History of the Jews in Lithuania

Condolences

Roza Bieliauskienė has died. She was born in 1956 in Vilnius to Holocaust survivors from a shtetl just outside the city. She grew up speaking Yiddish at home and hearing it on the street. Trained as an engineer, she eventually immersed herself in research, writing and teaching about the Holocaust, Yiddish and Jewish topics. She worked at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Community from its inception for 20 years and taught at the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius. She worked on the translation of the Grigori Shur Holocaust diary, numerous other books published by the Vilna Gaon Museum and was working on a book about the Jewish history of Lithuania at the time of her death. Our deepest condolences to her many friends, colleagues and family members.

Šiauliai Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Šiauliai Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day

“We remembered one of the most horrific and violent crimes in the history of humanity January 27 with thousands of other people around the world.

“Marking the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on January 27, 1945, we remembered the more than six million men, women and children brutally murdered by the Nazis only because they were Jews. It is difficult to conceive this shocking number, but it contains millions of lives destroyed, of dreams shattered, unutterable pain, hopelessness and horror.

“We are very grateful to have with us today as the Šiauliai Jewish Community remembers the victims of the Holocaust this January 27 students and teachers who have joined us from the Gegužės Gymansium and the Romuva Gymnasium in Šiauliai. We are also grateful for the presence of Šiauliai deputy mayor Egidijus Elijošius,” the Šiauliai Jewish Community reports.

Memory Is Our Shared Duty

Memory Is Our Shared Duty

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and six foreign embassies to Lithuania held an event called “Seventy-Eight Years Later: Honoring, Learning and Seeking Justice” Friday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This took the form of a panel discussion. The group who held the event included Japanese ambassador Tetsu Ozaki, Israeli ambassador Had Wittenberg Silverstein, US ambassador Robert Gilchrist, German ambassador Matthias Sonn, Dutch ambassador Tim van Gulijk, the European Commission representative in Lithuania and LJC chairwoman Faina Kuliansky.

Chairwoman Kukliansky said it is our shared responsibility to remember the past.

“Statues to specific people are treated respectfully in Lithuania, people visit them, they are maintained and aren’t forgotten. The situation is completely different with monuments to the victims of mass murder,” she noted.

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Palanga

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Palanga

Residents of Palanga are invited to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day this Friday, January 27, with a candle-lighting ceremony at the Old Cemetery in Palanga at 11:00 A.M. followed by the unveiling of a new plaque commemorating the town’s synagogues destroyed during World War II at Vytauto street no. 98 at 11:30 A.M.

Our Home Town Vilne Is 700

Our Home Town Vilne Is 700

Today Vilnius begins celebrating its 700th birthday with a series of events over the coming year. Over its entire 700 years of history the Jewish people have lived, built, created, started families, studied and achieved major milestones in culture, medicine, business, the arts and many other fields of human endeavor.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky remarked: “Today there remains only a very small Vilna Jewish community, but the contributions made by many generations of Jews to the success and thriving of this city called the Jerusalem of the North won’t allow us to forget.”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has published a calendar to mark Vilnius’s 700th anniversary with a special Vilnius 700 logo and collages from old Jewish Vilne. The designers of the calendar were Victoria Sideraitė Alon and Albinas Šimanauskas from the creative group JUDVI & AŠ.

“The 700th anniversary of the founding of the city of Vilnius is a wonderful and significant day for all residents of the city and beyond. Sadly, in the excitement in preparing for this holiday, few remember who built the capital of Lithuania, who contributed so significantly to giving birth to this pearl of UNESCO,” chairwoman Kukliansky commented.

Lithuanian Prime Minister on the Death of Grigoriy Kanovich

Lithuanian Prime Minister on the Death of Grigoriy Kanovich

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė expressed her condolences on the death of the writer, dramaturg and translator Grigoriy Kanovich.

“Grigoriy Kanovich’s work gave a voice to entire generations of Litvaks who died and raised the curtain for the painful 20th century for a view into the profound, rich culture fostered for centuries in Lithuania, and at the same time, by presenting the agonies society experienced from the Holocaust, he formed the modern reader’s understanding and sympathy. Grigoriy Kanovich will remain in our memories as a person who carried the light through his works and through his always penetrating, respectful and hope-filled way of seeing. We have lost one of the great writers who was just as concerned with the present as with the past, with being able to live in harmony, in the emergent commonality, in what is shared rather than the categorical. I extend my sincere condolences to Grigoriy Kanovich’s loved ones during this difficult time of loss,” the Lithuanian prime minister wrote in her letter of condolence.

Full statement in Lithuanian here.

