Learning, History, Culture

When Queen Elizabeth Helped Us Hunt Nazis

When Queen Elizabeth Helped Us Hunt Nazis

The late monarch used her royal powers for justice against strong opposition by making it possible to prosecute war criminals who escaped to the UK

This past week’s media was dominated by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II at age 96 after reigning over the United Kingdom for seventy years. This was true in Great Britain of course, and throughout the British Commonwealth (which still includes more than a dozen countries), but it was also true all over the world, and even in Israel. The Jewish community in Britain also participated, and Chief Rabbi Mirvis not only very warmly eulogized the Queen, he even composed a lovely prayer “On The Passing Of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth,” in which he noted her “generosity of spirit…dignity, wisdom” and described her as “a most gracious monarch, who occupied a throne of distinction and honour.”

Very interesting that the one positive characteristic in the prayer that was mentioned twice was justice. In Rabbi Mirvis’ words, Queen Elizabeth “signified order and justice,” and was “a steadfast guardian of liberty, a symbol of unity and a champion of justice in all the lands of her dominion.”

In fact I can personally attest to the Queen’s devotion to justice in relation to the Wiesenthal Center’s efforts to convince the British government to prosecute Nazi criminals who had found a haven in Great Britain after World War II, an aspect of her reign that was completely overlooked in all the obituaries, eulogies and commentaries.

Full article here.

Jerusalemites: An Interview with Dr. Efraim Zuroff

Jerusalemites: An Interview with Dr. Efraim Zuroff

An occasional series of interviews with notable veterans or more recent olim who have chosen to make their homes in Jerusalem.

by David Olivestone

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is director of the Israel office and chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center which is based in Los Angeles. He has dedicated his life to tracking down and bringing Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to trial. The author of four books translated into 15 languages he is an imposing, warm and vibrant man with an extraordinary memory for names, numbers, dates, facts, places and, of course, history.

Surely no one grows up thinking “I’m going to be a Nazi hunter”. What else might have you become?

I was always tall, so as a kid my fantasy was to be the first Orthodox Jewish professional basketball player. I was on the teams both in high school and in college, but I wasn’t anywhere near good enough, nor could I have remained frum if I had tried to follow my dream. But basketball is still a passion of mine, and I’m a fan and go to Hapoel Yerushalayim games.

What’s your family background?

Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue

Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community invite you to come celebrate Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 6:00 P.M. on September 25. All in attendance will receive our calendar for the new year, 5783.

News from the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

News from the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

As summer came to a close, members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community travelled to Joniškis to see the synagogues there on August 22. Joniškis features two brick-and-mortar synagogues in its town center, built in the 19th century, the White and Red Synagogues. The White Synagogue was used in winter and the Red in summer. The restored synagogues have become a cultural attraction and a symbol of the city.

The interior of the Red Synagogue was recreated and restored with ceiling decorations, painted walls and the aron kodesh where the Torah scrolls were kept. Currently the synagogue houses an exhibit called “The History and Culture of the Jews of the Joniškis Region” which teaches the history of the Joniškis Jewish community before the Holocaust. The White Synagogue is hosting an exhibit using modern museum techniques to show the development of the town of Joniškis and important moments in its history.

After visiting the synagogues, members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community also visited Stonys’s dairy farm where they learned how cheese is made, how different cheeses are produced at the local farm and sampled the farm’s products.

Holocaust Commemoration at Ponar September 23

Holocaust Commemoration at Ponar September 23

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to attend a ceremony commemorating victims of the Holocaust on September 23, the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide at the Ponar Memorial Complex outside Vilnius. The ceremony starts at 1:30 P.M. Friday with pre-event assembly about 10 to 15 minutes earlier near the railroad tracks and in the parking lot outside the memorial complex to form a marching column. Those requiring transportation will need to wait for a special bus at 12:15 P.M. outside the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, but all bus passengers must register by sending an email to office@Izb.lt or by telephoning +37068506900. The bus will return to Vilnius around 3:00 P.M.

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

by Olga Ugriumova, Lithuanian Radio and Television Russian service

Vilnius publishing house Hubris has published a Lithuanian translation of British writer and early proponent of Zionism Israel Cohen’s book “Vilna.” The author was born in London to a family of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He worked as a correspondent for the Times and the Manchester Guardian in Berlin, and also collaborated with Manchester Evening Chronicle and Jewish World, among many other publications. The book “Vilna” was first published in 1943 by the Jewish Publication Society of America as part of their Jewish Community Series showcasing Jewish communities in various countries for English speakers.

Full article in Russian here.

Publisher’s page here.

