News

Back to Shul Exhibit at Zavl Shul

Richard “Sco” Shofield presented a photography installation at the Zavl Shul at Gėlių street no. 6 in Vilnius September 2.

The exhibit was part of European Days of Jewish Culture which began last Sunday.

Schofield is a photographer and director of the non-profit International Centre for Litvak Photography which he founded. He studied photo-journalism and documentary photography at the University of the Arts in London.

The Zavl and Levinson Shul is still undergoing renovation but the catwalks and platforms were successfully used to hang the works. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky opened the exhibit and Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yatom sang.

Statement Regarding False Information in the Media on Protection of Jewish Cemeteries and Mass Murder Sites

The Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) is disappointed to report that the text “On the Old Jewish Cemetery Located at Žalgirio street no. 3 in Šiauliai” containing false information was posted on social media and sent to official representatives of the Lithuanian state on August 29, 2018. The text was signed by representatives of the Šiauliai District Jewish Community, the Panevėžys Jewish Support Association, the Kaunas Jewish Religious Community, the Klaipėda Jewish Community, the Ukmergė Regional Jewish Community, the Klaipėda Jewish-Judaic Religious Community and the Vilnius Jewish Community.

The text, among other things, claims a court has found the LJC leadership to be illegitimate. The LJC notes there is no court decision which found the LJC leadership was elected illegitimately. The intentional propagation of this text with false information harms the LJC’s reputation, insults the Jewish people and possibly violates article 154 of the criminal code of Lithuania, and the LJC reserves the right to defend its interests in the manner prescribed by law.

The text also takes a position on the protection of Jewish heritage. In reply, the LJC notes that over many years of consistent cooperation with the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (hereinafter Committee) official positions and assessments have been provided on issues surround the protection and maintenance of Jewish cemeteries and mass murder sites. The cooperation which has come about is founded on the high competence, expertise and experience of the Committee and is beneficial in the attempt to insure the protection of Jewish heritage and to insure that all conservation work would meet the requirements of Jewish law. The state and municipal institutions engaged in protection of Jewish heritage sites also need the expertise and judgment which the Committee provides.

European Days of Jewish Culture 2018

Everyone who’s interested is invited to attend European Days of Jewish Culture. For several years now European Days of Jewish Culture are held beginning on the first Sunday in September. The theme for the next year is chosen as soon as the Days have concluded so that organizers have time to prepare. This year the theme is “Jewish Stories” allowing for broad interpretation and broad public education on Jewish heritage with a special emphasis on true stories, jokes and visual work.

The story-telling tradition remains current in the Jewish collective memory. Stories come from the Torah, and there is a rich oral tradition from the shtetlakh. Stories is an inclusive theme which offers a number of opportunities. All European Days of Jewish Culture coordinators are free to choose and propose their own topics and organize this interesting event. This is what the Lithuanian Jewish Community is offering this year:

September 2

2:00 P.M. Richard “Sco” Schofield’s installation “Back to Shul” at the Zavel and Levinson synagogue, Gėlių street no. 6, Vilnius

September 6, LJC

3:00-5:00 P.M. The Bagel Shop Café invites you to come learn how to make challa. Registration: goo.gl/bstFEC

6:00 P.M. Presentation of the 5779 LJC calendar

September 7

4:00-5:30 P.M. Concert by Vitalijus Neugasimovas, Gėlių street no. 6, Vilnius

September 9, Leipalingis, Lithuania

11:00 A.M.-2:00 P.M. The Bagel Shop Café presents Jewish dishes on the eve of the Great Autumn Holidays, Leipalingis manor square, Leipalingis, Lithuania

Sabbath at the LJC with Actor Marius Repšys (Cohen)

What does cohen mean? That was the question for some who came to celebrate Sabbath at the LJC with famous Lithuanian actor Marius Repšys, who turned 34 on September 1. Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas moderated the event.

“I wanted to get back my father’s surname, Cohen, which was changed when I was a child, but when I went to the Justice Ministry, I found out I can’t do that, because it’s difficult to prove following my father’s death in Israel,” Repšys told the audience. Marius’s father was Jewish and his mother is mixed Tartar and Russian. When he was 8 his mother decided it would be better for him to change his surname, to be a Lithuanian rather than a Jew, because, she said, “everyone attacks Russians and Jews.” She had divorced his father when Marius was 4. He only learned his father was Jewish when he was 7.

