Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Issues Advisory to Citizens in Israel

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has issued a travel advisory calling on citizens to remain alert to possible terror attacks and security incidents in the Jerusalem Old Town and East Jerusalem.

The advisory recommended Lithuanian citizens in Jerusalem, and specifically in the Old Town and eastern section of the city, including Ras al-Amud, At-Tur/Mount of Olives, Wadi al-Joz and Silwan, take special measures for their personal safety and avoid public transport.

The ministry recommended Lithuanians avoid demonstrations and large crowds of people, follow local media, follow instructions by local government institutions and avoid travel in Gaza. The advisory also cautioned against travel to areas along the Syrian and Lebanese border, the Golan Heights and specifically the area of Shebaa Farms and Ghaijar.

Lithuanians in Israel were invited to register with the Foreign Ministry at http://keliauk.urm.lt and/or to get the telephone app “Keliauk saugiai” [Travel Safely], at https://goo.gl/dOxeli for Apple phones and https://goo.gl/rPwrfx for Android operating systems.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry also maintains a twenty-four hour hotline for emergencies at+370 5 236 2444 in Lithuania, and travellers may also send an e-mail to pilieciai@urm.lt to request help. The Lithuanian embassy in Israel can be reached at+972 3 6958 685 or by e-mail at amb.il@urm.lt

Birthday Party and Award for Daumantas Todesas at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Daumantas Lveas Todesas’s 70th birthday this week and the director of the Lithuanian Department of Ethnic Minorities presented him an achievement award at the party.

Department of Ethnic Minorities director Vida Montvydaitė personally awarded him a golden badge of honor called the For Merit award in recognition of Todesas’s life-long dedication to improving society and to preserving ethnic culture and identity.

Lebn zolstu biz hundert un tsvantsik yor! Mazl tov!

Under the White Star

Judita Letaitė and Marianna Slobodeniuok will perform a concert called Under the White Star on Thursday, December 7, at 6:00 P.M. at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Admission is free.

Trump Recognizes Israel’s Capital at Jerusalem

United States president Donald Trump announced Wednesday the United States will henceforth recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.

In the original United Nations partition plan creating Palestine and Israel from the territory of the formerly British Mandate of Palestine, Jerusalem was to become an international city along the lines of pre-war Danzig and Trieste. Israel never agreed to the UN plan and always claimed Jerusalem.

Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against neighboring Arab countries led to the occupation of East Jerusalem, which had been administered by the Kingdom of Trans-Jordan.

Most states have refused to recognize Israel’s claim to Jerusalem and have maintained embassies in Tel Aviv instead. According to internet sources there are zero foreign embassies in Jerusalem and 86 embassies in Tel Aviv, but a number of countries operate what they call consulates in Jerusalem, including Belgium, the US, Vatican City, the UK, Spain, Sweden, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, among others. Costa Rica and El Salvador removed their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in 2006. Costa Rica and El Salvador were the only countries with embassies to Israel after 1982, according to internet sources.

Trump’s announcement calls for the eventual removal of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem with immediate effect, instructing the US State Department to select appropriate architects for building an embassy which would be “a tribute to peace.” White House officials said the move could take from 3 to 4 years.

Critics of the move say it will destroy the perception of US neutrality in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Proponents point out this perception hasn’t had currency among Arab-speaking states for at least a decade now, most of which don’t recognize the state of Israel in any case. Trump said he remained committed to an enduring peace agreement between Israel and Palestine leading to a two-state solution. He also called for maintenance of the status quo regarding the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Authority had planned to make the capital of the Palestinian state East Jerusalem, despite its de facto inclusion in the territory of the state of Israel.

Trump promised during his campaign to make the move. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton all said they would do the same previously.

Forgetfulness Is an Incurable and Dangerous Disease

An interview with Litvak writer Grigory Kanovich by Stephan Collishaw

SC – To what extent is the novel Shtetl Love Song autobiographical?

GK – True, Shtetl Love Song is an autobiographical novel.

Your character in the novel seems very close to his grandmother and goes with her regularly to the synagogue. Is the synagogue still a part of your life?

My grandmother Rokha was a very religious person. When I was a child the synagogue played a big role in my life. There was not a single Saturday, nor a Jewish holiday when my grandmother wouldn’t take me to synagogue. My grandfather was religious, but didn’t go to synagogue so often. He joked, ‘If you hear something interesting from Him, you won’t be able to keep it from me long, you’ll tell me.’ I, myself, am not religious; the synagogue doesn’t play such a strong role in my life now as in my childhood.

