Pope’s Prayer in Ghetto Important to Holocaust Survivors and Rescuers

Vilnius, September 19, BNS–Pope Francis plans to say a silent prayer in the former Jewish ghetto in Vilnius on the 75th anniversary of its final destruction.

Lithuanian Jews say this gesture is important to both Holocaust victims and Christians who rescued Jews.

“We are overjoyed the Pope is sending a message to the world by honoring the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the ghetto. I hope he includes in his thoughts the Christians who rescued Jews as well,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS.

“It is a great honor the Pope is visiting us, without regard that we belong to a different faith. We are citizens of this country and we are so glad this visit is taking place on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the state. This is an extraordinary pope. He is very democratic and is fighting valiantly against violence,” she said.

Pope Francis is scheduled to honor the victims of the ghetto at Rūdninkų square in Vilnius on September 23. The final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto including what is now the square took place on September 23, 1943.

Full text in Lithuanian available here.

Lithuanian ForMin Linkevičius Calls for Immediate Removal of Noreika Plaque

BNS, September 19, Vilnius–Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius has called upon Lithuanian institutions to remove a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika from the city center in Vilnius after assessing his collaboration with the Nazis.

The foreign minister said an honest assessment of history will aid in countering propaganda against the small Baltic country and attempts to blacken the reputation of Lithuanian freedom fighters.

“We shouldn’t be helping the propagandists. We should respond in principle when undisputed facts are raised about immoral behavior and Nazi collaboration by separate individuals,” Linkevičius told BNS Wednesday.

“The case of Jonas Noreika is just such an example. His life was varied and it is true he was imprisoned in a concentration camp and fought for Lithuania. At the same time, I have copies of documents right here in front of me which testify to [his] clear collaboration with the Nazis, establishing Jewish ghettos and seizing Jewish property,” the Lithuanian foreign minister said.

“The municipality, the [Lithuanian] Academy of Sciences and the Vrublevskai Library [Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences] shouldn’t keep pushing responsibility from one to the other and should take measures to get rid of this plaque. We shouldn’t be waffling on this,” he continued.

Yom Kippur at the Choral Synagogue

Program of events for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

Sunday, September 16

2:30-4:30 P.M. Preparations for Yom Kippur: lessons, kapparot (kappores) ritual

Tuesday, September 18

6:00 P.M. meal before fast
7:00 Kol Nidre
7:10 P.M. beginning of fast

Wednesday, September 19

9:30 A.M. Shacharit morning prayer
12:30 P.M. Izkor prayer
6:15 P.M. Mincha prayer
7:15 P.M. Niila prayer
8:19 P.M. end of fast, meal

Picking at an Old Wound: General Vėtra Becomes Test for Lithuania

by Mindaugas Jackevičius,

Lithuania’s Jews have asked for a memorial plaque commemorating the officer Jonas Noreika to be removed from a library located in the center of Vilnius by September 23. The influential newspaper the New York Times put Lithuania and Noreika on the front page last week and called the issue of the officer a test for Lithuania.

The Lithuanian side isn’t sure how to react to all this attention. Historians claim they have investigated all of it: Noreika, aka General Vėtra, didn’t murder Jews but did collaborate with the Nazis. Arūnas Gumuliauskas, the chairman of the parliament’s State Commission for Historical Memory, called the articles amateur but wouldn’t say whether the Noreika plaque should be taken down.

Full story in Lithuanian here.


With deep sadness we report the death of Nikolai Vainer on September 18 of this year. He was born in 1924. Our deepest condolences to his family on their loss.

Rosh Hashanah at the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year 5779. Cilė Gleizer reminded the audience of the meaning and traditions of the holiday. Frida Šteinienė lit the candles and said a prayer to kick off the celebration. Community chairman Naum Gleizer greeted members and wished everyone a good, healthy and sweet new year. He delivered greetings from the Panevėžys Jewish Community and from former residents of Šiauliai now resident in Israel.

The holiday table contained the tradition dishes–challa, apples and honey, pomegranates and gefilte fish, the latter prepared by Maja Burštein. The traditional treats of teiglakh, imberlakh, apple pie and other sweets were made by Frida Šteinienė, Irina Pres and Cilė Gleizer.

