The Lithuanian Jewish Community has received a thank-you letter from Liudmila Uvanova personally thanking Social Department Family Support coordinator Rašelė Šeraitė. Liudmila Uvanova said Rašelė puts her soul into her work and is sweet. polite, attentive and open-hearted. She said all the clients are lucky to have such a person on their side, and also thanked the Lithuanian Jewish Community for real help to people in need.
The Kaunas Jewish Community celebrated the 30th anniversary of its restoration with the concert “From Mendelssohn to Latėnas” October 22. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, city society and cultural figures attended the elegant event reminiscent of Kaunas in the period between the two world wars.
Speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis greeted the audience and the Community.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proud of the achievements by the Kaunas Jewish Community and thanks chairman Gercas Žakas for his efforts in rallying and uniting the Jews of Lithuania’s provisional capital, for his sincere and ceaseless concern for the needs of members and Righteous Gentiles, for popularizing athletics and reviving Yiddish culture.
We are so proud of you and wish you many more such anniversaries! Mazl tov!
The Juozas Naujalis Music Gymnasium in Kaunas has unveiled a plaque commemorating Righteous Gentile, teacher and famous violinist Vladas Varčikas, and has also created his portrait based on the memories of colleagues and those he rescued.
The Juozas Naujalis Music Gymnasium and the Kaunas Jewish Community commemorated Varčikas at the gymnasium where he worked as a teacher of violin from 1946 to 2008.
Varčikas isn’t just well known to the musical community, he’s also venerated in the Jewish community, as stated in the inscription on the plaque by the sculptor Gediminas Pašvenskas placed on the wall of the Chamber Hall of the gymnasium. The white marble plaque says he is a violinist, pedagogue and Righteous Gentile.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Jakob, Dora and Haim Frenkel ca. 1893, Šiauliai. From the collection of the Aušra Museum.
The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community learned October 4 the Šiauliai city municipality had decided to rename Elnio street after a famous local Jewish family, the Frenkels.
Haim Frenkel was a Jewish industrialist in Šiauliai.
The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community would like to thank the city council for adopting their proposal so quickly, and singles out Zina Žuklijienė, Gintaras Karalevičius and Domas Griškevičius for special mention, as well as MP Stasys Tumėnas and his team of advisors, the politician Vytautas Juškas, the Aušra Museum, Laiptai Gallery director Janina Ališauskienė, Šiauliai Tourist Information Center director Rūta Stankuvienė and others.
The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community believes this is a lesson in civics which will help restore historical justice to some extent.
A class and consultation by cardiologist Virginija Ežerskienė was held for senior citizens of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community October 4. Our elderly learned about modern heart treatments and the doctor gave individual consultations and answered questions following the lecture.
Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community senior citizens said they find these sorts of lessons very useful. In line with the wishes of our seniors we will try to hold lectures with consultations by medical specialists once a month. The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community is deeply grateful to Dr. Virginija Ežerskienė for her gift of expertise and advice to our senior citizens.
On September 23, the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, we will again walk the path of the condemned in Ponar. Everyone we lost has a name, each one of them is important, those whose lives were extinguished during the mass murder of the Jews. Seventy-five years having passed since the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto, which has become the symbol of the Holocaust in Lithuania, we have come to the conclusion that now everyone who can witness to the story of the Holocaust is just as important.
Even now, under democratic conditions, it still takes courage, wisdom, will and fundamental human understanding to witness to historical truth. We can only imagine and wonder at what set of values was held by those people who found in themselves the courage and resolution to rescue those condemned to death, Jewish men, women and the children who were completely helpless in the face of war.
We, the Jewish people, are marked by the agony of the Shoah, and are obligated by it as well: we would trample upon the memory of our forefathers if we forgave those who intentionally became the executors of Nazi policies who are now still often presented as Lithuanian heroes. But we have inherited the experience of the Holocaust, and the fundamental understanding of what a priceless gift life is. While we are not able to forget those who deprived us of this gift, we also will always remember those who, like second parents, granted it to us anew.
About 900 Lithuanians made the fateful decision during World War II to oppose officially sanctioned hate. Their only weapon was their conscience, whose decision to remain human led them, non-Jews, to become an eternal, spiritual part of our people. Our gratitude cannot be expressed in words, it cannot be measured, it is impossible to comprehend and immeasurable and it is as if it has become the light of God’s being in the corrupt grey of the ghetto or the daily life in a forest hideout. These are people thanks to whom we were reborn to new life, thanks to whom our energies were restored for the old faith.
