History of the Jews in Lithuania

Lithuanian Jewish Community Prepares for Passover Despite Quarantine, Slander

Lithuanian Jewish Community Prepares for Passover Despite Quarantine, Slander

Three teams of volunteers have been busy daily delivering kosher matzo to LJC senior citizens and Social Center clients for several days now, but today the LJC received reports unnamed characters have been calling Community members telling them not to accept the matzo deliveries because the matzo bread is allegedly old. This isn’t true and it seems aimed at creating additional difficulties during an already difficult time for our seniors.

There are consequences for slander.

We would like to warn all Community members that during this health emergency there are scam artists and con men who might call your telephone spreading misinformation and seeking money from you. Please be careful and vigilant.

The LJC is not asking for any money or fees at this time from Social Center clients and seniors. The matzo boxes we are delivering bear the date of manufacture so you can check the freshness for yourself. We have made available an internet ordering scheme on this web page for those wishing to purchase matzo for home delivery with details for making prior payment exclusively by bank card.

Please note we received shipments of matzo in March and that we stored these boxes under strict quarantine. Your health and safety is our primary concern and we find it extremely regretful unnamed people are spreading disinformation about us and our activities.

Let’s Talk: LJC Chairwoman Delivers Video Address to Members

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has posted a video address to members. She said the following:

“Good day. I am addressing members of our Jewish community. Unfortunately, I can’t speak with you in person. Under these conditions I must speak with the aid of technology, but I would say the exact same thing if we were speaking in person.

“A certain time has come which is not pleasant and not favorable to anyone. Somehow we must live through this period with the hope that this period overall will end sometime. I believe that very much, and I hope it will end very soon.

No, Mr. Kasčiūnas, Jews Did Not Create the Corona Virus

No, Mr. Kasčiūnas, Jews Did Not Create the Corona Virus

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

I’m having a dark laugh, Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats member of parliament Laurynas Kasčiūnas did not, thank God, accuse Jews for the corona virus. But he did accuse the Lithuanian Jewish Community of financially supporting “that liar” Rūta Vanagaitė’s book “How Did It Happen.”

You might ask what my fake headline has in common with MP Kasčiūnas’s accusation against the LJC. Well both ideas are false and allow for manipulating the truth.

See, the main figure in the book isn’t Rūta Vanagaitė, but Dr. Christoph Dieckmann, one of the best known European historians and an expert on the Holocaust in Lithuania. Or is it this fact which frightens Kasčiūnas? It’s one thing to criticize a “dilettante of history” (as Rūta Vanagaitė’s critics claim) and quite another to criticize a member of the International Commission for Assessing the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, convened and supported by the president of Lithuania.

Plan for Commemorating Vilnius Great Synagogue Becomes Clearer

Plan for Commemorating Vilnius Great Synagogue Becomes Clearer


by Roberta Tracevičiūtė for 15min.lt

The Vilnius city municipality reports agreement has been reached wit the Lithuanian Jewish Community on how best to commemorate the site of the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius’s historical Jewish quarter.

The plan according to the city is to set up a memorial square or park with an open-air exhibition and no permanent construction of any kind. According to the city, the undeveloped other side of Jewish Street will host a playground and athletics field [which it does now--LZB].

Discussion on how to commemorate the site has gone on for years. Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius said earlier the synagogue site will be commemorated in 2023 when Vilnius celebrates its 700th birthday.

ORT Celebrates Birthday

ORT Celebrates Birthday

by Ruth Reches, acting principal, Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium

On March 18 the ORT, an extremely important global Jewish cultural organization, celebrated its birthday. Happy birthday!

ORT is the acronym for Общество ремесленного и земледельческого трудаm, the association of crafts, trades and agriculture founded 140 years ago in 1880. ORT’s goal was to provide Jews work skills and information. In its first decades schools started by the ORT organization graduated tens of thousands of Jews who went on to work as tailors, farmers, mechanics, glass-blowers, furniture makers and similar.

The Naked Truth: The Text “Hallelujah to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union” Judged Worthy of Doctorate in Independent Lithuania

The Naked Truth: The Text “Hallelujah to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union” Judged Worthy of Doctorate in Independent Lithuania

by professor Pinchos Fridberg, PhD habil.

Standard Foreword

The text of this article exists in three languages, Lithuanian, English and Russian. None of them has managed to get published in the better-known pages of the democratic Lithuanian press.

