Sabbath Celebration

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to a Sabbath celebration with Righteous Gentile Ona Landsbergienė’s great-grandson Gabrielius Landsbergis. LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas will moderate.

The Sabbath ceremony will be held on the second floor of the LJC at 6:30 P.M. on Friday, March 23. The number of seats is limited and registration is required. Call 8 678 81514

A Year of the Jews without Jews?

Position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community
March 13, 2018

Today the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania is scheduled to consider announcing 2019 the Year of the Jews. What the Lithuanian Jewish Community thinks about this is apparently of interest only to members of the media, not the initiators of the Year of the Jews measure.

The writers of the measure have not consulted with the LJC, the largest Jewish organization in Lithuania, at any stage of their initiative, which compels us to question the contents of the proposed resolution and its sincerity. The laconic legislation contains nothing that doesn’t happen every other year, except for, one supposes, allocation of funding for a special commission or commissions. We hope if the measure is adopted it won’t turn into the formation of yet another commission which takes students on Holocaust “excursions” through mass graves during Sabbath.

With no prospect of learning the plans and intentions of the authors of the idea first-hand, this strange initiative looks like some sort of atavism of former times, as when Thursdays were fish day. On other days the people were not provided fish, but on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Lithuania, is the issue of Jews really so uncomfortable and uninteresting? A whole slew of important dates for Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jewish Community are yet to come this year, including the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Community; the 100th anniversary of the unification of Lithuanian Zionists, who supported Lithuanian statehood; the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto and the 115th anniversary of the founding of what is now Vilnius’s only working synagogue. We therefore call upon the authors of this Year of the Jews to begin that year this year, to celebrate 100th anniversary of the modern Lithuanian state together with the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community esteems the progress of the state in solving issues topical for all of us, but political games using the Jews but not including the Jewish community are not an appropriate way to insure effective dialogue between ethnic Lithuanians and Jews.

Lithuanian Jewish Community

Pylimo g. 4
LT-01117 Vilnius
T:+370 5 261 3003

Passover, the Holiday of Liberation and Freedom

Passover Seder by Malcah Zeldis, © 2018

Natalja Cheifec invites you to attend her lecture on Passover in Russian at 6:00 P.M. on March 14 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Short synopsis:

-How the Jews were enslaved in Egypt
-How the Egyptians oppressed the Jews
-Moses, the leader of the Jewish people
-Why the Jews needed liberating
-How G_d punished the Egyptians, the 10 plagues
-Preparing for the Passover holiday: why yeast is avoided
-Celebrating Passover:

*four cups of wine
*required elements of the Passover table
*why leavened foods are not eaten or drunk on Passover

To register, see

Passover Seder at Choral Synagogue

Everyone who wants to experience and learn the true spirit of this holiday is invited to come celebrate Passover at 7:30 P.M. on March 30. The seder will include a large selection of kosher Italian and French wines. One ticket costs 15 euros if you buy it before March 25, 20 euros after that and there’s a family package for 40 euros (for parents and children). Preschool-age children admitted without tickets. Tickets are available at the synagogue from 9:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. every day except on Sabbath, and at the LJC from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on workdays from Liuba on the second floor.

Pakruojis Wooden Synagogue Featured on Lithuanian Public TV Culture Channel

“Lithuania is slowly restoring the country’s rich legacy of synagogues. Synagogues are still standing in towns, the former shtetlakh, where not a single Jew has remained. Braver and cleverer mayors and communities, encouraged by the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and the Lithuanian Jewish Community, have begun restoring what has now become the priceless Jewish legacy, wiped out by the Holocaust. The synagogues are coming back and are being used for the cultural needs of the towns.

“Lithuanian public television channel Kultūra is producing a series called Reflections devoted to heritage. On this page you will find and be able to watch a film about restored synagogues. At the beginning you will see the oldest surviving wooden synagogue in Lithuania, restored in 2017. The synagogue operated as such until World War II, when the Holocaust exterminated the Pakruojis Jewish community. The regional administration of Pakruojis has renovated the Pakruojis Jewish synagogue and adapted it for public use. The project was financed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The restorers did great work and the interior is dominated by characteristically Jewish elements of decor and Jewish ethnic symbols, and the painting is filled with floral and faunal motifs. The former aron kodesh of this synagogue is especially decorative and impressive.

“After the Pakruojis synagogue, you will also see restored synagogues of Kaunas and Joniškis in the film”

Video program in Lithuanian here.

Purim Celebration and Concert in Panevėžys

The Israeli embassy sponsored a free concert to celebrate Purim in Panevėžys.

Mayor Rytis Račkauskas spoke before the concert and said: “As Lithuania celebrates one hundred years since the restoration of statehood, Israel is also marking its own celebration of 70 years. But we are connected by more than shared celebrations. I am impressed by our beautiful cooperation and warm communication with the embassy. Soon Panevėžys will experience an Israeli film festival, and today I am pleased to welcome you to this concert which is also a gift from the Israeli embassy and ambassador Amir Maimon. I’d like to use this occasion to thank the ambassador for this cooperation and bringing our cultures together.”

