Grateful

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Our True National Heroes, Rescuers of Jews

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Our True National Heroes, Rescuers of Jews

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.

WJC Thanks President Trump for Never Again Education Act

WJC Thanks President Trump for Never Again Education Act

Press release
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:

Story of the Rescue of Sisters Khaya and Estera from Darbėnai

Story of the Rescue of Sisters Khaya and Estera from Darbėnai

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.

Big Thank You to Svetlana Who Found a Jewish Headstone in Her Garden

Big Thank You to Svetlana Who Found a Jewish Headstone in Her Garden

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.

Musical Happy Birthday from the Kaunas Jewish Community

Musical Happy Birthday from the Kaunas Jewish Community

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!

We Did It, We Got Matzo to Our Seniors

We Did It, We Got Matzo to Our Seniors

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.

Thank You for Helping LJC Seniors

Thank You for Helping LJC Seniors

Lithuanian Jewish Community administrative secretary Liuba Šerienė would like to send a big thank-you to Social Department director Michailas Segalas and staff members Ema Jakobienė, Ninel Skudovičiūtė, Rokas Dobrovolskis and Neringa Stankevičienė and colleagues, and to Michailas Tarasovas, Aušra, Snieguolė, Danutė Lena, Žana and Sonia for their great work helping our Social Department clients and senior citizens. Thank you so very much.

ORT Celebrates Birthday

ORT Celebrates Birthday

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.

LJC Members Who Received National Awards Recognized on February 16

LJC Members Who Received National Awards Recognized on February 16

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.

EJC President Kantor Praises French Parliament Resolution to Fight Anti-Semitism

EJC President Kantor Praises French Parliament Resolution to Fight Anti-Semitism

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.

Honoring Lithuania’s Jewish Soldiers in Kaunas

Honoring Lithuania’s Jewish Soldiers in Kaunas

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.

Thank You

Thank You

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman wants to thank Bagel Shop Café director Dovilė Rūkaitė and senior cook Riva Portnaja for their wonderful idea to hold a Litvak culinary luncheon with a delegation from the Taube Jewish Heritage Tours with partial support from the Ethnic Minorities Department, and for their tireless enthusiasm in promoting and passing on the Litvak Jewish culinary heritage. Thank you to Taube delegation leader and Ashkenazi cooking expert Jeffrey Yoskowitz and to all the volunteers and guests who made this event so much fun. It was good to sit down together at a shared table and it was very delicious.

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Active Members

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Active Members

For years now the Kaunas Jewish Community has been giving thanks to our active members who take part in activities and help make them possible.

In earlier years this has mainly taken the form of a dinner party with live music, but this year we decided to take the volunteers on a tour in and around Kaunas.

Members learned about the town of Kačerginė, its history and cultural legacy, listening to the enthusiastic narrative of Lina Sinkevičienė while taking in the rural beauty of the place. Members were received warmly at the headquarters of the Kačerginė aldermanship. The beautiful landscape conceals a bloody history and Kaunas Jewish Community members paid their respects to the Holocaust victims in Šakiai, Lukšiai, Zapyškis and surrounding areas.

Exhibit on Tadeusz Romer and Jewish Refugees in Far East

Exhibit on Tadeusz Romer and Jewish Refugees in Far East

The exhibit “Polish Ambassador to Japan Tadeusz Romer and Jewish Refugees in the Far East” will open with an event in the Jascha Heifetz Hall on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community at 6:00 P.M. on September 19.

This mobile exhibit from the Polish Institute was first shown last March at the Sugihara House museum in Kaunas. The authors of the exhibit Dr. Olga Barbasiewicz and Barbara Abraham are to take part in this opening. The exhibit will run till October 19.

Outdoor Painting Workshop Works Exhibited at LJC

Outdoor Painting Workshop Works Exhibited at LJC

For the sixth season members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community have been attending the Raimondas Savickas Art School, learning to paint and attending the outdoor plein air painting camps/workshops. Students exhibit their works at the LJC after the workshops. This time was the sixth ehibition which opened September 6. Friends and family of the painters gathered to view the works. They are hanging on the third floor. The colorful paintings were made this summer at scenic Lake Karvys and portray landscapes, colorful flowers, the lake, fields, the park there and other things.

Diplomas were passed out to the plein air students at the opening ceremony as well as letters of thanks to Raimondas Savickas and workshop project coordinator Žana Skudovičienė.

