Heritage

US Seizes Scrolls, Manuscripts Stolen from Jews during Holocaust

US Seizes Scrolls, Manuscripts Stolen from Jews during Holocaust

A US Army chaplain examines one of hundreds of Jewish Torah scrolls, stolen from all over Europe by Nazi forces, in Frankfurt, Germany in 1945. Photo: Irving Katz/US Army Signal Corps/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Seventeen scrolls, manuscripts, and community records [pinkasim] which were stolen from Jewish communities in Eastern Europe during WWII have been recovered, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Why it matters: “The Scrolls and Manuscripts that were illegally confiscated during the Holocaust contain priceless historical information that belongs to the descendants of families that lived and flourished in Jewish communities before the Holocaust,” acting US attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said in a statement.

• “This Office hopes that today’s seizure will contribute to the restoration of pre-Holocaust history in Eastern Europe.”

The big picture: The documents were found through a Brooklyn auction house which had them for sale. In addition to the 17 artifacts recovered, four more are believed to exist: three in upstate New York and one in Israel.

• The records date from the mid-19th century to World War II and were looted from Jewish communities in Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia.

• According to an affidavit in the case, the artifacts were believed to be “lost for all time” prior to being offered for sale at the New York auction house.

Full article here.

Jewish Scouts Camping

Jewish Scouts Camping

The Jewish scouting troupe is camping beside a lake in the Trakai region, enjoying the sun, the great outdoors, friendship and scouting activities.

Scout leader Renaldas Vaisbrodas reported: “The Jewish scouts have invited me for a new adventure. Somehow naturally it has become my calling. I believe in the scouting movement and I hope Jewish young people in Lithuania would revive one of the largest youth organizations in Lithuania in the period between the two world wars. Why? Because life is stronger than death. This hike is special. For one day an artifact from 1931 will return to the town of Žiežmariai connected with local Jewish scouts. The most important thing is to have fun with a goal, no matter what the weather.”

Lithuanian Media Report US, Israeli, Danish Ambassadors Attend Road of Memory March in Šiauliai

Lithuanian Media Report US, Israeli, Danish Ambassadors Attend Road of Memory March in Šiauliai


Lrytas.lt

The Lithuanian daily newspaper and news website Lietuvos rytas reports the Road of Memory march on Sunday to mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust in Šiauliai was attended by the US, Danish and Israeli ambassadors as well as Lithuanian members of parliament.

Besides members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community, MPs Emanuelis Zingeris and Rima Baškienė, US ambassador Robert Gilchrist, Israeli ambassador Yosef Avny-Levi, Danish chargé d’affaires Jakob Greve Kromann, Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Michailas Segalis, Vilnius Religious Jewish Community chairman Simas Levinas, Kaunas Religious Jewish Community chairman Mauša Bairakas, a representative of the Vilnius Jewish Community and others.

The event was staged by Lithuania’s International Commission to Assess the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupations Regimes in Lithuania as part of their “Road of Memory 1941-2021” project.

Šiauliai Regional and Klaipėda Jewish Communities Commemorate Holocaust Victims in Ylakiai

Šiauliai Regional and Klaipėda Jewish Communities Commemorate Holocaust Victims in Ylakiai

Members of the Šiauliai Regional and Klaipėda Jewish Communities attended an event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Holocaust in Ylakiai, Lithuania, on July 6. The town center hosted an exhibit called “The Homes They Lived In” about Jewish families, businesses and activities. During the commemoration opera soloist Olga Šardt-Žarova sang “Our Father” and other works in Hebrew. After a minute of silence, a procession set off for the mass murder site and the old Jewish cemetery. Candles were lit and flowers placed at the site of the former synagogue, as were stones as well at the mass murder site, where kaddish was also performed.

