History of the Jews in Lithuania

Israeli Ambassador Congratulates LJC Chairwoman on Award

Israeli Ambassador Congratulates LJC Chairwoman on Award

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein sent a letter congratulating Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on receipt of the Order of Merit medal presented to her by the Lithuanian president on February 16 in Vilnius.

A copy of the letter can be found below.

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!

Congratulations to Daumantas Todesas

Congratulations to Daumantas Todesas

The Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulates Daumantas Levas Todesas, chairman of the Council of Ethnic Communities, for recognition of his efforts in preserving the Litvak heritage in Lithuania, in representing the interests of the ethnic minority communities in Lithuania and in his public activities promoting the integration of minorities into Lithuanian society, as demonstrated by Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda’s presentation to him of the Lithuanian medal the Order of Merit, the Knight’s Cross, on February 16 at the presidential palace in Vilnius.

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.

Sabbath Times

Sabbath Times

The Sabbath begins at 5:09 P.M. on Friday, February 16, and concludes at 6:24 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region. Friday is also one of Lithuania’s two independence celebrations, Restoration of the State Day, marking the promulgation of the Act of Independence of Lithuania in Vilnius on February 16, 1918, and is officially observed with government offices and most businesses closed for the day.

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.

Lithuanian Parliament to Remove Immunity from Allegedly Anti-Semitic MP

Lithuanian Parliament to Remove Immunity from Allegedly Anti-Semitic MP

by Modesta Gaučaitė-Znutienė, February 12, 2024

The Lithuanian parliament has green-lighted the removal of parliamentary immunity from Remigijus Žemaitaitis for his comments allegedly belittling Jews. Žemaitaitis counters his comments were not anti-Semitic and claims the accusations are political because he decided to run for president.

The Office of Prosecutor General made the request to parliament to annul Žemaitaitis’s legal immunity because of allegedly anti-Semitic comments the MP made on facebook. The MP says this is an attempt to get rid of him ahead of the presidential election in May.

Prosecutor general Nida Grunskienė took to the podium in parliament telling lawmakers the pre-trial investigation into alleged anti-Semitic statements by Žemaitaitis was launched on May 8 last year and involves the possible sowing of discord against a national, racial, ethnic, religious or other group of people.

Discussion Club: Is Lithuanian Anti-Semitism Different from European?

Discussion Club: Is Lithuanian Anti-Semitism Different from European?

The #ŽydiškiPašnekesiai Jewish discussion club this week will address the topic of anti-Semitism in Lithuania and Europe. While there aren’t thousands marching in support of the Hamas terrorist group in Vilnius, and anti-Semitic attacks are relatively infrequent compared to some countries, there is a kind of institutionalized anti-Semitism at work in the bureaucracy, despite the periodic condemnation of anti-Semitism by the so-called political elite. Traditional Shrovetide processions continue to include caricatures of Jews, school children are still exposed to anti-Semitism from teachers and “memory wars” continue in the public space with Lithuanian Nazis glorified and Righteous Gentiles ignored. If anti-Semitism in Western Europe is largely fueled by Muslim immigrants, what’s Lithuania’s excuse?

Is there a way out of this existing labyrinth, and if so, what is it?

We’ll look for answers with historians Egidijus Aleksandravičius and Linas Venclauskas in a panel discussion in Lithuanian moderated by Arkadijus Vinokuras..

Time: 5:00 P.M., Wednesday, February 14
Place: Bagel Shop Café, Pylimo street no. 4., Vilnius

The discussion will be streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/zydubendruomene/live_videos/

Trudeau Did Invite Nazi After All

Trudeau Did Invite Nazi After All

Canadian state media outlet Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and other Canadian media are reporting Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau did issue an invitation to Ukrainian Waffen-SS solider Yaroslav Hunka to attend an event on September 22, 2023, after all.

