#MesPrisimename Campaign to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

#MesPrisimename Campaign to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The annual commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day takes place on January 27, the day Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated, and this year will mark the 76th time the United Nations’ commemorative day has been marked.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wants to use this day to teach young people about the Holocaust and to hold virtual meetings between young people and survivors.

The LJC invites you to join the #WeRemember campaign on social media, which is called #MesPrisimename in Lithuanian. You can make a sign or inscription with either variant and photograph yourself with it, then post it with these hashtags, and send it before January 25.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman on Importance of January 13 to Nation’s Jews

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman on Importance of January 13 to Nation’s Jews

Photo: Faina Kukliansky, by Vidmantas Balkūnas, courtesy

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky remembers January 13. Lithuanian Jews, who restored their community finally 30 years ago after decades of restrictions, took part in events in those days [in 1991] Nowadays when they talk about the struggle for freedom, members of the community emphasize the greatest gift: the opportunity to speak freely.

What do you remember personally about that fateful night at the TV tower, the Lithuanian Radio and Television building and the parliament? What does the Jewish community remember about these events?

Jews did the same thing as everyone else in Lithuania. We have collected the recollections of our community members of that fateful night. They watched the television broadcast until it was cut off and they went to the barricades, in Vilnius but also in Kaunas and other cities.

We were there where the majority of Lithuania was. I remember when I travelled from Varėna during that time and saw the road full of tanks. At that time I had an elderly guest from America who said he was seeing tanks for the first time in his life.

On that particular night my friends and I–all of us were together with our young children–followed events, held vigil, waiting for our husbands who were there in the crowd by the barricades or who were doing their job as doctors.

My children are now grown up and always remember that night and the tension. It wasn’t clear what would happen and the tanks were already in place in the city. We didn’t have any information, we had seen the final frame when E. Bučelytė had to quit the [television] studio. We learned that night from medics that there were dead and wounded people.

Anne Frank Statue in Boise Vandalized with Swastika Stickers

Anne Frank Statue in Boise Vandalized with Swastika Stickers

Dozens of local business leaders signed on to a letter to Boise and Idaho’s political leaders decrying recent vandalism at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.

An unidentified person or group placed nine stickers on the memorial with a swastika and the words “we are everywhere” sometime between late December 7 and early December 8. The stickers were promptly removed and community members quickly showed up to place flowers, signs saying “love is everywhere” and other materials near the statue of Frank at the center of the memorial.

“This kind of attack has no place in our city and the message behind it has no place in our community. We are saddened, angered, and disgusted by the desecration, defamation and vandalism of the memorial,” the letter said.

Full article here.

EJC President calls EU Court of Justice Ruling “Heavy Blow to Jewish Life in Europe”

EJC President calls EU Court of Justice Ruling “Heavy Blow to Jewish Life in Europe”

Thursday, December 17, 2020–European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor has slammed a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which allows member states to require stunning before religious slaughter of animals for meat as a fundamental attack on the basic rights of Jewish religious expression and practice.

The Court was responding to the question on a preliminary ruling by the Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia (and, by extension, other European authorities) to make an EU-law based religious slaughter exception meaningless by banning religious slaughter.

“The right to practice our faith and customs, one which we have been assured over many years was granted under European law, has been severely undermined by this decision,” president Kantor said.

Candle of Solidarity on Hanukkah Menorah for International Human Rights Day

Candle of Solidarity on Hanukkah Menorah for International Human Rights Day

Today the world marks International Human Rights Day which began when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Human Rights Declaration on December 10, 1948. The call to stand up for human rights invites us to get involved and engaged in creating solidarity and societies respecting human rights, and calls on us to learn more about ethnic, religious and cultural communities and the way they live. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky calls it symbolic that this year’s International Human Rights Day coincides with the beginning of the traditional Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, a celebration of victory in perhaps the first battle for freedom of worship and freedom of conscience.

“The victory for our religion two millennia ago has continuity with modern Lithuania where all people have religious freedom. Hanukkah is an opportunity for the broader society to undersant and discover traditional Jewish culture as well as the activities of our community. We believe that it is only through understand and communication that we can overcome miscommunication and stereotypes, to insure respect for the rights of all people living in Lithuania,” chairwoman Kukliansky said.

