the measure have not consulted with the LJC, the largest Jewish organization in Lithuania, at any stage of their initiative, which compels us to question the contents of the proposed resolution and its sincerity. The laconic legislation contains nothing that doesn’t happen every other year, except for, one supposes, allocation of funding for a special commission or commissions. We hope if the measure is adopted it won’t turn into the formation of yet another commission which takes students on Holocaust “excursions” through mass graves during Sabbath.

With no prospect of learning the plans and intentions of the authors of the idea first-hand, this strange initiative looks like some sort of atavism of former times, as when Thursdays were fish day. On other days the people were not provided fish, but on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Lithuania, is the issue of Jews really so uncomfortable and uninteresting? A whole slew of important dates for Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jewish Community are yet to come this year, including the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Community; the 100th anniversary of the unification of Lithuanian Zionists, who supported Lithuanian statehood; the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto and the 115th anniversary of the founding of what is now Vilnius’s only working synagogue. We therefore call upon the authors of this Year of the Jews to begin that year this year, to celebrate 100th anniversary of the modern Lithuanian state together with the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community esteems the progress of the state in solving issues topical for all of us, but political games using the Jews but not including the Jewish community are not an appropriate way to insure effective dialogue between ethnic Lithuanians and Jews.

Lithuanian Jewish Community

Pylimo g. 4
LT-01117 Vilnius
T:+370 5 261 3003

Hundredth Birthday of Abba Kovner

Dear members,

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will hold a ceremony to unveil a plaque commemorating Jewish partisan leader and poet Abba Kovner at 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, outside the LJC conference hall on the second floor at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. Participants will include chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja and Punchos Fridberg, who will speak about Kovner in Yiddish.

You are invited to attend a brief meeting in the conference hall following the unveiling.

Rudashevski’s Ghetto Diary Now in Lithuanian

Books link us to freedom, books connect us to the world.
–Yitzhak Rudashevski, December 13, 1942, Vilnius.

Teaching the Holocaust to children is a difficult matter. At what age is it appropriate to expose children to man’s greatest inhumanity to man and the horrible atrocities which took place throughout Europe, culminating in the calculated genocide of millions of people? The Maus comic book was one approach, but children aren’t stupid and they get the full impact of the horror anyway, despite the window dressing.

Teaching adults the Holocaust can be just as problematic. A large body of Holocaust literature including straight histories, survivors’ testimonies and even theological works, not to mention a signficant cinematic canon, can lead to burn-out quickly, the Holocaust hangover syndrome. It is too much to take in all at once, the mind rebels.

Some Holocaust commemoration projects and museums have recognized the old maxim, that a picture is worth a thousand words, and often an object–an abandoned shoe, a lost set of house keys, a broken doll–speaks louder to the soul of the visitor than any text, photograph or video.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Booth at Vilnius Book Fair

Lietuvos žydų bendruomenės stendas Vilniaus Knygų mugėje

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has participated with its own booth at the Vilnius Book Fair for the first time, launching a Lithuanian translation of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary. The booth featured other books about Jewish history and culture published with financial help from the Goodwill Foundation. Purim treats were also passed out. Visitors were interested in the publications, but also had plenty of questions about what the Community does and Jewish culture and traditions. They shared stories from their grandparents about the latter’s childhood spent in common with Jewish children.

Translators Mindaugas Kvietkauskas and Akvilė Grigoravičiūtė signed books.

The Return of Samuel Bak

by Markas Petuchauskas

Now that some time has passed since the opening of the Samuel Bak museum, I would like to look back. To remember how this world-famous painter’s return to Lithuania began. To remember what I experienced. And these experiences date back to 1943.

Bak was probably never more open about himself than in the introduction to the Lithuanian translation of his book Painted in Words. He tells how Vilnius “tortured” him, how he sought to forget the city and was never able to do so. For more than half a century the artist placed a taboo on thoughts of Vilnius. On the city of his happy childhood and the land drenched in the blood of his family, where he would never set foot again.

I dare say one of the first unexpected reminders of Vilnius after sixty years was Pinkas. It is very nice that Bak was reminded of Pinkas in 1997 in the Lithuanian magazine Krantai (not speaking the language, the artist believed incorrectly this was a publication from the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture). The special third issue of the magazine, this was a publication by the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Club which I founded in 1994. The magazine was set up at my initiative using club funds, and was intended to commemorate the Vilnius ghetto theater during International Art Days. Lithuanian National Museum employee Simona Likšienė wrote about the pinkas conserved at the museum in the magazine and included the title page.

