European Day of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

European Day of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

Sabbath in the Jewish Quarter, a lost tradition where every Friday evening the Jewish family sat down at the dinner table together, lit the candles, prayed and broke bread, followed by a day of rest on Saturday, and the beginning of the new week on Sunday.

Let’s rediscover the ferment, history, tastes, smells and melodies of the Jewish Quarter on the European Day of Jewish Culture.

Program here.

Registration here.

Zachor, Professor Landsbergis

by Grant Arthur Gochin

How did it come to this? Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, first head of dtate of Lithuania after liberation from the Soviet Union and founding father of the country’s Conservative Party (Homeland Union), putting himself squarely at the forefront of defending the hero status of Holocaust perpetrators and Nazi collaborators in Lithuania?

Landsbergis has gone on record calling Vilnius mayor Remigijus Simasius delusional for removing a plaque honoring the Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika from the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, a step called for years ago by a broad coalition of public intellectuals which included member of the European Parliament Leonidas Donskis, rector of Vilnius University Arturas Zukauskas and others (were they also all “delusional?”). Serving the Nazis as head of Siauliai district during World War II, Noreika signed orders forcing Jews into a ghetto and plundering their property (clearly they weren’t expected to come back).

Noreika’s granddaughter Silvia Foti, after discovering the truth, has courageously spoken out against the honoring of her grandfather. In what can only be described as an unstatesmanlike tirade, Landsbergis went so far as to publicly accuse her of “murdering him all over again” (Noreika was executed by the Soviets in 1947).

Landsbergis publicly condemned Vilnius City Council for removing the name of Kazys Skirpa, pro-Nazi leader of the Lithuanian Activist Front, the armed anti-Soviet resistance group behind the June 1941 Uprising, and nominal head of Lithuania’s provisional government under the Nazis, from a street in the middle of the capital. After the Vilnius synagogue was temporarily closed due to escalating anti-Semitism and threats of violence in the wake of these decisions, instead of calling for calm, Landsbergis continued to escalate his rhetoric, accusing head of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Faina Kukliansky of being “useful to the Kremlin.”

Full text here.

Lithuanian Ethics Inspector to Investigate International Commission Chief

Lithuanian Ethics Inspector to Investigate International Commission Chief

Photo: © 2019 DELFI/Karolina Pansevič

ELTA
August 14, 2019

Lithuania’s Supreme Public Service Ethics Commission will investigate Wednesday the actions of Ronaldas Račinskas, the secretary general of Lithuania’s International Commission to Assess the Crimes of the Soviet and Nazi Occupational Regimes in Lithuania.

According to the press release, the ethics commission has conducted an investigation on whether Račinskas adhered to the stipulations of Lithuania’s law on conflicts of interest in public service, and having discovered violations, seeks his resignation. The investigation began after receiving internal audit information provided by the Chancellery of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Supreme Public Service Ethics Commission is looking at cases where Račinskas might have signed orders giving himself additional income, approving his own vacation and approving working trips for himself in Lithuania and abroad.

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Holocaust Haunts Lithuania as Names Are Erased from Capital’s Map

Holocaust Haunts Lithuania as Names Are Erased from Capital’s Map

Vilnius’s main synagogue shut its doors after the mayor denied city honors to two Holocaust enablers, prompting threats. It has since reopened, but the controversy over how to deal with the past has hardly died down.

This was never going to be an easy decision. The mayor of Vilnius, Remigijus Simasius, knew a storm was coming when he signed a decree on July 24 changing the name of Kazys Skirpa Street and days later another, to remove a memorial plaque dedicated to Jonas Noreika from the library of the country’s Academy of Sciences.

A small group of radical nationalists held a rally in central Vilnius to protest the mayor’s decrees, railing against “traitors who spit at the memory of the nation’s great sons.” Vilnius’s synagogue was temporarily closed. The president’s office tabled a meeting to address, among other issues, renaming streets and memorial plaques, the BNS news agency reported.

The most sensitive issue of Lithuania’s past–the Holocaust–had ignited passions once again.

Full story in English here.

Condolences

With sadness we report the death of Inga Kundžmaitytė, long-time employee of the Jewish Culture and Information Center. Our sincere condolences to her family and friends.

Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Inmates Meet Baron Wolfgang von Stetten

Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Inmates Meet Baron Wolfgang von Stetten

Members of Lithuania’s Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Inmates met with Lithuania’s honorary consul for the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

Baron Wolfgang von Stetten was the chairman of the German Bundestag’s parliamentary group for contact with the Baltic states from 1990 to 2002. In July of 2019 he visited Vilnius and invited members of the Union to dinner at a restaurant. He invited members to visit him in Germany. He actively supports Holocaust survivors and those who were left orphaned during the war.

Wolfgang von Stetten lives in an 800-year-old castle, his family’s traditional home for some 30 generations now. Lithuanian presidents and influential politicians have visited his home numerous times. As Lithuanian honorary consul he contributed to the restoration of Lithuanian independence and the country’s accession to NATO and the EU.

Do We Accept the Pain of Our Fellow Citizens?

Do We Accept the Pain of Our Fellow Citizens?

by Donatas Puslys, Bernardinai.lt

Following news of the closure of the Vilnius synagogue and the headquarters of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, I read on the social media that, allegedly, the Jewish community itself is inciting anti-Semitism in Lithuania today by dishonoring Lithuania’s heroes. The claim the Jews themselves are to blame for anti-Semitism is worthy of the title anti-Semitic.

I also read Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius is encouraging anti-Semitism. It seems to me, however, that only an anti-Semite is capable of spreading anti-Semitism. Since the mayor, whatever his shortcomings might be, is clearly not such, that seems to imply anti-Semites have existed in society even before this story began and have now found a convenient occasion to come out of the woodwork with their message of hate about traitors. The hero of Amos Oz’s book “Judas,” Shmuel, summarizes this message of hate succinctly, writing about how Judas was transformed from the New Testament figure into a symbol of betrayal and Jewishness, the former being connected with the latter. Today’s anti-Semites employ this imagery in their attempt to impose the opinion that discussions on the assessment of the activities of Noreia and Škirpa are themselves abnormal, while they are also difficult, painful and often get bogged down, but are nothing more than a betrayal by the Jews.

Anti-Semitism, it’s worth pointing out, is not just another position adopted in a dialogue, it is not an inevitability to which we must become accustomed for the sake of free speech. It is a cancer which should be removed before it metastasizes and infects the whole body, because, as [Baron Rabbi] Jonathan Sacks says, hatred which begins with Jews never ends with them alone.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Happy Birthday to Miša Jakobas

Happy Birthday to Miša Jakobas

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is pleased to send our congratulations to Miša Jakobas, principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium, on his milestone birthday. You are an excellent and accomplished teacher, and your school is among the top-rated in Lithuania. Not only do your students learn excellent Lithuanian and Hebrew, they also learn responsibility, ethics and good behavior. You have succeeded in preparing young people for responsible citizenship.

We wish you health, strength, love and the respect of your students. May hope and joy always follow you! Mazl tov!

IHRA Chairman Commends Removal of Noreika Plaque

IHRA Chairman Commends Removal of Noreika Plaque

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance commends the brave action taken by mayor Remigijus Šimašius to remove the plaque honoring Jonas Noreika due to the controversy surrounding his actions during the Holocaust, including his role in the ghettoization and expropriation of property of Jews in Šiauliai district in 1941.

It is important to remember that any distortion of the history of the Holocaust can allow for more violent and more dangerous forms of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism to take place. We will continue to work with the governments of our 33 member countries to counter distortion and antisemitism to honor the memory of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Ambassador Georges Santer
IHRA chair
August 1, 2019

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Reopens

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Reopens

Disagreements over the historical legacy of Kazys Škirpa and Jonas Noreika reached a sort of culmination yesterday. It was great to see how many journalists and historians treated the topic objectively. We thank them for their civic-mindedness. You have defended Lithuania’s history and conscience.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has a difficult mission. She was forced to make a decision based on the painful experience of her family and all LJC members. It was a courageous and difficult decision.

Sadly, this situation did not lead to greater unity among the Jewish communities. At least not verbally.

The take by the president and prime minister on events and their assurances of security meant much to us.

