Heritage

Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia

Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia

On December 4 the Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a meeting/lecture/discussion and exhibition opening called “Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia” dedicated to discussing the deportations from Lithuania in June of 1941. Usually the official accounts of the deportations seem to suppress the multi-ethnic composition of deportees and the diversity of their positions and beliefs. The only thing uniting all the deportees was the fact they were considered undesirable by the new occupational regime.

The event was organized by the Vilnius Jewish Public Library and the Jakovas Bunka welfare and support fund. The photographic exhibition contained pictures of graves in Siberia, including those of Jewish, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian deportees. The photos came from the collections of the Lithuanian National Library, the Center for the Research of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, the photographer Gintautas Alekna and Dalia Kazlauskienė, the widow of photographer Juozas Kazlauskas. The project received support from the Department of Ethnic Minorities under the Lithuanian Government.

LJC board member Daumantas Levas Todesas, Vilnius Jewish Public Library director Žilvinas Beliauskas and Department of Ethnic Minorities director Dr. Vida Montvydaitė spoke to the topic at the event.

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

A new book about Jewish Street in Vilnius by Aelita Ambrulevičiūtė, Gintė Konstantinavičiūtė and Giedrė Polkaitė-Petkevičienė was launched at the Paviljonas Book Weekend in Vilnius. “Prabilę namai. Žydų gatvės kasdienybė XIX-XX a. (iki 1940 m.)” [with the English subtitle/translation “Houses That Talk: Everyday Life in Žydų Street in the 19th-20th Century (up to 1940)” provided below the Lithuanian title on the cover] was published by the Aukso žuvys publishing house and comprises a kind of guide to the street, detailing the Great Synagogue, the Strashun Library, the house of the Vilna Gaon and the market and restaurants which operated there.

Lithuanian historian Aureljus Gieda presented the book and said it contains 166 illustrations of life in 14 buildings, 5 of which survive. He said the book has an index of names and extensive footnotes.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Film: The Called — Judaism in Lithuania

Film: The Called — Judaism in Lithuania

“Pašauktieji” [“The Called”] is a set of six documentaries about religious faiths in Lithuania by the Vilniaus Medija group. The premiere of the third documentary film about Judaism in Lithuania “Juaidzmas Lietuvoje” [“Judaism in Lithuania”] coincides with the 115th anniversary of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to come to a meeting/lecture/discussion/exhibit opening at 6:00 P.M. on December 4. The LJC is located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. The “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia” event is dedicated to discussing the deportations from Lithuania in June of 1941. The official telling of the story of the deportations often seems to exclude the multi-ethnic nature of the deportees and their diversity of views and beliefs. They were only united in the fact the occupational regime which swept into power didn’t approve of them.

Dr. Violeta Davoliūtė will give a presentation based on her research. LJC board member Daumantas Todesas, Vilnius Jewish Public Library director Žilvinas Beliauskas and Lithuanian Department of Ethnic Minorities director Dr. Vida Montvydaitė will also speak on the topic of the event.

An exhibit of photographs will officially open at the same time.

Conference “Remarkable Women of the Panevėžys Region”

Conference “Remarkable Women of the Panevėžys Region”

Acting Panevėžys mayor Petras Luomanas welcomed speakers and audience to the conference, saying: “It is very significant that we are now for the second time holding a conference in which we remember the remarkable women of our region whose contributions to culture, education, health-care, industry and other areas of endeavor in Panevėžys and throughout Lithuania have been gigantic.” Library director Loreta Breskienė spoke her library’s activities and “Lithuania’s Greats,” an exhibit of hand-sewn flags there. The author of the exhibit is Sofija Kanaverskytė, an artist and former resident of Panevėžys who did scenography at the J. Miltinis Drama Theater there.