If an interested reader asks, “Why not?” I would tell him:

I guess it’s forbidden to publish “the Naked Truth!”

Of course he probably needs an “airbag,” i.e., the word “allegedly” should be added!

Probably if I wrote “the ALLEGED Naked Truth” there would be problem in publishing it.

On February 20 I sent the Lithuanian version of my article to the Lithuanian president, and I called and asked he be made aware of it. They promised me my request would be passed on to the Chancellery and an advisor to the president.

The story described is not the first, a similar thing happened with my article “The Jew Whom Ramanauskas-Vanagas Rescued, WHo Probably Wasn’t a Jew” (in Russian here).

Roman Abramovich to Plant 25,000 Trees in Israel in Memory of Litvaks

Roman Abramovich to Plant 25,000 Trees in Israel in Memory of Litvaks

The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael) held a ceremony to set aside a memorial site and begin planting a forest in memory of the Lithuanian Jewish community, the Russian-language website www.vesty.co.il reported on March 11. The plan is to plant 25,000 trees as part of a KKL environmental protection project for afforestation in southern Israel. Famous Russian-Israeli businessman and philanthropist Roman Abramovich is providing major financing for the project.

Abramovich’s great-grandparents were Litvaks from the Kovna guberniya in the Russian Empire. In spring of 1941–a year after Lithuania was made part of the Soviet Union–the affluent Abramovich family was exiled to Siberia.

Roman’s grandfather was born in Eržvilkas and his grandmother Toiba Berkover was born in Jurbarkas. His grandfather Nakhman died in a camp in Krasnoyarsk in 1942 and his grandmother raised their three sons on her own, Aaron Arkady being Roman’s father.

Strengthening the Human Rights Coalition in Lithuania in 2020

Strengthening the Human Rights Coalition in Lithuania in 2020

The Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Roma Community Center and the Lithuanian Human Rights Center are implementing a project called “Strengthening the Human Rights Coalition in Lithuania in 2020.”

The project is aimed at increasing the visibility and participation of the Human Rights Coalition which is constituted of these three organizations in civic initiatives at six regional Lithuanian centers where Jewish communities operate.

This coalition will represent ethnic communities in Lithuania and help fight expressions of hate, Romophobia and anti-Semitism in public life.

Lithuanian Government Lists Famous Litvaks

Lithuanian Government Lists Famous Litvaks

The web page of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania now features in Lithuanian and English texts about the Vilna Gaon, famous Litvaks and visual materials for celebrating 2020 as the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History.

§§§

Most Prominent Jewish Personalities in Lithuania

Lithuania has been home to many Jews, who were born in this country, lived and created here leaving an indelible mark in the scholarly and cultural heritage of Lithuania as well as of the world.

Writers

Icchokas Meras (1934-2014). The author of books on the Holocaust (Geltonas lopas (The Yellow Patch), Ant ko laikosi pasaulis (What the World Rests on), Lygiosios trunka akimirką (A Stalemate), and a film script writer for well-known Lithuanian films Kai aš mažas buvau (When I Was a Child), Birželis, vasaros pradžia (June, the Beginning of Summer) and Maža išpažintis (Small Confession).

Chaim Grade (1910-1982). Vilna-born writer, a member of Yung Vilne (Young Vilnius), a group of avant-garde writers and artists. Chaim Grade is considered to be one of the leading Yiddish writers in post-Holocaust period. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Miša Jakobas Wins Lithuanian Language Commission Prize

Miša Jakobas Wins Lithuanian Language Commission Prize

The Lithuanian Language Commission has awarded Miša Jakobas, the director of the Lithuanian-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and founder and long-time former principal of the SHolem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium, their Snail award in recognition of his work supporting the Lithuanian language.

The Jewish school Jakobas founded was the first ethnic minority school to use Lithuanian as the language of instruction. “What’s unique about us is that we don’t have the official state language of Lithuanian, we have the native Lithuanian language. The students use and learn Lithuanian as their native language, and the exceptions other ethnic minority schools make do not apply to us,” Jakobas commented earlier.

This is the sixth time the Lithuanian Language Commission has issued awards. The awards are given in recognition of significant contributions to creating Lithuanian terminology, maintaining high standards of academic speech and language education. Ten other recipients were also awarded this year.