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon thanked those who attended to listen to the performers Iris and Ofer Prtugaly from Israel. After the concert Maimon, Račkauskas and the musicians attended a Purim celebration with the Panevėžys Jewish Community.

Ambassador Maimon said the Israeli embassy is planning to hold a cinematic event called “Israeli Cinema in Your City” in Panevėžys in May.

Purim Carnival for Kids

Dear parents,

Kids aged 4 to 13 are invited to attend a Purim carnival at the Lithuanian Jewish Community at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, March 4. Kids should come in costume and there will be a program of events, gifts and traditional Purim treats. For more information email or call +37067257540

Se you there!

Purim at Choral Synagogue 2018

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Religious Jewish Community hosted a Purim spectacular at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius February 28 including a reading of the Book of Esther accompanied by audio-visual aids in English and a concert.

The cold snap enveloping Eastern Europe precluded a large number of children turning out, but those who did had adorable costumes, including a small bear, a policeman, at least one doctor, a king with golden crown and perhaps the most contemporary costume, a slightly older child wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and seemingly dressed in full-body ninja attire. Some adult women also dressed up, including synagogue regular Ruth Bloestein with wig, hat and ultra-rosy cheeks sitting in the women’s gallery.

Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky began the event slightly after the starting time of 6:30 and presented a number of gift baskets to leaders in the Community including Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. He also greeted Litvak guests visiting from Israel in the women’s gallery. He followed with an animated reading of the Book of Esther during which he exchanged hats with children in the wings, first adopting an undersized top hat and then exchanging it for a London bobby’s helmet about three sizes too small for him. While he read from the scroll, a projection television system played a series of comic panels from the story of Esther in English.

Purim at the Choral Synagogue

Beginning at 6:30 P.M. on February 28 the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius will host a Purim celebration, including a reading of Megilat Ester, the Purim story, followed by a performance of classic Jewish and new Israeli songs by vocalist Yevgeni Valevich. A special program for children includes a magic show, clowns and lots of prizes. There will also be a contest for best Purim costume, and of course Purim treats for young and old.

Tickets are 5 euros (to be given to charity and can be bought starting February 19 either at the synagogue at Pylimo street no. 39 in Vilnius or from Liuba at the Lithuanian Jewish Community at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius.

See you there!

The Return of Samuel Bak

by Markas Petuchauskas

Now that some time has passed since the opening of the Samuel Bak museum, I would like to look back. To remember how this world-famous painter’s return to Lithuania began. To remember what I experienced. And these experiences date back to 1943.

Bak was probably never more open about himself than in the introduction to the Lithuanian translation of his book Painted in Words. He tells how Vilnius “tortured” him, how he sought to forget the city and was never able to do so. For more than half a century the artist placed a taboo on thoughts of Vilnius. On the city of his happy childhood and the land drenched in the blood of his family, where he would never set foot again.

I dare say one of the first unexpected reminders of Vilnius after sixty years was Pinkas. It is very nice that Bak was reminded of Pinkas in 1997 in the Lithuanian magazine Krantai (not speaking the language, the artist believed incorrectly this was a publication from the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture). The special third issue of the magazine, this was a publication by the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Club which I founded in 1994. The magazine was set up at my initiative using club funds, and was intended to commemorate the Vilnius ghetto theater during International Art Days. Lithuanian National Museum employee Simona Likšienė wrote about the pinkas conserved at the museum in the magazine and included the title page.

Classes Begin January 14 at Choral Synagogue

A series of six lessons kicks off at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius beginning 4:30 P.M., Sunday, January 14, 2018. The six lessons will take place on consequetive Sundays at the same time and place. This is an opportunity to learn about the unique nature of Judaism. Discussions will be led by Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky in a language or languages appropriate to the audience. Both women and men are encouraged to attend. See you there!

Lithuania We Built Together, an Exhibit on Lithuanian Minority Communities

The Lithuanian House of Ethnic Minorities presented a new exhibit February 15 called “We Built Lithuania Together,” an overview of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities living in Lithuania, their history and famous figures from these communities.

The exhibit is the creation of students and teachers from the History Faculty of Vilnius University, the Lithuanian State Archive, the Vrublevskiai Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, with help from other museums, archives and libraries throughout Lithuania.

Following the launch, exhibit organizers planned to present it all over Lithuania at libraries, schools and exhibition spaces. The exhibit is in Lithuanian and English.

Netanyahu Congratulates Lithuania on 100th Birthday

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a letter to Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, a greeting from him and the people of Israel congratulating Lithuania on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first Lithuanian Republic.

Netanyahu wished the people of Lithuania a memorable and happy holiday. He noted the close historical connections between the people of Lithuania and Israel and the importance of the Lithuanian Jewish community to the entire Jewish people and their religious and intellectual development. The Jewish people who lived in Lithuania earned great respect and included famous philosophers, writers and scholars.