Israeli Duet to Perform Again

Israeli Duet to Perform Again

The family duet of Vera Vaidman on violin and Vera Emanuel Krasovsky on piano will perform works by Beethoven and Schubert at the Organum Concert Hall in Vilnius at 7:00 P.M. on Friday, February 3. Tickets are available here and if you enter the code LZB you’ll get a 10% discount. Krasovsky was born in Vilnius and attended Vilnius University among other institutions of higher learning. The couple live in Tel Aviv currently

Condolences

Silvija Sondeckienė passed away Saturday morning at the age of 80. She was a cellist, a professor and a friend of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Her father-in-law was the Righteous Gentile Jackus Sondeckis and her late husband the renowned conductor Saulius Sondeckis was also a great friend of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We extend our deepest condolences to her sons and their families.

Condolences

The writer Grigoriy Kanovich has passed away at the age of 93. Our deepest condolences to his sons Sergejus and Dmitrijus, wife Olga and his many friends and fans around the world. He served as chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community from 1989 to 1993, when he moved to Israel.

Marc Chagall: World in Turmoil

Marc Chagall: World in Turmoil

“The whole history is packing bundles and getting away. Nobody else can be as tender and delicate with bundles. That’s a Jewish man tying a bundle.”

Those lines from Arthur Miller’s Monte Saint Angelo aptly characterizes an unusual exhibit of paintings by Marc Chagall during his period of exile from the 1930s and 1940s which opened in Frankfurt and will run till February 19, 2023. The exhibit is called World in Turmoil.

“A few kilometers from there is a place, more precisely a town, which I haven’t visited for a long time, but I always remember it. So I took advantage of your invitation to go and wander around there a little,” Marc Chagall said at the World YIVO Conference held in Vilnius (Wilno) on August 14, 1935.

This conference is mentioned in the artist’s biography and the catalog for the exhibit at that time. His journey back to Poland (now Lithuania) gave rise to works which appear unusual and dark for Chagall. His oeuvre is usually arranged chronologically, from his native Vitebsk, striving to reattain this magical homeland. In Vilnius Chagall comes as close as possible to actually returning.

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

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

To mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust instituted by the United Nations in 2005, the Lithuanian Jewish Community will host a presentation of Vytautas Magnus University teacher Linas Venclauskas’s monograph about Lithuanian anti-Semitism and of Vytautas Toleikis’s book about the portrayal of Jews in Lithuanian literature.

The two presentations in Lithuanian begin at 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, January 26 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Note the United Nations’ International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. more commonly called International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is officially on Friday, January 27, to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.

LJC Chairwoman Attending Conference of European Jewish Leaders in Israel

LJC Chairwoman Attending Conference of European Jewish Leaders in Israel

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky is attending a conference of European Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The conference agenda includes meetings and discussions on relations between Israel and the Jewish communities abroad, current events and rising anti-Semitism.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog met with the chairwoman at his office and spoke about his Litvak roots, saying his great-grandfather Shmuel Yitzhak Hilman was born in Šeduva in 1868 and studied under his uncles in Pašvitinys outside Šiauliai and in Pasvalys. In 1897 he became rabbi for Berezino in the Minsk region. In 1908 he became rabbi for Glasgow in Scotland. Thousands attended his funeral in Jerusalem in 1953. His great-grandson Isaac was born in Tel Aviv in 1960.

South African Jewish Report Invites You  to Private Internet Screening of J’Accuse!

South African Jewish Report Invites You to Private Internet Screening of J’Accuse!

J’ACCUSE! Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust and its coverup

Date: 8:00 P.M. South African Standard Time (UTC +2, same time zone as Lithuania), Thursday, January 19, 2023

Register here:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_t4pEdH4LR3ano0wwyzfEnA

What would you do if you discovered that your grandfather, a national hero in Lithuania, was also a genocidal killer of Jews? Would you keep quiet or expose the truth?

This controversial documentary exposes Lithuania’s policy of Holocaust denial and its celebration of the perpetrators of the genocide of its Jewish citizens.

This is a unique opportunity to view the documentary in full and meet the filmmakers and heroes of this ground-breaking story.

Please note that this is a private screening by invitation only. The recording of this internationally award-winning documentary will NOT be available on YouTube after the event.

Call to Teachers, Youth Workers: Two-Day Introduction to Roma, Jewish Communities

Call to Teachers, Youth Workers: Two-Day Introduction to Roma, Jewish Communities

The two days of activities are intended to teach the traditions and customs of the Roma and Jewish communities in Lithuania and to counter stereotypes and fight anti-Semitism and Romophobia at home and abroad in various contexts. This is the first time educators from Lithuania are being invited to meeting with representatives and lecturers from both communities. We believe these teachings will be helpful for teachers working with young people as well as for cultural workers in the towns and cities where Jewish heritage is undergoing restoration. Those who work with young people and representatives from NGOs are invited to attend. The two-day workshop begins in January at the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius with the participation of experts from the Lithuanian Human Rights Center and the Padėk Pritapti organization, and of course the Lithuanian Jewish Community as well. We invite you to share this invitation with your colleagues. For more information, click https://bit.ly/3PXEoTz. To register, click https://bit.ly/3jDbJa5. A program in Lithuanian is available here.

