Religion

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.

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.

Lithuanian Students Experience Hanukkah in Perth for Second Time in Two Years

For the second year in a row students from Atžalynas High School in Kėdainiai, Lithuania, experienced Hanukkah in Perth, Australia, via skype on a large screen in their classroom.

Last year they heard Dylan Kotkis, Carmel School captain for 2018, sing Maoz Tzur while Western Australia’s Chabad Rabbi Shalom White explained the festival and the message of Hanukkah to the 15-year-olds.

This was probably the first time in 75 years this Hanukkah song had been heard in this town in central Lithuania once so important to Jews. No Jews live in Kėdainiai today.

This year teacher Laima Ardavičienė and her class attended the candle-lighting ceremony at Ben-Gurion Park in Perth with members of the Western Australian Jewish Community via skype. The ceremony performed by Rabbi Shalom White of Chabad Lubavitch House was preceded by an enjoyable performance by the entertainer Mickey Shaked. The Lithuanian students also had the opportunity to meet some of the locals via skype.

One of these was Heiny Ellert, a 95-year-old Lithuanian Holocaust survivor from Neishtot-Tavrig, today known as Žemaičių Naumiestis. I filmed his testimony for the Western Australian Holocaust Institute in 2014. It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/118HN2_NYHs

You can read more about this and last year’s Hanukkah activities and about Heiny and his shtetl at http://elirab.me/chanukah-in-the-park/

Eli Rabinowitz
Perth, Western Australia
December 13, 2017

Happy Hanukkah from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

December 13, 2017

Dear Friends,

Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles and a festival of light when Jews all across the world reflect in the darkest time of the year on hope and optimism in the face of seemingly perilous obstacles.

Miracles occur in the holiest of places, and in the most difficult–and even in the most mundane. As we light the Hanukkah candles this week, we recall the heroism of the Maccabees who rebelled against the oppression of a society which refused to allow them to live and practice as Jews. We remember in awe how oil meant for just a single night burned for eight days.

The miracles possible today are just as light and just as hopeful as they were thousands of years ago.

It is true that anti-Semitism and xenophobia are on the rise, and that in many parts of the world, Jews are afraid to live as Jews, and minorities continue to be persecuted. Even our Jewish communities face internal division over their religious practices and acceptance. We often wonder how our candle of tradition and Jewish unity can hold up in such trying times. So let us remember: miracles happen.

This Hanukkah, let the miracles so familiar to us from the past guide us as we move forward. We will triumph over anti-Semitism and hatred, and we will work toward a future of harmony and unity among all Jewish people.

As we bask in the glow of the Hanukkah candles over these eight days, let us remember that we are indeed a light shining among nations. Let us remember that there are nations standing by our side, who understand that the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, have a miraculous history of overcoming all odds. Let us hope for miracles, for peace, tolerance, and safety for all Jews, and for all peoples of this world. Chag Orim Sameach. Happy Festival of Lights to us all.

Yours,
Ronald S. Lauder
President, World Jewish Congress

Dmitrijus Kanovičius Donates 250 Grigorijus Kanovičius Books to LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely thanks Dmitrijus Kanovičius for the wonderful gift of 250 books of the selected writings of Grigorijus Kanovičius.

Everyone, not just Jews, read Grigorijus Kanovičius’s books written with his great talent and profound emotional notes because they give the true story of the life of Lithuania made more charming with a sincere sense of nostalgia. These books are like living portraits with images of the past, of our forefathers, memories with color, words, laughter and pain. Today they stand as a monument and testament to all the murdered Jews… Grigorijus Kanovičius’s works for us are important as a treasury of memories, of those we have lost who shall live on forever in their shtetlakh, now mostly abandoned towns. It is said truly that Jews will live on even when there is no one left to remember them. We are so glad that thanks to the creative work of Grigorijus Kanovičius Lithuania has a rich saga of Jewish life featuring our ancestors from the 18th century to today.

Thank you, Dmitrijus.

Šiauliai Jewish Community Hanukkah Greetings

Šiaulių žydų benduomenės sveikinimas

May the light of Hanukkah envelop you in warmth and comfort, and may wisdom accompany your decisions, may success follow you in your work, may tolerance inform your relationships and may love, health and goodness dwell in all of your homes and families.

Sincerely,

Šiauliai Jewish Community

Lithuanian Prime Minister Sends Hanukkah Greetings to Lithuanian Jewish Community

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis greets the Lithuanian Jewish Community which today has lit the first Hanukkah light and has invited all people of good will to celebrate the holiday with such a long tradition.

“I sincerely congratulate the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community with the beginning of the holiday of light and faith. Hanukkah presents us the wonderful opportunity to remember old traditions and celebrate fundamental values. It is to be welcomed that this beautiful Lithuanian Jewish community holiday is receiving ever more public attention,” prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said in his holiday greeting.

On the eve of the holiday the PM thanked the Lithuanian Jewish Community for its exemplary cooperation with the Government and other institutions in solving constructively issues of concern to the Community.

“We can only be happy about the restored Jewish cultural heritage sites and the synagogues coming back to life. Today throughout the country these buildings are being utilized by the people of Lithuania for cultural and educational purposes. Jewish cemeteries are being restored and kept up, Jewish culture is being celebrated and old traditions are being revived. All of this allows to state confidently that our cooperation will only intensify in the future and we will accomplish many important things in the future through joint efforts,” the head of the Lithuanian Government said in his holiday greeting.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah

The first Hanukkah candles were lit at different locations around Lithuania Tuesday evening, beginning the eight-day holiday.

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, foreign minister Linas Linkevičius and Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius sent greetings to the LJC.

