Religion

Jewish Community Proposes Cultural Museum in Vilnius Ghetto

Vilnius, June 27, BNS—The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proposing the creation of a cultural museum in the former Vilnius ghetto. There are considerations to include an open-air section beyond a single building housing the museum using modern technology. The LJC presented these ideas to Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius Thursday.

Creative analyst Albinas Šimanauskas, one of the authors of the idea, said they hadn’t decided on a specific location for the museum yet, but there was a proposal to establish it near Rūdininkų square.

“Rūdininkų square, for example, where there is a statue commemorating Tsemakh Shabad, could be the site for a memorial to Righteous Gentiles. It’s a fine square which could host international events, concerts, thematic festivals… this would be a Vilnius Jewish cultural museum exhibiting historical events and cultural phenomena through living story-telling,” he told BNS.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said they are waiting for basic confirmation of the idea from the municipality and will decide on a location for the museum after that.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Now Member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage

As of now, the Lithuanian Jewish Community is a member of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, better known by the French acronym AEPJ. The AEPJ supports the preservation, appreciation and promotion of Jewish culture and heritage in Europe. The association is especially devoted to making Jewish cultural and heritage buildings and locations accessible to the public. To achieve that goal, the AEPJ conducts two main programs: the European Day of Jewish Culture and the European Jewish heritage tourism routes.

For more information, see here.

Catholic Priest Who Saved Jews Beatified

Vilnius, June 25, BNS—Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, persecuted by the Soviets, was beatified and a ceremony was held to commemorate the event at Vilnius Cathedral Square Sunday.

The first-ever beatification ceremony held in Lithuania drew over 15,000 people where the Pope’s Franciscan envoy cardinal Angelo Amato made the announcement.

Matulionis was imprisoned for 16 years under the Soviets and he received his longest sentence in 1946 after refusing to collaborate with the Soviet regime in their demand he help squash the partisan movement in Lithuania and after criticizing the Communists for persecuting religious people. He was allowed to return to Soviet-occupied Lithuania after ten years of imprisonment. Although he was constantly followed, he was able to receive secret permission from the Vatican to consecrate bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius. Matulionis passed away in 1962 at the age of 89. Some believed he was poisoned by the KGB, although that hasn’t been demonstrated conclusively.

Matulionis becames the second person from Lithuania beatified. Bishop Jurgis Matulaitis’s beatification was announced in Rome in 1987. In order for Matulionis to be canonized, i.e., made a saint, evidence of a miracle must be presented, including those that occur posthumously, such as any which occur in invoking his name in a prayer to God.

Lithuania has a patron saint, Casimir, the grand duke of Poland and Lithuania who was canonized in 1602.

Teofilius Matulionis helped rescue a Jewish girl from the Holocaust. Dalia Epšteinaitė speaks about her childhood friend Estera Elinaitė whom he helped rescue.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Historical Attention to Historic Lithuanian Jewish Buildings

by Martynas Užpelkis, LJC heritage protection specialist

An historical event! In recent days, almost a coincidence of sorts but more likely the result of dedicated and constant preparation, three historical Jewish community buildings in Vilnius have been repaired and restored at the same time. In spite of the temporary convenience, our thanks go out to everyone who contributed to the preservation of these Jewish historical heritage sites.

Renovation on the synagogue on Gėlių street in Vilnius, the Zavl Germaize and David Levinson Synagogue, continues, but work has been completed on the façade and floor, and new doors and windows in line with the traditional ones were installed. The Lithuanian Jewish Community owns the building. The role of contractor for renovation work was carried out by the public sector Lietuvos Paminklai [Monuments of Lithuania] enterprise and renovation was conducted by the Nivara company. This year as in the foregoing three reconstruction work was financed by the Lithuanian state and the Goodwill Foundation. In 2017 the Cultural Heritage Department under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture allocated 120,000 euros and the LJC contributed 16,000 euros allocated by the Goodwill Foundation.