Happy Holidays, Žydelkos

Happy Holidays, Žydelkos

by Sergejus Kanovičius

Once, long ago, I attended a Lithuanian school. Back then there were two Jews, or more accurately, a Jewish boy and a Jewish girl. The boy was in the grade next to her. Dark-skinned speaking without an accent, the Jewish boy always got into fights when others reminded him he was different. Different and therefore not as good. No one tried to break it up. There were always observers. Later they called themselves pals because they didn’t get into fights with him. They didn’t defend him, but they didn’t beat him, either. It’s much safer to stand to the side and keep quiet. That’s been proven historically. The Jewish girl didn’t get into fist fights. She was shy and had curly hair. Whenever someone called her žydelka [Jew-girl], which is now for some reason considered an endearing diminutive term, she used to walk away, sometimes wiping a tear. When I used to hear these “terms of endearment,” unlike the majority of the žydelkos, I had to get into a fight again.

There have always been more apologists for epithets such as žydelka, žydo išpera [Jew-spawn] and others and they have always been stronger. But my family taught me one thing: never to retreat from abuse, to oppose it. I would be lying if I said I had ever been the victor in some fist fight. The combatants were always greater in number and I lost. No matter what, though, they got theirs. Of the many wonderful teachers there were only a few who didn’t give out beatings, they found a pseudo-intellectual way of telling the whole class that this one is different and therefore is worthy of less respect. This kind of intellectual pedagogical encouragement to hate. Like the mark for dictation, when because of one comma the dark kid used to get four [out of ten] with a minus. Just because. So I wouldn’t forget I was different.

Many years later as Lithuania counts her fourth decade of independence, no one dare beat me. Fists have become unpopular. They beat through words. Sometimes rather beautiful ones. The world is free. But it is painful the Lithuanian National Defense Ministry’s magazine Karys [Soldier] has published the lie of a pseudo-historian about the local leader of anti-Semitic ideology (who knows whether another NATO member who sometimes guards our airspace, if the French Defense Ministry would try to tell their soldiers what a great diplomat and patriot Pétain was). Or insistently try to prove “Jew-girl” is a term of endearment (happy International Women’s Day, žydelkos!). Frida Vismant of Šeduva recalls that’s what they called her on the streets in 1940. “You just wait, žydelka padalka, Hitler will come and we’ll show you!” (Out of endearment, I guess, they told her she was a žydelka in the Šiauliai ghetto after they took her firstborn Rachmielis and beat him to death along with 600 child žydelkos).

Lithuanian President’s Historic Apology 25 Years Ago

Lithuanian President’s Historic Apology 25 Years Ago

by Ugnius Antanavičius for 15min.lt

Exactly 25 years ago then-president of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas issued the biggest “I’m sorry” of his life. On a trip to Israel he apologized to the Jewish people for Lithuanians who robbed and murdered their Jewish fellow citizens during the Holocaust. Largely forgotten now, Brazauskas’s trip and apology caused many reactions in Israel and Lithuania then.

The apology came on March 1, 1995, when he addressed the Knesset, broadcast live on Israeli radio and television. The late Algirdas Brazauskas apologized in the name of the Lithuanian nation for the Lithuanians who robbed and murdered Jews during the Holocaust. His trip to Israel was surrounded by friction and controversy. Protesters greeted him in Israel, where Lithuania’s reputation was very bad at the time, protesting the rehabilitation of thousands of Holocaust perpetrators by the new independent Lithuanian state. Every word Brazauskas uttered and even his body language was closely scrutinized during that foreign visit.

At the time the prevailing unofficial opinion in Israel held that while the Germans were the most responsible for crimes against the Jewish people, the Lithuanians placed second, followed by Latvians, Romanians and Ukrainians.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Hunters and Žydšaudžiai


by Grant Gochin

Amazon Prime recently released a fictionalized series called “Hunters.” It is an account of Nazi hunters searching for Holocaust perpetrators living in the USA. Unfortunately, it is not as fictional as we would like. Thousands of Holocaust perpetrators escaped to the USA, and more went to South America. Holocaust denial, cover-ups and lies helped almost all of the escapees live to ripe old ages in peace and comfort, living in wealth on stolen Jewish plunder, and pontificating their Jew hate to the next generations.