The main topic of Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman’s presentation was historical information about the activities of notable Jewish women of Panevėžys till 1940. He said many of the Jewish women are little-known, including sculptress Marija Dilon, the businesswomen Ana Kisina and Lėja Chazanienė, social activist and doctor Ana Merienė, Panevėžys Jewish Hospital doctors Mirijam Todesaitė-Blatienė and Zinaida Kukliansky and the dentists Vera Dembienė, Golda Izraelienė, Liuba Gurevičienė and Chasjė Feigelienė. Much more widely known was the Jewish women’s Esperanto organization in the city of Panevėžys, whose members included Ana Grinberg, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Grinberg.

Kofman said the topic of notable Jewish women has been neglected in Panevėžys as it has throughout Lithuania. Many write about men and their contributions, while women remain on the margins. He said this conference was a very good idea and should serve to foster a more tolerant attitude towards life and history.

Conference participants included deputy director of the Panevėžys city administration for educational affairs Sandra Jakštienė, Panevėžys Regional History Museum director Arūnas Astramskis, principals and teachers of the gymnasia in Panevėžys and other professionals working in education in the city. Nine presentations were given, including by Panevėžys College library director Vilija Raubienė, Panevėžys District G. Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library librarian Albina Saladūnaitė, regional history expert from Šiauliai Irena Dambrauskaitė-Rudzinskienė, director of the Kalba Knyga Kūryba Communications Center Lionė Lapinskienė, museum specialist Donatas Juzėnas, Paįstrys resident and local history expert Stasė Mikeliūnienė and puppeteer Antanas Markuckis.

Remembering Jewish Veterans in Kaunas

Remembering Jewish Veterans in Kaunas

Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, residents of Kaunas and visitors honored Lithuanian Jewish veterans at the Jewish cemetery in the Gičiupis aldermanship in Kaunas November 23.

KJC chairman Gercas Žakas spoke about the historical relations between Jews and ethnic Lithuanians, Jewish service in the battles for Lithuanian freedom in 1919 and 1920 and later service in the military of independent Lithuania. Dr. Raimundas Kaminskas, president of the Kovo 11-osios Gatvė Association, spoke of the patriotism of Jewish soldiers between 1918 and 1940 and presented a medal to chairman Žakas. Lithuanian MP Gediminas Vasiliauskas, Gičiupis alderwoman Jolanta Žakevičienė and Kaunas Ukrainian Association chairman Nikolai Denisensko also spoke.

The old Jewish cemetery in Kaunas was established in 1861 and closed in 1952. The Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department reports many notable public, cultural, political and religious figures are buried there, as well as 14 Lithuanian Jewish soldiers who served in the Lithuanian military or fought in the battles for Lithuanian freedom.

The Kovo 11-osios Gatvė Association and the 202nd division of the Union of Lithuanian Sharpshooters are implementing a project called “Strengthening Civic-Mindedness and Patriotism through Community Activity in the Gričiupis Aldermandship.”

Thanksgiving Greetings from Paul Packer, Chairman of the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad

Thanksgiving Greetings from Paul Packer, Chairman of the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad

Dear Friends,

As families across the country gather to give thanks–for those we love, for the freedoms we cherish, for our shared heritage–I hope we’ll take a moment to consider those in need and those who cannot be with their families on this special day, particularly our brave men and women in uniform stationed around the world.

With the many challenges we face today, the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad remains strong and steadfast in our commitment to preserving the past. It has never been more important to understand our history, to find common ground through our diverse stories, and to appreciate the profound privilege of being an American.

As you spend time with your family this Thanksgiving, I urge you to take the first step toward preserving our history: tell your family’s story, where you came from and how you arrived where you are now. Give your children the gift of understanding where they come from, and on this and every Thanksgiving into the future, I have no doubt they’ll thank you for it.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Warmly,

Chairman Packer

U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad
633 3rd Street, NW
Suite 515
Washington, DC 20001

Visit the Lost Shtetlakh, the Jewish Towns in Lithuania

Visit the Lost Shtetlakh, the Jewish Towns in Lithuania

The popular Lithuanian travel page www.lietuvon.lt has been updated and now includes a new group of sites, the shtetlakh, towns which had a large Jewish population before the Holocaust.