For more information, contact Dovilė Rūkaitė at projects@lzb.lt.

Remembering Irena Veisaitė

Remembering Irena Veisaitė

The Old Vilnius Town Hall and the Lithuanian Literature and Folklore Institute invite you to an evening to remember the life and work of Irena Veisaitė. The event marks Irena’s 95th birthday and will also serve to launch the book “Our Irena: Memories Irena Veisaitė” edited and compiled by Reda Pabarčienė. The book will be available for purchase at the presentation. The venue is the Old Vilnius Town Hall, 6:00 P.M., January 9, 2023. It is free and open to the public. The event will be conducted in Lithuanian.

Simonas Strelcovas Appointed Director of Vilna Gaon Museum

Simonas Strelcovas Appointed Director of Vilna Gaon Museum

Simonas Strelcovas was appointed by the Lithuanian Culture Ministry to the post of director of the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum in Vilnius. He has a doctorate in history and is a credentialed teacher. Earlier he directed the Humanitarian Research Center at Šiauliai University and the Defense and Warfare Educational Center. He served as chairman of the board of directors of the scientific institute at Šiauliai University. More recently he was head of projects at the Lithuanian National Regional Development Agency. In 2019 he went to Meijo University in Japan as visiting researched and headed a project there on the collective memory of traumatic experiences.

“One of my main tasks as director of the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum is to clarify with the staff the museum’s priority activities, setting a strategic goal for ourselves to make the museum one of the leaders in the region,” he told Lithuanian Radio and Television.

According to press reports, Strelcovas began his duties in the post Tuesday.

Condolences

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is sad to report the death of Eliyahu Stoupel. He was a cardiologist who did important work on the effects cosmic rays, solar activity and geomagnetism have on human health and mortality rates. Born in Kaunas in 1929, he later moved to Israel and recently worked for the Beilinson Hospital and Medical Research Center in Petah Tikva just east of Tel Aviv. He always maintained ties with the land of his birth, came to teach university students and carried out joint studies and projects with other Lithuanian cardiologists. We extend our deepest condolences to his many friends, family members and colleagues around the world.

United States of America Hail Jewish Compensation by Lithuanian Parliament

United States of America Hail Jewish Compensation by Lithuanian Parliament

Photo: Robert Gilchrist, by D. Umbrasas courtesy LRT.lt

The U.S. embassy in Vilnius said Tuesday the United States hail the Lithuanian parliament’s decision to compensate Jewish private property seized by the Nazis and Soviets to the tune of 37 million euros.

American ambassador to Lithuania Robert Gilchrist said: “The passing of this legislation is an important step in recognizing the tragedy of the Holocaust in Lithuania. It is not, however, only about addressing claims for the past. It is about preserving the memory of the Holocaust for future generations and working together against intolerance and hatred.”

U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues Ellen Germain commented: “After the Holocaust, there was little time to create successful restitution programs before the Communist regimes nationalized private property. By passing this bill, Lithuania has taken another important step in fulfilling restitution commitments. For survivors and their families, this is a direct acknowledgement of the great wrong that was done to them.”

The Lithuanian parliament Tuesday adopted a new redaction of the existing Law on Goodwill Compensation which additionally allocates 37 million euros for compensating Jewish private property. The existing law and previous compensation payments were for communal and religious property seized by the Nazis and the Soviets. The new legislation comes into effect in January.

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė proposed the new compensation package saying Lithuania has made compensation for Jewish religious community property, but hasn’t made compensation for nationalized private property.

Lithuanian Parliament Allocates 37 Million Euros for Private Property Looted from Jews

Lithuanian Parliament Allocates 37 Million Euros for Private Property Looted from Jews

The Lithuanian parliament Tuesday voted in favor of compensation to the amount of 37 million euros for private property looted from Jews by the Nazis and the Soviets.

Seventy-two MPs voted in favor, six against and two abstained in the ballot of a new redaction of the Law on Goodwill Compensation which will come into effect in January.

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė proposed the new compensation package saying Lithuania has made compensation for Jewish religious community property, but hasn’t made compensation for private property nationalized.

“There are two kinds of property, and for one a solution was found, while the search for a solution to the second was sought, perhaps not entirely sincerely, perhaps sincerely… I believe the Government has succeeded in agreeing to and proposing such a solution, and today we consider this legislation,” she said.

Condolences

With deep sadness we report the death of Michail Grafman. He died December 18 at the age of 77. For many years he served as a member of the executive board of the Panevėžys Jewish Community. He was a good man, always took care of his family and was always reserved and responsible in his work for the community. We extend our deepest condolences to his children Jurijus, Julija and Simonas, and to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as his many other friends and family members. His final burial will be at 2:00 P.M. on December 22 at the cemetery on Ramygalos street in Panevėžys.