Greetings

Victory Day 2018 in Panevėžys

Members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community together with Panevėžys city residents came to the memorial to the unknown solider on the warm and sunny morning of May 9. The memorial contains the mortal remains of soldiers who fell in the city and region of Panevėžys from 1941 to 1945. They came to mark Victory Day, when Nazi Germany capitulated to the Allies 73 years ago, celebrated in the West on May 8 as Victory in Europe Day because of time-zone differences.

People of all ethnicities suffered during World War II, but as a percentage the Jewish people lost the most members of their population. Panevėžys residents and members of the Jewish community laid wreaths and lit candles at the monument marking the location of the Panevėžys ghetto gates. Everyone observed a minute of silence for the victims of the Holocaust in the city and region, where more than 13,000 Jews were murdered. Also attending were Russian embassy advisor L. Nikolai Yurevich and Belarusian embassy advisor Aleksandr Ignatenko. Both wished everyone present peace.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman welcomed and greeted everyone on the occasion of Victory Day, and noted next to the monument where everyone had gathered once existed the Panevėžys ghetto, where more than 10,000 people were held before being murdered in surrounding forests.

The chairman also spoke about Lithuanians who had risked everything to save Jews from death. He also noted the Panevėžys Jewish Community has a member, Yefim Grafman, who survived the Nazi blockade of Leningrad, and that Yuri Smirnov had cheated death and survived the Holocaust through a miracle. The chairman thanked all present for not forgetting the holiday and for remembering the soldiers who fell fighting for our lives. He wished everyone peace, good health and success.

Later members gathered at the Jewish community building and recalled the fates and heroism of their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who fought the Nazis and died during World War II. Members took away memories of the dead and the undying hope such things will never happen again.

Best Lithuanian Gymnasia Announced

The best schools are:

1. Klaipėda licėjus (took 1st place last year),

2. Panevėžys J. Balčikonis Gymnasium (2nd place last year),

3. Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium (7th place last year).

A total of 360 gymnasia without entrance exams were sampled and assessed. The rating is based on the averaged final state examination performance by students last year including tests on Lithuanian language and literature, history, English, information technology, physics, chemistry, biology and geography. The best-scoring gymnasium received eight points and the worst zero.

The rating was also weighted with bonus points for 12th graders who received 100% on their final exams and the number of students who went on to win government-paid places at universities. Bonus points were also given for the number of students who went on to study at institutions of higher learning abroad.

More information in Lithuanian here.

Lag baOmer 2018

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community held a picnic/barbecue celebration of Lag baOmer at Didžiulis Lake May 3. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Rabbi Shalom Ber Krinsky and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon attended.

Lag baOmer is the holiday of the unity of the Jewish people and usually includes fun and games, singing and dancing and prayers to the Creator. Bonfires are lit at night. The most important celebration takes place with the lighting of a bonfire above the tomb of Simeon bar Yochai in Meron in Upper Galilee in Israel. The light from the fire is meant to recall the Sefer haZohar, or Book of Splendor, the earliest written work in the Kabbalah tradition whose authorship is ascribed to the tannaitic sage.

The book sheds great light on the wisdom of the Torah, about which King Solomon said: “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is a light.” And according to the prophet Jeremiah, the Creator says: “Is not my word like as a fire?”

LJC Holds BBQ to Celebrate 70th Birthday of State of Israel

The Lithuanian Jewish Community held a picnic/barbecue to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel in Vilnius April 29. Participants sang the Israeli national anthem in the warm spring air. Vocalists from the Fayerlakh ensemble sang Jewish songs and celebrants began to dance spontaneously throughout the event. It was an all-ages, family affair with grandparents, parents and children attending. While some barbecued, others set the tables and served, and the younger children swung on swings, played and ran around.

Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Jewish Gymnasium Celebrates 70th Anniversary of State of Israel

The Sholem Aleichem ORT Jewish Gymnasium in Vilnius celebrated Israeli’s 70th birthday Thursday with pride and enthusiasm. Teachers, students and parents were joined by principal Miša Jakobas and Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis. Also speaking were Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, leaders of regional Lithuanian Jewish communities, members of the Lithuanian parliament and Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. Among other things, the speakers talked of Israel’s strength, achievements, discoveries and inventions of global significance and of Israel as an example for Lithuania to follow.

