Survivor Yochanan Fein’s Memoirs Presented in Lithuanian in Kaunas


Photo courtesy Vincas Kudirka Public Library

The Lithuanian translation of Yochanan Fein’s memoirs called “Berniukas su smuiku” [Boy with a Violin] was presented at two locations in Kaunas: the Vincas Kudirka public library’s Panemunė branch and the President Valdas Adamkus Library and Museum. The author impressed audiences with his warmth, humor, humanitarianism and perfect Lithuanian and his story drew both laughter and tears.

Members of the Paulavičius family, who rescued Fein during the Holocaust, attended the book presentation at the presidential library, along with members of academia, Kaunas Jewish Community members, former ghetto prisoners and Fein’s son and daughter, who accompanied him throughout Lithuania on his book tour.

Recalling his life in the ghetto and his rescue as well as what led up to his writing the book, Fein said that although the book is written in blood, it contains no hatred, revenge or attacks. Fein even received some criticism from friends for that reason, so he explained he would never forget what happened and who did it, but he also discovered enlightened people during those dark days who preserved faith in humanity, risking their lives and those of their families. Fein said he didn’t like the word “everyone” and that there is no universal crime or guilt. He said we need to talk about the real heroes of the nation, the extraordinary people who adhered to Fein’s father’s life-long maxim “men darf zayn a mentsh,” one must remain a human being.

Jewish Lithuanian Soldier Volf Kagan Remembered in Balbirishok

A commemorative plaque was unveiled on October 5 to honor the memory of Volf Kagan, Jewish Lithuanian soldier and two-time recipient of the order of the Cross of Vytis, in the town square of Balbieriškis (Balbirishok) next to the local government building in the Prienai region of Lithuania. Volf Kagan (1900-1941) came from this town.

According to Balbieriškis Tolerance Center director Vitas Rymantas Sidaravičius, the plaque honors both Kagan and the former Jewish community of Balbieriškis. The plaque was the brain-child of Lithuanian journalist Vilius Kavaliauskas, author and editor of articles and the book “Pažadėtoji žemė – Lietuva” [Lithuania: The Promised Land] about Litvaks, and was financed by the Prienai regional administration. Lithuanian Jewish MP Emanuelis Zingeris attended the unveiling ceremony as did Prienai regional administration head Alvydas Vaicekauskas, deputy regional administration head Algis Marcinkevičius, representatives of the Kaunas Jewish Community, Vilius Kavaliauskas, Prienai regional culture, sports and youth department director Rimantas Šiugždinis, Išlaužo žuvis company director Rimantas Jurgelionis, Balbieriškiis parish head priest father Remigijus Veprauskas, head town doctor Angelė Sidaravičienė, Balbieriškis alderwoman Sigita Ražanskienė, members of the aldermanship council, Balbieriškis primary school students and teachers, Culture and Leisure Center staff and local residents.

One Hundredth Anniversary of Birth of Jewish Soldier and Poet Abba Kovner


Abba Kovner with Jewish partisans and ghetto underground, July 14, 1944 (standing in center). Photo: Ilya Erenburg

by professor Pinchos Fridberg, for the web page of the newspaper Obzor

I am writing before the event: a half year remains until the birthday of the famous figure, but decisions need to be made now.

Don’t look for legendary Litvak Abba Kovner on the Lithuanian-language wikipedia, the hero of Jewish resistance to the Nazi occupation in Lithuania, the fighter for Israeli independence, the famous poet and writer, has no entry there. There are entries in the Hebrew and English wikipedia, in the Polish and Russian, but not in Lithuanian.

He apparently doesn’t merit a wikipedia page in Lithuanian. Every people has their heroes. On March 14, 2018, Abba Kovner, z”l [zikhrono livrakha, of blessed memory], turns 100.

I hope the Lithuanian Jewish Community remembers this significant event.

Abba studied at the Tarbut gymnasium, the building at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius which now houses the Lithuanian Jewish Community. I therefore think “God Himself” commands us to hang a memorial plaque (in Lithuanian, Yiddish and English) to his memory in the foyer of this building. I foresee a question arising: why in the foyer and not on the outside of the building. My answer: I don’t want to see the issue of a memorial plaque get bogged down in endless negotiations.

Shmini Atzeres and Simchat Torah Holidays at Choral Synagogue

Šmini Aceret ir Simchat Tora šventės Vilniaus choralinėje sinagogoje

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (or Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah in Ashkenazic Hebrew) conclude the fall cycle of Jewish holy days.

There are 54 weekly readings of Torah read over the course of the Jewish calendar year. The Shmini Atzeres holiday marks the end of the annual reading and the beginning of the next year of readings at synagogue.

The Torah scroll is removed from the aron kodesh and members of the congregation dance with the Torah around the bimah, where the readings take place, seven times. It is one of the most fun Jewish holidays with singing and dancing.

