History of the Jews in Lithuania

Come Celebrate the 210th Birthday of Abraham Mapu

The Kaunas Jewish Community will celebrate the 210th birthday of Abraham Mapu at 5:00 P.M. on January 18 and everyone is invited! The event called “Abraham Mapu: Writer, Teacher, Kaunas Resident” is to be held at the Youth, Art and Music Section of the Vincas Kudirka Public Library at A. Mapu street no. 18 in Kaunas.

Participants include Dr. Lara Lempert, director of the Judaic Studies Center at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library; literature studies doctoral candidate Goda Volbikaitė; director of the Ars et Mundus public enterprise and initiator of the statue to Mapu Olegas Darčanovas and members of the Makštutis family who will perform a concert.

Discussion on Maintaining Žaliakalnis Jewish Cemetery in Kaunas

Work has begun on restoring a monument to Holocaust victims at the mass grave at the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery in Kaunas. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, representatives of the Kaunas municipality, Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas, LJC heritage specialist Martynas Užpelkis and architect, designer and museum specialist Victoria Sideraitė-Alon met to discuss the issue, after which they visited Sugihara House and its new exhibit “Casablanca North: Kaunas 1939-1940” on the newly renovated second floor of the museum with a guided tour by Sugihara House director Simonas Dovidavičius.

Sugihara House is also exhibiting a show and film about Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved about 20,0000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

One Century out of Seven Exhibit a Hit with Jews in Chicago

The cultural center of the Lithuanian consulate in Chicago is hosting an exceptional exhibition starting at the end of November called “One Century out of Seven: Lithuania, Lite, Lita.” The exhibit covers the history of Litvaks from the first arrivals and settlement of Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the present day. The exhibit is now circulating in Chicago and suburbs. On January 12 it was presented to the Jewish community of Highland Park.

Exhibit author Pranas Morkus was able to present remarkable details of the relationships between Jews and locals and included a number of notable Litvaks, the most notable and best known being the Vilna Gaon, who is credited with making Vilnius the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

On January 15 the exhibit opened at the North Suburban Beth El Synagogue. Visitors sent photos to facebook and they may be viewed on the LJC webpage.

A large number of Jews with roots in Lithuania live in America and are proud to call themselves Litvaks.

The exhibit was the result of work by Pranas Morkus, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the designers Victoria Sideraitė-Alon and Jūratė Juozėnienė from the JUDVI design studio.

Lithuanian consul in Chicago Mantvydas Bekešius said the exhibit demonstrates Jews were, are and will always be an important part of the story of Lithuania.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Visits Sugihara House in Kaunas

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Sugihara House in Kaunas Sunday accompanied by Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius.

The Sugihara House museum is located at the site of the Japanese consulate where Chiune Sugihara rescued Jews by issuing transit visas in 1939 and 1940.

Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis, other city officials and several dozen children greeted the prime minister outside. Mr. Abe viewed the office where Sugihara worked and signed the guest book before touring the rest of the museum.

Suihara House director Simonas Dovidavičius told BNS said the visit was a very important one as the museum struggles to develop. “This site has virtually no permanent financing because we are an NGO,” Dovidavičius said.

Full text in Lithuanian and more photos here.

Lithuanian Public Figures Oppose UN Vote against US Embassy in Jerusalem

A group of intellectuals, politicians, public figures and journalists from the Lithuanian-American Association have expressed their opposition to Lithuania’s vote at the United Nations General Assembly on December 21 in favor of a non-binding resolution rejecting the decision by US president Donald Trump to move the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They said Lithuania’s vote against the US position went against Lithuania’s national interests.

“It doesn’t really matter what the subject of the vote was. What’s important is that the US publicly and officially asked not to vote against them, and Lithuania voted against them. In this case it would have been possible to balance both the interests of the US and the European Union, as Latvia and Poland did. They abstained in the vote. If we want to believe a US soldier is prepared to die for Lithuania’s freedom, then we must take US positions into greater consideration. We all aspire to a unified Lithuanian foreign policy, but in this case this vote seemed unfair to one part of society. For that reason we are expressing a different opinion,” Lithuanian-American Association president professor Raimundas Lopata told Delfi.