Respect for human rights is urgent right now, she continued, because Jewish communities around the world are facing anti-Semitic sentiments. The European Union Council has responded to increasing attacks against Jews and all manner of anti-Semitic expressions, and on December 2 adopted a declaration on joint-efforts to fight anti-Semitism. The European Jewish Congress representing the Jewish communities of EU member-states and other European countries is asking national leaders to listen to the words of the declaration, follow it and pay additional attention towards creating a relationship of solidarity with the Jewish communities.

One Year Implementing IHRA Recommendations for Teaching, Learning about the Holocaust

One Year Implementing IHRA Recommendations for Teaching, Learning about the Holocaust

Photo: The IHRA Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust were adopted in 2019 and are now available in eight languages. Credit: Charles Caratini.

Holocaust education helps create a strong foundation for democratic societies and for combating hateful ideologies. One year after the adoption of the Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust, this resource has proven valuable to educators and policymakers across the globe.

The Importance of Holocaust Education

Holocaust education has always been central to the IHRA’s mandate. Both the 2000 Stockholm Declaration and the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration underline the responsibility to promote Holocaust education. After all, it is an important part of “counter[ing] the influence of historical distortion, hate speech and incitement to violence and hatred.” That is, Holocaust education remains fundamental to the preservation of democratic values and pluralistic societies.

This is because learning about the Holocaust gives us a chance to reflect upon important moral, political and social questions. Understanding some of the mechanisms that lead to genocide helps to foster qualities necessary for the development of civic-minded citizens such as critical thinking and societal awareness. It also helps preserve the memory of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Council of the European Union Declaration on Fighting Anti-Semitism

The Council “today approved a declaration on mainstreaming the fight against anti-Semitism across policy areas”:

“With this declaration the Council emphasizes that the fight against anti-Semitism is a cross-cutting issue involving various levels of government and policies at local, national and European levels. Awareness of anti-Semitism therefore needs to be raised across policy areas and responsibilities. The EU member states have agreed to mainstream the prevention and countering of antisemitism in all its forms.”

Felix Klein, Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism, said: “Anti-Semitism is an EU-wide phenomenon. To counter it effectively, we need an appropriate set of European instruments and a sufficient basis. This is precisely the approach taken by the declaration, which I greatly welcome. In my view, tackling anti-Semitism as a comprehensive and networked task extending across policy areas and levels of government is a real milestone.”

The Council of the European Union furthermore “expresses its concern at the increase in threats to Jewish people in Europe, and the resurgence of conspiracy myths, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the increase in anti-Semitic incidents and hate crime.

“It stresses that anti-Semitism has developed into various forms and must be combated with complementary public policies. Illegal hate speech and online terrorist content must be removed promptly and consistently by internet service providers. A strong and systematic judicial response to anti-Semitic acts is also necessary.

“Education about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and Jewish life remains one of the most important tools in preventing anti-Ssemitic prejudices. Sharing good practices to foster media literacy and awareness of conspiracy myths is also key.

“The member states also welcome the European Commission’s decision to make the fight against anti-Semitism a priority, as well as the strengthening of the institutional basis for the coordinator on combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life,” the Council of the European Union reported here.

ECRI Says Anti-Semitism Incompatible with Values, Wants National Strategies from Member-States

ECRI Says Anti-Semitism Incompatible with Values, Wants National Strategies from Member-States

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, aka ECRI, adopted an “Opinion on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)” at its 84th plenary session on December 2. The full text is available here.

IHRA’s working definition begins:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

ECRI noted while many states have adopted the working definition, there are problems applying it legally because of the vagueness of some of the language, and said there are concerns because criticism of the State of Israel might be equated with anti-Semitism in a future redaction. There is also no academic consensus on a definition, the document said.

Honored on International Day of Tolerance

Honored on International Day of Tolerance

Information from the Ethnic Minorities Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania

The Ethnic Minorities Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania assembled an awards commission for their annual award November 18. Nominations were accepted from chairpeople of ethnic community organizations, minority NGOs, social organizations and cultural center directors for whom to award as part of the Department’s celebration of the International Day of Tolerance. The awards commission received 36 requests and recommendations for award recipients.