Gešer Club Invites Seniors to Come Celebrate Hanukkah

The Gešer Club will hold a holiday meal with a concert and great company at 7:00 P.M. on December 12 at the Draugai restaurant located at Vilniaus street no. 4 in Vilnius. Tickets cost 20 euros. To register contact Žana Skudovičienė, zanas@sc.lzb.lt, +370 678 81514. Tickets are available from Irina Slucker, +370 612 40875, in room 306 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius, from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. on December 8.

Come Celebrate Hanukkah at the Ilan Club

The Ilan Club invites 7-12-year-olds and their parents to come celebrate Hanukkah together at 1:00 P.M. on December 10. There will be a rocking concert, we’ll learn how to make Hanukkah treats together and watch performances and Jewish music by talented performers!

It’s all happening on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. For more information contact Sofija at +370 672 57540 or Žana at+370 678 81514.

Hanukkah Greetings

The Abi Men Zet Zich Club greets all our clients and friends on the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah!

At 1:00 P.M. on December 6 students and teachers from the Saulėtekis will perform in a concert called “Let’s Light the Hanukkah Light” on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius.

At 3:00 P.M. on December 12 you’re invited to the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at the same location.

For more information contact  Žana Skudovičienė, zanas@sc.lzb.lt, +370 678 81514

Magical Hanukkah Journey

Lithuanian Jewish Community children are invited to go on a magical Hanukkah journey with their parents on December 16 and 17.

During the trip we will:

▪ visit the dolphinarium in Klaipėda
▪ search for treasure in the “upside-down house” (http://dino.lt/apverstas-namas-radailiai/)
▪ celebrate Hanukkah on the seaside at the Žuvėdra vacation home
▪ hold the havdalah ceremony to complete the Sabbath

Please note: space is limited. Registration is open until December 10.

Registration and information:

children aged 2-4: contact Dubi Mishpokha Club coordination Alina Azukaitis at alina.roze@gmail.com or by telephone at +370 695 22959

children aged 5-7: contact Margarita Koževatova, Dubi Club, margarita.kozevatova@gmail.com, +370 618 00577

for additional information, contact:

Žana Skudovičienė, zanas@sc.lzb.lt, +370 678 81514

The Woman Who Rescued Jewish Books from the Vilna Ghetto


by Erika Dreifus

Some 75 years ago a group of Jews under German occupation in Vilna was assigned to assist Nazi authorities in curating books and other cultural items destined for shipment to Germany. There, the selection of Judaica materials was to be conserved as a collection of artifacts from an extinct people.

Some items were indeed shipped away as ordered. Some the authorities destroyed and diverted to be used for scrap.

Others were smuggled and hidden by the same Jewish scholars, teachers and writers who had been designated to sift through and catalog them. The heroism of this Paper Brigade has recently received new attention, thanks largely to two developments: the discovery of another trove of materials that the squad managed to squirrel away, and the publication of historian David E. Fishman’s fascinating new study, “The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race To Save Jewish Treasures From the Nazis” (ForeEdge).

Interview with Grant Gochin

Interview with Grant Gochin
by: Alexandra Kudukis

Alexandra: Hello Grant, thank you for speaking to me today. Your recent article in the Jerusalem Report magazine has caused quite a stir. Various segments of the Lithuanian government and society have called you an “agent of the East,” a “Kremlin puppet,” a “useful idiot for Putin,” and other such descriptions.

Grant: Such ad hominem assertions reveal the utter absurdity of the Lithuanian government’s position on these matters. No matter how small an issue, everything is dismissively ascribed to Russia so that the government need not take responsibility for historical truth. It used to be that Jews were the ultimate source of blame, but now that Lithuania has virtually no Jews remaining, all ills are attributed to the Russians.

In America and, frankly, in all Western democracies, people acknowledge problems and actively seek solutions. By contrast, in Lithuania, it would seem the Government’s response is to say: “We have a problem, let’s find a way to ignore it or blame an external party.” You cannot fix a country’s problems that way, especially with the whole world watching. The outside world has long been aware of how Lithuania’s Jews were murdered in 1941 and that this preceded the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, when Nazi Germany decided to make mass murder its state policy.

Full story here and here.

Kazys Škirpa: When an Inconvenient Truth is Suppressed


by Arkadijus Vinokuras

I carefully read Vidmantas Valiušaitis’s article “Why Is Kazys Škirpa Slandered?” I felt I was missing the position of the late Barry Rubin, the famous Litvak, also well known in Lithuanian, and professor of Israeli history.