Twenty years later he visited his father in Israel on his father’s birthday and brought as a gift an album of photographs of him in his childhood. “My father was moved and cried, but the next day there was an ashtray on top of the photo album,” Marius recalled. He went to Israel the second time for his father’s funeral.

Renaldas Vaisbrodas recalled it was fairly common to switch ethnicity in Soviet times, and parents did this to protect their children from bullying.

Q&A on Ceremony for Writing of New Torah

What you should know about the ceremony at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius for writing a new Torah to be held Tuesday, September 4, at 6:30 P.M.

1. What are we celebrating?

The unique beginning of writing a new Torah for the first time since World War II. A sofer with special calligraphy skills will write the new Torah on parchment with a special quill and special ink. It will take about a year.

2. Who may participate in the ceremony?

All Jews, men, women and children.

3. How do I participate?

Come to the synagogue at 6:30 P.M. Tuesday.

4. How much does it cost to participate?

It’s free.

5. How does the ceremony work?

Each person individually or with their family may join the sofer and write a letter on the new Torah scroll. The sofer will also write your name on a piece of parchment which you may take home as a keepsake.

6. Where will the new Torah go when it’s written?

It will be used at the Choral Synagogue.

Pope Francis to Honor Holocaust Victims in Vilnius

According to the Lithuanian Government’s planning committee for the visit of Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church will honor Holocaust victims in the Vilnius ghetto after returning from Kaunas on September 23.

On September 23, 1943, the final destruction of the ghetto took place. In Lithuania September 23 is marked as the Day of Genocide of the Jews of Lithuania.

Congratulations to Members and Children on First Day of School

Dear parents, teachers and children,

You have grown strong, relaxed and have begun to miss your friends over the sunny summer vacation, and now with renewed energy you embark with your teachers on a trip to the mysterious land of learning. We wish you the joy of learning new things, much friendship with your classmates and success in your studies. Mazl tov!

Sugihara Week in Kaunas to Include Japanese Culture Component

Sugihara Week celebrations and events will take place in Kaunas from September 3 to 9 this year and will include concerts, a symposium, film screenings, lectures, creative workshops and other events. Visitors will learn more about Japanese culture and friendship between Lithuania and Japan.

The program begins Monday, September 3, with a concert called “Improvisational Music” performed by Japanese and Lithuanian musicians at the Kaunas State Philharmonic.

On September 5 an international symposium called “Diplomats Who Saved Jewish Lives” will be held in the Small Hall at Vytautas Magnus University with speakers from Israel, the USA, Japan, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

More information in Lithuanian here.

Please Help

Dear Community members,

Today we ask for your help for a single mother raising four children, a client of the LJC Social Programs Department.

The family needs a computer for the children to do schoolwork. They also have no television and go to the neighbors’ to watch news. They have washing machine which they have taken good care of, but it is already 13 years old. The mother is worried it will break down any moment and she doesn’t know where to wash her children’s clothes and bedding if it does.

The family lives in an old house which lacks utilities and infrastructure.

If you or someone you know can help this family by donating a used or new computer, television or washing machine, please contact Rashele, program coordinator for the Family Support Program of the LJC’s Social Programs Department, by telephone at 8 652 13 146 or by email at asheles@sc.lzb.lt

We are extraordinarily grateful for your active support. No good work goes unnoticed!

First New Litvak Scouting Camp, Sabbath in the Forest

The first new Litvak scouting camping trip with children from Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Panevėžys and Molėtai took place over the weekend. Litvak scouting has a long tradition in Lithuania until the Holocaust and there were thousands of scouts. Jewish scouting stopped after the Holocaust, making the revival, Sabbath in the Forest, an important milestone. The goal of the renewed organization is to include religious Jewish children, secular Jewish children and non-Jewish children in Jewish scouting activities. The main concern is to make sure minimal standards are adhered to to allow religious Jewish children to attend the camping trips. The camping trips place special emphasis on Jewish religious traditions and prayer, serve kosher food and observe all the requirements of the Sabbath.

Many of the children experienced the great outdoors for the very first time, setting up tents and sleeping in them, setting up wooden picnic tables, cooking bread on the fire and challa in an outdoor oven and going on an evening hike.