Simchat Torah will be celebrated at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 7:30 P.M. on October 12, 2017.

We’ll sing and dance, and food and treats will be provided.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Makabi Fun Run October 15

All Makabi members and supporters are invited to a Fun-Run this Sunday, October 15, at Vingio park in Vilnius.

We think everyone can run the 3 kilometer or 1.5 kilometer course and have a good time together. All funds received will be used to support and expand Makabi Club activities.

Registration:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1jtjruTVnoN22B7EWUF-W0qKusHSvlHemXMkVdgCuHEk/viewform?edit_requested=true

or by sending an e-mail to liovixasas@gmail.com

Program:

10:00 A.M. Opening
10:30 A.M. 1.5 km run
11:15 A.M. 3 km run
12:00 noon awards

Uncomfortable Cinema

Uncomfortable Cinema is an annual human rights documentary film festival which has been going on since 2007. It’s a social and cultural project and everyone is invited to take part. During the festival a rich program of films, meetings with the filmmakers and discussions with actors, human rights activists and others are held in Vilnius and throughout Lithuania. Despite its educational and activist content, the festival is extremely popular with the public and is the only festival of its kind in the Baltic states. It draws 15,000 viewers in Lithuania annually.

More about the festival in Lithuanian here.

LJC and Greek Embassy Event to Celebrate Righteous Gentiles

Marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Lithuania and the Republic of Greece, the Greek embassy to Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jewish Community invite you to an event to celebrate Lithuanian and Greek Righteous Gentiles and Lithuanian and Greek Jewish relations in the Diaspora.

The event will be held at 6:00 P.M., Tuesday, October 10, 2017, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community at Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius.

Program:

Presentation of book “Greek Righteous among the Nations,” edited by Dr. Photini Tomai-Constantopoulou, a representative of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Documentary about Greeks at Auschwitz

Presentation by Patrida, the Greek community in Lithuania

Greek music, Greek and Jewish food

The event is free to the public and the main language of the event will be English. Greek ambassador to Lithuania Dr. Vassiliki Dicopoulou is scheduled to attend.

Tale of a Man with Two Names, One Life

by Algis Jakštas

I first wrote several years ago about a man with an exceptional story, a man with two names and two surnames, Romuald Jabuk Weksler-Waszkinel, who was born in Švenčionys during the war and by some miracle became the only survivor from among all his family and relatives who once lived there. That miracle was the work of Piotr and Emilia Waszkinel. Jakub and Batia Veksler handed their son born February 28, 1943, over into their care and Piotr and Emilia had him baptized as a Christian.

Romuald Jakub Weksler-Waszkinel now lives in Israel and has come to Lithuania at the invitation of the Polish Institute in Vilnius. He also found time to visit his native Švenčionys. He visited the Menorah statue which recalls the former ghetto gate and other sites. As I said, none of his relatives who lived in Švenčionys survived. Some were killed in the forest near Švenčionėliai, others at concentration camps. His parents died at a concentration camp.

Barbara Orszewska, project coordination for the Polish Institute in Vilnius, accompanied Weksler to Švenčionys and was happy to translate for him. Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moisej Šapiro also accompanied him. I spoke with him by the Menorah monument there. My first question, or more precisely request, was for him to talk about his life, worthy of a movie or book.

“My story is, that until I was 35 I didn’t know I was Jewish. I was always unsure about ethnicity when I tried to compare my features and appearance with those around me. I didn’t look like a Pole, and Poles lived around, or like my Polish parents. When I turned 35 my mother told me I had other parents, Jews, who were murdered during the war. She didn’t know my original name. For 14 years I sought my true roots until I found my Jewish surname, Weksler. Now I have two first names and two surnames. And this is my greatest treasure. The Jews Jakub and Batia Weksler gave me life, and without the Poles Piotr and Emilia I wouldn’t have survived. In 2009 I went to live in Israel. There I found relatives of my mother and father, there I felt as if I had come home. I am very grateful to people and God.”

What feelings overtook you when you discovered you were Jewish instead of Polish?

Švenčionys Jewish Community Chairman Moisej Šapiro Speaks in Former Ghetto


by Galina Romanova

It almost seems as if nothing new can be said about a long-standing Jewish tradition to meet on the first Sunday in October by the Menorah sculpture in the central park in Švenčionys, Lithuania and at the obelisk people call the Polygon in the forest between Platumai village and Šalnaitis Lake, where 8,000 Jews from the entire Vilnius region were brutally murdered and buried. It almost seems that way, but every meeting is different in its own way. This year, on October 1, there was a prevailing spirit of real and sincere communication, just as there is every year, and the people who come here often end up becoming long-term friends, or at least get to know one another much better. Those who come bring with them photographs and souvenirs from different times.

