The Sabbath begins at 6:35 P.M. on Friday, March 31, and concludes at 8:50 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
New Book of Names at Yad Vashem
Since its establishment Yad Vashem has endeavored to gather the names of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, one of its central missions. Yad Vashem’s Book of Names is the unique result of meticulous and painstaking work that commemorates 4,800,000 men, women and children whose details have been gathered and uncovered over the years, through Pages of Testimony, the location of various Holocaust-era documents, cooperation with memorial sites and more, which are memorialized in Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names.
The Book of Names actualizes the inconceivable number of Holocaust victims, and displays their names together with their dates of birth, hometowns and places of death, when known. The information is printed on pages measuring two meters high and one meter wide, with the details illuminated by a gentle beam of light that shines from between the pages. The massive dimensions of the Book of Names testify to the enormity of the collective and unimaginable loss for humanity as a whole and for the Jewish people in particular. The last pages of the book are empty, symbolizing the names that are yet to be retrieved, documented and commemorated, and which perhaps never will be.
Designer: Chanan De Lange
The Book of Names was produced with the generous support of Marilyn and Barry Rubinstein, USA.
Opening: March 29, 2023.
Great Synagogue Listed as Protected Heritage Site
The site of the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius with associated mikvot has been listed as a state-protected cultural heritage site, according to Baltic News Service.
The Lithuanian Culture Ministry issued a press release Thursday naming this site and the site of the first Lithuanian gymnasium in Vilnius was established on Basanavičiaus street. The YIVO occupied part of the latter space at its inception in 1925 before moving headquarters to Vivulskio street in Vilnius. The ministry reports state protection means more opportunities for funding protection and restoration of these sites.
The exact date the synagogue was built isn’t known. The Great Synagogue with adjacent ritual purification baths was part of a larger complex of synagogues, libraries and schools located around the Great Synagogue and the home of the Vilna Gaon.
Ownership of the ruins of the Great Synagogue and mikvot were passed to the Goodwill Foundation in 2020. Various plans for commemorating the site have been proposed, but so far the most likely is a humble protected excavation exhibit showcasing the subterranean main hall with bimah and floor.
Photo: Tunnel dug by archaeologists leading to central bimah, by Valdas Kopūstas, courtesy BNS.
Nancy Sasson Travels to Panevėžys Seeking Family Roots
Last week Nancy Sasson from the United States arrived in Panevėžys seeking genealogical information about her family. She believes her grandfather and perhaps great-grandfather lived in Panevėžys. She was accompanied by her old friend from Lithuania Vaida Zlatkutė and a guide who travelled from Israel to help.
Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman received them warmly and he and the Israeli guide gave the two women a tour of the city, pointing out significant Jewish locations and telling the Litvak story, the many important cultural contributions Litvaks made and the horrific end they suffered.
Nancy Sasson was visibly moved during the tour down the streets and sidewalks once traversed by her forebears.
Happy Birthday to Aleksandra Narsevič
The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Panevėžys Jewish Community wish a very happy birthday to Aleksandra Narsevič. We wish you many bright days, unforgettable moments and eternal friendships.
Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman:
The year has passed like fog in a ravine,
Like a song at twilight.
It has flown like the fluff of a dandelion,
Scattering in our hair
Like white blossoms.
It was meaningful, and happy.
The year was hard like stones.
So today from our heart we wish you
A happy year and many more to come.
Mazl tov. Bis 120!
March 28, 2023
Lithuanian-Born Yiddish Poet Rivka Basman Ben-Haim Dead at 98
Yiddish poet Rivka Basman Ben-Haim died last week at the age of 98, the Jerusalem Post reports. She was the last living Yiddish poet of her generation.
She refused to call herself a Holocaust survivor. The person who entered the Nazi camps, she explained, did not survive, but died, and a different person emerged. Rivka found comfort in their new families, friendships and in love.
She was born in Wilkomir [Ukmergė], Lithuania. Her father and brother were murdered. She spent around two years in the Vilna ghetto and was then sent to the Kaiserwald concentration camp in Riga.
Full story here.
Happy Birthday to Josif Burštein
A very happy birthday from the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community and chairwoman Faina Kukliansky to Josif Burštein, who has been an active member of the Šiauliai Jewish Community since its inception in 1988 and served as chairman and executive board member there, as well as serving on the executive board of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We wish you continuing good health, energy, happiness and the fulfillment of your dreams. Mazl tov. Bis 120!
Opening Ceremony for Restored Kupiškis Public Library and Former Great Synagogue
The Panevėžys Jewish Community reports on the ceremonial re-opening of the restored Great Synagogue in Kupiškis which has housed the Kupiškis Public Library since 1950:
“Following reconstruction for six years on March 24 the Kupiškis Regional Public Library housed in the former Great Synagogue of Kupiškis was ceremoniously reopened.
“To the musical accompaniment of the Rakja Klezmar Orkestar Lithuanian culture minister Simonas Kairys, Kupiškis regional administration mayor Dainius Bardauskas, Kupiškis Regional Public Library director Algirdas Venckus and Infes corporation director Arvydas Markevičius together cut the ribbon re-opening the building.”