According to the census at the end of the 19th century, 57% of the town’s population were Jews. Before World War I there were 150 Jewish families there. The town was heavily damaged during that war and many buildings include the synagogue burned to the ground. The town was rebuilt with large contributions made by Jews and in 1923 Jews constituted 41% of the population then. Many Jewish residents engaged in trade, light production and even agriculture before World War I. There were two mills with Jewish owners. Commerce took place at the weekly market and the large fair held once every five years. According to a government survey in 1931, there were 20 shops there, of which 17 belonged to Jews.

Forgotten Names: The Symbol of Lithuania in Works by Musicians Scattered around the World

Forgotten Names: The Symbol of Lithuania in Works by Musicians Scattered around the World

The spiritual formation of an artist is impossible without a creative environment. This is indivisible from the specific people who set a great example, who direct the artist, enrich the artist spiritually, and support and encourage the artist. That sort of environment is exactly what existed in Vilnius in the early 20th century, giving rise to wonderful musicians including Jascha Heifetz, the Schneider brothers, the Reizenberg sisters, the great Hofmekler family and others.

Some left Lithuania and made incredible careers, others remained and became known in their homeland. Their lives were different, but their legacy is very clear. Let’s remember them, let’s enjoy their works. We will discover a world we didn’t know which was hidden from us for almost a century.

During the event we will learn about the lives of these renowned musicians and their works will be presented.

Jewish Sacred Cultural Heritage: The Telz Rabbis Seminary Yeshiva and Synagogues

Jewish Sacred Cultural Heritage: The Telz Rabbis Seminary Yeshiva and Synagogues

Bernardinai.lt

Telšiai became an important economic and cultural center in the late 19th century. The large Jewish community which had lived there since ancient times had great influence on the growth and success of the city. Its members harmoniously merged with the city’s cultural, economic and political activity and were active participants in it.

In Telšiai as in other Lithuanian towns and cities Jews mainly engaged in mercantilism and traditional trades; there were also many Jewish doctors and dentists as well as Jews offering other services. Services and light industry were an important source of income for the Jews of Telšiai. For many others, however, the Jewish spiritual seminary–the yeshiva and its synagogues where hundreds of students from all over the world studied–became the way of making a living.

It wasn’t just the residents but the entire atmosphere of the community which demonstrated the spirit of the Jews of Telšiai. Here the ancient past the present lived alongside one another, proponents of tradition and of the Enlightenment, the orthodox and the secular and social activists. There were Torah sages and highly-educated people among the Jews of Telšiai. The city was filled with creative energy and spirituality and materiality merged into a perfect whole there. The crooked narrow streets and the old buildings were miraculous, a world filled with enchantment where thousands of Jewish families lived.

Utyan Jews Speak about Holocaust and Post-War Years in Lithuanian Translation of Zakhor Book

Utyan Jews Speak about Holocaust and Post-War Years in Lithuanian Translation of Zakhor Book

The A. and M. Miškiniai Public Library in Utena (Utyan in Yiddish), Lithuania, hosted a presentation of the only Lithuanian translation of a zakhor or memorial book in Yiddish about the city and region of Utena (the region includes Molėtai, Anykščiai, Vyžuonos and other locations. Incredibly, it took the book 42 years to reach the Lithuanian reading public: it was published in Tel Aviv by Nay Leben in 1979 under the title “Yishker-bukh Utyan un umgegnt.”

The translation and publication was the initiative of cultural historian Sandra Dastikienė as part of her project “Old Neighbors” to educate the public about the Jewish community, Jewish culture and the Litvak legacy in the Utena region.

“The old neighbors return to their towns in different ways–as works of art on the streets, through live appearances–but we are really missing the authentic history. This book fills that gap. It’s not an academic work, not an historical study, but the real memories of Jews who survived the Holocaust or left Lithuania before it. It raises more questions and presents a lot of answers,” Sandra Dastikienė said.

The recollections were collected into a single zakhor book from 1945 to 1979 in Israel. Roma Jančauskienė has long been interested in the history of the Utyan Jews and when she learned of the existence of this book tried over an extended period to buy a copy on the internet, unsuccessfully. About four years ago she finally did buy a copy on eBay, in Yiddish of course.