Rudashevski Diary at Vilnius Book Fair

A new Lithuanian translation of the diary by young Vilnius ghetto inmate and Holocaust victim Yitzhak Rudashevski will be presented to the public at the Vilnius Book Fair on February 25.

Faina Kukliansky, Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Sigutė Chlebinskaitė, Fania Brancovskaja and Akvilė Grigoravičiūtė are to speak at the event at 11:00 A.M. in conference hall 1.2 at the Vilnius Book Fair. Sixteen-year-old violinist Ugnė Liepa Žuklytė will perform Anatolijus Šenderovas’s piece “Cantus in memoriam Jascha Heifetz” at the event.

The boy and his parents survived the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto 75 years ago on September 23, 1943, but were arrested while in hiding, taken to Ponar and shot.

The Vilnius Book Fair is held annually at the Litexpo exhibition center at Laisvės prospect no. 5 in Vilnius.

For more information contact Monika Antanaitytė at + 37067240942

Lithuania We Built Together, an Exhibit on Lithuanian Minority Communities

The Lithuanian House of Ethnic Minorities presented a new exhibit February 15 called “We Built Lithuania Together,” an overview of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities living in Lithuania, their history and famous figures from these communities.

The exhibit is the creation of students and teachers from the History Faculty of Vilnius University, the Lithuanian State Archive, the Vrublevskiai Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, with help from other museums, archives and libraries throughout Lithuania.

Following the launch, exhibit organizers planned to present it all over Lithuania at libraries, schools and exhibition spaces. The exhibit is in Lithuanian and English.

Rudashevski Diary Published in Lithuanian

Knygų mugėje – penkiolikmečio Vilniaus geto kalinio palikimas

The diary of Yitzchak Rudashevski written in the Vilnius ghetto and providing an eye-witness account by the young man has been translated into Lithuanian and is to be launched at the Vilnius Book Fair Sunday. Although Rudashevski was only 14 when he began the diary, many who have read the book in the original Yiddish, English and other languages say he displays both incredible talent as a writer and a wisdom beyond his years. He was murdered at Ponar in late 1943. The original diary is conserved by YIVO with copies made available to other institutions and archives.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites everyone to read and learn about the Rudashevski ghetto diary.

The book is to be launched at 11:00 A.M. on Sunday, February 25, 2018, in conference room 1.2 at the Vilnius Book Fair.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Yiddish translator Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Sigutė Chlebinskaitė, Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja and Akvilė Grigoravičiūtė are to attend the launch.

Jokūbas Vygodskis: Lithuanian Jewish Affairs Minister, Lithuanian Taryba Member, Polish Sejm Deputy, Vilnius Jewish Community Chairman, Good Man

Jokūbas Vygodskis (Jakub Wygodzki in Polish, Yankev Vigodski in Yiddish) was born in Bobruisk now in Belarus in 1855 and his family moved to Vilnius in 1860, where he received a traditional Jewish education. He completed high school in Marijampolė and attended medical school at the University of Saint Petersburg, additional studies in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, after which he returned to Vilnius with the city’s centuries-old Jewish community.

Vilnius always had sufficiently capable people who knew how to organize the life of the Jewish community according to ethical standards, providing a helping hand to the poor and weak. Vygodskis organized the Society of Jewish Physicians in Vilnius besides practicing medicine as a gynecologist, pediatrician and medical researcher, as well as writing; initially he published medical articles in Russian and German journals, but later contributed to the Yiddish and Hebrew popular press and wrote at least three books of memoirs in Yiddish.

In September of 1917 the Lithuanian Taryba (national council) was elected in Vilnius with the goal of establishing an independent state. Wygodzki was appointed minister for Jewish affairs. In 1918 he joined the World Zionist Federation and is called a general liberal Zionist in the literature available on him.

Gita-Enta Broidi Sings in Šiauliai

Gita-Enta Broidi performed at an evening of Yiddish song at the Šiauliai Jewish Community February 4. Chaim Bergman of Kaunas attended and said he was pleasantly surprised to learn almost all members of the Šiauliai Jewish Community speak Yiddish well. Many lingered after the concert for coffee and conversation and the vocalist spoke of her work in Israel. She studied under the famous Nekhama Lifshits and has her own reputation and record of accomplishment around the world. She is a past winner of the International Yiddish Song Festival prize.

What Happened to Poland?