The Israeli PM also noted the current Lithuanian Jewish community and Israeli citizens from Lithuania celebrate a spirit of solidarity and close cultural contacts between the two peoples. Netanyahu noted Israel appreciates highly Lithuania’s promises regarding Holocaust education and in fighting anti-Semitism. He called Lithuania one of Israel’s closest partners in Europe at the present time, and said Lithuania had contributed significantly to fostering constructive dialogue between Israel and the European Union.

Lithuania’s 100th Independence Day was also observed by the municipality of Tel Aviv where the municipal building was lit in the colors of the Lithuanian flag.

Jokūbas Vygodskis: Lithuanian Jewish Affairs Minister, Lithuanian Taryba Member, Polish Sejm Deputy, Vilnius Jewish Community Chairman, Good Man

Jokūbas Vygodskis (Jakub Wygodzki in Polish, Yankev Vigodski in Yiddish) was born in Bobruisk now in Belarus in 1855 and his family moved to Vilnius in 1860, where he received a traditional Jewish education. He completed high school in Marijampolė and attended medical school at the University of Saint Petersburg, additional studies in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, after which he returned to Vilnius with the city’s centuries-old Jewish community.

Vilnius always had sufficiently capable people who knew how to organize the life of the Jewish community according to ethical standards, providing a helping hand to the poor and weak. Vygodskis organized the Society of Jewish Physicians in Vilnius besides practicing medicine as a gynecologist, pediatrician and medical researcher, as well as writing; initially he published medical articles in Russian and German journals, but later contributed to the Yiddish and Hebrew popular press and wrote at least three books of memoirs in Yiddish.

In September of 1917 the Lithuanian Taryba (national council) was elected in Vilnius with the goal of establishing an independent state. Wygodzki was appointed minister for Jewish affairs. In 1918 he joined the World Zionist Federation and is called a general liberal Zionist in the literature available on him.

Lithuanian Limmud 2018


Lithuanian Limmud 2018 kicked of Friday at the Grand Resort Hotel in Vilnius. The educational Judaism conference again invited all Jewish Community members to spend three days together, to feel what we have in common, to talk and to celebrate Sabbath together.

“Forever Yours, Anne Frank” Farewell Performance

For over 10 years Panevėžys theater director Valerijus Jevsejevas has been putting on an Anne Frank drama based on the diary on stages around Lithuania.

On February 4 there the play “Forever Yours, Anne Frank” gave its farewell performance at the Juozas Miltinis Drama Theater in Panevėžys, attended by members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community. Tenor Rafailas Karpis performed a concert concluding with kaddish.

Seminar Series Continues

Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky’s series of seminars continues this Sunday at 5:30 P.M. at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Admission is free and open to everyone. Call +370 650 18270 for more information.

Dr. Saulius Sužiedėlis Explains Why Gas Chambers Weren’t Used in Lithuania

Interview by Ieva Elenbergienė

Professor emeritus of history at Millersville University Saulius Sužiedėlis explains the Nazis didn’t need gas chambers in Lithuania. While 40 percent of Holocaust victims were murdered in gas chambers, this wasn’t the case in Lithuania, where the Nazis discovered sufficient man-power for mass murder. Although there were informal attempts to stop the violence in Lithuania, Dr. Sužiedėlis says there was no universal condemnation, nor public statements against by authorities. Church officials were also silent. Sužiedėlis says we must stop denying ugly things and look our past squarely in the face.

At the end of November Saulius Sužiedėlis was invited by the Lithuanian Jewish Community to speak at the conference #AtmintisAtsakomybėAteitis held in Vilnius.

When people are talking publicly and the topic turns to Lithuanian collaboration in the Holocaust, there is often a defensive reaction expressed as an attack on Jews: “But they did this and this and that to us!”

It’s not just characteristic of us, the human reaction of trying to place guilt on others. For instance, in the USA for a long time the destruction of the Indians was completely ignored, there was talk of the wars of the Wild West, but new studies show these so-called Indian wars were in many cases nothing more than the massacre of peaceful local residents. Of course some people didn’t like this, and accusations came up, for example, “But what did they do to the cowboys?” and so on. I personally, though, have no concern about what Jews have done. I’m concerned with what Lithuanians have done. Of course there were Jews, just as there were Lithuanians and Russians, who were involved in deportations. What does that have in common with, let’s say, Jewish children murdered in Telšiai? I don’t feel personal shame–I wasn’t even born yet–but I do feel a kind of collective shame, that people of my ethnicity were able to act this way in this Catholic, religion-practicing country.

LJC Chairwoman Meets Parliamentary Speaker

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas met speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis Wendesday. They discussed current issues in the Lithuanian Jewish Community regarding protection of Jewish heritage sites and the transfer of the former Hassidic synagogue in Kaunas for use by the Jewish Community, and agreed to work together to mark the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto with an academic conference at parliament.

Photo: O. Posaškova/Lithuanian parliament