Lithuanian Film Festival Features Experiences of Discrimination

„Nepatogus kinas“ skatina prabilti apie patirtą diskriminaciją
Image courtesy Nepatogus Kinas

manoteises.lt

The Lithuanian documentary film festival Nepatogus Kinas [Uncomfortable Cinema] is to present a thematic program on discrimination this fall. To bring attention to how widespread this problem is, organizers are inviting people to share specific examples of the violation of their rights. The festival organizers are hoping their call to the public for personal experiences of discrimination will help break the existing wall of silence surrounding the subject. All examples provided, publicly or anonymously, will be presented to readers in the press and on social media.

“The word ‘discrimination’ often doesn’t mean anything, it’s an abstraction. But very specific personal stories are described by this word. Sometimes painful, sometimes inspiring. These stories allow us to realize we will all face discrimination at some stage in life,” festival director Gediminas Andriukaitis commented.

Lithuanian law forbids direct or indirect discrimination and harassment based on age, gender, sexual preference, disability, racial and ethnic identity, religion and beliefs. Uncomfortable Cinema organizers have also provided categories of language, social status, gender identity and family status for people who want to tell their stories.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

LJC Social Programs Department Staff Develop Skills at Warsaw Jewish Community

Staff from the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Social Programs Department are currently visiting the Warsaw Jewish Community whose webpage is jewish.org.pl

The main community building is located in the center of the Polish capital with a Scandinavian-model kindergarten, a senior citizens day center and a kosher cafeteria adjacent to it.

Currently ten employees are building their skills set in Germany, France and Poland under the Erasmus + program in order to expand the social services network for the elderly and improve quality of services provided to clients.

Jewish Deportations Just as Painful as Lithuanian Deportations, Forgotten by Lithuanians

Žydo tremtinio sąvoka Lietuvos visuomenėje šiandien yra beveik užmirštama. Ji tokia pat skausminga kaip lietuvių tremtis

About 1.3% of members of the Lithuanian Jewish community were deported to the Soviet Union in 1941. This percentage of deportations is the highest for any ethnic group in Lithuania. The deportations failed, however, to extinguish Jewish nationalism, and Zionist groups operated underground, organizing Hebrew education and exerting all efforts to allow Jews to leave for Palestine. According to Jewish historiography, in June of 1941 alone about 3,000 Jewish activists from the right and the left and Jewish owners of large industrial concerns and factories were deported. It is a great shame Lithuanian society today has almost no understanding of these deportations, or has chosen to ignore them, designating deportation an exclusively ethnic Lithuanian tragedy.

Historian Solomon Atamuk found there were 16 Jewish daily newspapers, 30 weeklies and 13 intermittent periodicals along with about 20 collections of literature published in Lithuania before World War II. After the June 14, 1940, ultimatum by the Soviet Union to Lithuania and the occupation which quickly followed, the Jewish community bore the brunt of social and cultural repressions. All leftist and rightist Jewish newspapers were shut down. Even Folksblat, popular among Communists and the organ of the Jewish People’s Party, was banned. Beyond the ban on the Jewish newspapers, editors of Jewish publications were fired and the new regime undertook a complete reorganization and shutting down of existing academic institutions. YIVO was made to heel, employees were fired, various books, newspapers and collections were seized. Opportunities to read in Hebrew were systematically lessened and Jewish libraries were shut down.

Fayerlakh Group Competes at St. Petersburg International Music and Art Festival-Contest

The Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance ensemble performed at the White Nights music and art festival-contest in St. Petersburg, Russia, from June 8 to 11, 2017.

Fayerlakh competed in the category Folk Ensembles and Folk Songs, along with 65 other contestants. Fifty-nine finalists competed in the final concert, where Fayerlakh took first place. The Lithuanian Jewish group was also presented a gift certificate for high art in celebrating Jewish culture and traditions, which they will be able to use at the next festival-contest.

Their performances at such festivals not only demonstrate the ensemble’s excellence and professionalism, but also stimulates tolerance between peoples and faiths. Besides presenting Jewish culture, Fayerlakh also presents multicultural Lithuania on the international stage. These sorts of tours and performances abroad also build real solidarity among members of the song and dance collective, crucial for further creative work.

The competition also provided members of the collective the opportunity to see one of the world’s most beautiful cities, an important education inspiring and expanding the horizons of younger members of the ensemble. Fayerlakh performed a small concert at the Choral Synagogue in St. Petersburg.