Vadim Kamrazer and his daughter Sofija performed live Jewish music and song. The celebration was much enjoyed by young and old alike. Everyone received the new calendar for 5779.

Polish Exile Government’s Council to Aid Jews Featured in New Exhibit

Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz and Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis hold LJC calendars for the new year 5779 dedicated to the children of the Holocaust

To mark the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto and to celebrate the Year of Irena Senderlowa, the embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Institute in Vilnius in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian parliament presented the exhibit “Żegota: The Council to Aid Jews” at the Lithuanian parliament. The exhibit was made by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance. It was first shown at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas earlier this year.

The Council to Aid Jews was a Polish underground humanitarian organization operating during World War II as an institution of the Polish Government in Exile and provided aid to Jews inside and outside the ghettos. The organization went by the code name Żegota. The exhibit details the founding and activities of Żegota and commemorates its major heroes and some of those whom it rescued. Risking their lives, the civilian conspirators rescued at least several thousand people from death. Poles risked their lives to save their compatriots and opposed the Nazis’ doctrine of hate. In Poland, unlike Western Europe, people were executed for helping Jews. Of the more than 26,500 people recognized by Israel as Righteous Gentiles, more than 6,700 are Poles. The true number in Poland, as in Lithuania, is probably higher and many Righteous Gentiles remain unrecognized.

The exhibit opened with a ceremony in Building III of the Lithuanian parliament at 4:00 P.M. on September 13, 2018, and was attended by Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz, Lithuanian MP Arūnas Gelūnas and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, among others. The exhibit was organized in Lithuania by Polish ambassador to Lithuania Urszula Doroszewska, ambassadorial advisor Marcin Łapczyński, the Polish Institute in Vilnius, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania.

Sixth Annual Klezmer Music Festival 2018 Presents Two Legends of the Century

A concert by various performers dedicated to the composers Anatolijus Šenderovas and Vyacheslav Ganelin. Anatolijus Šenderovas and Vyacheslav Ganelin meet as chamber music composers and speak with the audience.

Where: Tolerance Center, Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, Naugarduko street 10 /2, Vilnius
When: 6:30 P.M., September 17, 2018

For more information contact Arkadijus Gotesmanas by email at or call 863466675.

Under the Star of David

6:00 P.M., September 23, 2018
Vaidila Theater, Jakšto street no 9, Vilnius

World premier of Giedrius Kuprevičius’s chamber symphony, a twelve-part chamber symphony for tenor, clarinet in B, two violins, 2 cellos and piano.

The new season of Vaidila Classics will open September 23 with a modern classical concert called Under the Star of David to commemorate the Holocaust. This is an impressive and moving 12-part chamber symphony composed by maestro Giedrius Kuprevičius. Adding charm to the piece is the inclusion of an ancient Hebrew melody deciphered by Haik Vantoura and poetry written especially for this piece by the poet Violeta Palčinskaitė. The maestro and the performers–Lietuvos Jeruzalė, the American Virtuosi and the tenor Rafailas Karpis–want to commemorate every Holocaust victim with their music.

American Virtuosi Perform in Panevėžys

For the third time the American Virtuosi led by Charles Borowsky have toured Lithuania with concerts in Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys and Alytus. The event was organized by violinist Boris Traub from Vilnius and Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman as a gift to local residents in celebration of Panevėžys’s birthday, the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuanian statehood, the Jewish new year and in the run-up to September 23, the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide. The family band began their visit to Panevėžys with a visit to the mass murder site in Kurganova, then toured the Panevėžys Art Galley and historic sites in Panevėžys.

Deputy administrator of the Panevėžys municipality Sandra Jakštienė spoke: “Music is the best bridge uniting the people of the whole world. That has been the attitude of this ensemble from the very beginning of their activities. The American Virtuosi have toured in China, Cuba, Viet Nam, Germany and other countries of the world, they have visited more than 80 countries of the world and have received acclaim everywhere. Professor Cecilia Borowsky on cello, as with her husband professor Charles, have created a music group to show the world the family has great potential, raising their children with a positive attitude towards life, their son Dr. Emmanuel on violin and daughter Elizabeth on piano. The family has consistently demonstrated that music can stimulate thought and creativity, and can become the catalyst for human relations. The concerts and courses in excellence by the Borowsky family are noted for their solo and chamber music and the expression of the personality of each member of the family.”

