City of Kaunas Honors Righteous Gentile, Dutch Consul Jan Zwartendijk

Jan Zwartendijk, the honorable consul of the Netherlands in Lithuania at the beginning of World War II and a rescuer of Jews, was honored Friday at Freedom Alley in Kaunas outside his former office where he also worked as a representative of the Philips company. The location was decorated with a lighting installation and a commemorative plaque was unveiled to honor Zwartendijk.

Dutch artist Giny Vos said she was trying to commemorate Zwartendijk the man, but also his humanitarian actions; Zwartendijk never considered himself a hero, although his so-called Curaçao end-visas he issued over 10 days in the summer of 1940 ended up saving around 2,400 lives directly in conjunction with transit visas issued by Japanese ambassador Chiune Sugihara, and countless more lives if succeeding generations are included. She said her light-show installation’s spiral symbolized life, movement, growth and hope, and that each individually sized and colored LED light in the installation represented a life saved, with the emphasis on hope, light and the future.

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė, Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis and Jan Zwartendijk’s son Rob spoke about the man and his humanitarian actions at the event.

Solomonas Atamukas’s Book on Lithuanian Jews Launched at Lithuanian Jewish Community

A new book by the late scholar and historian Dr. Solomonas Atamukas (1918-2014) was lauched June 11 in the Jascha Heifetz Hall at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. The book, “Lietuvos žydų keliai: atmintis, tikėjimas, viltis” [Paths of the Jews of Lithuania: Memory, Faith, Hope] was written and intended by the author to be a continuation of his first book. Late in life Dr. Atamukas suffered health problems and in order to insure the continuation of his first book would be published, enlisted the help of his son, daughter, grandson and daughter-in-law, who performed careful research and collection of information. According to his daughter, long-serving deputy chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Maša Grodnikienė, the family paid for the publication of both books.

This is a useful new source for the reader interested in Litvak history. It contains 458 biographical sketches, called biograms in the book, of Litvaks, arranged by country of residence. The book contains large amounts of information about world-famous Litvaks, their origins in Lithuania, education, work and achievements. The author sought to collect as much information and write as many biograms as possible about Holocaust survivors.

Court Rules on Number of Votes in Lithuanian Jewish Community Ballot

Every associated member will have one vote in future annual conferences of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. This was the verdict issued this week by the Vilnius District Court in a suit on future representation within the LJC.

The LJC followed this order of voting in elections last year and this year according to the Lithuanian law on associations, ballots which chose the leadership of the organization and confirmed annual financial and activities reports.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said: “The Lithuanian Jewish Community in its activities is based on law and the clear verdict by the court allows us to finally solve the issue regarding decision-making by the board and member representation at the conference. I hope this will facilitate cooperation in our common work because hindering governance organs from carrying out their work and the campaign of libel are not the proper measures which should be undertaken in the stated interest of concern for Jews. Now, having a decision from appellate court, I invite all organizations constituting the Community to consider how to heal discord among Jews and how to look for ways towards consensus.”

According to section 4, article 8 of the law on associations, every member of an association, despite its number of members, has one vote in a general assembly (conference), thus insuring the equality of all association members and an equal vote.

At the same time, the regulations of the LJC call for a proportional vote by regional communities. The LJC board, perceiving a contradiction between the rules and the law, and in aspiring towards greater transparency, resolved at the April 19, 2017, meeting of the board to enshrine the principle of one member, one vote.

The Vilnius District Court recognized the principle of one member, one vote in their verdict of November 22, 2017, and announced point 7.1 of the LJC regulations on the proportional representation of regional Jewish communities at the LJC voting conference null and void.

Afterwards, the Jewish communities of Vilnius, Klaipėda, Ukmergė and Šiauliai appealed this decision, but the court ruling in the case based on law declined to retry the case. This ruling came into effect on April 18, 2018, but was again appealed to the Vilnius District Court. The appeal to this court on June 12 was rejected with a final ruling on representation among associated members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Condolences

The Lithuanian Jewish Community express our deepest condolences to the family members, son, daughter and grandchildren on the death of Svetlana Reches. Stay strong in this time of loss, loss of your mother and grandmother.

Lithuania Marks Day of Mourning and Hope on June 14

At 3 o’clock in the morning on June 14, 1941, NKVD officers began mass arrests of Lithuanian citizens. Entire families of Lithuanians and Jews were deported to Siberia deep in the Soviet Union. More than 30,000 people from Lithuania were taken away in one week. They were sent to Siberia in sealed rail cars.

Lithuania marks this anniversary as the Day of Mourning and Hope in honor of those who died in exile.

The deportations of June, 1941, was an enormous loss for Lithuania. The deportations affected all social strata and all ethnic groups. Thousands were torn from their homes and families, lost their property and means of making a living and sent into the worst sort of living conditions surrounded by alien cultures and a hostile environment. The deportees were physically exterminated in prisons, camps and selected deportation sites. A total of around 33.6 percent of deportees returned to Lithuania and 26.5 percent died. The fate of over 40 percent of deportees is still unknown but are assumed dead. The destruction of families and deportation to places unfit for life, directly leading to death, is judged a crime against humanity and an example of genocide by an occupying power against the people of Lithuania.