These brave Lithuanians built eternal bridges between nations and generations, they became true goodwill ambassadors representing hope, humanity and faith. The time has come for Lithuania to remember the names of the nation’s heroes, their names and stories should be recorded in textbooks, their names should adorn streets and schools and statues should be erected in their honor.
Today, twenty-eight years after independence, celebrating the centennial of statehood, a commemorative marker to the Righteous Gentiles will adorn the courtyard of the Church of the Missionaries in Vilnius, reminding the state of its duty to remember its heroes. I bow my head to all the known and unknown people who rescued Jews, to all those here today and to all those whom time has taken. Thank you, all of you. You were there for us, the Jewish people, you are there and you will always will be.
Photos: Robertas Dačkus
Pope Francis has returned from Kaunas to Vilnius and prayed silently at a monument to victims of the Vilnius ghetto in the Lithuania capital’s Old Town.
According to representatives, the silent prayer meant it was impossible to say anything of significance in the face of the Shoah. The Pontiff stood before a small monument at the edge of Rūdininkų square in the former ghetto, knelt and prayed. Vatican watchers note the Pope always pays his respects to the Jewish communities in countries he visits.
The Vilnius ghetto was established originally in two parts in the Vilnius Old Town on September 6, 1941. The small ghetto was liquidated almost immediately.
Press Service of the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania
September 21, Vilnius–Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė decorated Lithuanian citizens who risked their lives and those of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust with the Order of the Life Saver’s Cross Friday.
This year is the 77th anniversary of the Holocaust and on September 23 it will have been exactly 75 years since the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. On the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide, 39 Jewish rescuers were recognized. Most of them are no longer among the living, so their descendants and other relatives attended the ceremony and received the awards.
The Lithuanian head of state said every time we remember the victims of the Holocaust we also remember those who rescued Jews, and that this is a great lesson in sacrifice and courage for humanity. She said those attending the ceremony were a living bridge between today and those times of brutality and extraordinary altruism.
Full text here.
Friday, 21 September, Vilnius–President Dalia Grybauskaitė awarded the Life Saving Cross to Lithuanian citizens who risked their lives and the lives of their families to rescue Jews from death and persecution during World War II.
This year marks the 77th anniversary of the Holocaust in Lithuania, and on September 23 we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius Ghetto. State decorations were awarded to 39 rescuers of Jews on the occasion of the National Memorial Day for the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews. Most of them have already passed away, so the ceremony was attended by their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other family members.
According to the president, each time that we honor the memory of the Holocaust victims, we remember their rescuers and the great lesson of humanity, sacrifice and courage. Those attending the ceremony are the living bond between the present and the past marked by both brutality and compassion.
The president underlined that we were proud of every Lithuanian who dared to stand up in the whirlwind of a brutal war and fight evil with the goodness of their heart. It was action over words: the decision to open the door and share life. And fate. They did not know how it would end, but they took the risk.
The president extended her gratitude to all the rescuers and called upon all to cherish the memory of the Righteous Among the Nations and the light they had left behind.
Press Service of the President
Full text here.
The Polish foreign minister is to open the exhibit “Żegota: The Council to Aid Jews” in the Lithuanian parliament’s Building III at 4:00 P.M. on September 13. The embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Institute in Vilnius in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian parliament are to present the extraordinary exhibit about the Polish Council to Aid Jews as part of commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto and to celebrate the Year of Irena Senderlowa. The exhibit was made by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance. It was first shown at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas earlier this year.
Those planning to attend the opening ceremony include Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz, Lithuanian MP Arūnas Gelūnas, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Polish ambassador to Lithuania Urszula Doroszewska and Polish Institute director and advisor to the ambassador Marcin Łapczyński.
Please report your intention to attend by sending an email to email@example.com
Valid identification is required for entry to the parliament building.
As the high holy days draw near, I am glad to be able to share with you important Lithuanian Jewish Community news. The Lithuanian Jewish Community faces many challenges every day, but this year we’ve grown, we’ve grown stronger and we are receiving ever more public and political support. Interest in Jewish culture is not fading, either, as shown by European Days of Jewish Culture events in Lithuania, a program which grows richer by the year. I greatly appreciate that 1,500 Litvaks abroad have officially joined the LJC from the Litvak Association in Israel chaired by Arie Ben-Ari Grozdensky. Jewish unity is the largest goal for the LJC which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the national revival this year.
Thanks to the active work of the regional Jewish communities and Jewish organizations, Jewish values remain strong in Lithuania. A young generation of Jews is growing up and we need to pass on our history and our future to them. For a long time now we have been developing the idea of reviving the tradition of Litvak scouting and this year we finally managed to make it a reality working with French and Polish Jewish scouting organizations. Vilnius ghetto prisoner and Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja was part of Jewish scouting in Lithuania before the war and shared her experience in scouting at our recent camping event. Although the Jewish community in Lithuania isn’t large, we have proven we are able to continue the old traditions and to start new ones.