Statement

Taking into consideration that on December 21, 2017, Lithuania voted in favor of the United Nations resolution on Jerusalem, that is, against the position of the United States and without regard to the clear request by the US not to vote against them;

That Lithuania’s neighbors Poland and Latvia did take this request into consideration and abstained in the vote;

That US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said after the vote that “the US will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in this assembly;”

Japanese PM Abe to Visit Sugihara House in Kaunas


Photo of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara and an old Japanese flag on display at the Sugihara House Museum in Kaunas which housed the Japanese Consulate from 1939 to 1940. Photo: AFP-JIJI

KAUNAS, LITHUANIA–A Japanese diplomat who saved 6,000 European Jews from the Holocaust by issuing visas so they could escape war-torn Lithuania will be hailed by Japan’s prime minister decades after defying Tokyo to help the refugees.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe will pay tribute to Chiune Sugihara on Sunday when he visits the two-story building that housed the consulate where he worked in the Baltic state’s second city Kaunas.

Sugihara is thought to be among around 15 diplomats who issued visas to European Jews during World War II and is often called “Japan’s Schindler”–a reference to German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.

Positive Factors in Holocaust Survival

by Izabelė Švaraitė
manoteisės.lt


Ruth Reches, photo: Jonas Kliučius

An understanding of the Holocaust is incomplete without the psychological point of view. So says Ruth Reches, doctoral candidate at Mykolas Romeris University, who is researching the experience of Jewish genocide by survivors. While most researchers stress the negative consequences of this historical trauma, Reches is also researching positive aspects, those which allowed survivors to carry on.

The Holocaust Isn’t One Person’s Trauma

In Lithuania psychologists do investigate historical trauma such as deportation, Soviet oppression and war, but Reches is one of the first in the country to research the experience and survival of the Holocaust. She has interviewed Jews in Israel and Lithuania who managed to survive. The long-term study of trauma has led to a basic assessment of the consequences of the Holocaust, and Reches’s interviews with some of the subjects have had a therapeutic effect on the latter, who have opened up and talked about their childhoods during the war for the first time ever.

Delegation Visits Alanta Wooden Synagogue

A delegation including Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, US ambassador Anne Hall, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, deputy Lithuanian foreign minister Darius Skusevičius, Cultural Heritage Department heritage expert Alfredas Jomantas and Molėtai regional administration head Stasys Žvinys visited the Alanta wooden synagogue near Molėtai, Lithuania, on December 3. The synagogue is listed on the Lithuanian registry of cultural treasures and is in dire need of restoration, according to members of the delegation. The Molėtai regional administration webpage carried details of that discussion:

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon said: “It is important to all of us that history is remembered and all sites important and significant for history are restored. We’re talking today about Lithuanian heritage, not Jewish heritage. This is your history, this is my history.”

US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall said: “In recent times the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department has done great work in initiating the restoration of synagogues, churches and other important historical buildings. It is really impressive. This is one of the buildings whose restoration we look forward to, and I know many Americans are looking for a way back to Lithuania, Lithuanian and Jewish émigrés.”

Molėtai regional administration head Stasys Žvinys said the administration lacks funding for the synagogue’s restoration, although it is the only synagogue still standing in the entire region. He asked the Israeli ambassador to take the lead in solving the problem. “Although this is our shared responsibility, unfortunately the administration cannot at this time allocate from its budget the resources appropriate for restoring this synagogue. The synagogue is maintained to the extent the community is able to maintain it,” he said.

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, said: “Even if monies were found for putting the synagogue in order, there has to be content for this synagogue. Logically, if the building is restored but not used, not heated, not used for some purpose, then the money is wasted,” she commented.

The LJC has approached the Cultural Heritage Department about the wooden synagogue and applied for financing for restoration, but cultural heritage conservation specialists say there are many abandoned historical buildings in Lithuania and priority is given sites which have a foreseen use and function.

