Religion

Aaron Klug Dead at 92

Aaron Klug Dead at 92

One of several Lithuanian Jews to have received the Nobel prize, Aaron Klug passed away November 20, 2018, at the age of 92.

Klug was born in Želva (aka Zelva, Zelvas) near the town of Ukmergė (Vilkomir) in the Vilnius region of Lithuania on August 11, 1926, to Lazar and Bella (née Silin) Klug. Lazar Klug received both a secular and Jewish religious education, and raised and sold cattle as his father did. Aaron Klug wrote he remembered nothing of his place of birth, and the family moved to Durban, South Africa, when Aaron was about two. Aaron Klug was graduated from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg with a bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry and biology. He married dancer and choreographer Liebe Bobrow in 1948. Klug received a master’s degree from the University of Cape Town where he did work on X-ray crystallography. He then went to the UK, where he received a PhD in solid state physics at the University of Cambridge in 1952. Klug then worked with X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin at Birkbeck College, University of London, exploring the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus. The nucleoproteins of the virus were at that time too big for imaging with X-ray crystallography but too small to see with optical microscopes. Electron microscopes could only provide two-dimensional images, and Klug pioneered a method for making 3-D images, called crystallographic electron microscopy, for which he received the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1982. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. Besides his many other contributions, he and his colleagues were responsible for mapping about one third of the human genome in the Human Genome Project. He taught at Cambridge and served as the president of Britain’s Royal Society from 1995 to 2000. He also worked with Francis Crick, who received the Nobel prize with Watson for discovering the helical structure of DNA.

Lecture Series

Roza Bielauskienė will speak about the time of the Book of Judges in Jewish history at 1:00 P.M. on Sunday, January 13, 2019, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Jewish People’s Bank in Lithuania: Support for Co-ops, Small, Medium Business

Jewish People’s Bank in Lithuania: Support for Co-ops, Small, Medium Business

by Ona Biveinienė

Lithuanian Jews since olden times engaged in lending at interest. The charter of rights Vytautas the Great granted the Jews of Brest-Litovsk in 1388 included the right to loan money at interest, a rather new thing in the Grand Duchy at that time, along with the right to practice Judaism. According to the charter, “a Jew may accept any object brought him as collateral, no matter what the item is called, without question, except for bloodied or wet clothing and Church clothing and vessels, which he should in no way accept.”

For several centuries Jews were the main lenders, saving neighbors fallen on hard times by loaning them money, at interest, of course.

Lithuania’s declaration of independence on February 16, 1918, provided a favorable environment for Jews living here to expand customary and create new businesses. The Jewish people, as no other, seized upon the opportunity; they attempted to restore and expand the shops, workshops and factories they had before World War I. Many courageously started new businesses and in many cases were the first in Lithuania to engage in little known or unprecedented enterprises.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Goodwill Foundation Funds for Most Significant Lithuanian Jewish Projects

A meeting of the board of the Goodwill Foundation has resolved to fund the most significant Lithuanian Jewish projects, approved spending limits for 2019 and planned the 2019 budget for administrative costs for the foundation.

One of the more interesting projects is on-going archaeological exploration of the Great Synagogue site in Vilnius. There is also a project to commemorate the Jurbarkas synagogue with a statue by the sculptor Dovydas Zundelovičius. The foundation will also remember conductor, teacher and professor Saulius Sondeckis with the publication of a monograph.

The Goodwill Foundation board also addressed the issue of ownership of the former Tarbut gymnasium building at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius, the headquarters of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Full text here.

Jewish Heritage Experts Agree Guidelines for Commemoration of Great Synagogue

Jewish Heritage Experts Agree Guidelines for Commemoration of Great Synagogue

At the behest of the Lithuanian Jewish Community an international Heritage Advisory Group consisting of renowned global experts on Jewish heritage was formed, including:

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, advisor to the director and senior curator of main exhibits at the POLIN Polish Jewish History Museum; Assumpció Hosta, general secretary of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ); Sergey Kanovich, founder of the Maceva NGO and project manager of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund; Lyudmila Sholokhova, PhD, director, YIVO archive and library; Sergey Kravtsov, senior research correspondent, Jewish Art Center, Hebrew University; the Lithuanian Jewish Community was represented by LJC heritage conservation specialist Martynas Užpelkis and architect and designer Victoria Sideraitė-Alon.

The expert group now has issued a set of recommended guidelines for the memorialization of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.

Since it is basically clear that attempts to rebuild the Great Synagogue would send a false message, they instead recommended emphasizing the uniqueness of the site’s history and its current state. Commemoration should pursue the objectives of conserving what remains and proper education. The project should focus on recovering and expressing the centrality and unique meaning of the site in Lithuanian Jewish history and memory.