Fania Brancovskaja, a member of the Bin scouting organization in Vilnius, ushered out the Sabbath last Saturday. The scouts called her “Sister Fania” as she shared her experience in scouting and stories about the scouts in pre-World War II Lithuania. Fania was presented a Lithuanian scouting necktie.

World Jewish Congress Mourns Death of US Senator John McCain

NEW YORK–The World Jewish Congress mourns the death of Senator John McCain, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 81. WJC president Ronald S. Lauder said:

“I want to pay tribute to my friend Senator John McCain, a towering figure of American and international politics, who dedicated his life to serving his country, both as a heroic soldier and, of course, as a prolific senator.

“Throughout his career, John McCain worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people, sticking by his principles for a better country and a better world. He was also a reliable friend of the State of Israel and a great supporter of the Jewish people.

“John McCain was a unique and inspirational leader, the likes of whom we are unlikely to see again. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

www.worldjewishcongress.org

Lithuanian PM: I Believe We Have Learned Lessons of History

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu took part in a commemoration of Holocaust victims and an awards ceremony for Righteous Gentiles at the Ponar Memorial Complex.

“This is the place where pain, endless sorrow and helplessness permeate our thoughts and feelings. This is the place of perpetual silence and a lost future. Looking in each others’ eyes, we witness the tragedy and bow our heads before the people of Lithuania who became victims of the Holocaust, victims of occupying totalitarian regimes and an aggression against humanity of unprecedented scope,” the Lithuanian prime minister said.

The Lithuanian PM said the Holocaust is among the most painful and horrible tragedies in the history of Lithuania. Here a large part of Lithuania, including its citizens, was destroyed; people were deprived of the opportunity to say their last good-bye to their close relatives. Thus, with the victims of Ponar in our minds, we commit ourselves to those who died and were martyred here. We pledge to do everything that needs to be done to avoid this ever being repeated in the future and to prevent any threat to humanity and the right to life.

Binyamin Netanyahu Visits Lithuanian Jewish Community at Choral Synagogue

A long queue of Lithuanian Jews and friends of Israel eager to hear Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu crowded the sidewalk outside the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Sunday. Scheduled to start at 11:00 A.M., Netanyahu arrived about an hour and a half late, which only seemed to increase the audience’s anticipation, with applause when he and his wife entered. The main hall and the balcony were full to capacity as Israeli and Lithuanian security scanned the crowd during the first visit ever by an Israeli prime minister to Lithuania.

Netanyahu appeared very natural at the podium, thanked everyone for coming and singled out Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius, MP Emanuelis Zingeris, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon and his wife and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky for special recognition.

In his brief address Netanyahu said he was a Litvak on both sides of his family, that he was returning to Lithuania as the prime minister of a powerful and innovative state and that he took two lessons from the Holocaust: that brutality and extremism need to be stopped as soon as they appear, and that Jews need to be able to defend themselves. He said the state of Israel was that defense. He also said Israel has many friends in the world, none greater than the United States, but that Israel has many more friends than people know, including in the Arab world. He mourned the passing of US Republican senator John McCain of Arizona. Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas introduced the prime minister and provided an accurate synchronous translation of his words in Lithuanian.

Rafaelas Karpis performed the Partisan Hymn in Yiddish and several other songs, after which Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yaatov sang a biblical passage about the loss of Israel. Rabbi Ber Krinsky thanked the prime minister for coming and expressed special support for Israel, for the prime minister and for his family. The event ended with the Israeli national anthem.

Israeli PM at Ponar


VILNIUS, August 24, BNS–Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Ponar Friday, part of Vilnius where over 100,000 people, mostly Jews, were killed during World War II.

After laying a wreath at the Ponar memorial, Netanyahu said that his grandfather had been severely beaten near what he called “a forest of death.”

The Israeli prime minister said that he had learned two lessons from the Holocaust.

“First, we must fight barbarism or it will burn all of us. The second for us, Jews, is that we must never be defenseless again,” Netanyahu said.

“I want to say to my grandfather today: saba, I am back here today and this is a forest of death. As the prime minister of Israel. We will never be defenseless again,” he said.

“We have a state, we have an army and we are capable of defending ourselves by ourselves”.

Netanyahu’s grandmother Sarah Mileikowsky, née Lurie, was born in Šeduva, a town in Lithuania, and his grandfather Nathan Mileikowsky was born in Kreva in what is now Belarus.