US Ambassador Anne Hall Continues Tour of Lithuania Visiting Sites of Jewish Life and Death

US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall continued her tour of Lithuania in late December with a stop at Šeduva where she met with people from the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation and learned about their Lost Shtetl project, which has invested more than 3 million euros so far in restoring the old Jewish cemetery on Žvejų street there. Project director Sergejus Kanovičius recalled how they cleared the 1.3-hectare territory of weeds and bushes before cataloging and restoring headstones.

Lithuanian sculptor Romualdas Kvintas’s work commemorates the lost Jewish community and mass murder sites. There are three Holocaust mass murder sites around the town.

The cemetery restoration was just the first phase of the project and was completed in 2014. The project received honorable mention in European Union heritage preservation awards. A museum celebrating Lithuanian Jewish life is planned for 2018.

US Ambassador Anne Hall Visits Oldest Wooden Synagogue in Pakruojis

Seniausią Lietuvoje medinę Pakruojo sinagogą aplankė JAV ambasadorė Anne Hall

US ambassador Anne Hall with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and the chairmen of the Panevžys and Šiauliai Jewish Communities toured the renovated Pakruojis wooden synagogue in late December. The oldest wooden synagogue in Lithuania was restored using period photography. The synagogue features unique paintings on the ceiling and wall paper. The interior and primitive paintings have been the subject of much interest. The restored synagogue has become a draw for Jews, Lithuanians and tourists from different countries.

The small synagogue on the banks of the Kruoja River was built in 1801 and operated as a synagogue until the Holocaust when the Pakruojis Jewish community was murdered. After the war it was used a recreation center and then as a movie theater. At some point it was used a gym. It caught fire several times, doing great damage. The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department went to great efforts to save the building.

The Pakruojis regional administration and the Lithuanian Jewish Community signed a 99-year use agreement on January 21, 2011, on the synagogue’s administration and adaptation for cultural use.

The Pakruojis Jewish community formed in the early 18th century. Most of the resident Jews were merchants who contributed to the economic development of the town. The growing Jewish population also influenced the overall development of the town and its public life.

There are no Jews living in Pakruojis now.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on the Vilnius District Court Decision

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has issued a statement regarding the Vilnius District Court decisions of November 22 and December 21, 2017:

Two contradictory findings have been made by the same court regarding the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The legal format of the Lithuanian Jewish Community is that of an association, and the corresponding principles and means of operations are regulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Law on Associations. On December 21, 2017, the court issued a finding without regard to the imperative of law guaranteeing the right of every association member to vote and each member’s equality of rights, and without regard to the articles of incorporation and regulations of the Association providing for discretion of action by its board of directors.

Likewise, on November 22, 2017, the court based its findings on a resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on proposed amendments to section 4 of article 8 of the Law on Associations rather than on existing law. Basic principles of law were ignored, and therefore the LJC plans to utilize its right to appeal this decision through the appeals process in the immediate future.

Furthermore, the court finding of December 21 contradicts a finding by the same Vilnius District Court on November 22, which determined the section of LJC regulations regarding differentiated numbers of votes by members at a Conference is in violation of existing and binding Lithuanian law and was therefore found to be null and void.

On April 19, 2017, the board of directors of the LJC initiated an annual report and elections conferences following the letter of the law and correspondingly seeking to insure the equal representation of the rights of all members of the LJC. At that time it was regretfully impossible to find agreement on this issue based on dialogue and negotiation, and it had to go to court.

This in itself is a defeat, not of the organization, but of all of us, all Jews. The internal disagreements made public will not bring greater honor to anyone, will not quell expressions of anti-Semitism, will not help tear down stereotypes and will not contribute to consolidating energies for meaningful in service of the members of the community. It is regretable that this small Jewish community has been divided when it would be possible to consolidate efforts for achieving greater things, including battling anti-Semitism, caring and providing for the needs of community members, promoting Jewish culture and history and preserving Jewish heritage. In November of 2017 the Lithuanian Jewish Community proposed to the Vilnius Jewish Community we disengage from legal battles through a peace treaty or through mediation. We do not withdraw this offer even now, but to date the Vilnius Jewish Community has ignored the proposal to solve disagreements through negotiation.

Joint Statement by European Jewish Congress and Lithuanian Jewish Community


The European Jewish Congress and the Lithuanian Jewish Community acknowledge the important contribution of Lithuania in creating a positive climate for Jewish life and Jewish tradition to flourish.