The Jews of Poland were once the largest Ashkenazi Jewish community in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but those of them who remain today, it seems, will not be able to understand the decision made by the Polish Sejm on January 26, 2018. Historically Lithuanian and Polish Jewish communities are connected by ties of friendship in all spheres, we maintain exemplary relations with the secular and religious community, we know of the efforts made by Lithuanian MPs in solving disputes over the use of Polish orthography and we remember the efforts made by the Polish presidents Aleksandr Kwaszniewski, Lech Kaczynski and Bronislaw Komorowski to improve relations with Lithuania.

What could have happened so that the current members of the Polish parliament adopted a law imposing three years’ imprisonment to anyone who openly says the Polish state or nation is guilty of Nazi crimes, or who uses the formula “Polish death camps?” The law reflects the official position of the Polish Government that the great majority of Poles acted heroically during the Nazi occupation. Nonetheless there were many in the country who did collaborate with the Nazis and committed horrific crimes.

Another question arises for me: isn’t it from such irresponsible steps, from these sorts of anti-Semitic laws and assessments as well as statements that everything began during World War II?

We also remember Chiune Sugihara who provided the Jews of Poland condemned to the Holocaust in Kaunas his “visas for life.”

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Emmanuel Levinas and His Connection with Lithuania

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted the launch of “Laikas and kitas,” a Lithuanian translation of Litvak philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’s book “Time and the Other,” on January 25. Translator Viktoras Bachmetjevas, an advisor to the Lithuanian minister of culture, was there, as were Dr. Aušra Pažėraitė of the Religious Studies Center of Vilnius University, philosopher Dr. Danutė Bacevičiūtė of the same center and Vytautas Magnus University Public Communications Cathedral teacher Algirdas Davidavičius. The four held a panel talk and talked about the book based on a series of lectures by Levinas.

The Jonas ir Jokūbas publishing house published the book with support from the Goodwill Foundation.

Dr. Aušra Pažėraitė agreed to talk more about the Litvak philosopher for www.lzb.lt.


We can speak of two aspects of the connection between one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), and Lithuania. First, it is known he was born and grew up in Kaunas and his parents were also from Lithuania. He was born in Kaunas January 12, 1906, old style, which is December 30, 1905, on the Julian calendar, or the 15th of Tevet on the Hebrew calendar. Kaunas then was the seat of the Kovna guberniya in the Russian Empire. According to the entry in the vital records of the Kaunas Jewish community, his father was Kaunas resident Yekhiel Levin and his mother was named Dvoira. There’s also a date for his circumcision in the entry, January 6 according to the Julian calendar.

His father was also a native resident of Kaunas, born there to Abraham Levin and Feige in 1878, and his mother came from Ylakai, where she was born in 1881 to Moshe Yitzak and Eta Gurvich. He attended a Jewish primary school in Kaunas until World War I. The family was forced to evacuate as many Lithuanian Jews were during World War I. The Levin family ended up in Ukraine, where Emmanuel was accepted at a gymnasium in Kharkov, where at the same time a Kaunas boys gymnasium had been relocated. The story goes the entire family was overjoyed because this represented an opportunity for Emmanuel to pursue a higher education somewhere in the Russian Empire, but the war ended and the chaos and changes of the revolution began and Lithuania achieved independence, the family returned to Lithuania.

Lithuanian State Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Užsienio reikalų ministerijoje surengtasTarptautinės Holokausto aukų atminimo dienos minėjimas

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry in conjunction with the Lithuanian Jewish Community commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the ministry Friday, January 26.

The event was humble, tasteful and without much fanfare, but was attended over 100 people, including survivors, children of survivors, grandchildren, foreign ambassadors, staff and members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the foreign minister and the father of Lithuanian independence, professor Vytautas Landsbergis, along with many ministry employees.

Foreign minister Linas Linkevičius spoke briefly and fully “owned” the Holocaust for Lithuania, saying while it was sad to begin the year celebrating the 100th birthday of the modern state with the Holocaust, it was necessary so that people would never forget. He called the Holocaust a scar across the face of the nation and the darkest page in Lithuania’s and humanity’s history, but also pointed out Lithuania now boasts 891 Righteous Gentiles.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke and said the fact the Foreign Ministry was hosting the event meant the Lithuanian state was recognizing the importance of remembering what happened. She also announced the upcoming release of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary in Lithuanian.

A representative from the Israeli embassy praised Lithuania for adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Rafailas Karpis performed songs in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s Appeal Regarding Legal Disputes within the Jewish Community

I would like to address our Community again:

• As you know, a group of people calling themselves “the Vilnius Jewish Community” initiated legal proceedings.