Lithuania Supports International Effort to Secure Peace in Middle East

Friday, August 24, Vilnius–President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on a visit to Lithuania. Relations between Israel and the European Union, Middle East peace process, global enhancement of peace and stability and the situation in Syria and Iran were discussed at the meeting.

The president underscored that Lithuania was interested in strengthening close political and economic relations with Israel, one of the most innovative and progressive state in the world. Lithuania is a firm supporter of dialogue between Israel and the European Union and welcomes the decision to reconvene the EU-Israel Association Council.

Unfortunately, the international community regards certain issues pertaining to relations with Israel controversial. Lithuania consistently upholds the position of the UN and the EU that peace in the Middle East can be assured only by way of negotiations when a decision based on coexistence of the two states is reached. The status of Jerusalem is an integral part of such two-state solution package.

Full story here.

Israeli PM Asks for Baltic Support to Step Up EU Pressure on Iran


Photo: Julius Kalinskas/15min.lt

VILNIUS, August 24, BNS – Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday asked for the Baltic countries’ support in increasing EU pressure on Iran.

Speaking after a meeting with the three Baltic prime ministers in Vilnius, Netanyahu strongly criticized the European Commission’s decision announced Thursday to provide 18 million euros to Iran.

“I think that the decision yesterday by the EU to give 18 million euros to Iran is a big mistake. It’s like a poison pill,” he said.

Netanyahu: I Would Like to Balance EU’s Unfriendly Stance on Israel


Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sarah depart Ben-Gurion Airport for Lithuania, August 23, 2018. (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)

During his stay, Netanyahu will participate in a memorial ceremony for Jewish Holocaust victims, an award ceremony for the Righteous Among the Nations, among others.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is flying Thursday to Lithuania for a three-day trip to hold bilateral diplomatic meetings with the heads of the Baltic states, who will also be arriving in the European country.

“I would also like to balance the EU’s unfriendly stance towards the State of Israel in order to achieve a more fair and genuine relationship with the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said before he boarded the plane. “I have achieved this through cooperating with groups of countries within the EU, Eastern Europe and now with the Baltic countries and of course, with other countries,” he added.

During his stay Netanyahu will participate in a memorial ceremony for Jewish Holocaust victims, an award ceremony for the Righteous among the Nations and additional events.

He will return to Israel on Sunday.

Israeli PM Netanyahu to Arrive in Lithuania


VILNIUS, August 23, BNS–Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is arriving in Lithuania for an historic visit Thursday.

Netanyahu’s four-day visit is aimed at securing greater support from the Baltic countries for pressure on Iran and paying tribute to the Jewish heritage in Lithuania.

Lithuania would like Israel to take a tougher stance toward Russia.

“We need to better understand each other’s security policy challenges, because security is indivisible, and problems in one region can move to other regions, too,” Government vice-chancellor Deividas Matulionis told BNS.

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet for talks Thursday evening before being joined by Latvian and Estonian counterparts Friday. Netanyahu is also to meet Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite Friday.

Endowment Fund of the Good Will Foundation

By a decision of the Board of Directors of the Good Will Foundation, funds that have been set aside from the annual payments by the Government to the GWF will now be invested as allowed under the law and according to the recommendations of the Good Will Investment Committee. The Investment Committee (Daiva Gerulytė, Harold Paisner, Krzysztof A. Rozen and Rokas Grajauskas) has proposed equally dividing these funds (now approximately 9 million Euro) between passive, long-term investments and an active investment portfolio managed by a reputable financial advisor. The goal of this Endowment Fund is to provide for the continued support of Lithuanian Jewish communal life once the annual payments have ceased. The Investment Committee will continue to monitor the progress of this investment strategy and recommend changes when and if necessary.

Israeli PM Netanyahu to Make Historic Visit to Lithuania This Week

VILNIUS, Aug 20, BNS–Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to pay a visit to Lithuania this week, Lithuanian Government officials confirmed to BNS on Monday.

Netanyahu, who is to arrive in Lithuania for the first visit by an Israeli prime minister on Thursday, is scheduled to meet with his Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian counterparts, as well as with Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė and the local Jewish community.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on the eve of the visit that Israel is a strategic Middle East partner of Lithuania.