Lipmanas Orlovičius, a member of the Klaipėda Jewish Community, passed away on March 10. He was born June 9, 1939.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sends our deepest condolences to his widow Ema and their children.

Hundredth Birthday of Abba Kovner

Dear members,

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will hold a ceremony to unveil a plaque commemorating Jewish partisan leader and poet Abba Kovner at 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, outside the LJC conference hall on the second floor at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. Participants will include chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja and Punchos Fridberg, who will speak about Kovner in Yiddish.

You are invited to attend a brief meeting in the conference hall following the unveiling.

Rudashevski’s Ghetto Diary Now in Lithuanian

Books link us to freedom, books connect us to the world.
–Yitzhak Rudashevski, December 13, 1942, Vilnius.

Teaching the Holocaust to children is a difficult matter. At what age is it appropriate to expose children to man’s greatest inhumanity to man and the horrible atrocities which took place throughout Europe, culminating in the calculated genocide of millions of people? The Maus comic book was one approach, but children aren’t stupid and they get the full impact of the horror anyway, despite the window dressing.

Teaching adults the Holocaust can be just as problematic. A large body of Holocaust literature including straight histories, survivors’ testimonies and even theological works, not to mention a signficant cinematic canon, can lead to burn-out quickly, the Holocaust hangover syndrome. It is too much to take in all at once, the mind rebels.

Some Holocaust commemoration projects and museums have recognized the old maxim, that a picture is worth a thousand words, and often an object–an abandoned shoe, a lost set of house keys, a broken doll–speaks louder to the soul of the visitor than any text, photograph or video.

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.

Israeli Jazz in Panevėžys

Panevėžyje koncertuos Izraelio džiazo atlikėjai

The Israeli embassy and the CIty of Panevėžys invite you to a performance by Israeli jazz musicians Iris and Ofer Portugaly at 5:00 P.M. on Friday, March 2.

The concert is free and open to the public. It will be held at the Art Gallery in Panevėžys.

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.

Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius Ghetto Diary Launched at Vilnius Book Fair

Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary is one of the most important testimonies to reach us from the Vilnius ghetto, an authentic eye-witness account of history as it happened. The Lithuanian Jewish Community went to extreme efforts to insure the diary finally be published in Lithuanian translation.

“I think my words are written in blood,” the young Rudaashevski wrote in his diary inscribed in school notebooks. After reaching the age of 15 in the ghetto, Rudashevski and his family were murdered in Ponar.

Chess Tourney to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of Lithuania

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a chess tournament on February 25 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Lithuania. Chess players young and old flocked to the tournament. Tournament director and FIDE master Boris Rositsan and Lithuanian Chess Federation president Aleksandras Černovas told those who came the chess player is a person who never abandons hope. Chess player and Lithuanian MP Julius Sabatauskas, who often organizes chess tournaments in Alytus, Lithuania, attended and competed, and said he was very happy to see the Lithuanian birthday celebration at the LJC with so many people there. Former prime ministerial advisor and veteran Lithuanian journalist Vilius Kavaliauskas spoke about Litvak history and former late president Algirdas Brazauskas’s trip to Israel, during which Brazauskas made a controversial apology to the Jewish people for Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust. Kavaliauskas accompanied PM Brazauskas on that trip and recalled how the late prime minister said Lithuania lost her greatest and brightest people to the Holocaust. Where would Lithuania be now if they had lived and worked for her future, he wondered.

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!

Once There Lived Aizik Kanovich

Rokha (Rocha-Samuraj) and Dovid Kanovich, Solomon’s brothers Moshe-Yankel,
Aizik and Motl, sister Khava (from collections of Sergejus Kanovičius and Lisa

by Sergejus Kanovičius

The sky was bright blue. “So clear, almost as clear as the water in the yard of our house in Jonava,” thought Aizik and closed his eyes again. A few soft snowflakes fell from the blue sky. It seemed you could count them. Like family members–snowflake Sara, snowflake Rosette, snowflake Joseph, and snowflake Bernard–one, two, three, four, counted Aizik with his eyes closed.

“Get a move on. Faster, come on, the train won’t wait for you.” One could hear the echo of insistent urging.

“Aizik, Aizik, get up, we’re almost there – one more step and we’re on the train. A little more and we’re home in Paris”, whispered Moris-Moisha Zuskind, bent over his friend, holding his hands under his armpits so they wouldn’t freeze.

In his mind, Aizik was traveling to his hometown, Jonava, and his native Žvejų street. Back to December of 1920 when he stepped over the threshold of his house and proudly announced:

Lithuanian Jewish Community Booth at Vilnius Book Fair

Lietuvos žydų bendruomenės stendas Vilniaus Knygų mugėje

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has participated with its own booth at the Vilnius Book Fair for the first time, launching a Lithuanian translation of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary. The booth featured other books about Jewish history and culture published with financial help from the Goodwill Foundation. Purim treats were also passed out. Visitors were interested in the publications, but also had plenty of questions about what the Community does and Jewish culture and traditions. They shared stories from their grandparents about the latter’s childhood spent in common with Jewish children.

