Today is Yom haZikaron. Yom haZikaron is memorial day in Israel, dedicated to remembering all Israeli soldiers who have fallen in battle. The holiday always falls one day before Yom haAtzma’ut, Israeli independence day on Iyar 5, but if Iyar 5 falls on the Sabbath as it does this year, independence day and thus memorial day are moved up one day.
President of Israel Reuven Rivlin has sent a letter to the Lithuanian Jewish Community thanking the LJC for presenting him a Lithuanian commemorative coin celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon.
“I was especially moved by this gesture as the President of the State of Israel and as a proud descendant of the Vilna Gaon,” president Rivlin wrote in his letter.
He continued: “The gift, indeed, reflects the strong and everlasting ties between us, Jews in the State of Israel and Jewish communities in the diaspora, and reflects the historic ties between Israel and Lithuania.”
President Rivlin ended his letter by calling himself a proud Litvak and sending warm greetings from Jerusalem to all members of the Community.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community placed a candle in the window of our headquarters on the morning of January 13 to remember the defenders of freedom. #AtmintisGyvaNesLiudija
The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community join in greeting a member of the family, Righteous Gentile Leona Levinska, on her latest birthday. Much health and a long life, Leona!
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.
Sad news came from Kaunas October 2: Righteous Gentile Aldona Radzevičienė-Norvaišaitytė has passed away. Three years ago the Kaunas Jewish Community celebrated her 90th birthday where she even danced the waltz.
She and her family lived in Vilkaviškis where they rescued the Jews Alper Kirkilovski, Haim Chernevski and the sisters Shenka and Tsipka Verber who had escaped the Vilkaviškis ghetto just before it was liquidated and all of whom survived the war. In 1993 then-president Algirdas Brazauskas awarded Aldona the Life-Saver’s Cross and Yad Vashem recognized her as a Righteous Gentile on Junly 16, 2001.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community mourns the loss of Aldona Radzevičienė-Norvaišaitytė together with her family and many friends. Her memory will always remain vivid in our hearts.
Sad news has arrived from Šiauliai: Righteous Gentile Meilutė Zofia Kalendraitė-Levinskienės has passed away. The Lithuanian Jewish Community extends our deepest condolences to her family, including her husband, children, grandchildren, her sister who is also a Righteous Gentile and to her many friends.
Her father Andrejus Kalendra, enthusiastic about the ideas of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, organized the rescue of the Gordimer family from the Šiauliai ghetto. Andrejus Kalendra was a man who was known and respected throughout the area. He organized the operation to save the family together with other members of his family and friends following the Children’s Aktion in the ghetto on November 5, 1943. Six-year-old Sholem was carried out the ghetto in a potato bag and hidden at the Kalendra estate near Žarėnai. He remained there until the summer of 1945.
Due to the efforts of the Kalendra family, their friends and their acquaintances, the entire Gordimer family was saved and went to the USA in 1945.
Violin master Gidon Kremer gave a special concert for members and friends of the Lithuanian Jewish Community September 24 which included Schumann’s sonata for violin and Polish-Jewish composer Meczyslaw Weinberg’s 24 preludes adapted for violin by Kremer himself.
During the concert photographs flashed across a screen by Antanas Sutkus, a renowned Lithuanian photographer, of the faces of Lithuanian Jewish survivors, adding to and adding significance to painful and unforgettable Jewish history. This was music for the heart and soul. The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely and deeply thanks Kremer and Osokin for the extraordinary concert. Because of fears of the virus, audience members were evenly spaced around the hall and wore masks.
We recall Latvian classical violinist gave his first recital in Vilnius way back when. Kremer’s orchestra travels the world giving concerts on the world’s great stages with the best orchestras and conductors.
Vyautas Magnus University in Kaunas and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry will host a conference dedicated to Japanese wartime diplomat and Righteous Gentile Chiune Sugihara in the Great Hall of the University located at Simono Daukanto street no. 28 in Kaunas from 9:00 A.M. till 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, September 24. The conference will include a ceremony to award Righteous Gentiles in Lithuania. The conference will have synchronous translation available via mobile telephone requiring the installation of a special app for that purpose.
This year, 2020, marks the 80th anniversary of Sugihara’s work rescuing Jews in Kaunas from the Holocaust in 1939 and 1940. The Lithuanian parliament in 2019 declared 2020 the Year of Chiune Sugihara.
Please indicate your intention to attend by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
On June 25 the Kaunas Jewish Community paid honor to those who risked their own lives and those of their families to give the gift of life to those condemned to death. The people who rescued Jews were mainly quiet, everyday heroes, the Righteous Gentiles who are the real and unquestioned heroes of our country, heroes and heroines. On Thursday, June 25, the Kaunas Jewish Community was finally able to hold its annual evening to pay tribute to our Righteous Gentiles. Usually the event is held in spring just after Passover.
Kaunas Jewish Community members always look forward to the event, a meeting of friends. Time is merciless, however, and the ranks of rescuers and rescued grow thinner each year. Fortunately we have their children and grandchildren standing in for them, who are just as dear to us.
May 30, 2020
World Jewish Congress Thanks President Trump for Signing “Never Again Education Act” into Law
The Act Will Provide Critically Needed Support for Holocaust Education
NEW YORK–The World Jewish Congress is expressing its appreciation to President Trump for signing into law the Never Again Education Act. H.R. 943, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support, and passed the Senate by unanimous consent, will provide federal funding to expand Holocaust education in the United States.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, who has advocated for the importance of increased Holocaust education in American schools and for governments at all levels to promote legislation to that effect, said in response to the president signing the bill into law:
The Chaim family from Darbėniai. Front row from left: Khaya, Yehoshua, Tsipora and Estera, back: Rokha and Reuben. 1932, from the Chaim family archive.
