News

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 jewishmuseum@jmuseum.lt

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 ingrida.vilkiene@lrv.lt or call (8~706) 63 818.

Born Efraim, Raised as Kazimieras


Photo: Karolina Savickytė

Bernardinai.lt

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 danguole.stonyte@lrs.lt

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.

Nazi Collaborator or National Hero? A Test for Lithuania


Photo: Brendan Hoffman

by Andrew Higgins
Sept. 10, 2018

ŠUKIONIAI, Lithuania — For the tiny village of Šukioniai in western Lithuania, the exploits of General Storm, a local anti-Communist hero executed by the Soviet secret police in 1947, have long been a source of pride. The village school is named after him, and his struggles against the Soviet Union are also honored with a memorial carved from stone next to the farm where he was born.

All along, though, there have been persistent whispers that General Storm, whose real name was Jonas Noreika, also helped the Nazis kill Jews. But these were largely discounted as the work of ill-willed outsiders serving a well-orchestrated campaign by Moscow to tar its foes as fascists.

Blaming Russian propaganda, however, has suddenly become a lot more difficult thanks to Mr. Noreika’s own granddaughter, Silvia Foti, a Lithuanian-American from Chicago who has spent years researching a biography of her revered relative and went public in July with her shocking conclusion: her grandfather was a fierce anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator.

Full story here.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s Greetings on Rosh Hashanah 5779

As the high holy days draw near, I am glad to be able to share with you important Lithuanian Jewish Community news. The Lithuanian Jewish Community faces many challenges every day, but this year we’ve grown, we’ve grown stronger and we are receiving ever more public and political support. Interest in Jewish culture is not fading, either, as shown by European Days of Jewish Culture events in Lithuania, a program which grows richer by the year. I greatly appreciate that 1,500 Litvaks abroad have officially joined the LJC from the Litvak Association in Israel chaired by Arie Ben-Ari Grozdensky. Jewish unity is the largest goal for the LJC which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the national revival this year.

Thanks to the active work of the regional Jewish communities and Jewish organizations, Jewish values remain strong in Lithuania. A young generation of Jews is growing up and we need to pass on our history and our future to them. For a long time now we have been developing the idea of reviving the tradition of Litvak scouting and this year we finally managed to make it a reality working with French and Polish Jewish scouting organizations. Vilnius ghetto prisoner and Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja was part of Jewish scouting in Lithuania before the war and shared her experience in scouting at our recent camping event. Although the Jewish community in Lithuania isn’t large, we have proven we are able to continue the old traditions and to start new ones.

We met the Litvak prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, and his wife Sara at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, celebrating its 115th anniversary this year. This was an historical occasion to remind Europe and the world the Jewish nation is an indivisible part of European culture, and Europe should be grateful to the State of Israel for so many European lives which have been saved thanks to the work of Israeli intelligence in stopping attacks. Two small democracies, Israel and Lithuania, find striking parallels in their histories. We will recall them this December in celebrating 100 years of the union of Lithuanian Zionist organizations, which also supported Lithuanian aspirations for statehood.

In September we mark a great tragedy which has come to be a symbol of the Holocaust in Lithuania. We mark the painful 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. It’s very significant that we are dedicating ever more informal means to commemorate history, but there are still areas where more needs to be done in discussing the role the Lithuanian Activist Front and the Provisional Government of Lithuania played in the Holocaust, and more needs to be done in the state’s school curriculum as well.

We esteem highly as well the great work our partners–the joint Lithuanian-Israel archaeology group–have done in work on the Great Synagogue of Vilnius. The LJC is responsible for drafting a study on ways to commemorate the Great Synagogue. As the spiritual successors to the Vilna Gaon, we feel a great responsibility to insure the respect due this special Jewish sacred site and the appropriate presentation of what’s left of this heritage site to the public.

I want to thank sincerely all those who have been and are with the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Thank you for your energy and support. I wish you a sweet and happy 5779!

LJC Calendar for 5779 Features Children of the Holocaust


This September, 2018, reminds us of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto 75 years ago, the Holocaust, marking the history of our country for the ages with great loss.

The most fragile portion of our society, the children, also became hostages to this horror. By condemning our children to death, the Nazi invaders and their local collaborators attempted to snuff out our future; more than a million children in Europe became the victims of those who supported this ruthless and inhumane ideology. And the effects of the Holocaust in Lithuania were also ruthless: complete Jewish shtetlakh left empty, broken Jewish families, family lives cut short and the loss of great civic and intellectual potential.

LJC Children’s Clubs Re-Open

The children’s clubs of the Lithuanian Jewish Community will hold a ceremony September 16 to open the new fall season.

Children and parents are invited to attend the Dubi -Mishpakha Club for children aged one-and-a-half to four at 10:30 A.M. on September 16 in the Dubi Club on the first floor.

The ceremony for the Dubi Club, for children aged 4 to 6, and the Ilan CLub, for children aged 7 to 12, will be held at 2:00 P.M. on the third floor.

The program includes games, a lottery, Rosh Hashanah treats and more and will be directed by our great team of counselors.

