Heritage

Chagall, Ernst and Picasso Exhibit Opens in Vilnius

Chagall, Ernst and Picasso Exhibit Opens in Vilnius

The Museum of Applied Art and Design in Vilnius opened an exhibit of mainly tapestries based on the artists’ sketches and ceramic works by Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso on April 25. The exhibit will continue until September 30, 2024. The museum is located at Arsenalo street no. 3A in Vilnius.

Dig Resumes at Shulhoyf

Dig Resumes at Shulhoyf

Archaeological digs have resumed at the Great Synagogue site in Vilnius this summer. With no local press coverage the team of archaeologists placed blinds around the eastern edge of what was a school and are excavating the fill used to protect the discovery of the bimah made several years ago. In past years South African Litvak Jon Seligman from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Hartford University and biblical archaeologist Richard Freund led the dig. Richard Freund passed away in 2022 at the age of 67.

Commemoration of Herman Perelstein in Kaunas

Commemoration of Herman Perelstein in Kaunas

A plaque commemorating Herman Perelstein was unveiled in Kaunas Wednesday. He was the celebrated founder of the Ąžuoliukas boys’ choir and would’ve celebrated his 100th birthday last year. Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, the makers of the plaque and a representative from the city of Kaunas spoke at the unveiling ceremony.

Plaque Commemorating Herman Perelstein to Be Unveiled in Kaunas

Plaque Commemorating Herman Perelstein to Be Unveiled in Kaunas

The Kaunas Jewish Community invites you to a ceremony to unveil a plaque commemorating Herman Perelstein this Wednesday.

Last year we celebrated the 100th birthday of the amazingly talented teacher and professor Herman Perelstein. His Ąžuoliukas boys and young men’s choir became and is a Lithuanian cultural phenomenon.

The plaque commemorating this Lithuanian musical legend was made by Gediminas Pašvenskas and will be located on the building where Perelstein lived, which now houses the Museum of the Amsterdam School, at Vytauto prospect no. 58 in Kaunas. The unveiling ceremony will include a performance by the Varpelis boys’ choir. Everyone is welcome.

Time: 12:00 noon, Wednesday, April 24
Place: Vytauto prospect no. 58, Kaunas

Evening Dedicated to the Legendary Fania Lewando

Evening Dedicated to the Legendary Fania Lewando

Fania Lewando was a legend of interwar Vilnius, an exceptional personality, an innovator, an excellent cook and an entrepreneur, inspiring thousands of fans even after her death.. An event organized by the Polish Institute and the Lithuanian Jewish Community and held last week was dedicated to her.

A detailed account based on years of research by Magdalena Maślak, a cultural historian and the curator of the Pauline Museum of Jewish History in Poland, painted a vivid portrait of the unusually strong personality of Fania Lewando, and Alessia di Donato, a chef from Rome, an expert in Ashkenazi and Sephardic cuisine, prepared risotto with white wine according to one of Lewando’s recipes and revealed all the intricacies of her vegetarian cuisine.

“I am often asked why I became interested in Fania Lewando’s recipes. In fact, I admire not only her dishes, but also her personality. She was an extraordinary woman, brave, active, full of ideas ahead of her time,” says the Italian, who has been living and working in Poland for ten years.

Culinary Evening

Culinary Evening

You’re invited to attend an evening of discussion, demonstration and sampling of the recipes of interwar vegetarian restaurant owner and cook Fania Lewando. Lewando operated a restaurant in Vilnius with a cult following in the period between the two world wars. Artists and the city elite frequented her establishment. Chef Alessia di Donato originally from Rome will provide samples of dishes made according to the recipes Lewando left us in her cook book. Cultural anthropologist Magdalena Maślak from Poland will also tell stories about Lewando.

Registration is required by sending an email to info@lzb.lt. Everyone is invited to attend.

Time: 5:00 P.M., Thursday, April 11
Place: Bagel Shop Café, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius

Remembering the Kinder Aktion in the Kaunas Ghetto

Remembering the Kinder Aktion in the Kaunas Ghetto

Wednesday evening the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Aktion in the Kaunas ghetto was marked in the Slobodka neighborhood of Kaunas where the ghetto gates once stood. Around 1,700 children and elderly were rounded up and murdered.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said the records for prisoners in the Kaunas ghetto had been lost and it wasn’t known exactly how many people were imprisoned there and murdered.