Litvak Cultural Forum to Bring Together Culture and History Lovers in Kaunas

Litvak Cultural Forum to Bring Together Culture and History Lovers in Kaunas

Culture enthusiasts are invited to the first Litvak Cultural Forum on September 29 and 30 at the Great Hall at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. The “Office of Memory” event within the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program includes a diverse events program at locations around the city.

Academics, historians, museum and education specialists, people from the world of art and members of different communities–the forum will bring them all together. Many of the visitors will be travelling to the land of their parents, grandparents and ancestors for the first time in their lives to attend the forum asking the vital question of what it means to be a Litvak. The forum’s other axis addresses culture and art as the key to history and commemoration as a path to a better future fostering openness and dialogue.

Office of Memory curator Daiva Price says the forum summarizes efforts and projects under the Kaunas 2022 program which have been going on since 2017.

Lithuanian Ministry of Education, Science and Sports Honors Lithuanian Makabi

Lithuanian Ministry of Education, Science and Sports Honors Lithuanian Makabi

Deputy Lithuanian minister for education, science and sports Linas Obcaraskas received athletes from the Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club and presented his congratulations on their recent wins at the 21st Maccabiah Games held this last July in Israel, which hosted more than 10,000 Jewish athletes from over 60 countries. This was Lithuanian Makabi’s ninth year at the games. They won 13 medals this time around.

Silent Testimony

Silent Testimony

Singer, even now, is one of the most popular sewing machines in Lithuania. The company name is synonymous with the device, in the same way Americans refer to photocopies as Xeroxes, and Brits call their vacuum cleaners Hoover. What do those silent Singers in Lithuanian homes really mean?

Singer Sewing Machines became wildly popular in the Russian Empire after a factory was established in Russia in 1905. By 1914 the factory had produced around 600,000 sewing machines sold throughout Europe. It isn’t known how many were sold in Lithuania. The product remained popular in the period between the two world wars. There was a Singer office at the intersection of Adomo Mickevičiaus and Kristijono Donelaičio streets in Kaunas which sold sewing machines throughout Lithuania. Most Lithuanians have probably seen a Singer at their grandmother’s home, either pedal- or hand-powered. It’s difficult to say how a sewing machine came into any household, even though the sewing machines have serial numbers according to which the date of manufacture can be determined. Unfortunately we cannot determine the original owners from these numbers.

New Documentary Examines Murder of Jews by Latvians and Lithuanians in the Holocaust

New Documentary Examines Murder of Jews by Latvians and Lithuanians in the Holocaust

Photo: Arūnas Bubnys, director Lithuania’s Orwellian-named Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, speaks at a right-wing rally on June 23, 2020, against a backdrop of Lithuanian Nazis Jonas Noreika and Kazys Škirpa. Photo courtesy Dovid Katz.

by Alan Zeitlin

In one scene from the powerful and horrific documentary Baltic Truth, Riga ghetto survivor Marger Vesterman plays the piano to the tune of a song created in the ghetto. He then recalls what the words were: “If you survive, no one has to remind you that you have responsibilities.”

The chilling documentary reminds us that it was not only Nazis who massacred Jews. In this case, Latvians and Lithuanians were all too eager to quench their thirst for Jewish blood, even if it meant shooting neighbors with whom they’d previously celebrated birthdays.

The searing documentary is narrated and hosted by Israeli singer Dudu Fisher. Fisher explains that his mother Miriam was born in Riga in 1932, and that if much of his family hadn’t moved to Mandatory Palestine, he would have been “among the millions of unborn Jewish children.”

News from the Kaunas Jewish Community

News from the Kaunas Jewish Community

Every summer members of the Kaunas Jewish Community travel together or separately and enjoy the warm weather and activities, but also visit many of the Holocaust memorials in Kaunas and throughout Lithuania. In August this kind of memorial pilgrimage took us to Prienai, Petrašiūnai and the Fourth Fort, and in early September to Ukmergė and Zapyškis where the “Symphony from the Jerusalem of the North” was performed in memory of the murdered residents of the shtetl and surrounding locations.

We find it keenly important that non-Jews and representatives from local municipal bodies are also involved in organizing these commemorations, and not just members of the Kaunas Jewish Community. They perceive the Holocaust as a shared tragedy, of all citizens, cities, towns and villages. Snapshots below.

New Art and Dance Classes

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will host new art and dance classes on Sundays.

The Raimondas Savickas Art School is back in session from 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. on Sundays, call +37069963522 or write savickogalerija@gmail.com for more information and to register.

The Rekudim Israeli Dance Club is meeting from 10:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. under the direction of Julija Patašnik with a more advanced group meeting from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. under Samuel Garas. For more information and to register, call Patašnik at +37065960512 or Samuel at +37061061035. The dance club is intended for Community members only.