Common Language of the Peoples Amateur Music Festival

Common Language of the Peoples Amateur Music Festival

The second “Common Language of the Peoples” festival of ethnic minority amateur song and dance groups has taken place in the city of Švenčionėliai, Lithuania, and the Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance collective directed by Larisa Vyšniauskienė participated.

The second annual festival took place June 23, supported by Lithuania’s Ethnic Minorities Department.

The Culture Center of the City of Švenčionėliai presented cakes and wreaths of wild flowers to all groups participating in the festival.

The representatives of different ethnic groups from Lithuania presented folk costumes and spoke about the characteristics of their ethnic group and their special foods.

The audience applauded every group heavily and the festival again demonstrated the need for more such ethnic community events.

Faina Kukliansky Re-Elected Head of Lithuanian Jewish Community

Faina Kukliansky Re-Elected Head of Lithuanian Jewish Community

ELTA, July 8, 2021

A general meeting of the members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community held Wednesday voted for a third time to elect Faina Kukliansky the chairwoman of the organization. Twenty-six members of the LJC’s executive board were elected at the same time.

The chairperson of the Community is elected for a four-year term by a majority of the regional Jewish communities and associate members constituting the LJC. Of the 32 organizations under the LJC umbrella, 31 representatives took part in Wednesday’s ballot. Kukliansky received 30 votes out of the possible 31, according to a press release from the LJC.

Kukliansky said her most important task as chairwoman is to inspire unity among the different Jewish communities in Lithuania. She said the LJC’s other priorities haven’t changed, but life is changing: the generation which experienced the horrors of World War II is growing old and dying, and so caring for them is becoming even more crucial.

“We are continuing to strengthen the activity of our social center, taking care of those requiring support, employing people with disabilities and engaging them in Community activities. Another important priority is preservation and putting to use the surviving Jewish cultural heritage: we have wonderful examples of restored synagogues being used as cultural activity centers,” Faina Kukliansky said.

Holocaust Anniversary Commemoration in Gargždai

Holocaust Anniversary Commemoration in Gargždai

The first procession in this year’s series of “Path of Memory” commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust was held in Gargždai, Lithuania, on June 23. The Lithuanian prime minister, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman and the chairmen of the Klaipėda and Palanga Jewish Communities attended and spoke at the event.

“We lost many of our fellow Jewish citizens during the Holocaust and we can only imagine what Lithuania’s academic, cultural and economic life might have been if not for the Holocaust,” Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė told reporters the day before the event.

The commemoration took the form of a march from the site of a former synagogue to the Jewish mass murder site where a ceremony was held and speakers spoke. Some attendees carried stones with the names of murdered Jews on them, in keeping with the Jewish tradition of placing stones at a grave.

Here are some photos from the first “Path of Memory 1941-2021” commemoration held in Gargždai.

Photographs by Laima Penek, the Chancellery of the Government of Lithuania and others.

They Can’t Come Back…

They Can’t Come Back…

We all need to remember all of our innocent people who were murdered and will never return.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community has asked the Panevėžys regional administration to renew inscriptions on monuments and memorial plaques commemorating Jewish victims murdered in World War II. The inscription on the Ghetto Gates monument has already been renewed.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community is carrying out a project called “Let’s Maintain the Mass Murder Sites” to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania. We plan to visit all the mass murder sites in the Panevėžys district.

Through our work and contribution not only do we seek to remember the tragedy which began 80 years ago, but also to set an example for regional administration employees charged with maintaining Jewish mass murder sites and Jewish cemeteries under Lithuanian law. The area around the Kurganava mass murder site has been put in order this year, but saplings still need to be cut and the fence repaired.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community is grateful to our volunteers and staff, including Albertas and Virginija Savinčiai, Jurijus Grafmanas, Timūras Jerovickis, Borisas Marijampolskis, Ona Juospaitienė and others, for taking part in this project.