The Kaunas, Ukmergė, Šiauliai and Panevėžys Jewish Communities also sent holiday greetings and warm wishes.

“Let’s learn to be happy and as we celebrate, let’s remember what miracle Hanukkah signifies for us all,” LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said in her greeting to the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Members of the Community and honored guests celebrated the first night of Hanukkah together at one of the largest ceremonies held at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Irish ambassador David Noonan, US ambassador Anne Hall, Polish ambassador Urszula Doroszewska, Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, Vilnius archbishop Arūnas Poniškaitis and signatory to the Lithuanian act reestablishing independence in 1990 professor Vytautas Landsbergis attended, among others.

Simas Levinas, the chairman of the Vilnius Religious Jewish Community, said he was pleased by the large turnout. “I am very pleased that every year more and more people keep coming to celebrate Hanukkah at synagogue. This year there was a full house, full of good people and bright guests who came here to celebrate this holiday which is very important to us together,” he said.

Rabbi Aharon Shteinman Has Died

Litvak Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman passed away December 12, 2017. He was a famous Orthodox rabbi and the greatest legal and spiritual authority among religious Litvaks. He was 104.

Aharon Shteinman was born in Brest-Litovsk in 1913. He fled to Switzerland during World War II where he taught at yeshiva.

Ponevezh Yeshiva Rabbi Kaanman asked Rabbi Shteinman to lead the Ponevezh Yeshiva for Young Men in Israel in 1955, where he was director to the end of his life. He also opened other yeshivot, Gaon Jaakov and Orkhot Torah.

The rabbi’s students published a collection of their teacher’s commentaries on Torah and Talmud.

In 1988 Rabbi Shteinman was a member of the Degel haTorah Torah sages’ executive board.

He was recognized in 2001 as one of the leaders of Litvak Judaism, and in 2012 Rabbi Shteinman became the leader of the Degel haTorah party.

Forbes magazine in 2012 reported Rabbi Shteinman was among the top three most-influential rabbis in Israel. Thousands flooded the streets for his funeral on December 12.

Return Jerusalem to the Arabs? Fine. Let’s Return Vilnius to Poland, Too


by Arkadijus Vinokuras

Well, I’ll present a somewhat more modest proposal to Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius. To those who say East Jerusalem should be returned to the Arabs of Palestine.

He missed an opportunity to stay silent. It is unseemly for the foreign minister of Lithuania to say the same thing over and over like a parrot, or more precisely, to recognize the rules of the Middle Eastern game thrown down by the United Nations which is inimical to Israel. So my modest proposal would be this: let’s return part of Vilnius, with the Gates of Dawn, to Poland. After all, for centuries they’ve had an historical and religious connection with Vilnius. If Lithuania opposes it, Poland can appeal to the United Nations whose 151 member-states, full of hate for Lithuania, will recognize the Vilnius Old Town with the Gates of Dawn Polish territory. How does that scenario suit you, Mr. Foreign Minister? If you don’t like it, then recognize all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Full editorial in Lithuanian here.

Recognition of Jerusalem Makes Peace Possible

Brussels, December 11, AFP/BNS–Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “makes peace possible,” although most of the international community criticized the US move.

Several days of protests and demonstrations in the occupied territories and the Islamic world followed US president Trump’s announcement last week the US recognizes Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.

The European Union expressed concern over Trump’s decision which reverses US policy on the disputed city.

The Israeli PM said Trump had simple presented the facts in recognizing Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and of the state of Israel for 70 years now.

First Hanukkah Light

Come light the first Hanukkah candle together with us!

December 12:

5 o’clock, Vincas Kudirka Square, Vilnius

6 o’clock, Choral Synagogue, Vilnius

We’ll celebrate Hanukkah with the Rakija Klezmer Orkestar!

Simas Levinas Remembers Hanukkah in Šiauliai

Vilniaus žydų religinės bendruomenės vadovas Simas Levinas prisimena savo paauglystės Chanuką Šiauliuose

Šiauliai was a strange town in 1960. It was the Soviet time, there were still some “synagogues” illegally operating in apartments. Almost all of the local Jews used to go there to pray. It wasn’t entirely clear whether this was to satisfy a religious need, or the need to spend time with people of the same ethnicity. Or to speak Yiddish. Or to remember the horrible experiences of the Holocaust.

Or perhaps it was the instinctual psychological need to heal one’s wounds. Everyone wanted to enjoy the life which the miraculous lottery of fate had given them.

The town’s Jews stuck together and were ready to support anyone who needed it. This really wasn’t any kind of official community. Its leader was… a family with a larger apartment. We held all traditional and Sabbath evenings of Saturday talks and meetings there. This took place at the home of Josif Burshtein (the chairman of the Šiauliai Jewish Community until last summer) where Jews congregated right up until the restoration of independence.

Hanukkah was the holiday to which the town kids (they called us little Jewies) really looked forward. We were treated to hanukkahgelt, ponchikes and latkes. The parents carved dreidls out of wood. Some had managed to preserve their family heirlooms, a really miracle!, and we lit candles on pre-war menorahs.

Now I realize our parents did everything they could so that we wouldn’t know what they experienced. Everyone chipped in and used to hold the holiday, the miracles of Hanukkah, for us.

And even today most of the Jews who come from Šiauliai know and speak Yiddish. Those us “fun Shavl” [from Šiauliai] scattered around the world by fate maintain our ties.

This year on the eve of Hanukkah another miracle has taken place! We are witnesses to history. The world has begun to remember that King David’s city, whose age goes back more than 3,000 years, is the capital of the state of Israel!

The victory of the Macabbees has again lit the oil lamps of the Hanukkah miracle.