News

International Forum of Jewish Scouts Director Alain Silberstein Visits Kaunas

International Forum of Jewish Scouts director Alain Silberstein during his visit to Lithuania last week visited Kaunas where he met with the chairman of the Kaunas Jewish Community, scouts and young people. The French visitor gave an enthusiastic presentation of the Tsofim Yehudim program, plans to expand Jewish scouting activities in Europe and plans to revive Jewish scouting in Lithuania. He reminded his audiences this movement was very active in Lithuania before the Holocaust. Girls who attended the meeting at the KJC said they found his presentation very interesting and inspiring. Scouting, as presented, allows everyone to find themselves and to get involved in activities they love most, and also provides the opportunity to expand one’s horizons to activities which might not have appeared interesting at first. The Jewish scouting movement is attractive because of the values it espouses, its orientation towards Jewish culture and traditions and its tolerance. The ideas interested the audiences in Kaunas and there are great hopes the Jewish scouting movement will return to Lithuania.

Vocal Varshe Concert at the Winter Synagogue in Kalvarija

The Vocal Varshe group from Poland will perform a concert of Jewish songs in Yiddish and Hebrew including songs from the Warsaw and Vilnius ghettos at the synagogue located at Sodų street no. 18 in Kalvarija, Lithuania, at 7:00 P.M. on June 7. Entry is free. Limited transportation from Vilnius will be provided with a small bus leaving the Lithuanian Jewish Community at 4:00 P.M. on June 7 and returning sometime between 10:00 P.M. and 11:30 P.M. Please contact neringa@lzb.lt if you want to make use of this limited transportation.

Interview with Mizrachi Feminist and Litvak Dr. Smadar Lavie

Visiting lecturer Dr. Smadar Lavie recently returned to Vilnius and agreed to a short interview for www.lzb.lt.

I came here for my father’s posthumous degree. They had a big ceremony. I said I didn’t grow up as a Litvak, I grew up as a shvartze, because my mother is Yemeni, and Israel has lots of racism by the Ashkenazi Jews towards the Mizrachi Jews. So now that you’re talking to me, almost all of my classmates were Ashkenazi, children of survivors, and they didn’t have grandparents. They were very envious that I had a Yemeni grandmother. My grandmother was very nice to my friends because they didn’t have grandparents. I didn’t know why. It was just … over there. We use to call it “over there.”

So where did you study then?

I grew up in Holon, it’s a suburb of Tel Aviv, and I went to Bialik elementary school. I did my BA at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and my PhD is from University of California, Berkeley.

Pianist Golda Vainberg-Tatz to Perform in Vilnius

St. Catherine’s Church at Vilniaus street no. 30 in Vilnius will host a concert by pianist Golda Vainberg-Tatz from the USA/Israel at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 7.

Vilnius Municipal ST. CHRISTOPHER CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

Artistic Director: MODESTAS BARKAUSKAS

Conductor: DONATAS KATKUS

Program:

Chess Tournament to Celebrate Israel’s 70th Held at LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a chess match May 27 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.

Lithuanian Independence Act signatory Česlovas Juršėnas, Lithuanian Chess Federation president Aleksandras Černovas, first leader of independent Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis and economics minister Gediminas Miškinis greeted players.

LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas distributed copies of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary as mementos and prizes to the winners. About 70 players in all age groups turned out for the event.

Chess Tournament for Child Protection Day

A chess tournament to mark Child Protect Day (June 1) will be held at the Lithuanian Jewish Community on Sunday, June 3, at 11:00 A.M. FIDE master Boris Rositsan will lead the tournament. For more information or to register, contact info@metbor.lt or call 8 655 43 556.

From Lithuania to Santiniketan: Schlomith Flaum and Rabindranath Tagore

English and Lithuanian editions of Dr. Shimon Lev’s book “From Lithuania to Santiniketan: Schlomith Flaum and Rabindranath Tagore” (originally written in Hebrew) were launched at the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the evening of May 31 with pageantry, live Indian music and dance, readings of selections and speeches by the author, the Lithuanian intelligentsia and members of the diplomatic corps.

Shovana Narayan, recipient of a national award in India and classical Indian dance master, performed several pieces based on Tagore’s poetry with two assistants to kick off the event. Narayan is related to Rabindranath Tagore.

Judita Gliauberzonaitė read selections of Tagore’s poetry in Lithuanian.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky welcomed the audience and speakers, noting the unique nature of Flaum’s travelogues and testimony, and said it wasn’t very often the LJC hosted such highly cultural and intellectual evenings as this one.

