Our birthday greetings to Moisejus Šeras, long-time member of the LJC and the minyan at the Choral Synagogue. We wish you great health, love and happiness! May you live to 120! Mazl tov!
On May 21, teacher Nijolė Teišerskienė taught students about the history of the Šiauliai ghetto. Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community member Ida Vileikienė survived that ghetto and told the children her story, including how she was rescued by the Staškas family, how she lived in hiding and what she did after the war. She invited the children to learn to respect one another as a general life lesson.
On May 23 Inga Kvedariene of the Šiauliai territorial medical system met with community members and talked about the payment system hospitals use and which services are free to those who have social insurance. She then fielded questions from the audience.
On June 14 members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community visited the site of the former Lithuanian shtetl Zhagar (Žagarė) beginning with tours of the Žagarė Regional Park and the Naryškinas manor estate. Land management specialist Giedrė Rakštienė spoke authoritatively on the Jewish population of Zhagar and many community members learned new things about Jewish life there. Žagarė gymnasium geography teacher Alma Kančelskienė led the tour which included still-standing Jewish buildings which used to be synagogues, the house of the rabbi and a school, and members also visited the site of the former mikvah there. Members also visited the home of E. Vaičiulis. He is the owner now of the site of the former Jewish textile factory on the banks of the Švėtė river and of a wooden Jewish house where he now lives. Under several layers of wallpaper there are parts of old Jewish newspapers on his walls which the former owners glued there once upon a time. He has preserved the original exterior and the interior is decorated with period pots and dishes. Surrounded by a stone wall, Vaičiulis’s collection is a veritable museum of the former time when Jewish life was front and center in what is now a Lithuanian town. Pride of place is occupied by a Torah scroll discovered in Zhagar. Members also visited the Jewish cemetery and mass murder sites in and around the town.
Boy London clothing is being linked with Nazi symbols (photo: SCANPIX and Alfa.lt)
The store Aprangos galerija at the Panorama shopping mall in Vilnius is selling clothes from Boy London from Great Britain with a symbol which appears identical to the stylized eagle of the Third Reich.
Boy London clothing, long known and criticized around the world for using Nazi symbols, began sales in Lithuania a year ago.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Culminating a series of letters back and forth between LA-based Litvak Grant Gochin and the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania–Lithuania’s state-sponsored arbiter of all historical truth–the Genocide Center posted a notice on their website saying Gochin’s questions to them might be criminal and in violation of the Lithuanian constitution.
The Genocide Center neglected to post Gochin’s actual letters and independent historical research, content to post only answers to the questions they cherry-picked and deemed worthy of refutation.
Note that Gochin himself says he never brought up Telšiai archbishop Vincentas Borisevičius and that the Genocide Center inserted him into their notification out of the blue.
Here is a translation of their notification with a link at the end to the original text in Lithuanian:
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.
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.
Photo: © 2019 DELFI/Karolina Pansevič
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
August 1, 2019