Heart to Heart Concert

Heart to Heart Concert

The Lithuanian Jewish Community ushered out 2018 with a concert Monday called Heart to Heart with Markas Volynskis and Marija Drukshna on vocals, Jurijus Sukhanovas on piano and Boris Kirzner on violin.

Shmuel Yatom, the cantor at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, opened the concert by reminding the audience the synagogue is celebrating its 115th anniversary currently. His words and songs, some solo, some with Markas Volynskis, created a warm and comfortable atmosphere in the hall. Well-known Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Judita Leitaitė MCed the concert and sang to a great response from the audience. Her warm and funny introductions of the other performers also contributed to the entertainment. Musical works by Kern, Pakhmutov, Dunayevsky and Olshanetsky, classical Russian favorites and old-time Jewish favorites elicited much applause.

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Celebrates 115th Anniversary


Preliminary design

bernardinai.lt

Marija Rupeikienė on the webpage autc.lt writes: “It is a compact space something like a cube with a cupola, constructed of bright yellow bricks with two unplastered façades and a tin roof. The building has two storeys, a basement and three small one-storey side buildings in the corners. The floor plan isn’t standard, with a many-cornered outer shape with steps, with an elongated entrance-way, stairs built on protruding sides and auxiliary spaces: the second storey is surrounded on three sides by a gallery. The main façade on the north east side facing the street is plastered with horizontal indentations. The two-storey portion dominates with short one-storey side constructions hugging it. Protrusions mark the sides of the two-storey portion while an elongated entrance-way in the interior leads to a half-rounded ark with a triangular shield bearing an image of the Ten Commandments on inscribed on stone tablets.”

In 1899 the leadership of the synagogue acquired a plot of land on Zawalna, now Pylimo street.
In 1902 architect Dovid Rozenhaus drafted blueprints for the synagogue.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Celebrates 115th Birthday

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Celebrates 115th Birthday

The Choral Synagogue was lit with festive lights December 16 as Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinksy and Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas greeted Lithuanian Jewish Community members and guests to a celebration of the 115th anniversary of the founding of the synagogue.

Lithuanian poet, publicist and professor Tomas Venclova, Lithuanian essayist and film writer Pranas Morkus and other well-known figures attended the event.

Professor Donatas Katkus directed a concert by the Vilnius Chamber Orchestra at the birthday celebration.

A complicated early history of seeking permission from authorities to build what was called the Taharat HaKodesh synagogue finally led to the opening of the synagogue at its current location in 1903. Architect Dovid Rozenhaus designed the synagogue in the Moorish-Romanesque style. The only classical Vilnius Jewish synagogue to survive the Holocaust out of more than 110 Jewish houses of prayer operating in the city before the war, the Choral Synagogue became the focus of the post-war Vilnius Jewish community during Soviet times and remains so today.

French Yellow Vests Take Up Anti-Semitic Chants and Slogans

French Yellow Vests Take Up Anti-Semitic Chants and Slogans

The mass protests in France by the “yellow vests” have taken on a sort of red-brown racist ideology and have gone on an anti-Semitic rampage on facebook. Slogans include “Seize everything and redistribute it” and “The Jews get fat while the French have nothing to eat” as well as others aimed at Jews. A banner appeared on the A6 freeway linking Paris and Marseilles with the inscription “Macron is a whore of the Jews.” Israel’s Ynet reported on activities by what they called organizers of pogroms last Saturday, during which for the first time in many years Chabad House on the Champs-Élysées remained closed. Community leaders reported they didn’t want to take any risks because the French police were not in control of the situation.

The social media have become a source for anti-Semitism with Jews now being singled out as France’s main enemies. Popular accusations include “The Jews brought Macron to power so he would serve as their puppet,” “It must be realized that the true enemy is the Jews,” “The Jews light candles while the French go hungry” and so on.

Israel’s Russian-language TV 9 has a report here.

Hanukkah Celebration for Children

Around 70 children attended the Hanukkah celebration the Lithuanian Jewish Community held at the Future Live hall in Vilnius. The candles were lit and songs were performed in Hebrew and Yiddish. Children spun the dreidl and took part in quizzes and competitions. Traditional doughnuts were eaten and Hanukkah gelt was passed out. Children also received dreidls to take home.

Birthday Party Invitation

You are invited to come celebrate the 115th anniversary of the opening of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 2:00 P.M. on December 16 at the synagogue, located at Pylimo street no. 39. The celebration is to include a concert by the Vilnius Chamber Orchestra conducted by Donatas Katkus, birthday greetings and a buffet.