For more information contact Sofja at +370 672 57540 or sofja@lzb.lt

Panevėžys Jewish Community Visits Riga

A group from the Panevėžys Jewish Community visited Holocaust sites in Riga, the Latvian capital, September 2. Last year community members visited the Salaspils concentration camp. Latvia’s large Jewish population was reduced to between 200 and 1,000 when the country was liberated from the Nazis. Most survived only because of Righteous Gentiles, 129 of whom were recognized by Yad Vashem on January 1, 2011, according to the visitors from Panevėžys, who said they also learned the most prolific Righteous Gentiles in Latvia were Janis Lipke and his wife Johanna who rescued 56 Jews.

Members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community also visited Jūrmala next to Riga and learned about the history of the town.

Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue

Program for Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

Sunday, September 9

7:00 P.M. Mincha/Maariv, holiday prayers, kiddush, buffet

Monday, September 10

9:30 A.M. Shacharit (morning prayer)

12:00 noon blowing of the shofar

12:30 P.M. Musaf (prayer)

6:00 P.M. Tashlich (prayer by the river at Bokšto street no. 9, Vilnius)

6:30 Rosh Hashanah celebration: blowing of the shofar, presentation of new calendar for 5779, holiday meal

8:43 P.M. Maariv prayer

Tuesday, September 11

9:30 A.M. Shacharit

12 noon blowing of shofar

7:00 P.M. blowing of shofar

American Virtuosi Return for Concert Tour

The American Virtuosi are back in Lithuania for another series of concerts. They are to play a concert to celebrate the 120th birthday of Righteous Gentile Jonas Paulavičius in the Great Hall at the Catholic Theology Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University, Gimnazijos street no. 7, Kaunas, at 5:30 P.M. on September 10, 2018. Admission is free and the event is being supported by the US embassy in Vilnius, the Goodwill Foundation, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and others.

At 5:30 P.M. on September 11, 2018, the virtuosi are set to play the Panevėžys Art Gallery in Panevėžys, Lithuania. Price of admission is 2 euros.

Sutzkever Exhibit

The Judaic Studies Center of the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library celebrated European Days of Jewish Culture with an exhibit called “Žaibo prisiminimas,” or “Memory of Lightning,” dedicated to the poet Abraham Sutzkever. The poet was a partisan and one of the first authors of memoirs of the Vilnius ghetto. Before the war he contributed to the flourishing of Yiddish literature in Jewish Vilnius; after he chronicled the death of Jewish Vilnius.

Sutzkever’s granddaughter Hadas Calderon, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon participated at the event.

Meeting to Discuss Commemoration of Great Synagogue

According to 15min.lt, an international creative workshop of “academic youth,” professors and specialists involved in heritage protection, urban planning, architecture, communications and museum studies from Lithuania, Israel, Latvia, Poland, Sweden, Germany and Ukraine have come up with ideas for commemorating the Great Synagogue in Vilnius and will present their proposals next Thursday at the Old Town Hall in Vilnius.

“The presentation will talk about ideas for commemorating the synagogue, the name of the new cultural space, archaeological findings, the range of activities and the architectural expression of the idea,” the article on the 15min.lt website said.

The article also claims the Nazis burnt the Great Synagogue down, which isn’t true.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Kaunas Jewish Community Commemorates Holocaust Victims

Kauno žydų bendruomenė pagerbia Holokausto tragedijos aukas

Traditionally the Kaunas Jewish Community on the last weekend in August by visiting the Petrašiūnai mass murder site and the Fourth Fort where the Jewish intellectuals were murdered in Kaunas. This year we included mass murder sites in Prienai and the surrounding towns of Birštonas, Stakliškiai, Jieznas and Balbieriškis.

Prienai Regional History Museum director Lolita Batutienė and advisor to the head of the Prienai regional administration Jūratė Zailskienė spoke about remembering and the importance of commemorations for Lithuanians as well as Jews. They said Lithuanians need to understand the Holocaust wasn’t “someone else’s” tragedy but that of all Lithuanian citizens, a horrible loss to the nation which destroyed the life of the towns and deprived everyone of diversity.

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas said a few words in Yiddish, a language which hasn’t been heard in Prienai and surrounding towns for many years, and thanked the organizers, the young musicians who performed and all who turned out for the commemoration. Afterwards participants went to the Prienai Regional History Museum and viewed an exhibit on loan from Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum called “A Rescued Jewish Child Talks about the Holocaust.” Curator of the exhibit Viktorija Bielievičienė was pleasantly surprised to discover Kaunas ghetto inmate and KJC member Fruma Kučinskienė among the viewers, who spoke about herself, her rescuers and some of the people contained in the exhibit.

Ceremony for Inscribing New Torah Scroll Held at Choral Synagogue

A ceremony marking the beginning of the writing of a new Torah scroll was held at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius September 4, initiated by Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky. This is an historical event, the first time since the Holocaust Jews have written their own “Litvak” Torah scroll.

Calligraphy experts (soferim) with special ink are inscribing the new Torah scroll with special quills on parchment together with members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. This is a centuries-old scribal tradition among Jews. For most, this is the first time they’re witnessing such an event. This is the first time Torah has been copied since Lithuanian independence in 1990 and since World War II.

The Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, celebrating its 115th birthday this year, will receive a unique, sacred gift.

Smhuel Levin, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community