Protecting the Summer Synagogue in Kalvarija from Rain and Snow

Protecting the Summer Synagogue in Kalvarija from Rain and Snow

A special project to conserve and prevent the collapse of the summer synagogue in the Lithuanian town of Kalvarija was prepared back in 2016.

The Kalvarija synagogue complex belongs to the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Under an agreement signed in 2014 the Kalvarija municipality has exclusive use of the buildings for 50 years for cultural, educational and academic needs and for tourism.

Advisor at the Alytus-Marijampolė section of the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department Violeta Kasperavičiutė said work to conserve the synagogue was just approved, including installing wooden columns in the interior and along the perimeter of the outside walls, reconstruction of the wooden roof, bricking and mortaring windows and the roof cornice to protect them from precipitation, installing doors, roof shingling to protect against rain and snow and tin roofing where needed for further protection.

Israeli Modern Art Curator Ory Deassau: Give Artists the Freedom to Decide

Israeli Modern Art Curator Ory Deassau: Give Artists the Freedom to Decide


by Jolita Jankuvienė, www.DELFI.lt

Well-known Israel art curator and writer Ory Dessay with the modern art gallery Vartai presented an international exhibition at the end of 2020 called “An Unfinished Project” to mark the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History. It wasn’t easy to hold the exhibition during the virus pandemic and the curator was unable to travel to Lithuania as had been planned, but despite everything, art is priceless in removing limitations, it is free and mobile, posing questions as well as answers, which the curator presented to the public in a virtual form.

Which exhibit was the most significant and memorable for you?

As the musician Duke Ellington once said when asked about his best musical work, I would repeat that the most important exhibit is the one coming up next which I will curate. I give all of myself to the project on which I am working. Currently an exhibit is taking place at the Vartai art gallery in Vilnius. This location makes the process of my curating and presentation easy. I am especially intrigued by the historical conditions of the location of the exhibit “An Unfinished Project,” it is part of Jewish history. There are many untold stories here which we can show to the audience. I am enchanted by the vitality of Vilnius, not just because of the recent success Lithuanians enjoyed at the 58th modern art Biennale in Venice, but because I really feel a strong attraction to this city.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.

Sabbath Discussions: New Project by Lithuanian Jewish Community and Viljamas Žitkauskas

Sabbath Discussions: New Project by Lithuanian Jewish Community and Viljamas Žitkauskas

It has been said the Sabbath is the time to forget food for the body and provide food to the soul. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and Viljamas Žitkauskas have invited members and the public to a series of Sabbath discussions, the first one dedicated to Zionism among Litvaks.

Viljamas Žitkauskas recounted to the virtual audience historical facts about the Vilna Gaon and his contribution to Zionism. Religious Litvak Zionists consider the Gaon the father of the national movement. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of the modern Hebrew language, spent his whole life adapting Hebrew, which had become mainly a liturgical language, for use in daily life. Abraham Mapu was a Hebrew novelist. Menachem Begin helped found the State of Israel and served as Israel’s seventh prime minister.

Žitkauskas spoke about these Litvaks and the history of Zionism and his audience showed rapt interest throughout.

The virtual meeting and discussion concluded with the havdalah ceremony to mark the end of Sabbath.

Lithuanian Media on Billionaire Litvak Roman Abramovich and His Yacht

Lithuanian Media on Billionaire Litvak Roman Abramovich and His Yacht


Litvak Roman Abramovich is still working on the 140-meter-long yacht he bought which will have eight decks and a helicopter pad. No amount of money was spared either on the two advanced electric motors which will make this the most powerful yacht in the world when construction is complete.

Roman Abramovich’s grandparents came from Jurbarkas and Tauragė and that’s why we call him a Litvak. Before the war, 80% of vessels in Jurbarkas belonged to Jews. This yacht is a tribute to his grandmother Tauba Liya Berkover. The Berkover surname means ship owner in Yiddish. In June of 1941 his grandfather Nakhman Abramovich was arrested and sent to the gulag in Krasnoyarsk. That’s where he also died. In 1942 his grandmother and her children were deported to Siberia. His grandmother wasn’t allowed to return to Lithuania right up to her death in 1960.

The yacht, christened Solaris, is almost ready for sea trials and the 54-year-old owner of the Chelsea soccer team should take delivery by this summer, according to the Sun newspaper in Great Britain. Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany, is building it. The hangar where work is taking place in bigger than Buckingham Palace, …

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Condolences

Judita Mackevičienė, a long-time active member of the Kaunas Jewish Community, has died. She was born in 1936. She served as chairwoman of the Rescuers’ Committee and for many years planned and held events to commemorate those who rescued Jews from the Holocaust and carefully researched and documented these stories.

A survivor of the Holocaust herself, Mackevičienė didn’t harbor bitterness and always displayed love and goodwill towards the world and the people around her.

We send our deepest condolences to her daughers, grandchildren and many friends and relatives.

Family Recipe for Hamantaschen

Family Recipe for Hamantaschen

Photo: Tarbut Gymnasium students in Pabradė prepared for the Purimspiel, March 3, 1939. Courtesy YIVO.

Purim starts February 25 this year. Purim is the happiest of Jewish holidays dedicated to remembering the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people from destruction. Traditionally the triangular pastry Hamatasch are eaten on this day and the Lithuanian Jewish Community will share them with the leaders of the state this year as well.

“The essence of Purim is to celebrate life in all its fullness. This is a happy holiday, on this day you need to eat deliciously and much, especially the traditional hamantaschen pastry. This traditional treat reminds us that the plans of evildoers often turns back upon them, while wise rulers always receive the help to make the right decisions. We will also be sending hamantaschen pastry to the leaders of the country, wishing them to make wise decisions beneficial to the people,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said.