The Lithuanian-language internet site is promising to continuously update local and regional Jewish heritage tourist routes (at https://www.lietuvon.lt/stetlai) which are being developed and advertised by local municipalities. tourism information centers, museums, libraries and individual travel enthusiasts.

This project is the fruit of a joint-venture between the Lithuanian Jewish Community and www.lietuvon.lt author Karolis Žukauskas.

The project receives support from the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and the Goodwill Foundation.

Parliamentary Cultural Committee Considers Jewish Heritage Issues

Parliamentary Cultural Committee Considers Jewish Heritage Issues

A sitting of the Lithuanian parliament’s Cultural Committee November 14 addressed Litvak heritage. The meeting was held at the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Musum in Vilnius with committee chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis attending.

Three main issues were discussed:

1. Further expansion and financing of the Vilna Gaon Museum
2. Jewish heritage issues
3. Restoration of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius

MP Emanuelis Zingeris proposed a resolution for the restoration of the Great Synagogue at the meeting. The Lithuanian Jewish Community expressed a different position. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said Lithuanian Jews are not asking and never had asked for the rebuilding of the Great Synagogue using state funds. She further noted that currently the LJC is engaged in studying other methods and problems in commemoration and preservation, having been tasked with drafting a study on Jewish heritage by the Lithuanian Government.

Kaunas Jewish Community News for October

Kaunas Jewish Community News for October

In October the Kaunas Jewish Community experienced moments of celebration and painful losses, and commemorated the past.

The most momentous event in October was the celebration of the Community’s 30th birthday with a concert. The Kaunas State Philharmonic hosted the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra accompanied by harpist Gabrielė Ašmontaitė, baritone Stein Skjervold and VilhelmasČepinskis on violin. Orchestra art director Mindaugas Bačkus presented a rich program of well-known and lesser-known works by Jewish and Litvak composers of different times and in different genres. He both played cello and presented the event.

The historian Linas Venclauskas told the audience about the history of the Jewish community and current events. He spoke about the Litvak contribution to Lithuania and together with KJC chairman Gercas Žakas presented thank-you letters from the Kaunas mayor and municipal culture department to long-standing and outstanding members of the Community, including Fruma Kučinskienė, Judita Mackevičienė, Motelius Rozenbergas, Basia Šragiene, Julijana Zarchi, Simonas Dovidavičius and Gercas Žakas himself.

Reflections in a Broken Mirror Exhibit Opens

Reflections in a Broken Mirror Exhibit Opens

The exhibit Reflections in a Broken Mirror detailing Litvak life in the period between the two world wars opened at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library November 12. Judaica Research Center director Dr. Lara Lempert presented the exhibit, talking about Jewish social life, modern art, literature, books, reading culture, publishing and medicine in the interwar period. The rich collection of multimedia exhibits presents Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish life including the social welfare and medical system, education, art, learning and literature. It also demonstrates the importance of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the context of world Jewry.

Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad Chairman Visits Lithuania

Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad Chairman Visits Lithuania

United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad chairman Paul Packer has visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community during his trip to Lithuania from November 6 to 8 to discuss Jewish heritage issues in Lithuania and participated in a prayer service at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius where he discussed the need for a mikvah with members of the Community. Chairman Packer also visited the Zavl shul on Gėlių street in Vilnius, currently undergoing renovation.

It was due to Packer’s initiative and concern that an information stand was erected to mark the old Jewish cemetery in the Šnipiškės neighborhood of Vilnius. He and members of the Vilnius municipality discussed future commemoration of the Jewish cemetery during his most recent trip to Lithuania. Packer visited the Jewish cemetery on Olandų street in Vilnius and said it, too, needs more information for visitors. He also visited the only working Jewish cemetery in Vilnius on Sudervės road.