Hunka was given a standing ovation at the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa that day. Honoring the Nazi at parliament was widely seen as an insult to Canadian Jews and Holocaust survivors around the world. It also detracted from the Canadian brand as a multi-cultural oasis of tolerance in the world, and shone a light on Canada’s practice of providing haven to Nazi war criminals on the lamb from justice, including the Butcher of Kaunas, Helmut Rauca.

Speaker of parliament Anthony Rota from Trudeau’s own Liberal Party apologized for the incident and took “full responsibility,” announcing his resignation September 26 to take effect on September 27, 2023.

Interview with LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

Interview with LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

“As the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, I see my greatest assignment as not letting others forget we are Jews, and not letting Jews forget they are Jews,” LJC chairwoman and attorney Faina Kukliansky said in an interview Arkadijus Vinokuras conducted in Lithuanian for the Jewish discussion club #ŽydiškiPašnekesiai he founded and leads.

In the interview they discussed Community activities, money, protection of wooden and other synagogues, relations with ethnic Lithuanians, Holocaust and Righteous Gentile commemoration policies and the lack thereof, care for senior citizens including Holocaust survivors, cemetery maintenance, relations between the regional Jewish communities in Lithuania, a new kosher food outlet in Vilnius, anti-Semitism in the EU and Lithuania as well as the Lithuanian bureaucracy, the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum’s new Litvak identity museum and the future. The full interview in Lithuanian can be found below. Duration: 54:20.

LJC Requests Protection from State after Latest Act of Vandalism

LJC Requests Protection from State after Latest Act of Vandalism

Monday evening security cameras at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius recorded a person who threw a rock at the building and broke the glass above the main entrance. Police were contacted immediately.

This is yet another unprovoked anti-Semitic attack against Lithuanian citizens of Jewish descent reflecting inimical attitudes in society which perhaps have been escalated by anti-Jewish rhetoric in parliament and by propaganda from supporters of the Hamas terrorist group.

The LJC is not a political organization. We are an organization which is concerned with the social and cultural life of the Jews of Lithuania. Among our activities are infant, child and youth clubs and the Saul Kagan Social Welfare Center which takes care of our senior citizens with home-care and activities at the Community. Fortunately enough, when the act of vandalism was committed, there were no passers-by on the sidewalk outside nor people inside where the broken glass landed, and no one was physically hurt. Nonetheless, these sorts of incidents could end very badly. This is by no means the first anti-Semitic attack against Jewish communities in Lithuania. Very recently someone threw stones through the windows of the Šiauliai Jewish Community.

We have also received information concerning Nazi and White Power symbols graffitied on a pedestrian bridge in Vilnius. We contacted the police concerning this as well, since Lithuanian laws forbid the propagation of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, their ideologies and their symbols.

Just recently in January at a meeting held at the European Commission all member-states in a special working group presented progress reports on the implementation of the European Union strategy for combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life. We are sad to report this strategy is being implemented very poorly in Lithuania with an ever-growing frequency of anti-Semitic attacks. And, judging from what’s going on in other countries, this is only the beginning of a rising tide of anti-Semitism. Sadly, our state is failing to insure adequate security at important Community sites, including the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, the LJC, the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius and the Salvija kindergarten where many Jewish families send their toddlers.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community asks the appropriate and engaged public organizations for help in this, and for security from the corresponding state institutions. The situation in other countries clearly shows we are a footstep away from real human tragedy and misfortune.

Youth from around Lithuania Gather in Ariogala to Remember Holocaust Victims

Youth from around Lithuania Gather in Ariogala to Remember Holocaust Victims

Lithuania’s International Commission for Assessing the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania and the Ariogala gymnasium staged an artistic performance/conference called “Children during the Holocaust” to mark International Holocaust Day last week, with performances and presentations by school children.

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas told the gathering: “In these times bringing us so much sadness, darkness and hate, one of the strongest sources of hope and comfort that maybe someday someone will learn the painful lessons of history is young people and their teachers, expending their time, energy and creativity not just for achieving good academic results, but also for raising people who are good, who are sincere people, eager to learn, tolerant, civic-minded, who are not apathetic towards the problems and hurtful experiences of the world and other members of society.”

Israeli ambassador Hadas Wittenberg-Silverstein and US embassy deputy secretary and vice-consul William Kendrick attended the event, as did Raseiniai regional administration deputy mayor Mindaugas Tamaliūnas.

International Holocaust Day in Panevėžys

International Holocaust Day in Panevėžys

The Lithuanian city of Panevėžys commemorated International Holocaust Day last Friday. January 27 is the day the United Nations chose for the memorial date as the day when Auschwitz was liberated. About 1.5 million people were murdered at this Nazi concentration camp located in Poland.

Panevėžys deputy mayor Žibutė Gaivenienė, Panevėžys regional administration deputy mayor Edmundas Toliušis, Rožynas community chairwoman Romualda Šerplienė, teachers and students from the Vyturys school and members and staff of the Panevėžys Jewish Community attended and participated in the event.

“Today the entire world commemorates International Holocaust Day. This tragedy during World War II was planned by the leadership of Nazi Germany. Innocent civilians were murdered. The whole world recognizes the Holocaust must not be forgotten. We cannot forget the people who were brutally tortured and murdered. And to those who are trying to erase this from the memory of today’s youth: for shame!” Gennady Kofman said at the commemoration.

Kaddish in Ponar

Kaddish in Ponar

Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yaatom performed kaddish at the Ponar mass murder site outside Vilnius on International Holocaust Day last week.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman thanked the Israeli embassy and chargé d’affaires Erez Golan, Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moshe Shapiro, young people from the Sholem Aleichem school and all members of the community who turned out to pay their respects to the victims of the Holocaust at Ponar and who came to pay their respects to those who rescued Jews at the monument dedicated to their memory in Vilnius.

Situation of Lithuanian Jewish Community Presented in Brussels

Situation of Lithuanian Jewish Community Presented in Brussels

Last week the European Commission convened the fifth meeting in Brussels of a working group dedicated to combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life in the European Union with Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman and attorney Faina Kukliansky representing Litvaks.

It was the first meeting of the working group since Hamas’s attacks on Israelis on October 7.

The first day of meetings discussed attacks on Jewish communities in the EU and measures taken at the national and European level to address the largest wave of anti-Semitism in Europe since the Holocaust. European Commission vice president Margaritis Schinas responsible for propagating the European way of life began the meeting by reiterating the EC’s resolute pledge to insure the continuation and thriving of Jewish life in the EU.

#WeRemember

#WeRemember

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites all members of the public to mark International Holocaust Day on January 27 by taking part in the global We Remember campaign to keep alive the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Every year the LJC addresses the Lithuanian municipalities and educational institutions requesting they join the We Remember campaign by visiting mass murder sites, maintaining grave sites, relaying the testimonies of eyewitnesses to the Holocaust and telling the horrific story which had such tragic consequences for Lithuania, Europe and the world.

On Thursday, January 25, everyone is invited to visit the mass murder site in their location to honor the victims. In Vilnius the LJC will ferry those interested by bus to the Ponar Memorial Complex where a commemoration will take place and kaddish will be performed.

The bus will leave from Pylimo street no. 4 at 11:30 A.M. sharp Thursday morning to arrive by 12 noon at Ponar. From the parking lot in Ponar a procession will make its way into the memorial complex. Later we will visit the monument to Righteous Gentiles on Maironio street in Vilnius. Register by sending an email to info@lzb.lt.

If you are unable to attend, you can still participate in the We Remember campaign:

1. Write “We Remember” on a piece of paper, card or cardboard;
2. Take a photograph of yourself or your group holding the inscription;
3. Post on social media with the hash-tag #WeRemember;
4. Send a copy to info@lzb.lt

#WeRemember

 

Vilna Gaon Museum Marks International Holocaust Day at Vilnius Ghetto Battle Site

Vilna Gaon Museum Marks International Holocaust Day at Vilnius Ghetto Battle Site

Photo: Yekhiel Ilya Sheinboim, right, from Yad Vashem.

The Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum is marking International Holocaust Day Sunday, January 28 in front of the apartment building on the former Strashun street inside the Vilnius ghetto, now Žemaitijos street no. 8, where the only street battle inside the ghetto between ghetto partisans versus Estonian Waffen-SS with German forces broke out during the two-week-long liquidation of the ghetto. This is where the Nazis blew up one building and barricaded streets, and Jewish partisan leader Yekhiel Ilya Sheinboim fired on the enemy from a balcony before being felled by a volley from up the street. Yekhiel was originally from Odessa and formed an underground resistance group in the Vilnius ghetto independent of the FPO, first merging with Borka Friedman’s Struggle Group to form the Yekhiel Struggle Group, and then merging with the FPO in May of 1943.

The ceremony will take place at 3:30 P.M. at Žemaitijos street no. 8, followed by a concert at the Tolerance Center at Naugarduko street no. 10 called “Windows Open to the Sun” at 5:00 P.M.

#WeRemember

#WeRemember

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites all members of the public to mark International Holocaust Day on January 27 by taking part in the global We Remember campaign to keep alive the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Every year the LJC addresses the Lithuanian municipalities and educational institutions requesting they join the We Remember campaign by visiting mass murder sites, maintaining grave sites, relaying the testimonies of eyewitnesses to the Holocaust and telling the horrific story which had such tragic consequences for Lithuania, Europe and the world.

On Thursday, January 25, everyone is invited to visit the mass murder site in their location to honor the victims. In Vilnius the LJC will ferry those interested by bus to the Ponar Memorial Complex where a commemoration will take place and kaddish will be performed.

The bus will leave from Pylimo street no. 4 at 11:30 A.M. sharp Thursday morning to arrive by 12 noon at Ponar. From the parking lot in Ponar a procession will make its way into the memorial complex. Later we will visit the monument to Righteous Gentiles on Maironio street in Vilnius. Register by sending an email to info@lzb.lt.

If you are unable to attend, you can still participate in the We Remember campaign:

1. Write “We Remember” on a piece of paper, card or cardboard;
2. Take a photograph of yourself or your group holding the inscription;
3. Post on social media with the hash-tag #WeRemember;
4. Send a copy to info@lzb.lt

#WeRemember

Abisl Yidishe Vilne

Abisl Yidishe Vilne

The Adomas Mickevičius Public Library in Vilnius is opening an exhibit of photography called Abisl Yidishe Vilne or A Bit of Jewish Vilnius with an opening ceremony at 5:30 P.M. on Tuesday, April 2. The exhibit is to feature the works of Aleksandra Jacovskytė, Daumantas Levas Todesas, Eugenijus Bunka and others. The exhibit will run till April 20, 2024. The library is located at Trakų street no. 10  in Vilnius.

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust in Panevėžys

International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust in Panevėžys

The Panevėžys Jewish Community invites you to remember the victims of the Holocaust at a special event to mark International Holocaust Day, January 27. The event in Panevėžys is being held the day before on January 26 starting with a public gathering at ~1:00 P.M. in front of the Sad Jewish Mother monument on Memory Square in the northern Lithuanian city.

Program:

1:00 P.M. opening ceremony and wreath-laying ceremony at Sad Jewish Mother monument, presentations including from Panevėžys city mayor Rytis Račkausas, Panevėžys regional administration mayor Antanas Pocius, students and honored guests.

2:00 P.M. back at Panevėžys Jewish Community headquarters, a conference with Panevėžys Jewish Community members and partners and screenings of Holocaust films.

Please signal your intent to attend by calling+370 61120882 or +370 61017608 or by emailing genakofman@yahoo.com.