We met the Litvak prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, and his wife Sara at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, celebrating its 115th anniversary this year. This was an historical occasion to remind Europe and the world the Jewish nation is an indivisible part of European culture, and Europe should be grateful to the State of Israel for so many European lives which have been saved thanks to the work of Israeli intelligence in stopping attacks. Two small democracies, Israel and Lithuania, find striking parallels in their histories. We will recall them this December in celebrating 100 years of the union of Lithuanian Zionist organizations, which also supported Lithuanian aspirations for statehood.
In September we mark a great tragedy which has come to be a symbol of the Holocaust in Lithuania. We mark the painful 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. It’s very significant that we are dedicating ever more informal means to commemorate history, but there are still areas where more needs to be done in discussing the role the Lithuanian Activist Front and the Provisional Government of Lithuania played in the Holocaust, and more needs to be done in the state’s school curriculum as well.
We esteem highly as well the great work our partners–the joint Lithuanian-Israel archaeology group–have done in work on the Great Synagogue of Vilnius. The LJC is responsible for drafting a study on ways to commemorate the Great Synagogue. As the spiritual successors to the Vilna Gaon, we feel a great responsibility to insure the respect due this special Jewish sacred site and the appropriate presentation of what’s left of this heritage site to the public.
I want to thank sincerely all those who have been and are with the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Thank you for your energy and support. I wish you a sweet and happy 5779!
The first new Litvak scouting camping trip with children from Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Panevėžys and Molėtai took place over the weekend. Litvak scouting has a long tradition in Lithuania until the Holocaust and there were thousands of scouts. Jewish scouting stopped after the Holocaust, making the revival, Sabbath in the Forest, an important milestone. The goal of the renewed organization is to include religious Jewish children, secular Jewish children and non-Jewish children in Jewish scouting activities. The main concern is to make sure minimal standards are adhered to to allow religious Jewish children to attend the camping trips. The camping trips place special emphasis on Jewish religious traditions and prayer, serve kosher food and observe all the requirements of the Sabbath.
Many of the children experienced the great outdoors for the very first time, setting up tents and sleeping in them, setting up wooden picnic tables, cooking bread on the fire and challa in an outdoor oven and going on an evening hike.
Fania Brancovskaja, a member of the Bin scouting organization in Vilnius, ushered out the Sabbath last Saturday. The scouts called her “Sister Fania” as she shared her experience in scouting and stories about the scouts in pre-World War II Lithuania. Fania was presented a Lithuanian scouting necktie.
by Rasa Baškienė, Bernardinai.lt
Ona Šimaitė was named a Righteous Gentile in 1966 for saving Jews from the Vilnius ghetto. She constantly risked her life from 1941 to 1943, when the Vilnius ghetto existed, saving Jewish children and adults and seeking out shelter and support for them. Vilnius University rector Mykolas Biržiška, his brother Vaclovas Biržiška, the director of the Vilnius University library, and professors and staff at the university helped Ona Šimaitė, as did the writer Kazys Jakubėnas and the clerics A. Lipniūnas, M. Krupavičius, M. Vaitkus and others.
Rūdninkų street in the Vilnius ghetto.
On September 6, 1941, after the Germans had occupied Vilnius, 57,000 Jews were marched to the two ghettos in the Vilnius Old Town. They included many Vilnius University students and teachers, famous professors and scholars. Rector Mykolas Biržiška, university leadership and head librarian Vaclovas Biržiška tried to think of a way to help the Jews condemned to death. Finally a seemingly innocent way to do so was found: they would send two university librarians–catalog department director Ona Šimaitė and reading room director Godliauskaitė into the two ghettos to collect unreturned library books from Jewish readers.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Come see the Lithuanian premiere film “The Good Nazi” about Righteous Gentile Karl Plagge at the Tolerance Center, Naugarduko street no. 10/2, Vilnius at 5:30 P.M. on July 12, 2018. Major Karl Plagge was in command of the HKP slave labor camp on Subačiaus street in Vilnius. The camp repaired and maintained German military vehicles. Plagge saved a number of Jews there. The event includes a discussion with the filmmakers and visiting archaeologists. Sponsored in partnership with the US embassy in Vilnius. Film and event in English, all are welcome, entrance is free.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely thanks Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department director Diana Varnaitė for all the work she’s done to preserve Jewish heritage in Lithuania. The Community is also wondering who could replace her professionalism, intellect and sense of heritage as a significant legacy we leave to future generations.
