Litvaks

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s Appeal Regarding Legal Disputes within the Jewish Community

I would like to address our Community again:

• As you know, a group of people calling themselves “the Vilnius Jewish Community” initiated legal proceedings.

• We received no reply to our proposals, made directly and in written form, to give up these legal disputes. A decision was handed down in the Vilnius Jewish Community’s petition which will be appealed in the usual appeals process and we have complete confidence the decision will be annulled.

• In other legal proceedings, the court found the rules and regulations of the LJC were not legal, and the point allowing the formation of a representational quorum during elections was voided. The court again emphasized the rules and regulations must conform to the law: one member, one vote. This affects the regional communities, but moreover all of the associated members, and means that the LJC elections in 2017 were held in keeping with the law. This decision by the court is final and is not subject to appeal.

Again, every Lithuanian Jew may decide for him or herself what sort of community they want, but first, everyone must know the truth. Leaders and community members who await the end of the disputes so they can decide which side to support must wait a little longer. I feel this decision is a matter of conscience for each person to make on their own.

I ask those who are sowing division between Jews, engaging in provocations, filing complaints and spreading rumors and gossip to stop it, without regard to whatever posts they occupy. You are doing harm to the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community.

I invite all members of the community to come together and join forces for things that are important rather than engage in fruitless internal struggles. Our priority tasks are celebrating and passing on the distinct Litvak culture and historical memory of the history of Jews in Lithuania, and making life better for Jews here and now. We can only accomplish this by coming together.

Learn to Embrace the Simple Past Tense: A Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust

You are invited an event to commemorate victims of the Holocaust with a presentation by tenor Rafailas Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and Sergejus Kanovičius called “Embrace the Simple Past Tense.”

Is it possible for the Yiddish and the Lithuanian language to meet under one roof?
Is it possible to feel a lullaby even if you can’t understand the words?
Is dialogue possible between sung Yiddish and Lithuanian work read out loud?
Can love, longing and remorse meet in memory?

Come, feel it and find out the answers on the last Sunday in January:

PLACE: Third floor, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius
TIME: 5:00 P.M., January 28.

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.

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.

Condolences

The Lithuanian Jewish Community express our sincerest condolences on the death of Arkadijus Vinokuras’s mother.

When Will Kaunas Have a Monument to Holocaust Rescuers?

More than a decade ago Jewish community representative and Rotary Club member Michailas Duškesas proposed erecting a monument to Righteous Gentiles in Kaunas.

At that time some world-famous architects said they were interested in the memorial project. Michailas Duškesas said at the time erecting the statue would have cost less than 1 million litas, and the Rotary Club and Jewish organizations in Lithuania, Europe and Israel would have paid the total sum, according to him.

“Everything was headed in the right direction. Kaunas Regional Judaic Religious Community chairman Josifas Kacas was getting ready to fly to meet Daniel Libeskind to discuss all the details when, unfortunately, just a few days before the flight, he died, and everything seemed to fall apart,” Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas recalled. Now he and Rotary Club member Ignas Miniotas are reviving the project to commemorate Righteous Gentiles.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

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.

Happy Birthday to Adomas Jacovskis

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes the renowned Lithuanian artist, scenographer and painter Adomas Jacovskis a happy birthday. Jacovskis is a recipient of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Art and has done much to make Lithuania known in the world.

He calls himself an individualist from birth. He dreamed of painting and became a painter after choosing to study scenography under the famous painter Augustinas Savickas. He currently teaches at the Vilnius Art Academy. His sister, daughter and son are all artists as well.

We wish you great health, inspiration and resolution in your continuing remarkable work. We are honored by and proud of your achievements and recognition.

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;”

Šiauliai Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Birthday

An exhibit of artwork by the students of the Savickas Art School opened at the Povilas Višinskis Public Library in Šiauliai Sunday celebrating the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Šiauliai Jewish Community. The exhibit is open to the public till January 28.

Accomplished painter and teacher Raimondas Savickas began offering classes at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in the summer of 2015. The classes and the outdoor painting and drawing workshops in natural settings were so successful led to the formal creation of the Savickas Art School at the LJC in the fall of 2015. The outdoor plein air workshops have become a summer tradition and regular classes are held for beginners and more advanced artists. Currently there are about 20 students, Savickas said. The program includes theory and practice, and Savickas said they are learning about more than just technique, with students learning about Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classic styles and Judaica in general. Students paint synagogues and have the opportunity to meet and learn from accomplished Litvak artists.

“We have been noticed,” Savickas said, “and have been invited to show our work in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and Šiauliai,” Savickas said.

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.

Happy Birthday to Irena Veisaitė

Lithuanian Jewish teacher, scholar and theater expert Irena Veisaitė is not just a legend among students. Elegant, with an inherent sense of communicability, a woman of broad erudition, at home in any number of languages and filled with an inner inspiration, Irena is able to engage in warm conversation in any circle.

Her biography is full of the experience of tragedy, which she survived unbroken. The entire Jewish community remembers her words as a kind of mantra: “While even one anti-Semite still lives, I will be a Jew.” As a child during World War II imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto, she lost her mother. Stefanija Ladigienė became her adoptive mother, rescuing Irena and raising her in her own home as her own daughter. Irena still calls all rescuers holy people, to whom Lithuania has still not erected a single monument.

Dear Irena, the Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes you a very happy birthday. May you always enjoy strong health, much joy and days of happiness! May your heart never age. Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

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.

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.

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.

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.