Another example of heroism and sacrifice by the people of Žemaitija. The December 21, 1965, issue of the Vakarinės naujienos newspaper published in Vilnius and the June 4, 1966, issue of the newspaper Mūsų žodis published in the Skuodas region of Lithuania carried a story which had been long forgotten, the heroes of the story having passed on, and their resistance activities during the brutal time of the Nazi occupation still hasn’t been fully appreciated.
The Chaim family who lived before the war at Palangos street no. 15 in Darbėnai, Lithuania, were much like the other families around them, dreaming of a better life for their children and a bright future for Lithuania.
Vilnius resident Svetlana Šitelienė contacted the Lithuanian Jewish Community to report her discovery of what appears to be a Jewish headstone, or matzeva, on her farm.
Thank you, Svetlana.
We’ve reached Svetlana and thanked her, and sent her a box of matzo and the Vilnius ghetto diary of Yitzhak Rudasheviski translated into Lithuanian.
Studying the photographs she provided, it appears this might be an unfinished headstone made for someone named Esther, with the surname partially completed. Mrs. Šitelienė said the grave stone might have ended up in her yard 47 or more years ago, and according to relatives it came from the Jewish cemetery near the Palace of Marriage in Vilnius.
As spring finally arrives, the Kaunas Jewish Community sends birthday greetings to our beloved member Liuba Stulgaitienė.
Liuba is very active in Community events, a member of the Yiddish Club, a member of the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners and a woman who always radiates positivity, optimism and joy. She smiles at the whole world despite all injuries experienced and the world answers her the same way.
Dear Liuba, keep being so young at heart, so energetic, so thirsty for knowledge and someone who is able to say the years are not a burden, but a rich experience.
Mazl tov! May you live to 120!
Two weeks ago the Community accepted the challenge to distribute and home-deliver more matzo to more than 900 seniors living in Vilnius. Today we can truly say, mission accomplished.
It would have been mission impossible without the help of our volunteers who heeded the Community’s call for help. We had from 3 to 4 teams of Community staff and volunteers on the street daily.
The distribution of matzo took place so very smoothly because we were able to harness so many who offered to help.
A mitzvah should be done quietly and without fanfare, but the Community has a right to know who its heroes are.
by Ruth Reches, acting principal, Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium
On March 18 the ORT, an extremely important global Jewish cultural organization, celebrated its birthday. Happy birthday!
ORT is the acronym for Общество ремесленного и земледельческого трудаm, the association of crafts, trades and agriculture founded 140 years ago in 1880. ORT’s goal was to provide Jews work skills and information. In its first decades schools started by the ORT organization graduated tens of thousands of Jews who went on to work as tailors, farmers, mechanics, glass-blowers, furniture makers and similar.
The executive board of the Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulated Community members who had received state awards on the eve of February 16, the pre-war Lithuanian Independence Day.
Vocalist Rafailas Karpis, named soloist of the year by the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater and Linas Vildžiūnas, editor of the Seven Days of Art weekly newspaper and recipient of the Leonidas Donskis prize, were recognized. Daumantas Levas Todesas, an active cultural figure, supporter of culture and long-time member of the LJC, who was elected chairman of the Ethnic Communities Service for the term between 2020 and 2024, was also recognized.
Journalist and public figure Eugenijus Bunka, named Tolerant Person of the Year, was also recognized and sent a greeting to the audience on the eve of February 16. His brief address follows.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019–European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor praised the French National Assembly’s decision adopting the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and recognizing explicitly that this includes hatred against the state of Israel as a Jewish state.
“We applaud this decision because it is logical and important,” Dr. Kantor said. “Anti-Zionism is almost always just a mask for hatred of Jews and Jewish collectivity and is just the most modern manifestation of the oldest hatred.”
“In the past, anti-Semites used religious, racial and ethnic slurs, and now they use national. Anti-Zionists co-opt all the worst antisemitic libels and motifs throughout history against Jews and merely reapply them to the Jewish state.”
The motion passed with 154 in favor and 72 opposed in the parliament’s lower house. It was proposed by lawmaker Sylvain Maillard of La Republique en Marche, president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party.
by Dr. Raimundas Kaminskas
A ceremony to honor Jewish volunteer soldiers was held at the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery in the Gričiupis aldermanship in the Kaunas region on November 23. Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas recalled for the audience historic Jewish-Lithuanian relations and the contribution Jewish Lithuanian soldiers made in the battles for Lithuanian independence in 1919 and 1920 and later in the national Lithuanian military.
Director of the Kovo 11-osios Street Community Dr. Raimundas Kaminskas shared his thoughts on the civic-minded and patriotic Jewish soldiers in the period of Lithuanian independence from 1918 to 1940 and presented the chairman of the Kaunas Jewish Community a medal commemorating the Union of Jewish Volunteer Soldiers Who Served in the Liberation of Lithuania.
After the commemoration the audience moved to the St. Antthony of Padua Church where the mortal remains of church builder, rescuer of Jews and Lithuanian military volunteer father Juozas Želvys (1899-1985) are interred. The Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery was established in 1861 and operated until 1952. The Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department reports among the burials of many noted public, cultural, political and religious figures there, 14 of the graves are those of Lithuanian Jewish soldiers who perished in the battles for Lithuanian independence.