News

US Ambassador Anne Hall Continues Tour of Lithuania Visiting Sites of Jewish Life and Death

US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall continued her tour of Lithuania in late December with a stop at Šeduva where she met with people from the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation and learned about their Lost Shtetl project, which has invested more than 3 million euros so far in restoring the old Jewish cemetery on Žvejų street there. Project director Sergejus Kanovičius recalled how they cleared the 1.3-hectare territory of weeds and bushes before cataloging and restoring headstones.

Lithuanian sculptor Romualdas Kvintas’s work commemorates the lost Jewish community and mass murder sites. There are three Holocaust mass murder sites around the town.

The cemetery restoration was just the first phase of the project and was completed in 2014. The project received honorable mention in European Union heritage preservation awards. A museum celebrating Lithuanian Jewish life is planned for 2018.

US Ambassador Anne Hall Visits Oldest Wooden Synagogue in Pakruojis

Seniausią Lietuvoje medinę Pakruojo sinagogą aplankė JAV ambasadorė Anne Hall

US ambassador Anne Hall with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and the chairmen of the Panevžys and Šiauliai Jewish Communities toured the renovated Pakruojis wooden synagogue in late December. The oldest wooden synagogue in Lithuania was restored using period photography. The synagogue features unique paintings on the ceiling and wall paper. The interior and primitive paintings have been the subject of much interest. The restored synagogue has become a draw for Jews, Lithuanians and tourists from different countries.

The small synagogue on the banks of the Kruoja River was built in 1801 and operated as a synagogue until the Holocaust when the Pakruojis Jewish community was murdered. After the war it was used a recreation center and then as a movie theater. At some point it was used a gym. It caught fire several times, doing great damage. The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department went to great efforts to save the building.

The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Jewish Community signed a 99-year use agreement on January 21, 2011, on the synagogue’s administration and adaptation for cultural use.

The Pakruojis Jewish community formed in the early 18th century. Most of the resident Jews were merchants who contributed to the economic development of the town. The growing Jewish population also influenced the overall development of the town and its public life.

There are no Jews living in Pakruojis now.

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.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on the Vilnius District Court Decision

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has issued a statement regarding the Vilnius District Court decisions of November 22 and December 21, 2017:

Two contradictory findings have been made by the same court regarding the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The legal format of the Lithuanian Jewish Community is that of an association, and the corresponding principles and means of operations are regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Law on Associations. On December 21, 2017, the court issued a finding without regard to the imperative of law guaranteeing the right of every association member to vote and each member’s equality of rights, and without regard to the articles of incorporation and regulations of the Association providing for discretion of action by its board of directors.

Likewise, on November 22, 2017, the court based its findings on a resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on proposed amendments to section 4 of article 8 of the Law on Associations rather than on existing law. Basic principles of law were ignored, and therefore the LJC plans to utilize its right to appeal this decision through the appeals process in the immediate future.

Furthermore, the court finding of December 21 contradicts a finding by the same Vilnius District Court on November 22, which determined the section of LJC regulations regarding differentiated numbers of votes by members at a Conference is in violation of existing and binding Lithuanian law and was therefore found to be null and void.

On April 19, 2017, the board of directors of the LJC initiated an annual report and elections conferences following the letter of the law and correspondingly seeking to insure the equal representation of the rights of all members of the LJC. At that time it was regretfully impossible to find agreement on this issue based on dialogue and negotiation, and it had to go to court.

This in itself is a defeat, not of the organization, but of all of us, all Jews. The internal disagreements made public will not bring greater honor to anyone, will not quell expressions of anti-Semitism, will not help tear down stereotypes and will not contribute to consolidating energies for meaningful in service of the members of the community. It is regretable that this small Jewish community has been divided when it would be possible to consolidate efforts for achieving greater things, including battling anti-Semitism, caring and providing for the needs of community members, promoting Jewish culture and history and preserving Jewish heritage. In November of 2017 the Lithuanian Jewish Community proposed to the Vilnius Jewish Community we disengage from legal battles through a peace treaty or through mediation. We do not withdraw this offer even now, but to date the Vilnius Jewish Community has ignored the proposal to solve disagreements through negotiation.

Guatemala to Move Embassy to Jerusalem


Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales said Sunday he ordered the Foreign Ministry to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem a few days after his government backed the United States in a row over the city’s status.

The decision comes three weeks after the United States decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and four days after Guatemala was one of only nine countries in the UN to vote against a resolution slamming the US move.

“Today I spoke with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Morales wrote on facebook. “We spoke about the great relationships we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the state of Israel. One of the most relevant topics was the return of the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem. I inform you that I have given instructions to the Chancellor [Foreign Minister] to initiate the process to make it possible. God bless you,” he wrote.