Director Larisa Vyšniauskienė and the entire Fayerlakh collective thank the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Goodwill Foundation and the Joint Distribution Committee for their full support.

Four Days with the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Now with Subtitles

Welcome to the Lithuanian Jewish Community, welcome to Vilnius.

You will soon experience it for yourself. This isn’t a promotional film, it’s the reality, slightly beautified. Beautified, because you won’t see all the hard work that goes on every day and the people who do it.

I thank them. We work, we make mistakes, we fall down and we get back up and work harder. But we’re here. There are not so many of us, of course, and we are all different, and sometimes we argue, sometimes we embrace, but we are all here together and we are beautiful, able, talented, loving and dedicated. We’re the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the family of Lithuanian Jews, a part of our country. We have been here for six centuries now. We have experienced the greatest afflictions and disasters but we never gave up and we have remained.

We have to pass something on to our children and grandchildren. I personally want to pass on to them our Jewish identity, my story and deeds and those of my ancestors. I am trying to do this together with the community because I know that I alone will not succeed. I believe it is better to act and to make mistakes than to do nothing.

I wish everyone the greatest success. Let’s take pride in our Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Sincerely yours,

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

§§§

The activities of the Lithuanian Jewish Community are broad-ranging and interesting, and the makers of the following film decided to include footage from just four days in the life of the LJC. To show more would require a series of films.

One of the most important goals of the Community is listening to and taking care of our members, children, adolescents and senior citizens. Care and aid from the Community’s Social Programs Department is allocated to Holocaust survivors, the ill, disabled and socially marginalized.

An important benchmark in our work recently was the restoration and protection of our country’s wooden synagogues, unique in Europe. The opening ceremony for the restored and reconsecrated synagogue in Pakrojis, Lithuania, is included in the film. Work was conducted with the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department under the Ministry of Culture and with local municipal and regional administrations.

If the film were continued, we would have included more young people, students, the young Jewish parents clubs, of course our regional Jewish communities and lots of fun moments from the different events and holidays put on by the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Enjoy.

© 2017 Lithuanian Jewish Community

Animated Documentary for Teaching Children about the Holocaust

To date Fettle Animation, a Marsden-based company, have won a BAFTA and two Royal Television Society awards for their animated Holocaust documentaries. We wanted to know how they’re being used to help children understand this pivotal moment in history

From the Cold War to the bombing of Hiroshima, our children learn about important but traumatic moments in history while they’re at school. But although most of us are aware of the atrocities of the Holocaust, can anyone truly understand what it felt like to be a child in the concentration camps? It’s an emotionally complex scenario for anyone to comprehend. But a Marsden-based company, Fettle Animation, are leading the way with engaging and educative animated films for children. We spoke to their founder and Producer Kath Shackleton to find out more about this great company and their award-winning films.

Fettle Animation was created by Kath (a former art development officer) and her partner Zane Whittingham, who has over 25 years of experience working in animation. After the birth of their daughter, they decided to leave London and move back to Kath’s native Yorkshire, to set up in Marsden. “We set the company up hoping to get some work-life balance, but I think we’ve exploited ourselves far harder than any employer would in the end,” Kath jokes, “But it’s definitely worth it.”

Surrounded by rolling hills and the idyllic countryside, Kath and Zane have an enviable lifestyle. But both have they worked hard. In the five years since they set up their company, which specializes in the production of animated films from freehand drawings, they’ve flown all over the world appearing at prestigious film festivals and collecting awards. Alongside the Children’s BAFTA, and two Royal Television Society awards, they have countless other international commendations. They’re so popular that two awards that they’ve been nominated for recently, the Japan Prize in Tokyo and the Prix Europa in Berlin, are being presented on the same night. What to do?

And There Shall Be No Jewish Museum at the Palace of Sports, Lithuanian PM Decrees

Vilnius, June 13, BNS–A new tender for construction of a proposed Congress Center to replace the former Vilnius Palace of Sports is planned for this fall and there will be no Jewish history museum there, Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said.