The first Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1940 was a real blow to Jews as well. All Jewish institutions were closed down, property was nationalized and a large number of Jews were sent along with ethnic Lithuanians to the camps in the east.

As Solomonas Atamukas writes in his new book “Lietuvos žydų keliai. Atmintis, tikėjimas, viltis” (2018), under Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic NKGB order no. 0023 of April 25, 1941 issued to prepare the way for new deportations, the NKGB compiled lists of “anti-Soviet and counter-revolutionary elements.” NKGB categories for scheduling deportations included:

“Land owners, large factory owners, wholesale merchants and owners of buildings, the Jewish national counter-revolution: the heads of all Zionist organizations and permanent employees of press enterprises, Bund leaders and permanent employees of their press organs. Also [members of] the Union of Jews who Fought in the Battles for Lithuanian Independence, Jewish combatants (soldiers), the Beitar union (youth Zionist union), the EL-AL organization and the Revisionist Party.”

From 1940 to 1941 a total of 2,613 Jews were targeted for repression. Among those, 1,660 were deported and 385 became political prisoners. Between June 14 and 18, 1941, the absolute majority of deportees and political prisoners ended up in the gulag. According to unverified sources, 375 Jews died in the camps and in exile.

The deportations of 1941 accounted for about 1.3 percent of members of the Jewish community in Lithuania at that time. Thus Jews were the most highly targeted ethnic group in Lithuania, including ethnic Lithuanians (approximately 0.5 percent). Jews in exile maintained their cultural identity and the Zionist organizations continued underground. There were also underground schools to teach Hebrew.

Kaunas Mayor Invites Public to Unveiling of Zwartendijk Monument

Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis has issued public invitations to attend a ceremony to unveil a monument to WWII-era Dutch diplomat Jan Zwartendijk across from the Knygų Ministerija bookshop at Laisvės Alley no. 29 in Kaunas at 3:30 P.M., Friday, June 15. Zwartendijk issued the so-called Curaçao final-destination visas to Jews fleeing the Holocaust in Lithuania.

Condolences

With great sadness we report the death of Anastazija Votrinienė who passed away June 4. She was born in 1936. Our deepest condolences go to her sister, Jelena Jakiševa.

Unexpected Guests Visit Panevėžys Jewish Community

A group of former classmates now living in Israel, Russia and the United States have visited Panevėžys together. They attended a school which began operating in Panevėžys after liberation from the Nazis in September, 1944. Many of the students were Jewish. One such is David Dworkin, who now lives in Miami, Florida. His father was an airman and the commander of a military unit. Another is Semion Zuselevič Šteiman who lived on Ramygalos street with his parents. His children Genadij, Leonard and Jevgenij also attended the school. Vladimir Maksimičiov lived in Panevėžys and is a member of the Panevėžys Jewish Community. His brothers Genadij and Baruch also attended the same school after the war.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told the guests the history of Jewish schools in Panevėžys, include the Yavne girls’ religious gymnasium which some of the visitors attended before the war, built in 1922 by Rabbi Josef Shlomo Kahaneman. It was closed down in June of 1940 along with all other Jewish schools, gymnasia and high schools in Lithuania. The chairman also told the guests about community activities and treated them to kosher wine and matzo.

The visit was useful to the Panevėžys Jewish Community as well as the visitors and the chairman said he’s grateful so many people have come and shared new photographs and documents with the community over the last 20 years.

Those wishing to visit during summer should contact beforehand the chairman of the Panevėžys Jewish Community, who might be able to help locate old homes, former teachers and places where parents and grandparents once worked.

Israeli Ambassador Honors Emanuelis Zingeris

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon held a reception at the ambassadorial residence to honor Emanuelis Zingeris, signatory to the Lithuanian independence act and long-standing conservative MP. Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, Polish ambassador Urszula Doroszewska and other public figures including the heads of Lithuanian Jewish communities turned out to greet Zingeris at the reception. Emanuelis Zingeris is the only Jewish MP in the Lithuanian parliament.

Old Kalvarija Synagogue Springs Back to Life

Leading Polish musical group Vocal Varshe performed a concert of Jewish song last week at the old synagogue complex in Kalvarija, Lithuania, where services were last held more than 77 years ago.

The Polish group sang and played accordion to a full house. The windows were opened and the music reverberated throughout the former shtetl where Jews were the majority population before the Holocaust. A local youth choir sang a Jewish song at the beginning of the concert to honor the victims.

Construction began on a synagogue in “Jewish Calvary” in 1713 when the ruler of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Augustus II, granted the kahilla a charter to engage in different forms of trade and manufacturing, to set up cemeteries and to build synagogues not taller than the highest church.

