The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael) held a ceremony to set aside a memorial site and begin planting a forest in memory of the Lithuanian Jewish community, the Russian-language website www.vesty.co.il reported on March 11. The plan is to plant 25,000 trees as part of a KKL environmental protection project for afforestation in southern Israel. Famous Russian-Israeli businessman and philanthropist Roman Abramovich is providing major financing for the project.
Abramovich’s great-grandparents were Litvaks from the Kovna guberniya in the Russian Empire. In spring of 1941–a year after Lithuania was made part of the Soviet Union–the affluent Abramovich family was exiled to Siberia.
Roman’s grandfather was born in Eržvilkas and his grandmother Toiba Berkover was born in Jurbarkas. His grandfather Nakhman died in a camp in Krasnoyarsk in 1942 and his grandmother raised their three sons on her own, Aaron Arkady being Roman’s father.
The Abramovich real estate holdings in Israel include a piece of land in Tel Aviv which once belonged to Zerah Barnet, also a Litvak.
The ceremony was attended by around 250 people including Holocaust survivors and their descendants. Lithuanian ambassador to Israel Lina Antanavičienė was guest of honor, and Gita Kofman, the chairwoman of the Israeli association of concentration camp and ghetto survivors, was also there, as were representatives from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and German consul in Israel Lars-Uwe Kastner, as well as members of volunteer organizations helping Holocaust survivors, local members of the Shaar haNegev council, IDF soldiers, Litvaks, students and Jewish National Fund representatives.
Full story in Russian here.