Alvida Gedaminskienė, the director of the social organization the Ethnic Communities Center, was chosen to receive the grand prize version of the award “For Merit.”

The next highest award was the golden award of respect “For Merit” and was awarded to Aldona Kodytė, a member of the Lithuanian Association of Belarussian Schools; Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and to Kęstutis Zenonas Šafranavičius, the chairman of the Kaunas Regional Tartar Community.

Happy Birthday to Eugenijus Bunka

Happy Birthday to Eugenijus Bunka

We wish Eugenijus Bunka a happy 70th birthday. He created the Litvak Memorial Garden in the Žemaitijan National Park, is a great journalist, ethnographer and public figure.

Bunka was awarded the title of Tolerant Person of the Year for 2019. The award is made annually by the Chiune Sugihara/Diplomats for Life Foundation to Lithuanian citizens who stand up against xenophobia, anti-Semitism, radicalism and expressions of violence in Lithuanian public life by their words and deed.

Eugenijus has long led his father and sculptor Jakov Bunka’s fund, civic initiatives and restoring Jewish memory of Plungė, Žemaitija and Lithuania locally and around the world.

We wish you excellent health and may your life also be illuminated by happiness and joyful moments.

Mazl tov! Bis 120!

EJC President Slams Decision by Austrian Freedom Party to Appoint Anti-Semite to Upper House of Parliament

EJC President Slams Decision by Austrian Freedom Party to Appoint Anti-Semite to Upper House of Parliament

Brussels, November 25, 2020–European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor has expressed outrage after the Austrian Freedom Party appointed former foreign affairs spokesman Johannes Hübner to the Bundesrat, which is the equivalent of Austria’s Senate. In 2017 Hübner aborted an attempt to run for parliament after an anti-Semitic comment he shared at a far-right event in Germany the previous year was aired.

“The Freedom Party have claimed that they have left their anti-Semitic past behind them and have recently tried to revive their reputation, but this appointment represents a huge step backwards,” Dr. Kantor said. “It is unconscionable that a renowned anti-Semite would be given such a respectable position.”

“We call on the Freedom Party to rescind this decision and to once again turn away from its sordid anti=Semitic past,” Kantor concluded.

Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish community of Vienna, added: “The political return of Mr. Hübner is a confirmation of the lack of credibility of the Freedom Party. This is exactly what happened with Udo Landbauer who resigned after his student fraternity’s Nazi song books were seized and then came back as a regional party leader.”

International Day for Tolerance Event Darna on Facebook

International Day for Tolerance Event Darna on Facebook

The International Day for Tolerance will be marked around the world on Monday, November 16. The Lithuanian Jewish Community has prepared a virtual celebration called Darna which will run from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. that day, including well-known performers Jurgis Didžiulis, Erca Jennings, Afrodelic and Paulius Kibauskas. It will also include yoga and meditation activities, a discussion on the topic of tolerance and other activities.

The first Darna festival for celebrating the International Day for Tolerance invites the public to celebrate tolerance, harmony and concord, and to do so through the creation of art and community. The LJC had planned to hold the celebration as a real event, but decided to make it virtual because of concerns about the corona virus and to make an entire day’s worth of events available to those homebound.

Event organizer Rafael Gimelstein said: “We are trying to encourage the celebration of human ties and a harmonious and tolerant life through this event. We wanted to bring together all people who think the same way and to commemorate these values through creative work. To show we have very diverse and talented people who are united by a shared idea, and that tolerance is a very topical idea to them.”

Dr. Moshe Kantor Re-Elected President of the EJC

Dr. Moshe Kantor Re-Elected President of the EJC

Dr. Moshe Kantor has been re-elected the president of the European Jewish Congress by representatives of European Jewish communities. A press release from the EJC said there were no election violations and voting was safe and credible in the vote of confidence.

Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, was re-elected head of the EJC’s executive committee.

“I am honored and I feel the support shown by the Jewish leaders and communities across the entire Continent,” Dr. Kantor said. “European Jews are a powerful force in the Jewish world; we have remained in the forefront in fighting anti-Semitism, defending Jewish traditions and reviving Jewish communities and institutions.”