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas recalled some children were smuggled out of the ghetto in bags of potatoes.

Kupiškis’s Righteous Gentiles Remembered

Kupiškis’s Righteous Gentiles Remembered

The Kupiškis regional government staged an event to remember local Righteous Gentiles on March 14, the day before the official Lithuanian day of remembrance, called “Remembering the Rescuers of Jews from the Kupiškis Region.” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein attended.

Also attending were Virginija Bunevičiūtė, assistant for cultural projects at the Israeli embassy, and the Lithuanian prime minister’s advisor on cultural affairs Gabrielė Žaidytė, grandson of Righteous Gentiles Vidmantas Markevičius and others.

Participants visited the graves of Markevičius’s grandparents Elena and Juozapas and he spoke about their lives there. On October 10, 1991, they met Sholom Sherenzon, whom they had rescued from the Holocaust, in Israel.

Remembering the Righteous Gentiles of Švenčionys

Remembering the Righteous Gentiles of Švenčionys

Lithuania marked the Day of Rescuers of Lithuanian Jews on March 15, added to the list of Lithuanian commemorative dates in late 2022. The Nalšia Museum held an event to celebrate this day.

Museum director Nadežda Spiridonovienė led the event and in her opening speech spoke about the facts of the Holocaust in the Švenčionys region and the title of Righteous Gentile awarded by the Yad Vashem Institute to non-Israelis who rescued people from the Holocaust.

Lithuania’s parliament chose March 15 as the day of remembrance in honor of Ona Šimaitė, the first Lithuanian to be awarded the title of Righteous Gentile on March 15, 1966.

Day of Rescuers of Lithuanian Jews Commemoration at Choral Synagogue

Day of Rescuers of Lithuanian Jews Commemoration at Choral Synagogue

March 15 is the Day of Rescuers of Lithuanian Jews, commemorating the historic deeds of noble Righteous Gentiles who saved a remnant of Lithuania’s Jewish population from the Holocaust. If not for them, there would be no Litvaks left in Lithuania.

“Time is ruthless. Every year there are fewer and fewer rescuers and Holocaust survivors left, but the memory of what they experienced and survived can never be forgotten. Let’s celebrate that our children, for now, are able to learn about history from the lips of eye-witnesses, and not just from textbooks. Let’s do everything we can to insure these stories are passed on to our children, grandchildren and the generations to come,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, whose family was also rescued by good people, said.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to come remember the rescuers and to thank them for their courage and humanity.

Time: 12:00 noon, Friday March 15
Place: Choral Synagogue, Pylimo street no. 39, Vilnius

Choral Synagogue Attacked

Choral Synagogue Attacked

Early on the morning of Sunday, March 10, a group of young people threw a stone at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Police were alerted, but police officers said there was no damage done, despite several broken tiles. Security cameras recorded the rock throwing incident.

Damage doesn’t have to be physical. Whether you’re a Catholic or Jew, every house of prayer is sacred. We have as much right to ask for respect towards the synagogue as Catholic and Orthodox believers do for respect to their churches and to any location where rituals are being conducted.

All material was turned over to the police. We expect the perpetrators to be identified and their actions judged.

Judaica Research Institute: Yiddish from Georgia

Judaica Research Institute: Yiddish from Georgia

The Judaica Research Institute at the Martynas Mažvydas Lithuanian National Library invites the public to a concert called “Yiddish from Georgia” to be held on the third-floor atrium starting at 6:00 P.M. on Monday, March 18.

The Yiddish quartet was form by Georgian actress Ana Sanaia in 2022. Receiving great acclaim, Sanaia made the quartet part of her mono-drama Martokina in 2023. That same year, with several other talented musicians including Tamar Rtveliashvili, Ioana Navadze and Aleksandra Lortkipanidze, the quartet became part of the Yiddish Theater in Tblisi, also resurrected by Sanaia after more than a century of absence.

The quartet is vocalist Salome Bakuradze, musician Maria Elene Bezhashvili, actress Sofia Akhuashvili and actress and director Ekaterine Kato Sharikadze, and are well known to radio and television audiences in Georgia. While none of them are Jewish, they all feel a deep and abiding respect for the Georgian Jewish heritage and share an understanding of the contribution the Ashkenazi who spoke Yiddish made in bringing Georgia into Europe.