We are planning repair and upkeep next month as well, with Panevėžys Jewish Community members travelling to Žalioji forest, Ramygala, Raguva and other mass murder sites.

An Assessment of the Holocaust and Our Moral State: A Virtual Discussion

An Assessment of the Holocaust and Our Moral State: A Virtual Discussion

One of the most painful periods in Lithuania’s history began 80 years ago in the summer of 1941, the beginning of the Holocaust in this country. We lost hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens constituting a significant portion of the population of Lithuania’s cities and towns. The Lithuanian Jewish Community is holding a virtual discussion in Lithuanian on June 28 to mark this painful anniversary.

Participants:

• LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, attorney;
• Arūnas Bubnys, director of Lithuania’s Genocide Center;
• Saulius Sužiedėlis, professor emeritus, Millersville University;
• Justinas Žilinskas, writer, publicist and professor of the European Union Law Institute at Mykolas Romeris University;
• Vytautas Bruveris, writer and analyst, Lietuvos rytas newspaper;
• Paulius Gritėnas, philosopher, observer and member of the executive board of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute;
• Donatas Puslys, director of the media and democracy program, Vilnius Policy Analysis Institute.

Writer and director of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation Sergejus Kanovičius will moderate.

The discussion is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. on Monday, June 28. You can watch it live on the LJC facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/777981389558688/

Monument to Vilnius Jews

Monument to Vilnius Jews

by Victoria Sideraitė-Alon

The old Jewish cemetery in the Šnipiškės (Shnipishok) neighborhood in Vilnius wasn’t destroyed in a single day. Back at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the remains of 700 Vilnius Jews buried there were exhumed and reburied in a different part of the same cemetery during construction in the surrounding area.

Later during the Soviet era during the mid-20th century when work went on to extend what is now Šeimyniškių street, encroaching again on the old Jewish cemetery, these 700 burials were again exhumed and sent to a different grave. They were rediscovered in 2003 during construction of apartment houses next to Vilnius’s King Mindaugas Bridge. At the time, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairman Simonas Alperavičius resolved to have these 700 reinterred at the still-operational Jewish cemetery on Sudervės road in Vilnius. The reburial ceremony was attended by LJC officials and rabbis. The new grave there was marked with four posts.

Litvak Nobel Prize Winner Bernard Lown Commemorated in Utena

Litvak Nobel Prize Winner Bernard Lown Commemorated in Utena

The city of Utena in northeast Lithuania has a new piece of public art, a bronze heart, to recall the birth there of Bernard Lown, Nobel prize winner and famous cardiologist who invented the defibrillator.

The statue comes as part of a project by cultural historian Sandra Dastikienė called “Old Neighbors” intended to bring public attention to the Jewish community’s legacy in the Utena region.

“To heal communication between the Lithuanian and Jewish peoples, we have to start at the grassroots level, from the culture of the small towns or shtetls, where both separate communities lived together in peace for centuries. It was that, namely neighborliness, that I want to emphasize with my project in Utena, Anykščiai, Molėtai and Dusetos,” Dastikienė said.

Lown was born in Utena on June 7, 1921, to a family of Jewish merchants. Fearing growing anti-Semitism and seeking a better life for their children, his parents took the family to the USA in 1935. Bernard Lown studied medicine there and was graduated in 1945. He passed away earlier this year in February at the age of 99.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky Part of Žiežmariai Synagogue Supervisory Assessment Commission

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky Part of Žiežmariai Synagogue Supervisory Assessment Commission

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has participated in the commission for the final supervisory assessment of work done to restore the synagogue in Žiežmariai, Lithuania. Work on the ground floor is now complete.

Work on the building is drawing to an end and the synagogue is set to begin hosting educational, cultural, tourist and other public activities. Following completion, it could become an important community site and tourist attraction.

