We wish a very happy milestone birthday to our long-time member and WWII veteran Tatjana Archipova-Efros. Mazl tov. Bis 120!
Litvak descendant and artist Jenny Kagan has opened an exhibit telling her family’s story during the Holocaust. The “Out of Darkness” exhibit’s main motif is that of a box, the one in which her parents Joseph and Margaret hid, among the few survivors of the Kaunas ghetto. Through interactive objects and audio/video installations the exhibit tells her family history. She told BNS she wanted to provide exhibit goers with a real emotional experience. She added that while the story is a narrative, she comes from a theatrical background and decided to make the experience a theatrical one. The exhibit was first installed in the atmospheric Viaduct Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2016.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
The Jewish mini-holiday of Tu B’Av
Our sages proclaimed the 15th of Av [Friday, August 12 in 2022] as one of the two greatest festivals of the year, yet they ordained no special observances or celebrations for it . . .
The 15th of Av is a most mysterious day. A search of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) reveals no observances or customs for this date, except for the instruction that the tachanun (confession of sins) and similar portions should be omitted from the daily prayers (as is the case with all festive dates), and that one should increase one’s study of Torah, since the nights are beginning to grow longer, and “the night was created for study.”
The Talmud tells us that many years ago the “daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards” on the 15th of Av, and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride. And the Talmud considers this the greatest festival of the year, with Yom Kippur a close second!
Full article here.
Lithuanian Archive reference LCVA R683, aprašas 2, byla2 lapas 80
“Memory Wars” are fought worldwide. The United Nations and Jew-haters everywhere appear to have reasonable certitude that Jews do not have much of any historical link to Israel, and should not “occupy” Israel. History is a tool of propagandists, able to be rewritten to fight any current conflict and to re-frame a national identity. Soviets did it, North Korea does it, Putin does it, Lukashenko in Belarus does it. But no government in the world has developed historical revisionism into the art form that Lithuania has. They have created an entire government agency to rewrite history, called “The Genocide Center.”
The following is an excerpt from a text by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania (the Genocide Center) titled “On Accusations against Jonas Noreika (General Storm), March 27, 2019, Vilnius”:
Izraela Blataitė, honorary citizen of Šarnelė, Lithuania, has passed away in Israel. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones.
The Sabbath begins at 8:54 P.M. on Friday, August 5, and concludes at 10:19 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
The controversial Lithuanian Genocide Center erected an information stand about the mass murder of the Jews of Trakai next to the mass murder site in the Varnikai village in the Trakai district on August 4, 2022.
The stand was erected at the request of directorate of the Trakai National Historical Park.
It contains information including 297 names of those murdered at the site on September 30, 1941. The Genocide Center claims the actual number of those murdered at the site on that day was 1,446, a figure likely taken from the Jäger report.
The stand says the Ypatingasis unit (still notorious in its original Lithuanian form in Holocaust testimonies in numerous languages, literally “the special unit,” or Sonderkommando in German) under the command of SS officer Martin Weiss and Vilnius Ypatingasis commander Balys Norvaiša murdered more than a thousand Jews from Trakai and surrounding towns and then got drunk and sang songs at a local cafeteria.
Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av on the Hebrew calendar, falls on Saturday, July 6 this year.
Tisha b’Av commemorates the destruction of the First Temple of Solomon ca. 587 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE in Jerusalem and is traditionally a day of fasting and mourning. Observance includes five prohibitions, the main one being a 25-hour fast. The Book of Lamentations is read in the synagogue followed by the recitation of kinnos, liturgical dirges for the Temple and Jerusalem. Since the day has become associated with other major Jewish tragedies, some kinnos recall other events, including the murder of the Ten Martyrs in ancient Rome, pogroms against medieval Jewish communities and the Holocaust.
According to tradition, the sin of the Ten Spies is the real origin of Tisha B’Av. In the Book of Numbers, 13:1-33 when the Israelites accepted their false report of the Promised Land, they wept, thinking God could no help them. The night the people wept and wailed was the ninth day of Av, which then became a day of weeping and misfortune for all time, according to tradition, following which the Jews were made to wander the desert for 40 years.
Around 4,300 people of Roma and Sinti ethnicity were murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex on the night of August 2, 1944. In 2015 the EU parliament resolved to make this day the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day in memory of the approximately 500,000 Roma and Sinti murdered in Europe.
World War II and its genocide of the Roma did great harm to the Roma living in Lithuania and left agony in its wake for the Roma community. In 1942 Nazi-occupied Lithuania undertook mass arrests of Roma, and the arrestees were taken to concentration and labor camps in France and Germany. About 1,000 Roma were deported from Lithuania, most of whom returned to Lithuania after the war. Roma were murdered in Lithuania. The majority were shot in Pravieniškės, but they were also murdered en masse outside Švenčionys in the Šalčininkai region in southeast Lithuania. Near Vilnius in the Kirtimai village a caravan of Roma was liquidated, although the exact number murdered is not known. About 500 Roma were murdered during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, about one in three. The Nazis murdered Roma families they encountered travelling, but didn’t report how many they killed, so the figure of 500 could be significantly larger.