We also commend Lithuania for pursuing friendly relations with the State of Israel. This is undoubtedly a positive example for many European countries.

We encourage further respectful discussion on the topic of the tragedy of Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust in order to allow for the restoration of historical justice. Those who try to reopen the dark pages of the history of Lithuanian collaboration, such as the renowned author Rūta Vanagaitė, should not be victimized or persecuted; instead, their efforts should be acknowledged.

We praise Lithuanian historians such as prof. Saulius Sužiedėlis, Dr. Valentinas Brandišauskas and Dr. Algimantas Kasparavičius who have spoken out on many occasions and written extensively on the topic of the Lithuanian Activist Front’s role in perpetrating the Holocaust in Lithuania. There is a lack of such content, however, to this day in Lithuanian textbooks. Neither is there sufficient mention of the vast Jewish contribution to Lithuanian society over the centuries. In a pluralist society those who speak out on the largest tragedy in European history should not be rendered incapacitated by inappropriate measures taken against them.

Having just concluded the celebrations of Hanukkah which signifies the victory of the mind and the soul against coercion, and just a few days after International Human Rights Day, we wish a happy and peaceful festive season to all the people of Lithuania and call for continued respectful discussion to enable the Lithuanian people to come to terms with their past.
https://eurojewcong.org/ejc-in-action/statements/joint-statement-european-jewish-congress-lithuanian-jewish-community/

Court Finds LJC Articles of Incorporation Did Violate Lithuanian Law on Associations

The Lithuanian Jewish Community reports the Vilnius District Court issued a finding on November 22, 2017, ruling that point 7.1 in the LJC’s regulations and articles of incorporation on proportional representation of the regional Jewish communities at LZB elections was invalid.

Article 8 paragraph 4 of the Lithuanian Law on Associations provides every member of an association has one vote at general meetings of members (including elections), without regard to how many actual people are represented by that member of an association, meaning each member is equal with all others and has an equal vote in decision-making.

Perceiving this conflict between the law and the articles of incorporation and regulations of the LJC, the LJC board voted back on April 19, 2017, to delegate one representative each from every association member of the LJC, in order to insure the legality, legitimacy and transparency of upcoming elections.

In line with the court’s finding of November 22, the next general conference of the LJC will have on their agenda the question of adopting the necessary amendments to the articles of incorporation and regulations.

Relations between Israel and Lithuania Important to Jewish Community and Foreign Ministry

Lithuanian public television’s Sunday news program featured successful efforts by Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius to get EU foreign ministers at the same table with Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The overture for the first informal meeting with an Israeli PM in 22 years came before US president Donald Trump’s controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Linkevičius said he was motivated by the need for face-to-face contact between the parties, even if they do not agree on all the issues. President Trump’s decision made the meeting more urgent in the search for ways to control increased tensions. After the meeting Linkevičius presented Netanyahu a replica of the statue of a small girl the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation commissioned from sculptor Romas Kvintas and erected in central Šeduva to commemorate the former Jewish shtetl there.

The television program also featured an interview with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. An excerpt translated to English follows.

“We are very glad our foreign minister invited Mr. Netanyahu. We are very glad a Lithuanian representative has become the leading mediator between the Israeli prime minister and the European Union. Relations between Lithuania and Israel are very important to us. This is quite natural. Lithuania is our homeland but Israel is our historical homeland. It should be said that since Lithuanian independence relations between Lithuania and Israel have never been better than they are now. …”

Greetings, Thank-You Note and Mittens from Righteous Gentiles Elvyra and Regina in Biržai

The Lithuanian Jewish Community received the following wonderful holiday greetings, thank-you note and accompanying mittens:

We sincerely congratulate you on the upcoming holidays. May the purity of snow fill your days. Let success and strength follow you all of your days. We wish you strength and determination. Our sincerest thanks for your sympathy and understanding.