Currently the synagogue is hosting an exhibit of reproductions of drawings by Dora Pilianskienė. She came from Žiežmariai and as a young Jewish woman left her hometown, but at an advanced age began drawing and painting images she cherished from Žiežmariai. Her relatives have bequeathed her works to the Žiežmariai Culture Center.

Help Mark the 80th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania This Year

Help Mark the 80th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania This Year

Dear Community members,

This year we’ll mark the 80th anniversary of the onset of the Holocaust in Lithuania. The Lithuanian Jewish Community is creating a digital chronicle to help the broader public understand how Litvaks lived before the Holocaust and what happened to their communities beginning in 1941.

We are asking you to share the stories and photographs of your relatives who lived in the Lithuanian shtetls and died in the mass murders in 1941 or the years following.

Everyone is invited to participate by sending copies of photographs and short texts including biographies and descriptions of murders to info@lzb.lt or zanas@sc.lzb.lt

Please indicate the names of people in photographs, locations and dates if available.

Court Gives Go-Ahead on Palace of Sports Reconstruction

Court Gives Go-Ahead on Palace of Sports Reconstruction

15min.lt

The Vilnius Municipal District Court rejected a suit filed by Israeli citizens seeking an injunction to stop construction planned on the former Palace of Sports in Vilnius and protection of former Jewish cemetery grounds around the site.

The court found Lithuania’s state privatization bank Turto Bankas had acted properly. The court said the institution knew of the importance of the cemetery and the need to protect it, and that due attention would be paid to commemorating the site during reconstruction.

Turto Bankas director Mindaugas Sinkevičius said: “Not only are we following all binding laws, but the Government has also made it incumbent upon us that we work with the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe. So Jewish religious beliefs and laws will be taken into account during reconstruction. Both preparatory work and construction later will be performed under the supervision of rabbis in order to safeguard human remains and graves and preserve this site for the future.”

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Newly Renovated Synagogue in Žiežmariai to Host Cultural Events

Newly Renovated Synagogue in Žiežmariai to Host Cultural Events

The renovated synagogue in Žiežmariai will become a new cultural center. The first synagogue in appeared sometime between 1690 and 1696. In the 19th century there three synagogues. Not surprising, since the majority of the population were Jewish. This synagogue which has survived and has now been renovated stands in the southern part of town between Vilniaus and Žalgirio streets, with the Strėva river flowing from southeastward from there. This synagogue was build in the mid-19th century and is one of only a handful of surviving wooden synagogues in Lithuania.

The plan is to use the refurbished synagogue to host cultural exhibits and events.

“At first there was doubt the synagogue could even be saved. It was so abandoned and ruined. Even so, we resolved to renovate it and now we are very proud we have such a beautiful building,” director of the Strategic Planning and Investment Department of the Kaišiadorys Regional Administration Ramutė Taparauskienė said.

Interview for Jerusalem Day with Chargé d’Affaires Adi Cohen-Hazanov at Israeli Embassy to Lithuania

Interview for Jerusalem Day with Chargé d’Affaires Adi Cohen-Hazanov at Israeli Embassy to Lithuania

On May 9, Israel will celebrate Yom Yerushalayim. Tell us more about this day and its significance.

Prior to the founding of the State of Israel, Jerusalem had different rulers, but it was always part of the prayer and the identity of the Jewish people. We have always called Jerusalem our eternal capital.

All the synagogues of the world are built in such a way that the prayers are directed towards Jerusalem, and during our two most important festivals–Pesach and Yom Kipur—we wish to meet each other in Jerusalem next year. Today, Jerusalem is also mentioned in our anthem: “The Land of Zion and Jerusalem” (in Hebrew, Zion is used as a synonym for the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel).

On June 27, 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and regained its historic capital, Jerusalem, which was later recognized as the official capital of Israel by the country’s parliament. Twenty years later, on the 28th day of the month of Iyar in 1998, Yom Yerushalayim was declared a public holiday.