There he goes: “I would like to stress that events need to be examined as objectively as possibly, that evidence needs to be provided objectively, it needs to be confirmed and then the facts need to be pursued.” Professor Rubin’s relatives were murdered in Lithuania. www.delfi.lt provided an interview with Barry Rubin in which he said without qualification that Jews who became Communists had become traitors to Jewish society, and that it was laughable to be afraid to talk about the crimes of Communism and to argue who had suffered more.

I base my claims on statements by Lithuanian historians. For instance, professor emeritus Saulius Sužiedėlis, liberal arts professor Alvydas Nikžentaitis and Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Philosophy and Communications lecturer Andrius Kulikauskas. I also base my claims on famous interwar Lithuanian diplomat Eduardas Turauskas (1896-1966), a member of the Futurist Society, an attorney, a journalist, diplomat and a member of the Lithuanian Catholic Academy of Sciences.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Lithuania Initiated Netanyahu Visit to Brussels

BNS–Lithuania initiated the historic visit by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Brussels to meet with EU foreign ministers, diplomats confirmed Tuesday.

“Lithuania initiated what led to the planned meeting between the Israeli prime minister and EU foreign ministers during a meeting of EU member-state foreign ministerial council December 11,” Lithuanian Foreign Ministry media representative Rasa Jakilaitienė told BNS. Over the last decade Lithuania has become one of Israel’s strongest diplomatic supporters within the EU. Many other EU member-states take stronger exception to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius remarked direct dialogue is necessary to solve remaining disagreements.

In a comment sent to BNS, Linkevičius wrote: “We seek discussion between all EU states on the concerns of the Union and Israel. Direct dialogue is crucial. Only by hearing the arguments presented in discussion can we harmonize what are sometimes very different positions.

Observers say Lithuania’s pro-Israel stance might stem partially from coordination of policy with the United States and might also be due to the history of Lithuanian Jews. Recently Israel and Lithuania have intensified bilateral relations in the military and economic spheres. The Jerusalem Post reports this will be the first visit by the prime minister to Brussels in more than two decades.

Israel annexed the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem following the Six-Day War in 1967. Most EU countries and the EU as a federated entity do not recognize Israel’s declaration Jerusalem is the nation’s capital and cite the need to follow United Nations Resolution 181, or Partition Plan for Palestine, of 1947 which envisaged Jerusalem as an international city. The Jerusalem Corpus Separatum in that plan included Bethlehem and surrounding areas.

Launch of Victor David Brenner Catalog

You’re invited to the launch of a catalog of works by Victor David Brenner, the Litvak who designed, among other things, the United States one-cent coin.

The publication will be launched at the Jewish Culture Information Center at Mėsinių street no. 3a in Vilnius at 3:00 P.M., Monday, December 4, 2017. The launch of the catalog will be accompanied by an exhibit showcasing Brenner’s design work.

Bagel Shop and Israeli Embassy at Charity Christmas Fair in Vilnius


Photo, from right: Prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Israeli embassy deputy chief of mission Efrat Hochstetler, PM’s wife Silvija Skvernelė

An international Christmas fair fundraiser was held again this year at the Old Town Square in Vilnius. Visitors were invited to purchase handicrafts, Christmas decorations, sweets and other knick-knacks made and sold by the spouses of foreign ambassadors resident in Vilnius, embassy personnel, social welfare organizations.

Photo: President Valdas Adamkus, Faina Kukliansky, former first lady Alma Adamkienė

The international Christmas fair is an annual initiative by the International Women’s Association of Vilnius, which includes women from Lithuania and foreign women temporarily living and working in Lithuania as members.

Photo: Apostolic nuncio archbishop Pedro Quintana

Lithuanian Jewish Community and Bagel Shop volunteers went all out this year to make this event a success. The Israeli embassy’s booth sold Lithuanian and Israeli products and collected almost 4,500 euros for charity, three times more than last year’s amount.

More photos here.

Happy 70th, Daumantas Levas Todesas!

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sends birthday greetings to Daumantas Levas Todesas, born November 25, 1947, a long-time member of the LJC executive board, the director of the Jakovas Bunka charity and support fund, vice-president of the Makabi athletics club and consultant to the director of Moscow’s Vakhtangov theater, among other things.

You have dedicated so much of your life to the preservation of Litvak heritage and of the remaining wooden synagogues, to promoting Jewish history and culture, to fostering understanding between Jews and Lithuanians and to encouraging recognition of Jewish traditions in Lithuanian society.