Since Faina Kukliansky became chairwoman of the LJC in 2013, the Community has paid special attention to the preservation of Lithuanian Jewish heritage sites. Mainly because of director Varnaitė’s personal attention to Jewish heritage, it became one of the Cultural Heritage Department’s priorities and thus a priority for protection nation-wide. The Jewish story in Lithuania began almost 700 years ago and much has been lost, but what remains needs urgent work to save it as a treasure of the state and the people which draws people here from around the world.
Lithuanian Jewish heritage sites are relics of a cultural landscape created over centuries by the community which once numbered a quarter million people living in almost every Lithuanian city and town. It is around 200 cemeteries, more than 200 mass murder sites and mass graves and over 40 synagogues listed as cultural treasures.
Happy birthday to Grigory Kanovich who celebrates his 89th this week.
This year the re-established Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrates its 30th anniversary. Looking back on the time of national revival, back to 1989 when the founding meeting of the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association took place, we remember Grigory Kanovich was elected the organization’s first chairman. Kanovich is an internationally acclaimed writer, winner of Lithuania National prize in Art and Culture for 2014, an honorable citizen of Jonava, chairman emeritus of the LJC and the recipient of the Order of Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas, third degree. He currently lives in Israel.
We appreciate our first chairman (1989-1993) and writer, author of the novel “A Kid for Two Pennies” which was adapted and performed by the Little Theater in Vilnius as “Smile Upon Us, Lord,” and which won first prize at the Baltic and Northern European Theater Festival. It was truly an unforgettable play and several generations of people find much meaning in it.
Living in Israel, Grigory Kanovich wrote the novel “Jewish Park,” recognized best Israeli novel in Russian in 1997.
The entire Lithuanian Jewish Community is so proud of you, beloved Grigory, and we all wish you the happiest birthday from the bottom of our hearts, and wish you great health, happiness and love.
Jan Zwartendijk, the honorable consul of the Netherlands in Lithuania at the beginning of World War II and a rescuer of Jews, was honored Friday at Freedom Alley in Kaunas outside his former office where he also worked as a representative of the Philips company. The location was decorated with a lighting installation and a commemorative plaque was unveiled to honor Zwartendijk.
Dutch artist Giny Vos said she was trying to commemorate Zwartendijk the man, but also his humanitarian actions; Zwartendijk never considered himself a hero, although his so-called Curaçao end-visas he issued over 10 days in the summer of 1940 ended up saving around 2,400 lives directly in conjunction with transit visas issued by Japanese ambassador Chiune Sugihara, and countless more lives if succeeding generations are included. She said her light-show installation’s spiral symbolized life, movement, growth and hope, and that each individually sized and colored LED light in the installation represented a life saved, with the emphasis on hope, light and the future.
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė, Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis and Jan Zwartendijk’s son Rob spoke about the man and his humanitarian actions at the event.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky congratulates Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė’s decision to present the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, to the Lithuanian parliament for ratification. This is an important step forward for human rights in Lithuania. The Istanbul Convention is a crucial legal instrument to strengthen state resolve in the fight against violence against women. It is binding and based on experience from around the world of the best measures for decreasing gender-based violence.
Thirty of the 47 members of the Council of Europe have already ratified the convention.
More information in Lithuanian here.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky took part in an opening ceremony for an exhibition of photography about Lithuanian rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, part of a joint project by the LJC and the Sovereign Order of Malta to commemorate and provide aid to rescuers. Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė and Order of Malta ambassador to Lithuania Manfred Leo Mautner Markhof also took part at the opening ceremony in the exhibit space of the Tuskulėnai Memorial Park Complex in Vilnius May 29.
The Lithuanian president said the exhibit, which will go on display around Lithuania, documents Righteous Gentiles who saved hundreds of Jews at great risk to themselves. They shared hope, bread and their homes with Jews during the Holocaust. She said by extending a helping hand, they also saved humanity and the dignity of the Lithuanian nation. They have become a source of inspiration in the lives of Lithuania’s people today, she said, adding their attitude towards others and their self-sacrifice is needed daily.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said:
“More than 800 Lithuanians made the fateful decision during World War II to resist the axiomata of hate. Their only weapon was their conscience which, led by the choice to remain human, made these non-Jews an eternal and spiritual part of our people. Our gratitude cannot be expressed in words, nor measured in numbers; it is limitless and intangible, having become as it were a light of God’s being in the imperfect grey ghetto or in hiding in a forest hideout. These are people thanks to whom we were reborn to new life, thanks to whom we gout back our energy for the old faith.