Come Watch a Movie Sunday

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is joining the International Film Festival for Children and Youth.

Come watch Villads fra Valby (Villads from Valby, Denmark, 2015), directed by Frederik Meldal Nørgaard, with Lithuanian voice-over, at 3:00 P.M. on October 8 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius. The film follows 6-year-old Villads in school and at home. Villads often runs into trouble because he loves to play, and most of the times the rules of Villads’s games conflict with the rules set by adults.

Please register for a seat by sending an e-mail to renginiai@lzb.lt

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_0AJlEwuMg

Hebrew Classes for Beginners

Shalom,

It’s never to late to learn something new or go over what you already know. With that in mind we invite you to study Hebrew this October. A class for beginners will meet at 1:00 P.M. on Sundays at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius.

Please join us. Everyone is welcome.

For more information, contact the teacher Ruth Reches by e-mail at ruthreches@gmail.com

Sukkot: Don’t Read This–It’s Utterly Futile

Dear Friend,

Here is a dismal, if anecdotal, indicator of the state of Jewish education: whenever I have asked, I have found that the overwhelming majority of Jews don’t know the phrase “nothing new under the sun” comes from the Bible.

In fact, it’s a central motif in the book of Kohelet, or Ecclesiastes, an enigmatic megillah we read during the forthcoming holiday of Sukkot.

The choice of Kohelet for Sukkot is a curious one. Sukkot is supposed to be the most joyous festival in our calendar, and yet, on it we read a book that starts with this uplifting phrase: “Utter futility, utter futility, everything is futile.” Gulp. Chew on that, shiny happy people. Solomon, to whom Kohelet is traditionally attributed, must be Judaism’s most infamous party-pooper.

Yochanan Fein to Speak at LJC Presentation of His Testimony in Lithuanian Translation

berniukas-su-smuiku_large

The memoirs of Yochanan Fein have been translated and published in Lithuanian and the new book will be presented at the Lithuanian Jewish Community at 6:00 P.M. on October 5, 2017. Author Yochanan Fein is scheduled to speak at the event to be moderated by professor Leonidas Melnikas. A musical performance is to be provided by violinist Jokūbas Račiūnas. The event is to take place mainly in Russian. Fein is a Holocaust survivor from Kaunas and the the new book is called “Berniukas su smuiku,” or “The Boy with the Violin.”

Commemoration of Šeduva Shtetl in Lithuania and Abroad

Milda Jakulytė-Vasil,
museum curator,
Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund

The beginning of the Šeduva Jewish community should be dated to the first half of the 18th century when Šeduva, having received Magdeburg charter self-government rights and after becoming a city, underwent rapid development the Jewish population grew remarkably. In 1793 the writer Fridrich Schulz (1762-1798) in his description of his impressions of visits to Poland (Fridrich Schulz “Reise eines Livländers durch Polen,” 1793) described Šeduva as a small town very similar to many he’d seen along the way. The traveller’s eyes didn’t miss the fact that almost none of the homes in the town had chimneys. Of course this sort of observation in a travelogue probably wasn’t intended to kindle the interest of readers and get them to visit the location, and beyond being an observation by the writer and traveller probably only meant that fires could and often did ravage these sorts of towns and cities.

In essence Šeduva wasn’t especially known for anything in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. We can say Šeduva was a typical town where Jews formed a significant part of economically active residents, and if their activities didn’t cause urban development, they at least had an influence over it. There were many such shtetlakh/towns in Lithuania, but upon closer inspection each has surprising and interesting events and stories, and the descendants of these towns are found now around the world.

In the shtetl of Šeduva in the period between the wars, constituted of about 900 Jews, the residents knew (or at least recognized) each other. The historian Saulius Kaubrys found the entire Jewish population Šeduva fit more or less along three streets, and this dense residency led to more intimate mutual interaction. There’s a story which illustrates the maxim that there are no secrets in a small town: “Shlomo had a brother named Nisan, an old man, about 60, but in his father’s eyes he was still ‘the kid,’ so he took him to buy a pair of shoes once. The two entered the shop and the father told the shopkeeper: ‘Give me some kid shoes.’ The shopkeeper looked around, but where was the child? At that point the father pointed to his 60-year-old son, ‘the child.’ Of course the entire shtetl knew about ‘the kid’ (that’s how it is in the shtetlakh)… They also lived in Šeduva.”

Come Learn about Jewish Fall Holidays

Žydų rudens šventės – kviečiame į paskaitą

Sukkot, or Sukkos, is the feast of tabernacles, meaning tents.
Simchat Torah, or Simkhas Torah, is a celebration of the Torah.