Thank You From Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel

Dear Faina Kukliansky

Thank you.

As chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, and in the name of all of our members I wish to express our sincere gratitude for your support and participation in the events memorializing the liquidation of the Kovno Ghetto and the Siauliai Ghetto.

We appreciate your good will and hospitality, and hope you will share our appreciation with your members, families and colleagues.

This was an outstanding demonstration of co-operation between Lithuanian and Israeli authorities, national and municipal, and between the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel and the Lietuvos Žydų Bendruomenė (Lithuanian Jewish Community), and the Jewish Communities of Kaunas and Siauliai.

Respectfully,

Arie Ben-Ari Grodzensky, chairman
Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel

Thank You for Ten Productive Years Together, Madam President

Thank You for Ten Productive Years Together, Madam President

Photo: Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė, right, at photo exhibit on rescuers of Jews

Your excellency, madam president Dalia Grybauskaitė,

The Lithuanian Jewish Community send you our sincerest thanks for the ten years you have devoted to Lithuania and the people of Lithuania. We are grateful for the firm political position you’ve taken in complicated situations and your resolute decisions.

Israeli president and Litvak Shimon Peres visited Lithuania in 2013 and we witnessed the birth of a new era of close cooperation between Lithuania and Israel. The year 2013 was also the year restitution began, when Lithuania, first among the countries of the region, undertook a firm legal obligation to make compensation for Jewish communal property seized during the Holocaust and to make symbolic restitution to Holocaust victims for the losses they experienced. In 2017 you decorated Fania Brancovskaja, a member of the underground resistance in the Vilnius ghetto and one of the liberators of the ghetto, recognizing her actions as worthy of merit to Lithuania. This was another important sign of respect for the memory of the Holocaust in Lithuania. In 2018 Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Lithuania, demonstrating the highest respect to the country and to the Lithuanian Jewish Community. In September of 2018 we prayed with Pope Francis, Catholics and Jews together, in memory of the victims of the Vilnius ghetto. This year, in the run-up to 2020 as the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History, we visited the archive of the YIVO institute in New York City, where a portion of the statistics on the Jewish population once kept by the Great Synagogue in Vilnius are conserved, again recalling the memory of the lost Jerusalem of Lithuania.

Thank you for the important step we have taken together on the road to mutual understanding between Jews and Lithuanians.

With respect and gratitude,

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Honorary Member of the Panevėžys Jewish Community

Honorary Member of the Panevėžys Jewish Community

World War II began in 1939. Jews didn’t know this was the onset of hell for the entire world and especially for the Jews themselves. More than 60 million people died, and 6 million of them were Jews. Jews were shot and tortured to death in the concentration camps and ghettos.

Today the world community is grateful to those who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Teresė Giedrikaitė is a frequent visitor to the Panevėžys Jewish Community. She is the daughter of Emilija and Juozas Giedrikas, who were awarded posthumously the Lithuanian order of the Life-Saver’s Cross. She is an honorable member of the Community. She was invited to attend the unveiling of the new Holocaust memorial in Biržai, Lithuania, but was unable to attend due to poor health. She spoke in an informal setting at the Community, telling the story of her parents who rescued Jews during the war.

She recalled painful memories lodged deep from childhood with tears in her eyes. She was four at the time. Neither time nor Soviet deportation has erased the painful recollections. Her parents hid a Jewish newlywed couple from Kaunas in their home in the small town of Vabalninkas.

Jewish Community Remembered in Kalvarija

Jewish Community Remembered in Kalvarija

In the period between the two world wars, the Jewish population was the majority population in Kalvarija, Lithuania. The architecture of the old town, a unique synagogue complex (with a winter and summer synagogue and the Talmud school) and the only surviving Jew, Moishe Segalis–all of this stands as a testimony to that time. For four Saturdays in a row now, as spring blossoms forth, there have been readings from Icchokas Meras’s novel “Lygiosios trunka akimirką” held near the synagogues in Kalvarija and in their courtyards. Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas attended the final reading on May 24.

Students and soloists from the Sonantem choir in Kalvarija read from the work about the life of the Vilnius ghetto and about life which can be decided by the movement of a single piece on the game board.

A youth initiative invited the local community to an informal meeting with the relatives of those who once lived in Kalvarija, with our ancestors and neighbors.

Thank You

The Kaunas Jewish Community thanks Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky for a fun and wonderfully-organized Lag B’Omer celebration.