Netanyahu said Friday in an interview with CNN Israel was in contact with several countries about following the American move, but did not say which ones.

Full story here.

Joint Statement by European Jewish Congress and Lithuanian Jewish Community


The European Jewish Congress and the Lithuanian Jewish Community acknowledge the important contribution of Lithuania in creating a positive climate for Jewish life and Jewish tradition to flourish.

We also commend Lithuania for pursuing friendly relations with the State of Israel. This is undoubtedly a positive example for many European countries.

We encourage further respectful discussion on the topic of the tragedy of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust in order to allow for the restoration of historical justice. Those who try to reopen the dark pages of the history of Lithuanian collaboration, such as the renowned author Rūta Vanagaitė, should not be victimized or persecuted; instead, their efforts should be acknowledged.

We praise Lithuanian historians such as prof. Saulius Sužiedėlis, Dr. Valentinas Brandišauskas and Dr. Algimantas Kasparavičius who have spoken out on many occasions and written extensively on the topic of the Lithuanian Activist Front’s role in perpetrating the Holocaust in Lithuania. There is a lack of such content, however, to this day in Lithuanian textbooks. Neither is there sufficient mention of the vast Jewish contribution to Lithuanian society over the centuries. In a pluralist society those who speak out on the largest tragedy in European history should not be rendered incapacitated by inappropriate measures taken against them.

Having just concluded the celebrations of Hanukkah which signifies the victory of the mind and the soul against coercion, and just a few days after International Human Rights Day, we wish a happy and peaceful festive season to all the people of Lithuania and call for continued respectful discussion to enable the Lithuanian people to come to terms with their past.
https://eurojewcong.org/ejc-in-action/statements/joint-statement-european-jewish-congress-lithuanian-jewish-community/

Court Finds LJC Articles of Incorporation Did Violate Lithuanian Law on Associations

The Lithuanian Jewish Community reports the Vilnius District Court issued a finding on November 22, 2017, ruling that point 7.1 in the LJC’s regulations and articles of incorporation on proportional representation of the regional Jewish communities at LZB elections was invalid.

Article 8 paragraph 4 of the Lithuanian Law on Associations provides every member of an association has one vote at general meetings of members (including elections), without regard to how many actual people are represented by that member of an association, meaning each member is equal with all others and has an equal vote in decision-making.

Perceiving this conflict between the law and the articles of incorporation and regulations of the LJC, the LJC board voted back on April 19, 2017, to delegate one representative each from every association member of the LJC, in order to insure the legality, legitimacy and transparency of upcoming elections.

In line with the court’s finding of November 22, the next general conference of the LJC will have on their agenda the question of adopting the necessary amendments to the articles of incorporation and regulations.

Relations between Israel and Lithuania Important to Jewish Community and Foreign Ministry

Lithuanian public television’s Sunday news program featured successful efforts by Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius to get EU foreign ministers at the same table with Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The overture for the first informal meeting with an Israeli PM in 22 years came before US president Donald Trump’s controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Linkevičius said he was motivated by the need for face-to-face contact between the parties, even if they do not agree on all the issues. President Trump’s decision made the meeting more urgent in the search for ways to control increased tensions. After the meeting Linkevičius presented Netanyahu a replica of the statue of a small girl the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation commissioned from sculptor Romas Kvintas and erected in central Šeduva to commemorate the former Jewish shtetl there.

The television program also featured an interview with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. An excerpt translated to English follows.

“We are very glad our foreign minister invited Mr. Netanyahu. We are very glad a Lithuanian representative has become the leading mediator between the Israeli prime minister and the European Union. Relations between Lithuania and Israel are very important to us. This is quite natural. Lithuania is our homeland but Israel is our historical homeland. It should be said that since Lithuanian independence relations between Lithuania and Israel have never been better than they are now. …”

Greetings, Thank-You Note and Mittens from Righteous Gentiles Elvyra and Regina in Biržai

The Lithuanian Jewish Community received the following wonderful holiday greetings, thank-you note and accompanying mittens:

We sincerely congratulate you on the upcoming holidays. May the purity of snow fill your days. Let success and strength follow you all of your days. We wish you strength and determination. Our sincerest thanks for your sympathy and understanding.