• We received no reply to our proposals, made directly and in written form, to give up these legal disputes. A decision was handed down in the Vilnius Jewish Community’s petition which will be appealed in the usual appeals process and we have complete confidence the decision will be annulled.

• In other legal proceedings, the court found the rules and regulations of the LJC were not legal, and the point allowing the formation of a representational quorum during elections was voided. The court again emphasized the rules and regulations must conform to the law: one member, one vote. This affects the regional communities, but moreover all of the associated members, and means that the LJC elections in 2017 were held in keeping with the law. This decision by the court is final and is not subject to appeal.

Again, every Lithuanian Jew may decide for him or herself what sort of community they want, but first, everyone must know the truth. Leaders and community members who await the end of the disputes so they can decide which side to support must wait a little longer. I feel this decision is a matter of conscience for each person to make on their own.

I ask those who are sowing division between Jews, engaging in provocations, filing complaints and spreading rumors and gossip to stop it, without regard to whatever posts they occupy. You are doing harm to the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community.

I invite all members of the community to come together and join forces for things that are important rather than engage in fruitless internal struggles. Our priority tasks are celebrating and passing on the distinct Litvak culture and historical memory of the history of Jews in Lithuania, and making life better for Jews here and now. We can only accomplish this by coming together.

Al Jaffee Cartoon Exhibit “Childhood Adventures in Zarasai”

The exhibit at the Zarasai Regional History Museum contains illustrations by Al Jaffee included in Mary-Lou Weisman’s book “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life: A Biography.” In an interview with his biographer Al Jaffee called himself a reverse immigrant: when most people were leaving Lithuania for the USA, he went in the opposite direction. Savannah in the 1920s had electricity, inside toilets, asphalt streets, movie theaters and newspapers with daily comic strips. Zarasai, however, hadn’t changed much since the end of the 19th century. Al was the odd man out among the local children in Zarasai, where multilingualism was the rule and people spoke Lithuanian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish. He did manage to adapt to live there, though. The children invented games as children do and the entire town was their playground. The small town became the petri dish where Al and his brother Harry developed their creative talents. Even now Al says the years of his childhood he spent in Zarasai are some of the happiest years of his life.

Al’s popularity has grown continuously. In 1955 he began drawing for Mad magazine in New York City. He’s still drawing now. He lives with his wife Joyce in Manhattan.

You’re invited to visit the exhibit weekdays from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. (other times are available as well if prior notice is given).

Learn to Embrace the Simple Past Tense: A Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust

You are invited an event to commemorate victims of the Holocaust with a presentation by tenor Rafailas Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and Sergejus Kanovičius called “Embrace the Simple Past Tense.”

Is it possible for the Yiddish and the Lithuanian language to meet under one roof?
Is it possible to feel a lullaby even if you can’t understand the words?
Is dialogue possible between sung Yiddish and Lithuanian work read out loud?
Can love, longing and remorse meet in memory?

Come, feel it and find out the answers on the last Sunday in January:

PLACE: Third floor, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius
TIME: 5:00 P.M., January 28.

One Century out of Seven Exhibit a Hit with Jews in Chicago

The cultural center of the Lithuanian consulate in Chicago is hosting an exceptional exhibition starting at the end of November called “One Century out of Seven: Lithuania, Lite, Lita.” The exhibit covers the history of Litvaks from the first arrivals and settlement of Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the present day. The exhibit is now circulating in Chicago and suburbs. On January 12 it was presented to the Jewish community of Highland Park.

Exhibit author Pranas Morkus was able to present remarkable details of the relationships between Jews and locals and included a number of notable Litvaks, the most notable and best known being the Vilna Gaon, who is credited with making Vilnius the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

On January 15 the exhibit opened at the North Suburban Beth El Synagogue. Visitors sent photos to facebook and they may be viewed on the LJC webpage.

A large number of Jews with roots in Lithuania live in America and are proud to call themselves Litvaks.

The exhibit was the result of work by Pranas Morkus, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the designers Victoria Sideraitė-Alon and Jūratė Juozėnienė from the JUDVI design studio.

Lithuanian consul in Chicago Mantvydas Bekešius said the exhibit demonstrates Jews were, are and will always be an important part of the story of Lithuania.

Little Jewish Streets

Little Jewish Streets
by Leyb Stotsky (Leib Stocki) [לייב סטאָצקי]

(Vilna, 1902-Vilnius, 1967)

[ יידישע געסלעך / Yidishe geslakh]


Read by Pinchos Fridberg

Raya Shapiro and Howard Jarvis translated the poem for those who don’t know Yiddish from a translation into Russian by Polina Pailis and Pinchos Fridberg.