Elvyra Čyžauskienė and Regina Kežienė

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah, Menorah on Town Square

The last Hanukkah light was lit at the large public menorah display on Kaunas’s town square, ending the eight-day holiday. Hanukkah wasn’t just a home celebration this year for many Kaunas Jews, who met, partied, danced, took part in friendly competitions, listened to great Jewish music and ate their fill of latkes and doughnuts at a number of locations, from Kaunas Town Hall to music clubs and even outdoor tents. Rafailas Karpis and Darius Mažintas gave moving performances at different venues this year and for the first time an ensemble of Kaunas and Riga residents with vocalist Ania Judelson in front performed in Kaunas as well. Ania Judelson is someone to watch, her talent promises great things.

The celebrations this year also included lots of friends of the Jewish community, from well-known public figures and politicians to average citizens. The holiday has ended, but the memory of its warmth and light will carry us through the dark months ahead.

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin on Quantum Physics, Restitution and the Lithuanian Jewish Community


lzb.lt

Professor Dr. Adolf Bolotin is an honored member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the former chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community. He also holds a doctorate in physics and mathematics, is the recipient of the Republic Prize, has received awards as a Lithuanian teacher and is a member of the Israeli and New York Academy of Sciences. He is now 92 years old. Most of his life has been centered around Vilnius University. Aspirantura, doctorantura followed by successful defense of his work, earning him a doctorate in quantum physics. He has published more than 250 and “raised” more than 20 doctors of the sciences. He has two children he raised together with his wife. He is highly respected by his friends, colleagues and the Lithuanian scientific community in general.

We spoke with Dr. Bolotin about the Jewish community and Jewish life.

“Very soon my book translated to English should appear in America. I have written a textbook for students on how to solve problems in quantum mechanics, not just about theory, but how to do this practically, with examples. I imposed upon one of my former students who now lives in the USA to translate it. The translation was sent to a publisher I was not familiar with and we received the immediate reply: ‘Great, we will publish it within one year, if you want to change anything.’ The book ‘Solution of Certain Problems in Quantum Mechanics’ by Adolf Bolotin should hit the shelves very soon.

“The publisher paid me, I didn’t pay them to publish it. They came up with the agreement and paid me under very good conditions.

“My wife and I lived together 71 years until her death. I am a widower; my daughter lives with me. I don’t lack anything, I am well taken care of, I get a good pension and I can’t complain about anything. Now I feel it has become difficult to fix the car, even though I have good hands, and I like to work on things because I graduated from university as an experimental physicist and then transferred to theoretical physics later.”

Hanukkah at the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium in Panevėžys

For more than 10 years now the Panevėžys Jewish Community has been doing educational work and participating at events held by the Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium’s Tolerance Center under director Genutė Žilytė.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman together with Žilytė, who is also an historian, told pupils the story of the Jewish struggle against the Greeks of Syria and the main points in that history. Steady work in education has borne good fruit in pupils’ understanding of Jewish history. The students asked many questions of all sorts, including for an explanation of the Lithuanian Jewish athletics club Makabi, and wondering what other Jewish organizations which existed before the war used the same name.

Students in the upper grades and their teachers made latkes for everyone. At the close of the event Rožynas Pre-Gymnasium principal Aida Adiklienė thanked everyone who participated, students, teachers and others, for their tolerance towards Jews.

Israeli Delegation Visits Panevėžys

Delegacijos iš Izraelio viešnagė Panevėžyje

On the sixth day of Hanukkah guests from Netivot, Israel, visited the Panevėžys Jewis Community and lit Hanukkah candles with Rabbi Pinchas Koen. The group of about 20 prayed together and sang Hanukkah songs.

They also learned about Panevėžys Jewish life with a special focus on religious activities by the city’s rabbis, including Grozbuh, Kagan, Kahaneman, Mihel and Brener, who have all left behind a strong legacy in Lithuania.

The guests toured the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s new religious activities room scheduled to open very soon. The topic of Torah scrolls came up, and Community representatives had to admit they still don’t have their own.

Rabbi Koen signed the guest book and expressed gratitude for the warm reception they received and to Viljamas Židkauskas who escorted them. He expressed joy as well that one of the oldest Jewish communities in Lithuania is still in existence under the steady leadership of chairman Gennady Kofman. All other guests signed the guest book as well.