Vilnius Jewish Religious Community director Simas Levinas recalls the Purim story which reaches back into biblical times when the Jewish people were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. Although the king married the Jewish beauty Esther, the magnates and bureaucrats of Babylon really hated the Jews in their country, who weren’t there by their own choice. The vizier Haman came up with a plan to exterminate all Jews and cast lots (פור) to discover an auspicious time for this.

Purim Greetings from the Panevėžys Jewish Community

Purim Greetings from the Panevėžys Jewish Community

The entire Jewish people celebrate the happy spring Purim holiday. Although the times are not amenable to personal meetings and celebrations together, Jews do not give up to despair. As Esther revealed evil schemes and save the Jewish people from destruction and slavery, so will the Purim holiday lighten the mood and bring joy to every home.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community has prepared holiday Purim food parcels for our members and gifts for the children which will be distributed as will the holiday spirit.

Children’s Event on Sunday

Children’s Event on Sunday

Dear children,

We invite you to come meet medical expert Arina Kaganovič who will tell you all about the monster called Corona. We’ll meet at 1:00 P.M. on Sunday, February 28 on the internet. Register and receive URL by sending an email to sofja@lzb.lt

Traditional Purim Costume Contest Continues

Traditional Purim Costume Contest Continues

Dear members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community,

Although this year we will celebrate Purim at home, we invite you to share moments from the holiday and to take part in the traditional Purim costume contest.

Don your carnival attire, take a snapshot and send it to zanas@sc.lzb.lt by February 28.

Your photos will be considered for awards in the following categories:

Most original costume
Best family costume
Best mask

Winners to receive valuable prizes!

WJC President Applauds Pope Francis’s Unprecedented Visit with Holocaust Survivor

WJC President Applauds Pope Francis’s Unprecedented Visit with Holocaust Survivor

NEW YORK–Today Pope Francis made a Shabbat visit to Edith Bruck, an 89-year-old Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, at her home in Rome.

“I have come here to thank you for your testimony and to pay homage to the people martyred by the insanity of Nazi populism,” the Pope told her, according to the Vatican.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder applauded the Pope:

“I am deeply appreciative of Pope Francis’s tremendous compassion in visiting Edith Bruck who survived the horror of several Nazi concentration camps, lost her family who were murdered in the Holocaust and has bravely shared her story. The Pope has demonstrated a sincere commitment to both personal kindness for the experiences of others and to the urgency of continuing to draw attention to the inhuman atrocities of genocides including the Holocaust. At a time when neo-Naziism, anti-Semitism and other bigotries are resurgent in many parts of the world, Pope Francis’s moral integrity and sense of history set the standard for other faith, political and community leaders to follow.

“My gratitude goes as well to Mrs. Bruck for her courage in telling the world about her trauma and in dedicating her life to educating people about the horrible truths of the Holocaust. As survivors age, their testimonies become increasingly priceless, and we owe our understanding of the very worst of humankind to the individuals who have taken it upon themselves to bear witness to all they have endured. Through such comprehension, we pray that such evil shall never happen again.”

US Deports 95-Year-Old Nazi Concentration Camp Guard

US Deports 95-Year-Old Nazi Concentration Camp Guard

CNN–A Tennessee resident who was a guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II has been deported to Germany, the US Justice Department said in a statement Friday.

Friedrich Karl Berger, a 95-year-old German citizen, was ordered removed from the US in February of 2020 when a US immigration judge determined his “willing service” as a guard of concentration camp prisoners “constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution,” the Justice Department said.

Berger was eligible for removal from the US under the Holtzman Amendment which prohibits anyone who participated in Nazi persecution from living in the US. The Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the ruling in November of 2020.

Full story here.

Vilnius and Cape Town Celebrate Sabbath

Vilnius and Cape Town Celebrate Sabbath

A special joint internet Sabbath celebration was held between Vilnius and Cape Town, South Africa last Friday, February 19.

Cape Town Rabbi Greg Alexander greeted the internet celebrants in both cities and presented Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman to those in South Africa.

The Sabbath was ushered in with song. The rabbi and Millian Rivlin sang and played guitar, after which prayers were delivered. Despite the distance between the two cities, communication was almost instantaneous, and it felt as if everyone were in the same room at home.

The vast majority of Jews living in South Africa were and are Litvaks. That affinity was clear during the internet Sabbath.

Prosecutor Declines Investigation of Statements by Lithuanian MP

Prosecutor Declines Investigation of Statements by Lithuanian MP

The prosecutor at the Vilnius District Office of Prosecutor has decided not to begin a pre-trial investigation of statements made by member of parliament Valdas Rakutis in his article “International Holocaust Day and Historical Memory.” The prosecutor said the decision was made based on the lack of an act of a criminal nature, a press release said.

The decision not to initiate a pre-trial investigation was made following a statement from the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community which indicated historian and MP Rakutis published the article on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on an internet site which allegedly incited hatred against Jews and their people, and possibly engaged in Holocaust denial.

The informant asked the prosecutor to consider whether or not the statements made in the article constituted the criminal act defined in article 170, part 2 of the Lithuanian criminal code, “incitement against any national, racial, ethnic, religious or other kind of group of people,” and article 170-2, part 1, “public approval for international crimes, crimes committed by the USSR and Nazi Germany against the Republic of Lithuania or residents thereof, and their denial or gross trivialization.”

The decision to decline beginning a pre-trial investigation stated the criminal acts defined in article 170, part 2, and article 170-2, part 1, can only be committed by direct intention.