The Roma Community Center marks August 2 annually. Below is the story told by Anastazija Jablonskienė-Bagdonavičiūtė’s daughter Elžbieta. She was the only survivor from her family, she was away when the Nazis came for them. She hid during the war and survived. Anastazija had 18 children.
The #ŽydiškiPašnekesiai discussion club moderated by Arkadijus Vinokuras will meet on August 10 to discuss the recent victories by Lithuanian Makabi Athletic Club athletes at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel.
The Lithuanian team made one of its best showings ever, winning 6 medals last month.
The club was active in interwar Lithuania from 1920 to 1940. It was originally founded in 1916. In 1926 the club had 83 branches throughout Lithuania, encompassing 4,000 members. It published a newspaper twice per month and had its own sports stadium. The club was reconstituted on January 8, 1989, at a general meeting at the calculator and business machine factory in Vilnius.
Speakers will include Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club president Semionas Finkelšteinas, table-tennis medal winner many times over Rafael Gimelštein and others.
The panel discussion will be held in Lithuanian at the Bagel Shop Café at 5:00 P.M. on August 10.
The Maironis Museum of Lithuanian Literature and Faina Borovsky organized an exhibit of the photography of interwar Litvak photographers Mausha Levi and Shimon Bayer which opened July 28 at the museum located at the Old Town Square, Rotušės aikštė no. 13, in Kaunas. The exhibit is part of the Kaunas, Capital of European Culture 2022 program. The video below shows the opening of the exhibit, visited by both Gercas Žakas, chairman of the Kaunas Jewish Community, and Robert Gilchrist, US ambassador to Lithuania.
Lithuanian state radio and television has published an interview with Jenny Kagan:
As Margarita Štromaitė, born in Kaunas, wrote in her memoirs, her future husband she met in the ghetto, Juozas Kagan and his mother Mira were rescued by Vytautas Rinkevičius’s family: “Regardless of the deadly danger, which threatened his entire family, he set up a hiding place for us in the attic of the forge. It was where the straw was, separated by an imaginary wall.” Twenty years after the Holocaust Margarita met her only surviving relative, her brother Aleksandras Štromas. In 1965 she and Joseph had a daughter, Eugenia. Or Jenny.
Jenny Kagan will be in Kaunas beginning August 4 for the exhibit “From Darkness” which is part of the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program, which will present her family history in subtle artistic techniques including text and audio, revealing previously unknown pages from the story of Kaunas.
This is also the story of the humanness and light we require to survive as a civilization. The exhibit will be held at Gimnazijos street no. 4 in Kaunas as part of the Histories Festival of the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program.
Full interview in Lithuanian here.
On July 24 members, partners and friends of the Panevėžys Jewish Community gathered to celebrate the organization’s 30th birthday. Chairman Gennady Kofman thanked active members of the community in carrying on Jewish tradition and preserving Jewish heritage and gave special thanks to supporters and partners for their contribution in expanding the Community’s activities.
Community members recalled how the Community was formed and paid respects to its first chairman, the journalist Anatolijus Fainblumas, and others. Sincere words of gratitude went to Righteous Gentile Jonas Markevičius’s son Vidmantas and daughter Janina, who have helped promote the Community as well in the local community. Thanks were given to executive board members Jurijus Grafman and his wife Svetlana. Deep gratitude was expressed for the Lithuanian Jewish Community and its chairwoman Faina Kukliansky.
Chairman Kofman told the 30-year story of the Community. On July 8, 1991, the Panevėžys Jewish Community was officially reconstituted and articles of incorporation filed at the Panevėžys municipality. Goals and duties were set then: “To develop the national consciousness of members, to raise the level of culture and spirituality, to conduct our activities based on exemplary behavior and sincerity, to cooperate with all sorts of democratic organizations and religious confessions,” etc.
The Sabbath begins at 9:07 P.M. on Friday, July 29, and concludes at 10:36 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yossi Avni-Levy’s diplomatic posting came to an end today. We are grateful to him for these several years of friendship and wish him the greatest success in his future postings.
Although the war in the Ukraine continues, David Hansel, the grandson of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas with Lithuanian roots, currently visiting Kaunas, thinks things have never been so peaceful as now. He rejects claims of genocide in the Ukraine by either side in the conflict. In an interview with Lithuanian state radio and television, he shared his ideas about the country of Lithuania, where his family members were murdered in the Holocaust. He attended a five-day series of events about his grandfather held in Kaunas by the Emmanuel Levinas Center of the Lithuanian Health Sciences University and by other faculties at that university and a French organization. Although he says he isn’t a philosopher, he felt the duty to protect his grandfather’s legacy. He said he is a practicing Jew, but that it’s based on what he learned from his grandfather.
Full interview in Lithuanian here.
Athletes from the Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club have concluded competition at the 21st World Maccabiah Games in Israel which ran from July 12 to July 26 with around 10,000 athletes from over 60 countries. Lithuanian Makabi athletes won 6 medals, making these games among the most successful since Lithuanian Makabi was reconstituted. Table tennis player Gerda Šišanovaitė won a gold medal in singles competition and Ignas Šišanovas took silver also in singles matches. Swimmer Michailas Trusovas is coming home with silver in 50-meter freestyle competition. The youngest member of the delegation, 13-year-old Eduardas Šeras, won silver in heated chess matches in the 16- to 18-year-old category.