The event featured an orchestra and students from all grades performing song and dance. Teachers also sang and parents brought dishes for an outdoors potluck on the school’s playground and athletics field.

Saulėtekis School Ensemble Celebrates Israel’s 70th Birthday at LJC

The students of the Vilnius Polish Saulėtekis school gave another outstanding performance of song, dance and skits to celebrate Israeli independence day at the Lithuanian Jewish Community April 19.

The third floor hall of the LJC was packed well before the performance began. Žana Skudovičienė and LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky welcomed the audience–mainly senior citizens in the Community’s Abi Men Zet Zikh Club–to this remarkable celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday. Also in attendance were various Jewish Community leaders, including Mikhail Shapiro, the chairman of the Švenčionys Jewish Community.

Students from all different grades at the Vilnius Saulėtekis School sang in Yiddish, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Russian and English in high quality, well-choreographed performances.

The highlight of their performance was a moving rendition of the 1967 hit song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold, as the penultimate song in their program. The sincerity of the young student singers was unmistakable and a good portion of the audience stood up as if it were the national anthem of Israel (which it almost became in the 1970s). Some remained standing until the end of the song, others actually wiped tears from their eyes. This was followed by the Israeli anthem haTikvah, The Hope, for which everyone stood. The students’ version was so good it was impossible not to give them a standing ovation.

Following the Israeli national anthem the audience lingered in the foyer drinking coffee and eating pastry and sandwiches.

Lithuanian PM: Let’s Protect Our Common Lithuanian and Israeli Cultural Legacy

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis Thursday visited the Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymansium to attend a celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday.

THe Lithuanian prime minister greeted principal Mišą Jakobas, Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon and other honored guests at the event on the occasion of Israeli independence day.

The Lithuanian PM thanked the Lithuanian Jewish Community for consistently defending the country and supporting its independence, and for making significant contributions to the development of Lithuania currently.

“Lithuania really appreciates our partnership with Israel. Youth exchange programs are growing, our economic mercantile cooperation has been stimulated, and we place great hopes on efforts by the international community to insure peace and security. We are hoping Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit Lithuania this year. By June during our visit to Israel we are planning a discussion by both Governments on relations,” the Lithuanian prime minister said about expanding ties and pragmatic cooperation between Lithuania and Israel.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė Congratulates Israel on Independence Anniversary

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė greeted Israeli president Reuven Rivlin on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. She wished the State of Israel and all of its people peace, unity and success on the occasion of this important milestone.

“The head of state said Lithuania is proud of its active Jewish community and our shared history, human relations and growing mutual understanding.”

Full press release in English here.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Congratulates Israel on 70 Years of Independence

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis greeted Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and all the Israeli people on the 70th anniversary of Israeli independence.

“I wish the people of Israel peace, security, constant well-being and all manner of success. Lithuania highly esteems our partnership with Israel. The close ties between Israel and Lithuania have contributed to the comprehensively developing, very friendly and intense relations between our countries. We take great joy in the contribution Lithuanian Jews made to the founding of the State of Israel. I am certain our great cooperation–both bilaterally and at the international level–will continue to take place in a spirit of mutual understanding and will thus strengthen the ties between our people,” the Lithuanian PM said in his greeting.

PM Skvernelis also invited his Israeli counterpart to visit Lithuania which this year is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the restoration of her statehood.

WJC Declaration for Israel’s 70th Birthday

The World Jewish Congress in Jerusalm Tuesday presented Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin their official “Declaration of the Jewish Diaspora’s Commitment to the State of Israel on the Occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Establishment of the State of Israel.”

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky is a signatory to the declaration signed by 83 Jewish community leaders around the world.

Israel Celebrates 70th Birthday

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday with a concert on Israeli Independence Day, Iyar 5, which is April 19 this year. The day marks Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, 70 years ago.

You are invited to a performance by the students from the Saulėtekis school in Vilnius at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The birthday bash will be held on the third floor of the LJC at Pylimo street no. 4 at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, April 19. Admission is free.

Passover Greetings from Former Prime Minister

Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania

Honored chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Faina Kukliansky,

I sincerely greet you personally and the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the occasion of the holiday of Passover.