Full story in Lithuanian with more photographs from the opening ceremony available on the Panevėžys Jewish Community webpage here.
Shalom Discussion Club to Meet
Natalja Cheifec’s Shalom discussion club is planning to meet for an open-ended discussion at 5:30 P.M. on Wednesday, March 29, on the zoom internet platform. To receive login credentials register at https://bit.ly/3q0j7hg and when you’re filling out the questionnaire don’t forget to mention the topics you’d like to see discussed by the club. Wednesday evening’s meeting will include a link to a film which will be a topic for discussion as well.
Matzo on Sale
Matzo has arrived for Passover and is available in 450 gram for 5 euros and 1 kilogram boxes for 10 euros at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius, on workdays except Tuesday, from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Cvi Park Kiosk and Performance Space Ready for Spring
Spring is in the air and the Israeli street food kiosk and performance space Cvi Park at the former Cvirka square in Vilnius is getting ready for a new season of food and all kinds of music.
Music such as that performed by violinist Dalia Dėdinskaitė and cellist Gleb Pyšniak at Cvi Park in the past: http://shorturl.at/xGQZ6
Sunday Quiz: Why Is This Night Like No Other?
Next Sunday’s quiz at the Bagel Shop Café is called “What Is Passover?” As usual, accomplished circus clown and investigative journalist Arkadijus Vinokuras will lead the fun, and shut-ins will be able to at least watch on the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s facebook page. It all happens at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, April 2. Be there or be late to the table.
New Holocaust Play from Klaipėda Coming to Vilnius
The Klaipėda Jewish Community theater Šatil is preparing to stage the play “Man baisus pasaulis, kuriame nėra tavęs” [A World Without You Horrifies Me] based on the work of Maja Tarachovskaja (Майя Тараховская, Maya Tarakhovskaya) in Vilnius.
The play tells the story of a Jewish girl named Mirka who escaped from a train on the way to a death camp. She is forced by circumstances to make the hard decision to leave her son with the villager woman who rescued them in order to save her newborn baby.
“And I left, in the night, for nowhere, leaving to that woman two priceless gifts: I gave her you, and the only existing photograph of your father,” a heartbroken Mirka says in the play.
The play, directed by Nerijus Gedminas, is in Russian and will debut Tuesday, April 11, at the Russian Drama Theater at Jono Basanavičiaus street no. 13 in Vilnius.
Synagogue Restored in Kupiškis
One of the synagogues in Kupiškis, Lithuania, which houses the town’s public library has been undergoing restoration for the last six years. On Friday, March 24, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Israel ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein and US ambassador Robert Gilchrist visited the synagogue and saw the results of the reconstruction work.
“A large Jewish community lived in Kupiškis before the war,” chairwoman Kukliansky said. “They were almost all exterminated by the Nazis and local collaborators. It is right that their story is remembered, if only eighty years later, and that the residents of Kupiškis who come here or pass by outside will see this building and be reminded of the great contribution Jews made to the community’s success.”
Jews settled in Kupiškis sometime in the 17th century. In 1682 bishop Mikołaj Pac (Mikolajus Pacas in Lithuanian) issued a permit for the construction of a synagogue. Around 2,661 Jews accounting for 71% of the population lived in Kupiškis in 1897. During the period between the two world wars there were three working synagogues in the town, adjacent and forming a courtyard, with the Great Synagogue on the northern side, the Small Synagogue on the south and the Hassidic synagogue on the western side. The Great and Hassidic synagogues survive. In 1950 the Great synagogue building was used as the town’s public library. The entrance way into the library has a commemorative plaque with a citation from the Book of Isaiah, 56:5: “I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off,” in Hebrew, English and Lithuanian. The first floor of the building is now being used as a library with the second storey as space dedicated to the Jewish community.
The Sabbath begins at 6:21 P.M. on Friday, March 24, and concludes at 7:35 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
ORT Technicum in Vilnius: A Window to the Future
The Lithuanian National Martyna Mažvydas Library will host an exhibit called “The Vilnius ORT Technicum: A Window to the Future” as part of the 700th birthday celebrations for the city of Vilnius. The exhibit will talk about the history of the Jewish vocational institution and the importance of acquiring a craft or trade for economic survival in the early 20th century. Work by students and original documents and textbooks in Yiddish will be displayed. The exhibit will also include a projection of documents from the library’s Judaica center projected on windows located at Islandijos street no. 3, formerly Gdansk street where the ORT operated starting in 1925. The light show is to take place from 8:00 P.M. to 4:00 A.M. during the entire course of the exhibit at the library. The main exhibit will be demonstrated on the fifth floor of the national library. The exhibit will run from April 4 to May 31 during the library’s working houses and is open to the public. An opening ceremony is scheduled for 6:00 P.M., April 4, in the atrium on the fifth floor.
More information is available in Lithuanian here.
2023 Paideia Project-Incubator Open for Applications
Deadline April 16th. Apply here:
More info here: