While the Lithuanian Jewish Community is never empty and devoid of activity, over the last few days the halls, corridors and every nook and corner have seen a flood of seventh graders from the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium preparing for their bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah ceremonies. Besides reading portions from the Torah, their classmates have been planning a program of events for several months now, and are preparing for the ceremonies down to the last detail. Bar and bat mitzvahs are coming-of-age rituals ushering Jewish young people into adulthood. In this case Rabbi Nathan Alfred from the United States is presiding over the ceremony. The young people have to demonstrate in public their ability to read from the Torah in the original language to show they are ready to engage in religious and public life. The tradition has grown up of turning the ceremony into a kind of party with gifts, the utterance of good wishes and applause. The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proud to welcome the next generation into the community and adulthood.
Spiritual Leader of Lithuanian Haredim Dies at 100
Netanyahu mourns the loss of “a great scholar and leader” ahead of what is expected to be one of Israel’s largest funerals ever.
Israeli spiritual leader Rabbi Gershon Edelstein died Tuesday at the age of 100 in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak.
He was the head of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, where a funeral procession was scheduled to depart in the afternoon. Hundreds of thousands are expected to participate.
Edelstein became the leader of the Lithuanian stream of Ashkenazi Orthodox Judaism following the passing of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak on March 18, 2022. He was also president of the Council of Yeshivas, an organization that supports Lithuanian-style yeshivas in Eastern Europe, and the president of the Council of Torah Elders of the Ashkenazi haredi political party Degel HaTorah.
Jewish Orphanage Commemorated in Kaunas
A commemorative plaque was unveiled on an important Jewish site in Kaunas from the period before and between the two world wars. The former orphanage building is located at the intersection of Gruodis and Smolensk streets in Lithuania’s second city which served as the provisional capital in interwar Lithuania.
The orphanage was for boys aged 7 to 18 who were left parentless or found themselves in dire circumstances. The orphanage opened in 1905 as part of a network of Jewish orphan houses. It was called Jewish Sirot House, but was better known as the Yitzhak Spector Orphanage, being tied in with the synagogue as an institution of education, primary education for the youngsters and evening classes for older people.
The commemorative plaque was the fruitt of efforts by the Benayahu and Blumenthal families in Israel to commemorate this historical institution. The unveiling ceremony was attended by Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, representatives from the Israeli embassy to Lithuania and from the city of Kaunas and guest from overseas. Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yaatom performed a prayer.
Sabbath for the Whole Family with Rabbi Nathan Alfred
The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to a Sabbath conducted by Rabbi Nathan Alfred and cantor Alan Brava at 7:00 P.M. this Friday, June 2, with kiddush at the Bagel Shop Café and prayer service at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. People 16 and under get in for free. To register, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +37067250699.
Community Celebrates Shavuot
The Lithuanian Jewish Community held three different events to celebrate Shavuot or Shavuos, the Feast of Weeks, last Sunday. At the riverside north of Vilnius parents and children played games and the children learned how to barbecue and roast marshmallows, and sampled some more traditional dishes. At the same time Julija Potašnik taught Israeli dance at Cvirka Park across the street from the Community. Later more than a 100 people attended a concert performed by Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh featuring the Community’s younger singers and dances. The concert was followed by holiday food and drink.
Vilnius, Vilne, Wilno: One City, Many Stories
Professor Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, a specialist in art and visual representation in Lithuania and Eastern Europe focusing on the late 19th and 20th centuries from the Lithuanian Cultural Research Institute as well as the Vilnius Art Academy, will give a presentation called “Vilnius, Wilno, Vilne, 1918-1948: One City, Many Stories. Exhibit and Its Context” as part of the lecture series “Topical Art Research: The Newest Revelations from Lithuanian Art Research, Dedicated to the 700th Anniversary of the Founding of Vilnius” at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, May 30, at the Lithuanian National Art Gallery in Vilnius.
“Vilnius, Wilno, Vilne, 1918-1948: One City, Many Stories” is also the name of a museum exhibit which opened in Cracow, Poland, on May 23, 2023, and will travel to Lithuania and go on public display on November 9 at the the Lithuanian National Art Gallery in Vilnius.
Jankevičiūtė plans to discuss in her presentation the motivations which led to the creation of the exhibit, its structure, content and possible significance for Lithuanian and Polish art culture, especially the visual arts. She says the period chosen for her discussion was a time of true cultural ferment, that the city then on the borderlands was reminiscent of Lvov and Trieste for its multicultural identity and dynamism, with increasing and decreasing shifts in its population. Despite its interesting and unique identity, Vilnius hasn’t found a place on the art culture map of Poland or Europe, and only closed groups of people in Lithuania and Poland are interested in this period in the city, she claims. Usually they are people with a personal connection to the city.
The professor calls this exhibit the first attempt to integrate the art of Vilnius in the period between the two world wars into the wider history of the region’s culture and to provide a credible visual reconstruction of Vilnius art and its artistic life. She says the exhibit integrates the work of artists from the Jewish community.
Over the weekend members and friends of the Lithuanian Jewish Community attended a Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club event at the Pailgio Perlas recreational park near Vilnius.
Proponents of the active life tried their hand at different kinds of sport, played, competed, danced to music from the DJ, gathered around the camp fire, fished, swam and relaxed in the beautiful natural setting.
News from the Panevėžys Jewish Community
Last week Baruh Yorex from the city of Kiryat Ono in Israel visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community. He is a high-ranking officer in the reserves of the Israeli army. He has Litvak roots and grandmother and grandfather named Jurotewski came from Poland.
A big fan of Tel Aviv’s Maccabi, Yorex used to play for the basketball team. Now he’s cheering on his three sons on the team, and was in Kaunas for the Euroleague championship last week.
He met with Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman and showed great interest in the Litvak legacy. While looking at period photographs in the Community’s archives, he was thrilled to learn almost every Lithuanian city and town had its own Makabi association before the Holocaust, with local tennis, soccer, gymnastics and basketball teams, as well as other kinds of athletics teams. Yorex was also delighted to see how active the Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club is today, with members participating at international sporting events.
Israeli Journos Fail to Fight Latvian, Lithuanian Holocaust Distortion
Photo: Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a news conference with then-Latvian prime minister Maris Kucinskis in 2018. Photo credit: Ints Kalnins/Reuters.
Israel Has Failed to Fight Latvia, Lithuania’s Holocaust Distortion
A number of acclaimed films have shone a spotlight on the Holocaust in the Baltics. But Latvia and Lithuania have responded with Holocaust distortion.
by Efraim Zuroff, Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2023
During the past half year, three new documentary films devoted to the Holocaust in the Baltics, and especially in Lithuania, have been screened in numerous venues all over the world, except in Lithuania and Latvia, which are the subjects of these films.
One, titled When Did the Holocaust Begin, was produced by the BBC and focuses on the use of new forensic archeological technology to discover unknown mass graves of Holocaust victims in western Lithuania, where indeed the systematic mass murder of European Jewry began following the Nazi invasion of Lithuania, on June 22, 1941.
Sunday Spent Cleaning Up Jewish Cemetery
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenbergu Silverstein and her family and US ambassador to Lithuania Robert Gilchrist spent last Sunday cleaning up the old Jewish cemetery in Paberžė, which is located about 20 kilometers north of Vilnius. They collected garbage, raked up leaves, cleaned off lichen and washed headstones. Kukliansky thanked the volunteers as well as Paberžė alderwoman Agata Puncevičienė who has worked hard to commemorate those buried there. There are over 260 historical Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania, but most of them are in ruins, neglected and full of garbage. The Jews of Paberžė along with Jewish communities across Lithuania were murdered by Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators during the Holocaust. Chairwoman Kukliansky said we can all do something to honor their memories.
Jerusalem Cantors Choir Concert at Choral Synagogue
The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community invite you to a concert performance by the Jerusalem Cantors Choir at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 7:00 P.M. on Tuesday, June 6, with Paul Salter conducting and Rita Feldman on piano.
Forgotten Exodus Tells Stories of Jews Expelled from Poland in 1960s
Records of the Polish Communist government’s post-Holocaust anti-Semitic purges to be preserved via video interviews, written narratives and archival materials
by Michelle Rosenberg, Jewish News
A new initiative dedicated to capturing and disseminating the untold stories of Jews who fled Poland in the late 1960s following a wave of anti-Semitic purges was officially launched today.
The Forgotten Exodus project is committed to gathering testimonies from victims, many of them Holocaust survivors, to document their experiences and ensure their history is not erased.
Its mission is to shed light on the then Polish Communist government’s anti-Semitic campaign in 1968, a significant yet largely unknown chapter in modern European history.
Commemorating the 55th anniversary in 2023, it marks the deeply dark time when up to 20,000 of the remaining post-Shoah Jewish population of around 30,000 were stripped of their citizenship, forced out of their jobs and driven out of Poland.
Happy Birthday to Fania Brancovskaja
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky visited Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja at home to personally give the Community’s greetings on two special occasions: Fania’s birthday on May 22 and Victory Day, marking the end of the Holocaust in Europe. Fania Brancovskaja was a Jewish partisan who fought the Nazis in Lithuania. Since the end of the Holocaust Fania has devoted her life to keeping the memory of the victims alive and teaching the new generations about what happened. Mazl tov. Bis 120!
Lithuanian MP Thrown Out of Party for Anti-Semitic Statements
Photo: Remigijus Žemaitaitis, © 2023 ELTA/Andrius Ufartas
Lithuanian MP Remigijus Žemaitaitis says his party’s ratings will suffer following the decision to cast him out for making anti-Semitic statements, the Lithuanian news agency ELTA reports.
He belonged to the Freedom and Justice party and was elected to his fourth term in the Lithuanian parliament in 2020.
Žemaitaitis says his removal will harm that party’s popularity and claimed he accounts for around 6% of the support the party enjoys in the Žemaitijan region in city council and mayoral elections.
This Is a NATO Ally?
by Grant Gochin
The civilized world has confirmed that Jonas Noreika was a mass genocidal Holocaust perpetrator. The world’s most authoritative body on the Holocaust, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) issued this statement on 11 April 2019: https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/statements/statement-center-study-genocide-and-resistance-lithuania
Again on 7 July, 2020, IHRA issued this statement about Lithuania’s Holocaust fraud: https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/statements/ihra-statement-rehabilitation
On 27 March, 2019, Lithuania’s own Presidential Commission affirms Noreika’s crimes here: https://www.komisija.lt/en/a-response-to-the-statement-of-the-genocide-and-resistance-research-centre-of-lithuania-of-27-march-2019-on-the-accusations-against-jonas-noreika-general-vetra/
Full text here.
Oldest Tanakh Sold at Sotheby’s for $38.1 Million
The New York Times reports the oldest-known surviving Tanakh sold for $38.1 million at the Sotheby’s auction house in New York City on May 17. The Sassoon Codex as it is known is nearly complete and contains the 24 books of the Jewish Tanakh (the Torah, Prophets and Writings) including the first ten chapters of Genesis. Experts have dated it to the late 9th or early 10th century.
Full story here.