“We confirm an international tender will be announced very soon, taking into account that the earlier process was halted because of a possible lack of transparency. This project will be continued and developed further, but, unfortunately, the deadlines will be extended now,” the prime minister told BNS after meeting with Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. “I will check, but this should be accomplished by the month of September,” he said after being asked when the tender for a new contractor would be announced.

A few months back Skvernelis and Šimašius met and said following that meeting that they were considering setting up a Jewish history museum inside the building during reconstruction. The idea drew swift criticism from Jewish representatives in Lithuania and the USA. Skvernelis now says the idea for a museum isn’t being considered any longer.

Catholic Priest Recognized as Righteous Gentile in Kupiškis

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman and Community member Grafman attended a ceremony at the Povilas Matulionis Pre-Gymnasium in Kupiškis, Lithuania, May 30 held by the Israeli embassy to Lithuania to award the title of Righteous among the Nations posthumously to the priest Feliksas Ereminas (1890-1962). The Catholic cleric rescued the Jewish girl Rachel Rozenberg during World War II. For rescuing and further taking care of her, ambassador Amir Maimon presented Ereminas’s relative Tauras Budzys the Righteous among the Nations medallion and certificate issued by the Yad Vashem Holocaust authority in Israel.

The ambassador said the event is a lesson for our future. Professor Aldona Vasiliauskienė told the moving story of the rescue and how she collected the material required for the award.

Ambassador Maimon said: “We are happy and proud to have the opportunity today to recognize Feliksas Ereminas. Eighty years have passed since that time. Today we can only imagine those difficult times when Jews had to seek asylum.”

Faina Kukliansky Wins Election to Head Lithuanian Jewish Community

Faina Kukliansky was elected to a second term as chairwoman at Lithuanian Jewish Community elections held last Sunday. Monika Antanaitytė, Chief of Staff at the LJC, said the chairwoman won with a majority of votes, explaining all votes were cast for her with three abstentions. No votes were cast for Simonas Gurevičius, Antanaitytė told Lithuanian media.

Annual ORT Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony


Photos by Eli Rabinowitz

As the school year comes to an end and summer vacation begins, the ORT Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium held their annual combined bar and bat mitzvah ceremony Monday at the Choral Synagogue and the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Parents and children arrived in their finest attire for the symbolic coming-of-age service which was conducted in Russian and Hebrew. Proud parents watched their boys and girls of different ages receiving Rabbi Samson Izakson’s blessing as they stood under the hoopa or canopy, praents took pictures and the audience rained candies down on the hoopa as the service concluded. Sholem Aleichem school principal Miša Jakobas delivered a moving address to his students in Russian. The service ended with children passing by the Torah scroll but no readings by boys or girls.

The party then moved to the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community where the children or young adults had a candle-lighting ceremony to honor their parents, school, homeland, Israel and fallen Israeli soldiers. The festivities here were in Lithuanian and Hebrew. Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon spoke in a very genuine manner, translated to Lithuanian by Sholem Aleichem Hebrew teacher Ruth Reches, and recounted the parable of rabbi asked to repeat the whole of the law while standing on one foot. The young people performed songs, dance and did short skits in Lithuanian based on the writings of the author Sholem Aleichem and other Yiddish writers. After the young people were presented token gifts from the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the party moved into the foyer where there was abundant snacks, juice, coffee, wine and water. A series of artworks by students made especially for the occasion lined a long table as people helped themselves to hors d’oeuvres and waiters and waitresses circulated through the crowd with plates laden with food.

Choral Synagogue under Repair

The electrical system and roof of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius are being replaced thanks to financial aid from the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department. The schedule for services will not change. During construction tourists will not be admitted into the synagogue. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience.

Shmuel (Simas) Levinas, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Abi Men Zet Zikh Club Celebrates Shavuot

The Abi Men Zet Zich Club and the Social Program Department invite their clients to come celebrate Shavuot at 2:00 P.M., May 30, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Rabbi Samson Izakson, cantpr Shmuel Yaatom and Markas Volynskis will be there. Traditional Shavuot foods will be served. For more information contact Žana Skudovičienė at +3706 78 81514.