The Kalvarija synagogue complex is listed on the Lithuanian registry of protected cultural treasures. It includes the Baroque synagogue built in the 18th century, the electric synagogue built in the latter half of the 19th century and the adjacent Talmud school and rabbi’s residence built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Polish Group Vocal Varshe Performs at Sacred Site in Vilnius

Vocal Varshe, a group of musicians from Poland, performed songs in Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino at the site of the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius, destroyed after World War II, on the evening of June 6, 2018. The event was organized by the Polish Institute in Vilnius and the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The Polish musicians from Warsaw performed songs from the Warsaw and Vilnius ghettos.

LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas began the event with the poem Vilne by Moshe Kulbak.

Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius greeted the audience and said the concert venue reminded the public, Polish and Lithuanian residents of Vilnius, that more could have been done to save Jews from the Holocaust. He also called for an appropriate commemoration at the site, whether that be partial reconstruction of the synagogue or some other form, to remind future generations of what happened. He said this would serve to unite the different ethnic communities in Vilnius.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky thanked the musicians for coming and performing and the Vilnius mayor who granted permission for the concert at the site infused with the spirit of the teachings of the Vilna Gaon.

Istanbul Convention Presented for Ratification

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky congratulates Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė’s decision to present the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, to the Lithuanian parliament for ratification. This is an important step forward for human rights in Lithuania. The Istanbul Convention is a crucial legal instrument to strengthen state resolve in the fight against violence against women. It is binding and based on experience from around the world of the best measures for decreasing gender-based violence.

Thirty of the 47 members of the Council of Europe have already ratified the convention.

More information in Lithuanian here.

International Forum of Jewish Scouts Director Alain Silberstein Visits Kaunas

International Forum of Jewish Scouts director Alain Silberstein during his visit to Lithuania last week visited Kaunas where he met with the chairman of the Kaunas Jewish Community, scouts and young people. The French visitor gave an enthusiastic presentation of the Tsofim Yehudim program, plans to expand Jewish scouting activities in Europe and plans to revive Jewish scouting in Lithuania. He reminded his audiences this movement was very active in Lithuania before the Holocaust. Girls who attended the meeting at the KJC said they found his presentation very interesting and inspiring. Scouting, as presented, allows everyone to find themselves and to get involved in activities they love most, and also provides the opportunity to expand one’s horizons to activities which might not have appeared interesting at first. The Jewish scouting movement is attractive because of the values it espouses, its orientation towards Jewish culture and traditions and its tolerance. The ideas interested the audiences in Kaunas and there are great hopes the Jewish scouting movement will return to Lithuania.

Vocal Varshe Concert at the Winter Synagogue in Kalvarija

The Vocal Varshe group from Poland will perform a concert of Jewish songs in Yiddish and Hebrew including songs from the Warsaw and Vilnius ghettos at the synagogue located at Sodų street no. 18 in Kalvarija, Lithuania, at 7:00 P.M. on June 7. Entry is free. Limited transportation from Vilnius will be provided with a small bus leaving the Lithuanian Jewish Community at 4:00 P.M. on June 7 and returning sometime between 10:00 P.M. and 11:30 P.M. Please contact neringa@lzb.lt if you want to make use of this limited transportation.

Interview with Mizrachi Feminist and Litvak Dr. Smadar Lavie

Visiting lecturer Dr. Smadar Lavie recently returned to Vilnius and agreed to a short interview for www.lzb.lt.

I came here for my father’s posthumous degree. They had a big ceremony. I said I didn’t grow up as a Litvak, I grew up as a shvartze, because my mother is Yemeni, and Israel has lots of racism by the Ashkenazi Jews towards the Mizrachi Jews. So now that you’re talking to me, almost all of my classmates were Ashkenazi, children of survivors, and they didn’t have grandparents. They were very envious that I had a Yemeni grandmother. My grandmother was very nice to my friends because they didn’t have grandparents. I didn’t know why. It was just … over there. We use to call it “over there.”

So where did you study then?

I grew up in Holon, it’s a suburb of Tel Aviv, and I went to Bialik elementary school. I did my BA at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and my PhD is from University of California, Berkeley.

Pianist Golda Vainberg-Tatz to Perform in Vilnius

St. Catherine’s Church at Vilniaus street no. 30 in Vilnius will host a concert by pianist Golda Vainberg-Tatz from the USA/Israel at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 7.

Vilnius Municipal ST. CHRISTOPHER CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

Artistic Director: MODESTAS BARKAUSKAS

Conductor: DONATAS KATKUS

Program:

Chess Tournament to Celebrate Israel’s 70th Held at LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a chess match May 27 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.

Lithuanian Independence Act signatory Česlovas Juršėnas, Lithuanian Chess Federation president Aleksandras Černovas, first leader of independent Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis and economics minister Gediminas Miškinis greeted players.

LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas distributed copies of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary as mementos and prizes to the winners. About 70 players in all age groups turned out for the event.

Chess Tournament for Child Protection Day

A chess tournament to mark Child Protect Day (June 1) will be held at the Lithuanian Jewish Community on Sunday, June 3, at 11:00 A.M. FIDE master Boris Rositsan will lead the tournament. For more information or to register, contact info@metbor.lt or call 8 655 43 556.