In Kaunas Packer visited the Hassidic synagogue building which, if restored, could serve the needs of Lithuania’s second largest Jewish community and Israeli exchange students living in Kaunas. The chairman expressed unpleasant surprise at the state of the old Jewish cemetery in the Žaliakalnis neighborhood of Kaunas where a number of notable Jewish religious and cultural figures are buried. Many of the headstones are broken and overturned in the cemetery near the city’s center, and Packer said this didn’t serve to demonstrate the city’s pride in its rich Jewish history. LJC representatives also contacted the appropriate institutions regarding technical problems with video surveillance at the cemetery.

Renaissance Photo Exhibit at Pakruojis Wooden Synagogue

Renaissance Photo Exhibit at Pakruojis Wooden Synagogue

by Vilijus Žagrakalys (pictured above)

Renaissance, an exhibition of photographs at the Pakruojis synagogue from November 10 to 30, 2018, with the opening at 5:00 P.M. on November 9.

Everything that’s old comes back around. The 19th century was the period when photography began and flourished. The application of various techniques for forming an image on a plate progressed from wet-plate collodion to silver compound gelatin which dominated until the advent of digital cameras. The silver process gave rise to a surge in photography studios which captured portraits of their time in single and group portraiture. All sorts of visual photo albums were made. Silver gelatin emulsion was relatively easy to get and made this possible.

At around the same time the platinum method was discovered, dated at 1873 in the history of photography. William Willis patented the method in 1881. He received official awards for this in Great Britain in 1885. The method was popular until World War I, when platinum acquired greater value, and the technique gradually dropped out of use.

Around 1970 the technique was revived in the USA. It is now known as the king of the printing process.

When I began to get interested in photography techniques, I attempted to print several photographs. After much experimentation I seized upon the platinum/palladium method. The fragments of photographs in this exhibition were printed using this method.

Exhibit: Reflections in a Broken Mirror

Exhibit: Reflections in a Broken Mirror

You are invited to attend the opening of the exhibit Reflections in a Broken Mirror detailing Litvak life in the period between the two world wars, in the atrium on the fifth floor at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library at 3:00 P.M. on November 12. Judaica Research Center director Dr. Lara Lempert will present the exhibit. After presenting the exhibit she will also talk about the work of this center and new discoveries in Jewish heritage.

Vilnius Regional Jewish Community

Inside the Swarm on Jewish Street: Poverty and Prayer

Inside the Swarm on Jewish Street: Poverty and Prayer

The current city government talks about the density of population in the city center, but they should look back into history when, before World War II, there were from between 200 and 500 residents living in every building on Jewish Street. The most highly-populated buildings in Vilnius. Although it’s difficult today for us to imagine a building with ten people living in every apartment, that’s how it was in the Jewish Street neighborhood. In the 19th century and the period between the two world wars, Jewish Street was the Jewish center and axis, known not just for the number of its inhabitants but also for its abundance of houses of prayer. The buildings were filled to overflowing with shops and different venues for study and entertainment.

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Holocaust Victims Remembered at Seventh Fort in Kaunas

Holocaust Victims Remembered at Seventh Fort in Kaunas

Lithuanians and Jews remembered the victims of the Holocaust at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas October 31. Kaunas Seventh Fort director Vladimiras Orlovas told the Kauno Diena newspaper said this was the only time Jewish community representatives, in this case the Kaunas Jewish Community, participate in the traditional Lithuanian holiday Vėlinės, or All Hallows’ Day, during which Lithuanian traditionally go to family cemetery plots and honor dead family members.