Elvyra Čyžauskienė and Regina Kežienė

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah, Menorah on Town Square

The last Hanukkah light was lit at the large public menorah display on Kaunas’s town square, ending the eight-day holiday. Hanukkah wasn’t just a home celebration this year for many Kaunas Jews, who met, partied, danced, took part in friendly competitions, listened to great Jewish music and ate their fill of latkes and doughnuts at a number of locations, from Kaunas Town Hall to music clubs and even outdoor tents. Rafailas Karpis and Darius Mažintas gave moving performances at different venues this year and for the first time an ensemble of Kaunas and Riga residents with vocalist Ania Judelson in front performed in Kaunas as well. Ania Judelson is someone to watch, her talent promises great things.

The celebrations this year also included lots of friends of the Jewish community, from well-known public figures and politicians to average citizens. The holiday has ended, but the memory of its warmth and light will carry us through the dark months ahead.

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin on Quantum Physics, Restitution and the Lithuanian Jewish Community


lzb.lt

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin is an honored member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the former chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community. He also holds a doctorate in physics and mathematics, is the recipient of the Republic Prize, has received awards as a Lithuanian teacher and is a member of the Israeli and New York Academy of Sciences. He is now 92 years old. Most of his life has been centered around Vilnius University. Aspirantura, doctorantura followed by successful defense of his work, earning him a doctorate in quantum physics. He has published more than 250 and “raised” more than 20 doctors of the sciences. He has two children he raised together with his wife. He is highly respected by his friends, colleagues and the Lithuanian scientific community in general.

We spoke with Dr. Bolotin about the Jewish community and Jewish life.

“Very soon my book translated to English should appear in America. I have written a textbook for students on how to solve problems in quantum mechanics, not just about theory, but how to do this practically, with examples. I imposed upon one of my former students who now lives in the USA to translate it. The translation was sent to a publisher I was not familiar with and we received the immediate reply: ‘Great, we will publish it within one year, if you want to change anything.’ The book ‘Solution of Certain Problems in Quantum Mechanics’ by Adolf Bolotin should hit the shelves very soon.

“The publisher paid me, I didn’t pay them to publish it. They came up with the agreement and paid me under very good conditions.

“My wife and I lived together 71 years until her death. I am a widower; my daughter lives with me. I don’t lack anything, I am well taken care of, I get a good pension and I can’t complain about anything. Now I feel it has become difficult to fix the car, even though I have good hands, and I like to work on things because I graduated from university as an experimental physicist and then transferred to theoretical physics later.”

Hanukkah at the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium in Panevėžys

For more than 10 years now the Panevėžys Jewish Community has been doing educational work and participating at events held by the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium’s Tolerance Center under director Genutė Žilytė.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman together with Žilytė, who is also an historian, told pupils the story of the Jewish struggle against the Greeks of Syria and the main points in that history. Steady work in education has borne good fruit in pupils’ understanding of Jewish history. The students asked many questions of all sorts, including for an explanation of the Lithuanian Jewish athletics club Makabi, and wondering what other Jewish organizations which existed before the war used the same name.

Students in the upper grades and their teachers made latkes for everyone. At the close of the event Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium principal Aida Adiklienė thanked everyone who participated, students, teachers and others, for their tolerance towards Jews.

Israeli Delegation Visits Panevėžys

Delegacijos iš Izraelio viešnagė Panevėžyje

On the sixth day of Hanukkah guests from Netivot, Israel, visited the Panevėžys Jewis Community and lit Hanukkah candles with Rabbi Pinchas Koen. The group of about 20 prayed together and sang Hanukkah songs.

They also learned about Panevėžys Jewish life with a special focus on religious activities by the city’s rabbis, including Grozbuh, Kagan, Kahaneman, Mihel and Brener, who have all left behind a strong legacy in Lithuania.

The guests toured the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s new religious activities room scheduled to open very soon. The topic of Torah scrolls came up, and Community representatives had to admit they still don’t have their own.

Rabbi Koen signed the guest book and expressed gratitude for the warm reception they received and to Viljamas Židkauskas who escorted them. He expressed joy as well that one of the oldest Jewish communities in Lithuania is still in existence under the steady leadership of chairman Gennady Kofman. All other guests signed the guest book as well.

Hanukkah Greetings from LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

As I celebrate Hanukkah every year with my grandchildren, I remember the Hanukkah of my childhood with my grandmother. The holiday wasn’t as fun then as it is now and we didn’t get treats. My grandmother, hiding in the kitchen where there were no windows, lit the candles and prayed. We didn’t have a menorah, it was lost with all the family heirlooms during the Holocaust. She prayed, but her prayer wasn’t happy or celebratory, because she was always thinking about her son, and she always thought someone was coming, and she used to warn me: “hide, the children’s aktion is coming.” There weren’t fun times after the war. My grandmother was probably not the only one who remembered not just the Temple in Jerusalem, but also her murdered children.