Translators Mindaugas Kvietkauskas and Akvilė Grigoravičiūtė signed books.

Tolerant Person of the Year and Donskis Prize Winner for 2017 Announced

According to the Lithuanian Government’s webpage, Marius Ivaškevičius was named Tolerant Person of the Year for 2017 at a ceremony at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Historian Saulius Sužiedėlis was award the Leonidas Donskis prize at the same ceremony Sunday.

Marius Ivaškevičius initiated a Holocaust memorial march in his native town of Molėtai in late August, 2016. Thousands travelled there to participate and the march is widely considered to have marked a sea-change in Lithuanian Holocaust awareness. Ivaškevičius’s appeal before the march called “I’m Not Jewish” remains the most-read item on in English translation.

Saulius Sužiedėlis is the Lithuanian-American professor of history who has written numerous works on the Holocaust in Lithuania, including what is still considered the definitive modern treatment, “The Persecution and Mass Murder of Lithuanian Jews during Summer and Fall of 1941,” co-authored with German historian Christoph Dieckmann. A recent interview called “Saulius Sužiedėlis Explains Why the Nazis Didn’t Need Gas Chambers in Lithuania” was extremely popular in the Lithuanian original posted at

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!

Lithuanian Genocide Center Faces New Scrutiny

South African Litvak resident in the United States Grant Gochin, a member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and a Lithuanian citizen, has scored a victory in his legal fight to make the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania back down on their claims Jonas Noreika and Kazys Škirpa weren’t Holocaust criminals.

In a 22-page finding issued by the Office of Parliamentary Ombudsman in early February, the Genocide Center was determined to have violated Gochin’s right to good public administration for failing to answer the points he raised about the Center’s findings on Noreika and Škirpa’s role in the mass murder of Jews in Lithuania. Gochin’s right to a comprehensive answer enshrined in Lithuania law was also violated because the Center failed to use internationally established criteria on the crime of genocide and then claimed to the parliamentary ombudsman they had, although they failed to list these specific documents in their answer to Gochin. At issue was whether Noreika and Škirpa were guilty of genocide: the Center said they hadn’t participated directly in the shooting of Jews in Lithuania, while Gochin said they were guilty under internationally accepted definitions including the 1948 UN Convention to Prevent and Punish Genocide, the Nuremberg Trial Statutes and the work of the International Criminal Tribunal of the UN in Rwanda.

Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas also said the Center had refused the mediation of the Office of Ombudsman, hadn’t taken the ombudsman’s earlier recommendations into account and now had a pattern of complaints over the last three years by dissatisfied members of the public which the ombudsman has investigated. He noted the Center has a culture among its director and staff of not answering the public, although the Center’s main function as defined in the special law creating the agency is to serve the public and corporate entities by providing information.

The ombudsman warned in the finding that if the Center repeats this behavior, the Office of Ombudsman would ask the Center’s bosses–the parliament and office of prime minister–to investigate on-going failures to follow the law and the Lithuanian constitution.

Gochin’s blog has an English translation of the Lithuanian parliamentary ombudsman’s findings here.

Rudashevski Diary Presented to Lithuanian President at Vilnius Book Fair

Thursday, February 22, Vilnius–Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė opened the 19th annual Vilnius Book Fair. She said this year was special because the Republic of Lithuania is celebrating its 100th birthday, and that other states in the region represented at the fair are doing the same.

The book fair slogan this year was “I read Lithuania, I read the world.”

Grybauskaitė said: “If you can read and know Lithuania, that means you can read the world, too, and Lithuania as part of it.”

She was presented a copy of the Vilnius ghetto diary of Yitzhak Rudashevski in Lithuanian translation, to be officially launched at the book fair Sunday.

Rudashevski Diary at Vilnius Book Fair

A new Lithuanian translation of the diary by young Vilnius ghetto inmate and Holocaust victim Yitzhak Rudashevski will be presented to the public at the Vilnius Book Fair on February 25.

Faina Kukliansky, Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Sigutė Chlebinskaitė, Fania Brancovskaja and Akvilė Grigoravičiūtė are to speak at the event at 11:00 A.M. in conference hall 1.2 at the Vilnius Book Fair. Sixteen-year-old violinist Ugnė Liepa Žuklytė will perform Anatolijus Šenderovas’s piece “Cantus in memoriam Jascha Heifetz” at the event.

The boy and his parents survived the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto 75 years ago on September 23, 1943, but were arrested while in hiding, taken to Ponar and shot.

The Vilnius Book Fair is held annually at the Litexpo exhibition center at Laisvės prospect no. 5 in Vilnius.

For more information contact Monika Antanaitytė at + 37067240942