Description:
The Lithuanian Jewish Community and educator Natalja Cheifec invite you to a lesson where you’ll learn:

Why Jews must dwell in these booths made especially for Sukkot
When sins become good deeds
What the requirement of the four species means
Why Simchat Torah is the holiday of rejoicing in the Torah
Why Jews are not only allowed but required to drink during Simchat Torah

and many additional interesting facts. Students will also receive a small gift.

Register here:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1oN-Nj3-EYpdg2xFAl82GJPeWLxqhzyomQ6e6JdEZ9OQ/edit

We meet at 2:00 P.M. on October 8 at the entrance to the Bagel Shop Café located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius.

Zavl Shul Opens Doors to Public Briefly

The historic Zavl synagogue near the Vilnius train station opened its doors to visitors briefly Sunday, October 1.

The building has been undergoing extensive repairs and a full restoration over the last several years after it was returned to the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Initially the LJC undertood emergency measures to fix the roof after a wind storm displaced shingles and a gaping hole appeared. Several years on now the entire external façade including walls, windows, cupola and roof have been restored to something approximating its authentic appearance before the Holocaust.

The public event featured a series of humble and eclectic art installations by a group of designers located in the women’s gallery and on the main floor.

Sukkot at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

SUKKOT šventės Vilniaus Choralinėje sinagogoje

October 4: Service at 6:30 P.M., followed by treats in Sukkot tent at Bokšto street no. 19.

October 5: Service at 9:30 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

October 6: Service at 9:30 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

October 7: Service at 9:00 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

October 8: Service at 8:30 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

October 9: Service at 8:30 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

October 10: Service at 8:30 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

October 11: Service at 8:30 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

Shmini Atzeres

October 12: Service at 9:30 A.M., followed by treats in the Sukkot tent at the synagogue.

Simchat Torah

October 12: Service at 7:21 P.M., dancing with Torah, followed by sushi at the synagogue.

October 13: Service at 9:30 A.M., followed by treats at synagogue

October 12 and 13 are non-working days.

Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Descendants of Victims and Perpetrators Tell the Same Story


Reglindis Rauca accidentally learned the true story of her grandfather and it changed her writing and her relationship with her family. Photo: Romas Jurgaitis/Lietuvos žinios

by Gintarė Čiuladaitė
© 2017 Lietuvos žinios

Reglindis Rauca, writer, actress and granddaughter of Helmut Rauca, the butcher of the Kaunas ghetto, is visiting Lithuania. She learned of her grandfather’s war crimes by accident in 2003 when she was searching the internet for information about her maiden name.

“It was completely accidental that I learned the true story about my grandfather Helmut Rauca. The discovery of these horrific crimes and their significance caused great shock and became an important theme in my life and work,” Reglindis Rauca said.

She met Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum director Markas Zingeris in Vilnius. The latter also wrote about Helmut Rauca in his novel “Grojimas dviese” [Performing as a Duet] published in 2002, describing him as a fanatic servant of the Third Reich and the perpetrator of fantastic crimes.

“Reglindis Rauca is a brave woman who has considered these heavy issues and was driven by them to travel to Lithuania. She visited the Ninth Fort in Kaunas and other World War II and Holocaust memorial sites. I realized both us were painfully affected by him, just in different ways,” Zingeris said.

Frau Finkelstein

Hello, Frau Finkelstein. You’ll forgive me if I continue to call you that, the way it’s written here, Frau Finkelstein? Thank you.

Don’t be angry, Frau Finkelstein, that it’s happening like this. It just turned out that way. By the way, why did they record you this way here, in the Jewish cemetery in Kaunas, not in Hebrew but in Roman characters, and as if that weren’t enough, why did they add “frau?” Was your husband German, Frau Finkelstein? Well, OK, fine, I know it’s none of my business. It’s just interesting, you know–you don’t even meet such a frau in the Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. It’s too bad there’s no photograph of you. I guess there probably used to be. All that remains of you, Frau Finkelstein, is part of a headstone, the top portion of which is probably now part of some stairway or maybe a card table–black marble, candle flame, a glass of red wine, a deck of cards and the queen of spades, instead of your photograph, and they are playing poker there, which is at least an intellectual game, not some kind of “go fish.” … What? You say that’s cynical? Do you really believe so, Frau Finkelstein? God protect us, this is no cynicism, Frau Finkelstein. What does it say here on your remains–October 17, 1928. Hold on for a second, Frau Finkelstein, I want to check my mobile to see which day of the week that was.

Rosh Hashana at the Choral Synagogue

LJC members and guests gathered to celebrate the eve of Rosh Hashana at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Wednesday, September 20. The celebration kicked off with Yiddish songs. Famous Lithuanian musician, organ player, pianist and vocalist Vitalijus Neugasimovas sang. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas delivered New Year’s greetings.

LJC calendars for 5778 were passed out and celebrants sampled traditional Rosh Hashana foods from the Bagel Shop Café. Services began after the sumptuous treats.