Now we have better celebrations, we live better, so let’s learn to be happy and as we celebrate, let’s remember what miracle Hanukkah signifies for us all. I wish every member of the Jewish community more light, more understanding and warm and happy feelings. May the Hanukkah flame spread goodness in your home and provide the children waiting for their Hanukkah gelt happy moments, and the adults and everyone who sits at the family table to try the tasty Jewish latkes.

Happy Hanukkah, dear members of the Jewish community!

Panevėžys Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah

For the first time children were allowed to light the candles of the menorah at the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s Hanukkah celebration.

Chairman Gennady Kofman welcomed celebrants and read out Hanukkah greetings sent to the Community from around the world, as well as from Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Then the attendees listened to greetings from Israeli president Reuven Rivlin to all Jews around the world.

Before lighting the candles everyone listened to the traditional prayers and blessings for the Hanukkah miracle. The story of Hanukkah was recalled for guests, the victory of the Jews over the Greek and Syrian conquerors and the liberation of the Temple of Jerusalem.

The most memorable moment was when the youngest members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community lit the Hanukkah candles with their parents for the first time at the Community.

Toasts, gifts and latkes were shared around the holiday table to the strains of Jewish music.

Raoul Wallenberg Exhibit in Kaunas

Sugihara House in Kaunas is hosting an exhibit by the Swedish Institute called “I Didn’t Have Another Choice” dedicated to architect, businessman, Swedish diplomat and rescuer of Jews Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg distributed Swedish passports to Jews in Budapest in 1944. He is credited with saving more Jews from the Holocaust than anyone else, approximately 20,000 Hungarian Jews out of the 120,000 Hungarian Jews who survived. Wallenberg was arrested and disappeared without a trace in the Soviet Union on January 17, 1945.

Photos by Raimundas Kaminskas.

Hanukkah Menorah Lit for First Time Ever at Lithuanian Presidential Palace

The candle marking the sixth day of Hanukkah was lit for the first time ever Sunday in the Hall of Columns of the Lithuanian Presidential Palace in Vilnius. Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, Choral Synagogue Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, Lithuanian Bishops Conference chairman archbishop Gintaras Grušas, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, chairmen of the regional Jewish communities, ministers and politicians attended.

The Hanukkah story was told at the event and tenor Rafailas Karpis and pianist Darius Mažintas delivered a performance of Yiddish song. Composer Anatolijus Šenderovas’s work “From a Forgotten Book…” was also performed.

The Israeli embassy to Lithuania organized the event.

Hanukkah Menorah Lit at Kaunas Town Hall

A Hanukkah menorah was lit for the first time at Kaunas Town Hall. Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas lit the candles and Kaunas Hassidic Synagogue chairman Iser Shreiberg said a prayer. With invitations sent out by the Israeli embassy, the Kaunas Jewish Community and the Kaunas municipality, a large number turned out for the event, including young people and honored guests. Members of the city government, Catholic Church representatives and people who care about the Litvak legacy also came. deputy chief of mission for the Israeli embassy to Lithuania Efrat Hochstetler welcomed the guests. Tenor Rafailas Karpis and pianist Darius Mažintas delivered a concert of Yiddish song. Guests were treated to traditional doughnuts, called suvganiyot in Israel. The Israeli embassy in mirth said doughnuts baked in Lithuania should be called spurganiyot, based on the Lithuanian word for doughnut, spurga, with the Hebrew feminine plural suffix added.

Historian Vygantas Vareikis: Lithuanian Anti-Semitism Is Not an Ideology

by Izabelė Švaraitė
manoteisės.lt

We should start by saying the headline doesn’t mean at all that there aren’t people in Lithuania who dislike Jews. There are abundant examples of hate in the past and the present, but as Klaipėda University historian professor Vygantas Vareikis says, anti-Semitic sentiments in the country formed under the influence of religion and neighboring states, ignorance or simply economic considerations. Unlike German, Austria or Poland, they were never consciously constructed into a political doctrine.

Professor Vareikis, who studies Jewish-Lithuanian relations, said religious animosity, or anti-Judaism, began to spread in Lithuania with the intensification of the ideology of the Catholic Church among the nobility. Vilnius University’s first rector Jesuit Petras Skarga wrote about Jews in terms of the theses used by St. Paul. that they were allegedly a nation which did not recognize the Christ and had murdered their prophets. But according to the way of thinking back then, Jews could return to the true faith by accepting Christianity. They weren’t the main target of the Catholics. “Conversion was always acceptable, and at one time, under the law of the Polish-Lithuanian state, a Jew who converted to Christianity could even acquire the status of nobleman,” the professor said. The public held a different view, there were widespread beliefs the Jews were trying to con Christians.

Full story in Lithuanian here.