Concurrently released on Amazon is a book containing 121 testimonies of Holocaust survivors from the Lithuanian villages titled: The Lithuanian Slaughter of its Jews. These testimonies are harrowing in their stark recounting of rape, torture, enslavement and wholesale murder of Lithuanian Jews by their hunter neighbors (žydšaudžiai), often without any presence of German Nazis (Lithuanian Nazis were plentiful). These testimonies leave no room for Holocaust revisionism which is so predominant in Lithuania today.

President Nausėda of Lithuania states he stands firmly against Holocaust denial. It would be impossible to deny the Holocaust in Lithuania. Hunting and murdering Jews was such a common pastime in Lithuania that they even have a word for it: žydšaudžiai (Jew-shooters). The Holocaust in Lithuania was publicly conducted with massive collaboration of the local population. Death pits cover the country. As such, denying the Holocaust would be preposterous, and Lithuanians are not stupid people.

Nausėda and his government do not stand against Holocaust revisionism, rather, it is their national policy. Lithuania openly acknowledges somehow Jews were murdered; that is, the Jews murdered by Nazis, and the ones they claim were also murdered by their nemesis, Russia. Lithuania lies blatantly about Jews murdered by žydšaudžiai Lithuanians–possibly even up to 80% of the victims.

Full article here.

Lithuanian Defense Ministry Undertakes New Defense of Lithuanian Nazi Kazys Škirpa

Lithuanian Defense Ministry Undertakes New Defense of Lithuanian Nazi Kazys Škirpa

Lithuanian military magazine “Karys” [Soldier] published by the Lithuanian National Defense Ministry in its second issue for 2020 has published a long opinion piece by Vidmantas Valiušaitis, a Lithuanian journalist who has made a career of defending Lithuanian Nazi collaborators.

Printed on sepia tone pages apparently intended to show either age or the magazine’s distance from the piece, Valiušaitis engages in a fervent defense of Kazys Škirpa, the military officer in pre-WWII independent Lithuania who took up residence in Berlin and under the direction of Hitler’s Abwehr formed the Lithuanian Activist Front as a clandestine anti-Soviet system of underground resistance cells, and founded the political organ of the LAF, the Lithuanian Provisional Government, with himself as prime minister. The PG was the pro-Nazi puppet regime intended to give the Nazi invasion the cover of legitimacy as a national liberation movement.

The author devotes the first two pages (three columns per page) to defending Pope Pius XII as some sort of background he thinks the reader needs to place Kazys Škirpa in context. He then presents as true historical facts Nazi allegations Jews in Lithuania had fired upon Wehrmacht soldiers, which was used as a pretext to set up ghettos. Valiušaitis then presents a conspiracy theory the Nazis and Soviets conspired against Lithuanian independence, a theory which he says needs further research. He goes on to say attempts to besmirch pro-Nazi Lithuanians were begun by Stalin and are being continued in spirit by Russian president Vladimir Putin, most recently in public statements he made casting doubt on Polish innocence in the Holocaust. He also provides his personal version of Finland’s Winter War, Adenauer’s realpolitik and assorted other matters in fine detail.

Vilnius Religious Jewish Community Chairman Inspects Electrical Work at Synagogue, Discovers Nobel Prize Winner by Accident

Vilnius Religious Jewish Community Chairman Inspects Electrical Work at Synagogue, Discovers Nobel Prize Winner by Accident

Around noon on Wednesday I went to take a look at the progress of the electrical wiring being installed in the prayer hall of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. I noticed a man who was looking over the synagogue carefully. I greeted him in Hebrew and he immediately began asking me questions about synagogue operations, Lithuanian Jewish life and in general “how are you living in Lithuania?” A usual Jewish question.

As a Jew I of course responded to his questions with questions: where are you from, why are you interested in the synagogue, are you perhaps in need of tefillin? … Then the visitor humbly introduced himself, explaining he was attending an academic conference at Vilnius University and had given himself an extra day especially for going to the synagogue, hoping to meet a Jew and get a chance to talk, maybe even in Yiddish, and then walk around the Vilnius Old Town a bit.

His family came from Poland and Vilnius looks a lot like where they came from. Then he said almost in passing, “I was invited to Vilnius University because I’m a Nobel prize winner…” I thought it was quite a good joke! In Yiddish I asked him to tell me the story of his life and how he had come to be the recipient of this most prestigious prize in the world.