The recollection of the remarkable pages of Jewish history allow us to take joy in the achievements which have been achieved over its long journey.

The liberation from the yoke of slavery in Egypt occupies a special place.

The holiday of Passover allows us to understand the value of the price of freedom and that the unity of the nation, of the community, is an essential precondition for not losing that freedom.

I greet the members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community a great holiday, in the spirit of joint effort and forgiveness towards one another.

With great honor and good wishes,

[signed]

Gediminas Kirkilas, chairman of the European Affairs Committee, deputy speaker of parliament

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Passover

Armed with a festive mood members of the Kaunas Jewish Community met for one of the happiest times of the year to commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people from the Land of Egypt and to celebrate the coming of spring during Passover. There was a musical program and a quiz to test knowledge of holiday traditions. The winners–Filomena Jančiuvienė, Raja Verblinskienė and Robertas Baltusevičius–received health-care products as prizes. It was endlessly good to see how warmly members got along and how much fun we all had together, without regard to age.

Beloved and much-missed Fayerlakh musicians Michailas and Leonardas helped put the icing on the cake and seemed willing to play till dawn.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community Social Programs Department and the Goodwill Foundation financed the event.

Congratulations to Arkadijus Gotesmanas, Winner of the Birštonas Jazz Festival Grand Prize

The grand prize at the Birštonas Jazz Festival has been presented to improvisational percussionist Arkadijus Gotesmanas. The jazz festival in the Lithuanian town attracted over 3,000 audience members over three days. Performers noted an increasing interest in Lithuanian jazz by younger musicians.

Gotesmanas was awarded the grand prix statuette for a drum performance of an improvisation by the artist Marijus Petrauskas. In addition, he received tickets for two to stay at the Eglė health resort in Birštonas, which is known for its health spas.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulates Arkadijus Gotesmanas on this, his most recent recognition.

Tolerant Person of the Year and Donskis Prize Winner for 2017 Announced

According to the Lithuanian Government’s webpage, Marius Ivaškevičius was named Tolerant Person of the Year for 2017 at a ceremony at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Historian Saulius Sužiedėlis was award the Leonidas Donskis prize at the same ceremony Sunday.

Marius Ivaškevičius initiated a Holocaust memorial march in his native town of Molėtai in late August, 2016. Thousands travelled there to participate and the march is widely considered to have marked a sea-change in Lithuanian Holocaust awareness. Ivaškevičius’s appeal before the march called “I’m Not Jewish” remains the most-read item on www.lzb.lt/en in English translation.

Saulius Sužiedėlis is the Lithuanian-American professor of history who has written numerous works on the Holocaust in Lithuania, including what is still considered the definitive modern treatment, “The Persecution and Mass Murder of Lithuanian Jews during Summer and Fall of 1941,” co-authored with German historian Christoph Dieckmann. A recent interview called “Saulius Sužiedėlis Explains Why the Nazis Didn’t Need Gas Chambers in Lithuania” was extremely popular in the Lithuanian original posted at www.lzb.lt

Today We Witness Lithuanian Freedom

The March 11th Hall of the Lithuanian parliament had an overflow audience Thursday during a ceremony to commemorate 100 years of Lithuanian independence. The commemoration began with the singing of the Lithuanian national anthem and a reading of the February 16, 1918, Act of Independence and the names of the signatories to that act.

Parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis delivered a keynote speech and said that we are all equal in the context of 100 years since the restoration of Lithuania.

“Today we all witness Lithuanian freedom. Each person gives rise to a small individual world, merging seamlessly into a community,” he said. The Lithuanian people have always fostered and defended their identity, he said, and noted the Order of Vytis was awarded to members of 15 different ethnic communities for fighting for Lithuanian independence. He said 100 years wasn’t a long time in the life of a nation which recently celebrated their millennium. “Many people and events went into the creation of Lithuania, including the heroic deeds of the grand dukes and of nameless citizens, unions and partitions, occupations and uprisings. The deeds in song of those who proclaimed freedom and the paths trodden by the book smugglers,” he said at the ceremony.

Pranckietis said although only 20 Lithuanians signed the Act of Independence, the entire nation saw Vilnius as their capital. He called for celebrating the present as well as the history of Lithuania.

Full story in Lithuanian here.