In recent months the EJC under Kantor’s leadership has undertaken new action helping provide support to Jewish communities and institutions, including schools, community centers and other organizations vitally important to European Jews facing the complex challenge of the corona virus epidemic.

Holocaust Archive Protected by U.S. Federal Government

Holocaust Archive Protected by U.S. Federal Government

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), a federal government institution in Washington, DC, has acquired an archive of documents and possessions belonging to Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika.

The archive was donated by Noreika’s granddaughter, Silvia Foti, who has exposed her grandfather as the murderer of approximately 14,500 Lithuanian Jews at the start of the Holocaust. Foti calls the Lithuanian government’s whitewashing of her grandfather’s crimes, “perhaps one of the greatest cover-ups of the 20th Century.” Foti will release her exposé in March 2021, entitled, “The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal.”

Foti’s physical safety has been threatened due to her exposé, so to ensure the archive’s physical security, she has transferred possession and ownership of it to the USHMM.

EJC President Kantor Applauds Overdue Decision by Facebook to Ban Holocaust Denial

EJC President Kantor Applauds Overdue Decision by Facebook to Ban Holocaust Denial

Monday, October 12, 2020–European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor has welcomed the decision by Facebook to ban Holocaust denial and distortion and to better inform the public about the Holocaust.

“This is a long overdue but an important decision,” Dr. Kantor said. “Holocaust denial is not legitimate debate and is only used as an expression of hatred for Jews, so this decision is not about anything except limiting hate and anti-Semitism.”

Dr. Kantor, who is also the president of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, welcomed concerted efforts by governments, IT companies and civil society to counter the proliferation of online hatred conspiracy myths and Holocaust denial.

“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise and knowledge about the Holocaust among young people is alarmingly low, it is crucial that online platforms continue to become part of the solution, not the problem,” Dr. Kantor said.

“This is an issue that the European Jewish Congress has long advocated for, and we thank Facebook for its regular and productive discussions with us and other Jewish organizations, both at the European and global level,” Dr. Kantor concluded.

Full statement here.

Facebook Bans Holocaust Denial

Facebook Bans Holocaust Denial

Facebook has explicitly banned Holocaust denial for the first time.

The social network said its new policy prohibits “any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.”

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg wrote that he had “struggled with the tension” between free speech and banning such posts, but that “this is the right balance.”

Two years ago, Mr Zuckerberg said that such posts should not automatically be taken down for “getting it wrong.”

“I’m Jewish and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he told Recode at the time.

World Jewish Congress Welcomes Greek Court Decision Naming Anti-Semitic Golden Dawn Party as Criminal Organization

Press Release
October 7, 2020

NEW YORK–The World Jewish Congress (WJC) applauds a Greek court’s decision today to convict the leadership of the country’s Golden Dawn national political party for heading up a criminal organization. The court also convicted a party member of murder and 15 others of conspiracy in the case.

At its peak in 2015 Golden Dawn received as much as 7 percent of the national parliamentary vote and still holds seats in the European Parliament. Other than those acts at the center of the court’s deliberations, the group is notorious for its history of antisemitic hate speech and desecration of Jewish sites across the country.

The WJC released the following statement in response to the decision:

Lithuanian Parliament Ethics and Procedures Commission Censures Šimas

Lithuanian Parliament Ethics and Procedures Commission Censures Šimas

The Ethics and Procedures Commission of the Lithuanian parliament has adopted a resolution censuring MP Audrys Šimas concerning what appeared to be a sieg heil Nazi salute he made during a vote in the Lithuanian parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee last spring.




No. 101-I-18
September 30, 2020

The Ethics and Procedures Commission of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter Commission)–Antanas Matulas, Aušrinė Norkienė, Petras Čimbaras, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Virgilijus Poderys, Mazys Starkevičius, Dovilė Šakalienė, Ona Valiukevičiutė–having received a request from Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on May 29, 2020, to assess the behavior of member of parliament Audrys Šimas at the meeting of the parliamentary National Security and Defense Committee on May 20, 2020, and based on article 78, part 1, point 3 of the Parliamentary Statute of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter Statute), presents this finding.