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Our 30th birthday Hanukkah celebration was just as fun as it was 30 years ago, and almost the same number of people attended, around 400. Although times have changed, there’s a new generation and we have lost many of those who attended in 1988, we remember them, say a good word about them and take joy in the present, in the fact that Community members of all ages came to celebrate, including children and young families from the regional communities.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky welcomed celebrants. Social programs department director Žana Skudovičienė spoke about the first post-war communal Hanukkah celebration on December 4, 1988, held at the Dainava restaurant in central Vilnius. Then as now, Yiddish was spoken and sung, and the Fayerlakh ensemble performed, while 30 years ago the event was organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association.

This year we celebrated at the Radisson Blu Lietuva hotel in Vilnius. The Israeli klezmer band Gefilte Drive and saxophonist Juozas Kuraitis performed and delighted the audience with their concerts.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The Polifonija music auditorium hosted a concert December 3 held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community.

Most of our current members responded 30 years ago to an invitation published in the newspaper Šiaulių naujienos to attend a meeting of the Sąjūdis initiative group [Lithuanian independence movement] at the Planning Institute. About 100 Jewish residents of Šiauliai attended and the Šiauliai Jewish community was reconstituted, including the Jews of the region and formally called the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community, the successor organization to the formerly large Šiauliai City Jewish Community which ceased functioning in 1941.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community chairman Naumas Gleizeris began the evening by welcoming and greeting the audience on Hanukkah and the 30th birthday of the organization. He thanked all guests for spending the evening with Community members.

Šiauliai Regional and Panevėžys Jewish Communities Celebrate Hanukkah Together

Šiauliai Regional and Panevėžys Jewish Communities Celebrate Hanukkah Together

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community and the Panevėžys Jewish Community gathered December 8 to celebrate Hanukkah together. Chairmen Naum Gleizer and Gennady Kofman welcomed their communities to the holiday celebration and wished everyone happiness, health and familial warmth. Frida Šteinienė read the prayer, lit the candles and retold the history of the holiday.

The holiday table featured traditional dishes such as latkes, doughnuts, gefilte fish, chopped hearing and chicken liver.

Children received the traditional gift of chocolates wrapped in gold foil in the shape of coins, Hanukkah geld. Different members performed songs and delivered musical greetings and there was much dancing.

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

A new book about Jewish Street in Vilnius by Aelita Ambrulevičiūtė, Gintė Konstantinavičiūtė and Giedrė Polkaitė-Petkevičienė was launched at the Paviljonas Book Weekend in Vilnius. “Prabilę namai. Žydų gatvės kasdienybė XIX-XX a. (iki 1940 m.)” [with the English subtitle/translation “Houses That Talk: Everyday Life in Žydų Street in the 19th-20th Century (up to 1940)” provided below the Lithuanian title on the cover] was published by the Aukso žuvys publishing house and comprises a kind of guide to the street, detailing the Great Synagogue, the Strashun Library, the house of the Vilna Gaon and the market and restaurants which operated there.

Lithuanian historian Aureljus Gieda presented the book and said it contains 166 illustrations of life in 14 buildings, 5 of which survive. He said the book has an index of names and extensive footnotes.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Film: The Called — Judaism in Lithuania

Film: The Called — Judaism in Lithuania

“Pašauktieji” [“The Called”] is a set of six documentaries about religious faiths in Lithuania by the Vilniaus Medija group. The premiere of the third documentary film about Judaism in Lithuania “Juaidzmas Lietuvoje” [“Judaism in Lithuania”] coincides with the 115th anniversary of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

Hanukkah at the Lithuanian President’s Office

Hanukkah at the Lithuanian President’s Office

The Lithuanian President’s Office held a ceremony to light the fourth Hanukkah candle with the participation of Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. The audience included many honored guests.

Menorah Lighting Ceremony in Central Vilnius

A giant menorah has again appeared in the center of Vilnius in celebration of Hanukkah. City mayor Remigijus Šimašius and the Jewish community together ushered in the eight-day Jewish holiday on December 3. The menorah has appeared in central Vilnius for 25 years in a row now.

The mayor said: “The start of Hanukkah this year has coincided symbolically with the beginning of the magical Christmas of Vilnius, we are lighting the city’s main Christmas tree and the menorah at almost the same time. This holiday of sharing and light makes Vilnius brighter and cozier, and invites the communities of the world to come visit the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Hanukkah inspires us to never be afraid of fighting for what’s right and for the light, and to never give up. I greet the Jewish community on this the greatest of holidays and say thank-you that you are with us. Happy Hanukkah!” For four years now the mayor has been invited to light the first Hanukkah light at the giant menorah on Vincas Kudirka Square in Vilnius.