Most Successful European Maccabi Games Ever for Lithuanian Makabi Club

Most Successful European Maccabi Games Ever for Lithuanian Makabi Club

Photo: Erika Filipviciutė, Kamile Ilijonskytė, Robert Nikitin, Kristijonas Sreiberis, Andrei and Aleksei Fadeev, trainer Oksana Sinkevič, team captain Artiom Perepelica and head of delegation Semionas Finkelšteinas

The 15th European Maccabi Games have concluded in Budapest. Thirty athletes from Lithuania won 81 medals. Six swimmers won the highest share of medals, 65. In the yoouth group Erika Filipavičiūtė won 13 medals, consisting of 11 gold and 2 silver. Kamilė Ilijonskytė won 7 gold medals and one bronze. Kristijonas Šreiberis won 7 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 2 bronze medals. Robertas Nikitinas won 5 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze medals.

The Fadeev brothers made a good showing in the adult group. Andrei won 3 gold, 5 silver and 3 bronze. Aleksei won 5 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals.

Fencer Alan Rinkevič won a gold medal in one-on-one and one gold and 2 silver medals in team fencing.

Condolences

We send our sincerest condolences to the Bagel Shop café’s Valentina Kot-Osipian on the death of her beloved mother. We wish the family strength in this time of difficulty.

Lithuanian Jewish Community

Dirty Politics of Škirpa and Noreika Defenders Belittles Lithuania’s True Heroes

Dirty Politics of Škirpa and Noreika Defenders Belittles Lithuania’s True Heroes

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

Why? Because, first of all, the word “collaborator” does not carry a negative charge for people who lived under Soviet occupation for 50 years. During that time everyone got by as well as they could. Some of the defenders of the tainted heroes are too young to have experienced the Nazi occupation, while some feel good about themselves for having made a career in Soviet bureaucracy during the Soviet occupation. Some didn’t get involved, while others actively participated in the Soviet occupational bureaucracy as politruks, journalists, teachers of “scientific Communism,” as agents of the KGB. They never took part in partisan or dissident activities.

I am not talking about those who were deported, about partisans or their families, and I am not talking about those who refused to become cogs in their machine of repression. None, including the oldest, of the MPs and party leaders in the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party resisted the Soviet occupation from 1950 to 1987. From this obsequious past comes the need to seek for mitigating circumstances regarding collaboration, for instance, the fashionable excuse “he was only drawn into collaboration because of tragic circumstances.”

Full text in Lithuanian here.

On the Closure of the LJC and Choral Synagogue for an Indeterminate Period

On the Closure of the LJC and Choral Synagogue for an Indeterminate Period

ANNOUNCEMENT

ON THE CLOSURE OF THE LJC BUILDING AND SYNAGOGUE FOR AN INDETERMINATE PERIOD

The continual, escalating publicly-expressed desire by one political party for recognizing perpetrators of the mass murder of the Jews of Lithuania as national heroes and the demand these people be honored with commemorative plaques and by other means, as well as the public call to attend protests to defend this shameful position on August 7 not only divide Lithuanian society, but actively set factions against one another.

Anti-Semitic comments and inscriptions which are posted to social media pages of political parties and their leaders are being tolerated and go unpunished (even calling the Christian Mary “Jew-girl”), which makes us wonder even more whether we are safe or not.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has received threatening telephone calls and letters in recent days. In this atmosphere of rising tension and incitement to more tension, neither the LJC nor the synagogue in Vilnius have the means to insure the safety of visitors, including Holocaust survivors and their families.

We underline the fact that up to the present time we have not seen any reaction by any institution to the escalating discord. We would like to hear the opinion of the leaders of Lithuania and to hear a firm position on whether public propaganda in favor of honoring Holocaust perpetrators will continue to be tolerated in Lithuania.

In order to insure the safety of members of the community and worshipers and without any indication that the proponents of this escalating provocation will be called to disciple or account publicly, in cases where the law provides for this, the LJC has been forced to make the painful but unavoidable decision to close the LJC building and the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius for an indeterminate period.

We are also requesting additional security be provided at the Jewish cemetery on Sudervė road in Vilnius to prevent vandalism.

The LJC will adopt future decisions based on the general atmosphere and the positions adopted and expressed by Lithuanian political leaders regarding these issues.

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community
Vilnius, August 6, 2019