Faina Kukliansky Re-elected Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman

Vilnius, May 28, BNS–Faina Kukliansky was re-elected for a second term at Lithuanian Jewish Community elections Sunday. Competitor Simonas Gurevičius called the poll illegitimate and said he would take the matter to court.

Monika Antanaitytė, the director of the LJC secretariat, told BNS “Faina Kukliansky won with a majority of votes. Electors either voted for Kukliansky, or abstained. No votes were cast in favor of Gurevičius.” She said she was unable to provide the exact breakdown of votes at the current time.

Simonas Gurevičius told BNS the Vilnius Jewish Community would bring a case to court over decisions by the election conference to create artificial barriers to Jews who wanted to observe the election, and what he alleged were irregularities in the election violating the regulations of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Much Noise, Few Jews


photos by V. Ščiavinskas courtesy of lrytas.lt

Faina Kukliansky Says Election of Simonas Gurevičius as Vilnius Jewish Community Chairman Invalid

Is this an insurgency against the current leadership of the community, or also against dialogue with the Lithuanian state? This question needs to be asked because of the growing conflict among Lithuanian Jews.

Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) and Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said she still hasn’t decided whether to offer hew candidacy for a second four-year term. But long-time former Simonas Gurevičius, who left the community earlier, is already attacking the current leader on all fronts.

Incidentally, one of Gurevičius’s main supporters is US Jewish activist Dovid Katz, who constantly accuses the Lithuanian state of anti-Semitic policies.

Arkadijus Vinokuras: A Community Divided

15min.lt

Yesterday, on May 24, 2017, in an uprising against Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, the 15 men of the executive board conducted, according to the current chairwoman, illegitimate elections, thus dividing the community.

I, Arkadijus Vinokuras, a legitimate candidate, refused to take part in these elections for three reasons, which can be summed up in the cynical words of newly elected [sic] Vilnius Jewish Community chairman Simonas Gurevičius: “The unity of the community is important. But unity was never a synonym for idiocy. The community is united in pursuing its goals, in improving conditions, in mutual aid, in growth, in perfection, in other positive matters. Not in silence over dishonesty and apathy.” Did you get it? The unity of the community is considered a synonym for stupidity. Apparently striving for the unity of the community (but not confusing this in any way with a uniform opinion) is also idiotic. That the new “chairman” considers members of the VJC idiots and fools, and that the defense of morality has become a farce, was shown by him immediately during the election, when I withdrew from the elections and that very same minute a new candidacy was raised “in the name of democratic elections.”

Why I Refused to Participate

First. Because of the moral dilemma. There are 2,200 members in the Vilnius Jewish Community. These elections for the post of VJC chairman were attended exclusively by Gurevičius’s supporters, just 260 people. I, on the other hand, want to be a candidate for all members, regardless of whether they are proponents or opponents. That’s the correct and fair way. Thus my legitimate hopes and expectations as a legitimate candidate were not satisfied.

Second. Only Gurevičius’s supporters participated in these “elections.” He was elected by 246 people. I cannot countenance these elections turned farcical with no chance for an independent candidate.

Third. These elections didn’t contain even a trace of democracy. First of all, the conflict which arose between the executive board and the chairwoman was born in immorality. Whether there were good grounds for it or not, I won’t get into, I won’t go into the legal arguments. But it’s not just the legal aspect that matters in this small community, it’s the aspect of fairness and justice. So the chairwoman was accused of usurping power and manipulating the regulations of the VJC. All the problems of the VJC were placed at the feet of the chairwoman.

Flawed Regulations

But–at least the question arises in my mind–where were these members of the executive board of the VJC, these allegedly intelligent 15 men, these last four years? Why didn’t they over the course of those years do anything to change these flawed rules and regulations which allowed for manipulations using these regulations as seen fit and as desired by the chair and the executive board? Why did these 15 men, who placed the blame for the conflict on one woman, begin this conflict which has led directly to the schism in the community?

Litvak Artist on Exhibit at LJC

Solomon Teitselbaum’s paintings will go on display at the Lithuanian Jewish Community exhibit called “In Search of Spiritual Support” with an opening ceremony at 5:00 P.M., May 25, 2017, on the third floor of the LJC, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius. Prints will be available for purchase at the opening.