Rosh Hashanah at the Panevėžys Jewish Community

Members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, on September 9 at the Parko street restaurant. The event began with the lighting of candles, the blessing was read and good wishes were made to friends and relatives. Michailas Grafmanas blew the shofar horn to usher in the new year 5779. Community chairman Gennady Kofman read the prayer of repentance and hope and Community members greeted one another with the wish God would author them a good coming year.

Guests included city council member A. Petrauskas and the history teacher V. Jakonis from Biržai, Lithuania.

The holiday table included challa, pomegranates, apples and honey. Fish was also served along with other traditional Jewish dishes. The celebration included songs and poetry by children who were rewarded for their work. There was also dancing and different games.

Embrace the Past Tense

A concert to commemorate Holocaust victims will be performed on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto. Tenor Rafail Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and poet Sergejus Kanovičius present Embrace the Past Tense.

Can Yiddish and Lithuanian meet under one roof?
Do you know it’s a lullaby if it’s in a language you don’t understand?
Is dialogue possible between spoken Lithuanian and sung Yiddish?
Can love, longing and regret meet in memory?

6:00 P.M., September 26
Applied Art and Design Hall,
Arsenalo street no. 3A, Vilnius
Admission free

For more information write or call +370 672 40942

Event sponsors: Lithuanian Jewish Community, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Vilna Gaon Museum Marks Lithuanian Jewish Genocide Day with Free Admission

To mark the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum will provide free entry to visitors to the Holocaust exhibit at Pamėnkalnio street no. 12 in Vilnius. Free guides tours will also be held at 12 noon on September 17, 4:00 P.M. on September 18, 12 noon on September 20 and 3:00 P.M. on September 21. Registration is required for the free guided tours by sending an e-mail to

The International Commission to Assess the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania and the Vilna Gaon Museum also invite schools, tolerance centers, all Lithuanian institutions and the general public to attend a commemoration at Ponar at 12:30 P.M. on September 21. For more information write or call (8~706) 63 818.

Born Efraim, Raised as Kazimieras

Photo: Karolina Savickytė

There is a holy silence at Ponar today. The wind softly brushes the tops of the pines and occasionally carries the sound of trains rolling on the tracks. As we walk the winding paths of the memorial complex we hear the voices of American tourists. When we run into them face-to-face, one man points to an older man and says: “This man is a survivor of the Kaunas ghetto.”

An athletics jacket, a light turquoise shirt, dark jeans and black leather shoes–I would say the usual image of a modern intellectual. The old man smiles and we smile back. Suddenly he points at the woman leading the tour and telling the tragedy of Ponar, and says to us in fluent Lithuanian: “She is speaking very well, telling everything correctly. Take a listen.”

“But we wanted to ask you,” I reply and receive a piercing look from his brown eyes.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Netanyahu’s Silence Helps Hide Lithuanian Jewish Genocide

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to address the dangerous issue of Holocaust distortion during his recent visit to Lithuania. To best understand the severity of this, we need to clarify the terms and potential hazards.

Holocaust distortion is often confused with the better-known phenomenon of Holocaust denial, but it is a more recent version of the latter.

It began with the fall of the Soviet Union, and the transition to democracy of post-Communist Eastern Europe. It was then (1990-1991) that these countries were able to face their Holocaust past honestly, including countries like Lithuania, which participated in systematic mass murder.

In Lithuania, 212,000 out of the 220,000 Jews who lived in the country under Nazi occupation were murdered during the Shoa (96.4%). This was the highest percentage of fatalities among the larger European Jewish communities. In Estonia, 99% of the Jews were killed, but only 1,000 lived under Nazi occupation; the rest, 3,500, were able to escape to the Soviet Union before the Nazi invasion.

It is important to remember that 90% of Lithuanian Jewry (in many cases the relatives of South African Jewry) were not murdered in death camps, as were most of the Nazis’ victims. Instead, they were shot near their homes, and in many cases by their neighbors or by other Lithuanians.

