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.
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.
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.
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.
Dear Faina Kukliansky
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.
Arie Ben-Ari Grodzensky, chairman
Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel
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
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.
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.
The Kaunas Jewish Community thanks Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky for a fun and wonderfully-organized Lag B’Omer celebration.
The Kaunas Jewish Community enthusiastically celebrated Victory Day marking the victory against Nazi Germany, continuing a long-time tradition. This year no World War II veterans attended, but their widows and children, who heard their stories firsthand of the battles and horrors, did.
Many of those attending were personally freed by the Allies and their victory marked the end of their inhumane suffering and degradation. For them, this day is both one to commemorate the dead, but also an opportunity to celebrate life and its joys. Vocalist Aleksandras Rave performed his own songs and Michail Javič on saxophone enlivened the ceremony which was funded by the Goodwill Foundation.
The Kaunas Jewish Community continued this year its spring tradition of commemorating those who rescued Jews from the Holocaust.
Rescuers and the rescued came together again in a warm celebration of friendship and humanity. Professor Saulius Kaušinis who spoke at this year’s event said it and the stories behind could serve as an example of peace and peaceful coexistence in today’s world troubled by conflict, hate and terrorism.
This year the commemoration coincided with Holocaust Day and six candles were lit in memory of the six million Jews murdered in Europe.
Tenth-grade Art Gymnasium student Patricija Pugžlytė performed a piece from Schindler’s List on cello. Actress Kristina Kazakevičiūtė, herself the daughter of a rescuer, helped create an atmosphere of reflection and at the same time joy, and after all the point of the ceremony was to celebrate life. The saxophonist Michail Javič also performed.
It was sad to note the dwindling ranks of both the rescuers and the rescued, but at the same time it was a great joy to see their children and grandchildren there who were eager to share their family stories.
The world marks Victory Day, the end of World War II, on May 8 and 9, and every year the Lithuanian Jewish Community has honored the veterans and the fallen. This year Victory Day coincided with Israel’s national holidays to honor fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism as well as the anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. This year Israeli veterans also attended the LJC ceremony.
As in prior years, veterans were singled out and congratulated and thanked, including this year Fania Brancovskaja, Riva Špiz, Tatjana Archipova Efros, Borisas Berinas and Aleksandras Asovsky.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky greeted veterans as did executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas and Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, himself a military veteran. Žana Skudovičienė moderated the ceremony.
Photo: Drupas in his Zlin 326A airplane, 2015.
With deep sadness we report the death of Righteous Gentile Vladas Drupas who rescued Jews as a young man. He was a rescuer and a pilot who flew up until his last breath. Let him go to his reward together with the other Righteous Gentiles who have passed on.
Drupas never considered himself a hero for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. It was like pulling teeth to get him to even talk about the events of 1943 and 1944 in Šiauliai and environs where a silent battled against the Nazis took place in hiding individual Jews and Jewish families.
Virginija Skučaitė wrote about Drupas in the Kauno Diena newspaper in 2016. It was one of the last publications about the courageous man:
Winged Senior Saved Jewish Lives in Youth
by Virginija Skučaitė
October 3, 2016
The Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Jakovas Bunka welfare and support fund, the Lithuanian Jerusalem Vilnius Jewish Community and the Kelmė regional administration held a ceremony March 13 to unveil a monument to the Lithuanian writer and Litvak Icchokas Meras at Icchokas Meras Square in the town of Kelmė attended by local students and teachers, members of the local government, fans of Meras’s work and guests from Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai and Panevėžys.
The LJC received a thank-you letter from Icchokas Meras’s family in Paris in April.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Japanese ambassador to Lithuania Shiro Yamasaki attended the unveiling of a plaque to honor Jewish rescuer Chiune Sugihara at the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium in Vilnius. The Jewish school in Vilnius has maintained a sister-school relationship for several years with the Japanese school Sugihara attended. Visiting teachers from the Japanese school were presented a small gift by the LJC, copies of the recently-published Rudashevski ghetto diary in Lithuanian and Yiddish.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS Tobijas Jafetas was “a highly respected, active and refined person of the community” who had met her father when World War II began. “As I recall his father had a business in England and came to Kaunas just before the war started. It so happened that Jafetas and my father were at a [children’s summer] camp in Palanga when the war broke out. Neither was able to flee and they were taken to an orphanage in Kaunas,” Kukliansky said.
Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon expressed condolences over Jafetas’s loss on facebook.
Jafetas and his mother were imprisoned in the Slobodka ghetto in Kaunas in World War II. He told the story of how he escaped the ghetto in 1944 after hiding in an attic. The Katinskai family in Vilnius rescued him.
LJC chairwoman Kukliansky said Jafetas spoke German and English and maintained close contacts with survivors of ghettos in Europe.
When people pay their income tax in Lithuania, they have the option of donating 2 percent to various non-profits. The Panevėžys Jewish Community is a non-profit organization, and members make use of this option annually to donate money. All Lithuanian tax-payers can do the same if they so desire, and the Panevėžys Jewish Community uses these funds for support and maintaining the Community museum it is establishing.
Local resident Egidijus Sanda is interested in Jewish history and traditions and taught himself Yiddish. He and his wife Lilijana visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community and they personally presented their 2 percent to the Community.
Community chairman Gennady Kofman invited the guests to tea and thanked them for their contributions. They discussed local Jewish history and traditions, and the Sandas left a record of their visit in the guest book. Chairman Kofman said he was so happy to receive the understanding and support of Panevėžys residents who have a desire to learn more about Jewish culture, which is a part of Lithuanian culture.
Three years ago Jewish bagels reappeared in Vilnius. For three years the Bagel Shop Café has been providing a Litvak bagel which customers enjoy with lox, cheese and other spreads. Thank you to all our customers who have helped bring back culture back on our tables and into our hearts.
Photo: Rolan Novitsky
A special ceremony to honor WWII Japanese diplomat in Lithuania Chiune Sugihara (杉原 千畝 “Sempo”) was held in Jerusalem on Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27.
A memorial plaque to Righteous Gentile Sugihara was unveiled at the Chamber of the Holocaust or Martef haShoah on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
Sugihara was Japan’s vice-consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, from March, 1939, to August, 1940, during which time he issued transit visas to Lithuanian and Polish Jews fleeing the approaching scourge of Nazi Germany, saving more than 6,000 lives. In 1985 the Yad Vashem Holocaust authority in Israel awarded him the title of Righteous among the Nations. A Russian Orthodox believer, Sugihara is also honored by that church and is a saint in the Japanese Orthodox Church. Sugihara passed away in 1986.
At the ceremony on Mount Zion the song Way of the Samurai by Natella Botyanskaya dedicated to Sugihara’s memory was performed to the audience of relatives of Jews who survived because of him, Japanese embassy staff and organizers including representatives of Limmud FSU, the Claims Conference and March of the Living.