The program includes songs in Yiddish and Georgian. Lasha Shakulashvili, a lecturer in Yiddish language and culture at Tblisi State University, will also speak on Yiddish culture in Georgia and its connections to Litvak culture.

Litvak Scouts Celebrate Important Date

Litvak Scouts Celebrate Important Date

Last Saturday Litvak scouts took part in an event hosted by the scouts of Panevėžys to celebrate the 167th birthday of Robert Baden-Powell, the father of the scouting movement.

Along with delicious birthday cupcakes, a fun-filled program and the friendly atmosphere of fellow scouts, brother and sister Anastasija and Dovydas also took the pledge. These earnest young scouts now wear the yellow neckerchief of that age-group of scouts. A big hip-hip-hooray! to our newest scouts.

A big thank-you to the organizers and scout leaders and to the Lithuanian Jewish Community for providing transportation and other services.

Ambassadors Ask Lithuanian PM for Police Response to Growing Anti-Semitism

Ambassadors Ask Lithuanian PM for Police Response to Growing Anti-Semitism

The ambassadors of Germany, the United States and Israel have sent a letter to the Lithuanian prime minister pointing out the alarming growth of anti-Semitic attacks in Lithuania over recent weeks and calling for an increased police presence at Jewish community buildings, schools and synagogues.

American ambassador Kara McDonald, Israeli ambassador Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein and German ambassador Cornelius Zimmerman addressed their plea to Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė, invoking shared values of tolerance and inclusion and the rejection of anti-Semitism and citing recent stone-throwing incidents at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius and the Šiauliai Jewish Community in Šiauliai, Nazi symbols graffitied on a former synagogue in Daugai, Lithuania, and on a bridge in Vilnius and the overturning of a monument to the victims of the Druskininkai ghetto in Druskininkai, Lithuania, as examples of the rising number of incidents.

Efraim Zuroff Interview: It Always Starts with the Jews but Never Ends with the Jews

Efraim Zuroff Interview: It Always Starts with the Jews but Never Ends with the Jews

The Visegrad24 news website has been reporting on the conflict with Gaza live from Israel. In a recent interview they spoke with Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, about the Holocaust, justice for the victims, justice for the victims of the Hamas massacre on October 7, Israeli security failures and the problem of Islamists migrating to Western Europe and North America and open borders in general.

“It always starts with the Jews, but never ends with the Jews. Hitler wanted to launch a war to destroy the Jews and 50 million people were murdered, and not all of them Jews, far from it. This is what people have to understand: the Jews are like the canaries in the coal mine. They’re the first victims. And if they go after us, be sure that they’ll go after the Christians in Europe and everywhere else because their dream is to take over the world. That’s the problem,” Zuroff said during the interview.

Happy Birthday to Artūras Taicas

Happy Birthday to Artūras Taicas

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes Ukmergė Jewish Community chairman Artūras Taicas a very happy birthday. We are grateful to you for your tireless energy safeguarding and protecting the memory of those who cannot protect themselves from vandals. We all wish you success, happiness, real people and sincere smiles. Mazl tov. Bis 120!

Abstract Expressionist Shows Work at LJC

Abstract Expressionist Shows Work at LJC

Abstract expressionist painter Simonas Gelminauskis opened an exhibition of his work at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius last Thursday called “From Paris with Love.”

The 18 works on display are the fruit of a decade of creativity following his 22-year break from painting.

“The fall I spent in my studio in the Marais Jewish neighborhood in Paris in the global center of residences of art helped me recover after my father’s death and helped me think about impermanence. So this exhibition is dedicated to love. To the love of life,” the artist said at the opening ceremony for the exhibit. He didn’t chose the venue lightly, either: his current studio is located at the site of the former Great Synagogue on Jewish Street in Vilnius, from which he says he draws artistic inspiration, as he did in the Marais in Paris.

The exhibit will remain on display a the LJC for several months.

Lithuanian President Decorates Goodwill Foundation Co-Chairpeople

Lithuanian President Decorates Goodwill Foundation Co-Chairpeople

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda decorated Goodwill Foundation co-chairpeople Faina Kukliansky and Rabbi Andrew Baker with the Lithuanian Order of Merit, Officer’s Cross, at an awards ceremony held on Restoration of Lithuanian Statehood Day, February 16.