Full text here.

Opening of Exhibit “Żegota: The Council to Aid Jews”

The Polish foreign minister is to open the exhibit “Żegota: The Council to Aid Jews” in the Lithuanian parliament’s Building III at 4:00 P.M. on September 13. The embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Institute in Vilnius in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian parliament are to present the extraordinary exhibit about the Polish Council to Aid Jews as part of commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto and to celebrate the Year of Irena Senderlowa. The exhibit was made by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance. It was first shown at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas earlier this year.

Those planning to attend the opening ceremony include Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz, Lithuanian MP Arūnas Gelūnas, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Polish ambassador to Lithuania Urszula Doroszewska and Polish Institute director and advisor to the ambassador Marcin Łapczyński.

Please report your intention to attend by sending an email to

Valid identification is required for entry to the parliament building.

European Days of Jewish Culture Celebrated in Plungė

More than 20 Lithuanian cities and towns took part last week in European Days of Jewish Culture from September 2 to 9 with tours, lectures, concerts, exhibits, conferences and other events. This year the theme of European Days of Jewish Culture was “Stories.”

On September 7 residents of Plungė (Plungyan) and others attended one such event at the Plungė Public Library. Saulė Gymnasium Tolerance Center students began the event with a violin concert and readings from Holocaust survivor Maša Rolnik’s autobiography. Rolnik was born in Plungė. A specialist from the Plungė Tourist Information Center presented a new Jewish tourism itinerary in Plungė, and the publication “On the Jewish Streets of Plungė” which details in English and Lithuanian a 3-kilometer route through the town where buildings which once belonged to the Jewish community, statues and other sites have been marked with signs.

Eugenijus Bunka greeted the audience with the upcoming Jewish new year and gave a presentation on world-famous Jewish figures with roots in Plungė.

Invitation to Read the Names

NAMES. The person is not a number

Marking the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews on September 23, the names of Holocaust victims will be read out at different locations around Lithuania. More than 90% of the Jews who lived in our country were murdered during World War II. The Names civic initiative invites everyone to remember the people of Lithuanian brutally murdered by reading their names out loud.

Readings of the names in public in Lithuanian cities and towns has been going on for eight years now. Participants say this form of Holocaust remembrance really helps them to feel at the personal level the scope of the tragedy.

“When you read in your own voice the names, surnames and professions of these people who lived here, you can no longer pretend they didn’t exist, you can no longer pretend that that person never lived, and the statistics become more than numbers. In this way the courage appears to look at history more openly,” Milda Jakulytė-Vasil says.

Rosh Hashanah Celebration at Choral Synagogue

On Sunday the Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year, 5779, at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

Rosh Hashanah symbolizes the sixth day of the creation of the world: on this day the Most High created the forefather of mankind, Adam.

Rosh Hashanah is first mentioned in the Mishnah (the oral Torah) where it is called Yom Troy (Pipe Festival), which is connected with the commandment to blow a horn on this day. In synagogues the shofar horn is blown on Rosh Hashanah, whose sound is supposed to confound the enemy and bring clear thought and repentance to believers. The shofar tradition goes back centuries and the ram’s horn is associated with the ram which Abraham substituted for his son in making a sacrifice to G_d. The word “shofar” comes from the words for improvement and correction.

Lithuanian Prosecutor Rejects Holocaust Denial Case against Genocide Center

For several years now Grant Gochin has been waging a behind-the-scenes fight to get Lithuanian public institutions to recognize the facts of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Specifically, he wants a re-assessment of certain figures from the World War II era who are lionized in post-1990 Lithuania as anti-Soviet resistance fighters. Without any institutional support, Gochin hired Vilnius attorney Rokas Radzinskas and a handful of researchers and historians to look into the Center of the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania’s finding exonerating WWII-era Lithuanian Activist Front leader Jonas Noreika. In a well-reasoned legal request, Gochin and Radzinskas asked the Lithuanian prosecutor to begin pre-trial investigation of Genocide Center director Teresė Burauskaitė for Holocaust denial. The Lithuanian prosecutor rejected that request.