Jewish Life in Kaunas before the Holocaust

An exhibit curated by Vilma Gradinskaitė, PhD, from the judaica collection of Michailas Duškesas called “A Window on Jewish Life in Kaunas before the Holocaust” is to open September 25 and run till December 15 at the Multicultural Center in Kaunas located at Šv. Gertrūdos street no. 58. The exhibit will be open to the public from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. on weekdays, and weekend tours can be accommodated as well by making prior arrangement by calling +370 698 19999 or by writing makabilita.duskes@gmail.com.

Reworking Trauma: Roma and Jewish History Research in the Baltic States and the USA

Reworking Trauma: Roma and Jewish History Research in the Baltic States and the USA

An international conference called “Reworking Trauma: Roma and Jewish History Research in the Baltic States and the USA” will be held at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library in Vilnius from 10:00 A.M. to around 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday, September 13. The goal of the conference is to take a closer look at the social, cultural and political mechanisms used by the Jewish and Roma communities to work through trauma experienced during the Holocaust and what significance these mechanisms hold now in the Baltic states and the United States. The national history narrative often lacks space for “small histories,” the memories and stories of marginalized and voiceless minority communities who suffered so gravely from the tragic events of the 20th century. The main goals are to educate the public on the history of the Roma and Jewish communities in our region, to support academic research in this field and to stimulate international academic cooperation in minority, memory and Holocaust studies.

Anthropologist and US Holocaust Museum researcher Krista Hegburg is one of the main speakers and honored guest. She will also speak at panel discussion at the Vilnius Museum at 6:30 P.M. on September 15.

Other speakers include Volha Bartash from Regensburg University, Dovilė Budrytė from Georgia Gwinnett College, Neringa Latvytė from the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum and Vilnius Univeristy, Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium principal and psychologist Ruth Reches, Agnieška Avin from Vyautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Anna Pilarczyk-Palaitis from Vytautas Magnus and Eva-Liisa Roht-Yilmaz from Tartu University.

Program:

German President Asks Forgiveness from Black September Victims’ Families

German President Asks Forgiveness from Black September Victims’ Families

Germany officially asked forgiveness Monday from the families of the victims killed during the 1972 hostage raid at the Munich Olympics.

“We can’t compensate for what happened, nor for what you experienced and suffered. I am ashamed of this,” German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a ceremony at the NATO airbase in Fürstenfeldbruck held to commemorate the tragic death of Israeli athletes 50 years ago. Israel’s president Isaac Herzog and the Israeli Olympic team attended the ceremony.

Sunday he announced agreement had been reached for paying compensation to the families of the victims, but said it was shameful it took 50 years to come to this agreement.

On September 5, 1972, eight Palestinians from the terrorist group Black September broke into two apartments used by the Israeli team at the Olympic village in Munich. They shot two and took nine Israelis hostage. West German police made the decision to attack the terrorists and free the hostages, but all the hostages were killed during the raid in and around the airbase, along with five of the eight terrorists and a police officer. West Germany was condemned around the world for lax security at the Olympic village and for the failed rescue attempt.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Holocaust Commemoration in Panevėžys

Holocaust Commemoration in Panevėžys

Dear reader,

You and your family members are invited to attend a ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust in Panevėžys on September 23, 2022.

Program:

1:00 P.M. Beginning of ceremony at the “Sad Jewish Mother” monument at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Panevėžys
1:30 P.M. Continuation of ceremony honoring Holocaust victims at Ghetto Gate monument
2:00 Participants will be ferried by bus to mass murder site in Kurganava forest
2:20 P.M. Ceremony to remember the victims at the Kurganava mass murder site (following which participants will be returned to Panevėžys by bus).

Ex Libris Exhibit

Ex Libris Exhibit

The Immanuel Kant Public Library in Klaipėda is hosting an exhibit of ex libris plates called “Traces of Jewish Culture” which opened September 2 and will run till September 20. Josef Šapiro was an avid collector and creator of ex libris graphics and once ran the world’s only ex libris museum inside the building housing the Lithuanian Jewish Community. His book plates and others will be on display for the public, touching upon a variety of topics, including the Jewish people in Lithuania.

Snapshots from European Days of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

Snapshots from European Days of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

Our annual series of events to mark the European Days of Jewish Culture saw a good turnout all day Sunday, which turned out to be sunny but framed by clouds. There was cantorial song at synagogue, a tour of Jewish Vilna, a panel discussion on echoes of Jewish culture in modern Lithuania’s cultural scene, we baked challa and slowly cooked the legendary floimen tsimes and there was singing, playing and dancing for all. For some snapshots from different events, concerts, workshops and lectures, see below.