Former Lithuanian ambassador to India Laimonas Talat-Kelpša and his wife, celebrating her birthday, attended and Talat-Kelpša spoke about the remarkable travels Schlomith Flaum undertook in the early 20th century and the connections between Lithuania, India, Israel, and the connections between Zionism, the national movement in India and Lithuanian statehood.

Author and Israeli Litvak Dr. Shimon Lev talked about how Flaum became the earliest source of information about India in nascent Israel, her strength as an early female traveller and travel writer and the magic involved in the process of translation. He also spoke about Vilnius as a center of learning with the Vilna Gaon as the preeminent Jewish scholar in the modern age.

Call to Members of Makabi Lithuanian Athletics Club

Dear Makabi members,

Makabi will hold a mini-Maccabiah Games to celebrate the centenary of Lithuanian independence at the Lithuanian Educology University in Vilnius from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. on Sunday, June 17. Your hometown teams are invited to compete in the following events:

Indoor soccer (7 players and a trainer)
Three-on-three basketball (5 players and a trainer)
Volleyball (8 players and a trainer)
Table tennis (men and women)
Chess (men and women)
Badminton (men and women)

The schedule of matches will be determined when the exact number of teams and individual sports players is known.

Please send you application by email to makabilita.duskes@gmail.com by June 15.

For more information, call 8 698 19999

Michailas Duškesas, executive director

Plans to Memorialize Kaunas Ghetto

Plans are afoot in Kaunas to get the former Slobodka ghetto into better shape by marking its most significant sites, providing information about the aktionen or mass murder operations carried out there, commemorating ghetto government institutions and appropriately commemorating the Holocaust and its victims. Currently a lone obelisk stands in the former ghetto marking the site of the main gates, and most people have no idea even where Democracy Square was, the place where the selection for the Great Aktion took place.

Remarkably, the forces behind the proposed refurbishing and educational outreach are just two individuals from different countries who presented their ideas at the same time.

One is Yaarit Glezer, a frequent visitor to Lithuania who lives in Israel now. When she entered retirement she decided she had to do something more to commemorate the Holocaust in Lithuania, which took the lives of her family. Incidentally, Yaarit’s father was one of only a few who managed to escape from the Ninth Fort, where the majority of Jews were murdered in Kaunas.

Jewish Volunteer Soldiers Remembered in Kaunas

Lithuanian military commander lieutenant general Jonas Vytautas Žukas and the Kaunas Jewish Community invited the public to a commemoration on May 30 of Jewish volunteers who fought in early 20th-century battles for Lithuanian independence. Those attending included lieutenant general Žukas, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, representatives of regional Jewish communities, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, commanders of Kaunas divisions, soldiers and representatives of the Kaunas municipality and other organizations.

May 30 is an important date, marking one of the first planned military operations by the Lithuanian military. At the end of May and in early June of 1919 Lithuanian soldiers, including many Jews, aided by volunteer soldiers from Saxony, liberate Utena from the Bolsheviks and seized the initiative in battle against the Red Army.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas took part in the commemoration.

Litvak Scouting Revival

Before the Holocaust there were huge groups of Jewish boy and girl scouts throughout Lithuania. Some groups were religious, others Zionist, others secular. The one thing they all had in common was having fun outdoors, learning together the basic skills and fostering a shared Jewish identity.

Now there are plans to revive the Jewish scouting movement in Lithuania, which now has a mostly aging population of just under 3,500 Jews.

President of the International Forum of Jewish Scouts (IFJS) and member of the board of Éclaireuses éclaireurs israélites de France (EEIF) Alain Silberstein arrived in Vilnius to discuss French cooperation in the Litvak revival with Lithuanian Jewish Community leaders.

Parents of children aged 12 to 17 were invited to attend a discussion at the Lithuanian Jewish Community Wednesday. In an underwhleming show of support, several scouting-age Jewish girls, an interested member of the Jewish community in Vilnius and a handful of others came and heard a presentation by president Alain Silberstein and LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas.

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.

Ceremony to Honor Jewish Volunteer Soldiers

Commander of the Lithuanian military lieutenant general Jonas Vytautas Žukas and the Kaunas Jewish Community invite the public to an event to honor Jewish soldiers who fought in the battles for Lithuanian independence. The event is to take place in Kaunas on May 30. At 12:30 P.M. the ceremony including speeches, a moment of silence, wreath-laying and music begins at A. Mapu street no. 18 at the building where the Union of Jewish Soldiers Who Fought in Battles for Lithuanian Independence was located in the period between the two world wars. A discussion follows at 1:30 P.M. at the Vytautas Magnus Military Museum at K. Donelaičio street no. 64.

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.”