This was in high recognition of their great efforts in promoting Jewish culture and seeking respect and fairness for the Lithuanian Jewish community, seeking appropriate commemoration for victims of the Holocaust and seeking symbolic restitution for their property stolen.

“This award is not just personal recognition, but is a testimony to the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community who haven’t rested in seeking justice, concord, community and joint effort. To be recognized on this important day to us and to Lithuania is a great honor,” attorney, Goodwill Foundation chairman and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said at the ceremony held at the Office of President. She also congratulate Rabbi Andrew Baker, co-chairman of the Goodwill Foundation, on his receipt of the same prize.

Yet Another Anti-Semitic Attack in Lithuania

Yet Another Anti-Semitic Attack in Lithuania

A monument to commemorate Jewish prisoners in the ghetto in Druskininkai, fabricated and erected by private donations, has been knocked over. The latest attack on Lithuanian Jews was discovered Tuesday morning.

“We receive offensive letters daily, rocks are hurled at our Community building, synagogues are being vandalized and anti-Semitic rhetoric rings out from the podium in the national parliament. This seems very much like coordinated activity. This process isn’t getting weaker, on the contrary, it’s accelerating, so we need to take the strictest measures to avert tragedy,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky commented.

Beginning with anti-Semitic statements MP Remigijus Žemaitaitis made last spring and continues to make on the internet and to the press and following Hamas’s terrorist attack killing over a thousand Israelis on October 7, attacks against Lithuanian Jews are growing ever-more frequent. Last week alone the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius and the Šiauliai Jewish Community in Šiauliai were attacked, Nazi and white power symbols were graffitied on a pedestrian bridge in a Vilnius suburb and stickers from an extremist group were plastered on Vilnius mass transit. Both the Choral Synagogue, the only working synagogue in Vilnius, and the Zavl shul synagogue on Gelių street in Vilnius were vandalized.

The vandalism committed on Šv. Jokūbo street in Druskininkai, the southern Lithuanian spa town on the border with Belarus, is just another link in a long chain of anti-Semitic acts. The monument in Druskininkai marks the location of the Druskininkai ghetto stood from 1941 to 1943, where around 900 Jews from the town and surrounding villages and farms were held prisoner before being murdered.

“While other countries and some people criticize Israeli policies, this has nothing at all to do with the Jews who live in Lithuania today. We are Lithuanian citizens and we expect and hope the state will insure our safety,” chairwoman Kukliansky added.

LJC Issues Yet Another Plea for State Protection after Choral Synagogue Vandalized

LJC Issues Yet Another Plea for State Protection after Choral Synagogue Vandalized

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has issued a press release following the latest attack on Jewish sites in Vilnius:

The attacks against Lithuanian Jews continue. Not even a week has passed since a stone hurled by a vandal broke a window at the entrance to the LJC in Vilnius, miraculously avoiding wounding anyone, and now the Choral Synagogue, an extremely important site for Litvaks in Vilnius, has been graffitied and desecrated. The Choral Synagogue is hte only working synagogue in the Lithuanian capital.

As in earlier cases, the Community has contacted the police, but our main concern is not to punish the vandals, but to protect people.

“This isn’t just any old graffiti. Besides property damage, the inscription scrawled on this religious site was an attempt to insult and debase Jews,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman and attorney Faina Kukliansky commented. “The investigations launched will be meaningless if someone gets hurt. Knowing the kind of brutal anti-Semitic attacks which have been taking place around the world recently, we are concerned for the children at the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium, the toddlers at the Salvija kindergarten, our seniors arriving at the Community’s Social Center and Community events, and of course for those practicing their religion at the Choral Synagogue.”

We would like to point out that, beginning with member of parliament Remigijus Žemaitaitis’s anti-Semitic statements last year and the massacre Hamas staged in southern Israel on October 7, attacks on Lithuanian Jews have become more and more frequent. Just last week the LJC was attacked, a pedestrian bridge in the Viršuliškės neighborhood of Vilnius was graffitied with Nazi symbols and an extremist group’s symbol was placed as stickers on municipal mass transport. Now the Choral Synagogue has been attacked. What’s next?

Anti-Semitism won’t disappear by itself and the rapid and highly professional response of law enforcement, for which we are extremely grateful, won’t suffice. We need first and foremost preventative measures which put a halt to future attacks. And so yet again we are asking for help from the state. Only joint efforts can insure safety and change the ever-louder anti-Semitic narrative.