Discussion on Prospects for Jewish Heritage Conservation

Discussion on Prospects for Jewish Heritage Conservation

The Lithuanian Jewish Community held a discussion October 24 about Jewish heritage protection from the present till 2020, about the priority tasks and goals in the context of 2020 being named the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Litvak History. The discussion mainly focused on the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius and how to protect what remains of it.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, members of the Community, US embassy adviser on political and economic matters Shai Moore and foreign members of the LJC’s own heritage group, including Lyudmila Sholokhova (YIVO), Assumpcio Hosta (AEPJ) and Sergey Kravtsov (Hebrew University), took part in the discussion.

Chairwoman Kukliansky reminded participants Jewish heritage is important to the Lithuanian state and everyone concerned with heritage conservation, as well as to Jews. Discussions have been going on for years about how to protect the Great Synagogue site, the LJC’s role in that process and what to do with the school there, under which archaeologists last summer unearthed a portion of the synagogue’s central bimah. The situation is complex concerning the site: the school was scheduled for demolition but this year it was leased for two years to several organizations. There is clearly a commercial interest in this special location, Kukliansky noted.

It’s difficult to find experts in Vilnius who could be asked how best to commemorate the Great Synagogue, so the arrival of the international group of heritage specialists, their participation in LJC meetings, their perspectives and discussion of these perspectives is an important event.

Neringa Latvytė-Gustaitienė, the head of the history department at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, said the Great Synagogue of Vilnius is not just a symbol belonging to Lithuania, but to all Jews of Eastern Europe. It is a priority heritage site but sadly there hasn’t been any break through in the cultural community on this issue, she added.

Litvaks in the Creation of Modern Lithuania and Israel

The Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library is to host a conference called “Together towards the Modern State: Litvaks in the History of Lithuanian and Israeli Statehood” on November 13 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lithuanian and 70th anniversary of Israeli statehood.

Speakers are to include Lithuanian and Israeli academics who will present the contribution Lithuanian Jews made in the creation of the Lithuanian state in 1918 and the contribution Litvaks also made to foundation of the state of Israel. Lithuanian students will also present their research on the life of local Jewish communities.

Please register before November 12 by sending an email to gustas.siauciulis@praktika.urm.lt

The conference will begin at 10:00 A.M. on November 13 at the national library.

The library’s Judaica Research Center will also present an exhibit during the conference called “Reflections in a Broken Mirror” presenting the life of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the period between the two world wars.

Information available in Lithuanian here.

Meeting/Discussion “Prospects for Jewish Heritage in 2020”

You are invited to attend and speak at a meeting and discussion called “Prospects for Jewish Heritage in 2020: Major Tasks and Goals during the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History” at 5:30 P.M. on October 24 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius.

Members of the LJC’s heritage protection group will attend, including Lyudmila Sholokhova from YIVO, Assumpcio Hosta from the AEPJ in Spain and Sergey Kravtsov from Hebrew University.

To register, contact renginiai@lzb.lt

Exhibit of Michailis Duškesas’s Document Collection

The third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community is now hosting an exhibit of documents to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. All of the documents relate to Vilnius and the people of the city, including Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Dr. Tsemakh Shabad, banker Israel Bunimovich, the businessman Isak Shuman and others. The documents are from around the world with the majority from Germany, the USA and Israel.

One interesting document appears in the first display case at the new exhibit. It carries the inscription in Russia “Proyekt ustava dukhovnogo obschestva Vilniuskoy sinagogi” and the date 1888. It was acquired in Israel and comes from the collection of Leizer Ran, a well-known collector of Judaica.

There are many photographs from various angles of the Great Synagogue and the Choral Synagogue.

Document collector Michailis Duškesas says he began collecting pre-Holocaust Lithuanian Jewish documents about 15 years ago, and began collecting stamps since about 1980. He has an extensive stamp collection from around the world featuring the game of ping pong. He says he’s constantly enlarging his Judaica collection and now has a great number of documents concerning Lithuanian cities and towns where Jews lived. His documents have been exhibited before at the Lithuanian parliament, the National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum and the Lithuanian Historical Presidential Palace in Kaunas. He says they have also been used in documentary films about Jewish life in Lithuania before the Holocaust.