Grigoriy Kanovich’s Devilspel Candidate for EBRD Prize

Grigoriy Kanovich’s Devilspel Candidate for EBRD Prize

The new English edition of Litvak writer Grigoriy Kanovich’s novel Очарованье сатаны (Jerusalem, 2002) titled Devilspel is in the running for a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s literature prize created especially for translated literature and worth 20,000 euros, according to publisher Noir Press.

The prize was instituted two years ago to underline the importance of translations of literature. There are 10 contenders this year, including works by Boris Akunin.

According to the publisher’s website: “Devilspel evokes the lost world of Lithuanian Jews during the Second World War. From the lives of Grigory Kanovich’s vividly drawn characters emerges a panorama of world events that shook eastern Europe and the world. The subtle art of Kanovich is his ability to create characters in the town of Mishkine, like the feisty Danuta Hadassah, the idealistic Elisheva and the complex and empathetic Catholic Cheslavas, who live within us long after the chronicle of their lives has ended. The book is more than a novel. Its story touches the heart and questions human and divine justice in a world gone mad.”

Six finalists–three writers and three translators–will be announced at the awards ceremony to be held in London April 22. The €20,000 prize is to be divided equally between writer and translator. Two runners-up and their translators will also receive a prize of €1,000 each.

Do You Want to Drive the Jews out of Lithuania? That’s Fine, Lithuanian Police Say

Do You Want to Drive the Jews out of Lithuania? That’s Fine, Lithuanian Police Say

by Vytautas Bruveris, www.lrytas.lt

“You little Jewess, there is no place for you here.” This sort of statement, even made publicly to a woman of Jewish ethnicity, is nothing more than the impolite, unethical implementation of the constitutional right to self expression and freedom of belief.

This phrase in no way means the person who uttered it is predisposed against people of Jewish ethnicity, wants to sow discord against them or wants to discriminate against them. This is the firm belief of no less than the Lithuanian police. It turns out the police in such cases see no basis not only for punishing the author of such statements, but not even for launching an investigation.

Insult Made at Parliamentary Ceremony

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said she was called “žydelka” [little Jew-girl] and told “there is no place” for Jews in Lithuania at the Lithuanian parliament on January 13 this year when she attended events there to mark the day when protestors were murdered at the Vilnius Television Town back in 1990, a national day of mourning. Kukliansky said an older man came up to her dressed in a uniform and made the statements. She didn’t recognize what sort of uniform it was, but thought it was most likely from the Lithuanian Union of Riflemen.

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Sends Open Letter to Lithuanian Ambassador

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Sends Open Letter to Lithuanian Ambassador

To the honorable Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel Mrs. Lina Antanavičienė
12 Aba Hillel Silver Street, 17th Floor
Ramat Gan 5250606

Re: Republic of Lithuania Independence celebration

Dear Ambassador Antanvicienė,

Thank you for the ”save the date” to the Lithuania Independence Day celebration to be held on March 16, 2020. Unfortunately, we shall not attend. The Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel made a decision within its board of directors meeting of February 20, 2020, not to participate in the festivities until we have a sound solution to the proposed resolution to the Seimas by Mr. Gumuliauskas to absolve Lithuania and Lithuanians of their active participation in the Holocaust and in the murder of Jews during the period of World War II.

We have cooperated fully with the restored Independent Republic of Lithuania regimes in combating anti-Semitism and promoting historical recognition of that dark period of World War II between the years 1941-1945.

New US Ambassador Visits LJC

New US Ambassador Visits LJC

Robert Gilchrist, a career diplomat appointed by president Trump to serve as the United States’ ambassador to Lithuania and confirmed by the Senate in late December, made an informal visit to the Lithuanian Jewish Community February 19.

During the visit he met chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, received a tour of the Community building from her, chatted with senior citizens and learned about their club and met Holocaust survivors, including Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja.

He also visited the Bagel Shop Café and met children engaged in LJC activities during their winter break from school.

Chairwoman Kukliansky also showed the new ambassador an exhibit on display at the Community on the Righteous Gentiles who rescued Jews from the Holocaust in Lithuania.

Appointed by US president Donald Trump in July, Gilchrist was only confirmed by the Senate in late December after heated questioning about his position on Russia. During his confirmation he called Lithuania one of America’s most loyal allies and said becoming the US ambassador to Lithuania was the honor of his life.