In 1989 you were one of the organizers of the Makabi delegation sent to the Maccabiah Games in Israel, back when Lithuania was still under the Soviets, the delegation of athletes who raised the Lithuanian flag for the first time in decades at an international event.

Daumantas, we wish you health and happiness and that your beguiling charm, great sense of humor and sharp wit would continue to illuminate the Community for many years to come!

Lebn zolstu biz hundert un tsvantsik yor! Mazl tov!

Saulius Sužiedėlis Interview on Lithuanian Holocaust Collaboration


by Mindaugas Jackevičius, www.delfi.lt

U.S.-based professor emeritus of history Saulius Sužiedėlis says it’s inappropriate for the state to honor those who contributed in any way to the Holocaust, and calls upon Lithuania to review for whom statues have been erected

Sužiedėlis says Lithuania could have and should have done more to detect and prosecute Holocaust perpetrators. He says Lithuania doesn’t have to admit complicity in the murder of Jews, but finally needs to admit collaboration by Lithuanians without excuses and to stop downplaying the significance of that collaboration.

The historian says this is harming Lithuania’s reputation which is important for defending national sovereignty. Sužiedėlis says no one will want to defend a country with such a poor reputation.

Well-known German historian Dr. Christoph Dieckmann, who in 2011 wrote the fundamental work “Germany’s Occupation Policy in Lithuania 1941-1944” [co-authored by Saulius Sužiedėlis], in an interview with Delfi last spring raised the moral question of why Lithuanian society, seeing and hearing the Jews being killed around them, didn’t protest. Do you think this is a well-founded question?

I think the question is not completely justified, because there were few opportunities to resist. And let’s remember that in the first two months the Lithuanian consciousness was still focused on the deportations, and Red Army soldiers shot at least 1,000 innocent Lithuanians as they withdrew. The psychology was completely different. What Lithuanian would die for Stalin? So resisting would have been difficult psychologically.

Thank You

November 28, 2017

Dear members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community,

I would like to thank the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community for the outpouring of love and support that has been extended to my family following the passing of my mother, Chasia Shpanerflig. I consider myself truly blessed to have the love and support of this amazing community.

Those who knew my mother knew her as a strong-willed and resilient woman. In ninety-six years, my mother was presented with some of life’s most difficult challenges–war, genocide, the loss of family, oppression; the list goes on and on. It is in the face of adversity where my mother, guided by her deep-rooted morals and values, distinguished herself as a human being. Circumstances that may have given others reason to abandon hope were the times that my mother was strongest and most resilient. Her selflessness and commitment to the well-being of her family and friends: exemplary; her will and her beliefs: unwavering; and her love for her community and family: unparalleled. It is these basic ideals that distinguished my mother and that she will be remembered for.

During the latter portion of her life, my mother was recognized her as an active member of the Jewish community in Vilnius. During times where she still had her youth and was physically capable, she actively participated in, and contributed to, all causes that promoted the well-being of her fellow community members. She took great pride in her level of involvement with the community, most notably in her tenure as an officer in the Veterans Division (secretary)–it gave her an unbelievable sense of purpose and brought her tremendous joy.

In the very late stages of my mother’s life, as her health deteriorated, the community which she gave so much of herself to was right there to return the good favor. The Social Services and the Ghetto divisions in particular, worked tirelessly to make sure she received all of the proper care and support when she wasn’t able to provide for herself. Being thousands of miles away, these times were incredibly difficult for me. Throughout this entire time, both divisions were right there by my family’s side, ensuring that my mother received the best possible care and that the lines of communication were constantly open for my own comfort and peace of mind. It is to them, and their leadership, that I am eternally grateful and would like to extend my deepest appreciation.

There is a popular saying that “time heals all wounds.” While her death has been difficult for my family and me, my mother lived a long and dignified life. The Lithuanian Jewish Community was a significant piece of her identity and she considered its members her family. I would like to thank everyone in the community for the lifetime of support they provided her and for being there for my family and me in these tough times.

Sofia Kats

Christmas Fair at Old Town Hall Square

The Israeli embassy and the Bagel Shop Café presented Jewish foods for the Christmas Fair at the Old Town Hall in Vilnius Tuesday. The fair will take place on Saturday, December 2. The fair is held annually by foreign embassies in Vilnius with all sorts of handicrafts, Christmas decorations and food on offer. Revenues generated go to welfare programs in Lithuania. More than 30 embassies and 5 international schools will man booths at the fair. A lottery will be held with valuable prizes awarded and traditional song and dance will be performed. The fair will be open from 12 noon to 6:00 P.M.