Litvaks

Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Jewish Gymnasium Celebrates 70th Anniversary of State of Israel

The Sholem Aleichem ORT Jewish Gymnasium in Vilnius celebrated Israeli’s 70th birthday Thursday with pride and enthusiasm. Teachers, students and parents were joined by principal Miša Jakobas and Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis. Also speaking were Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, leaders of regional Lithuanian Jewish communities, members of the Lithuanian parliament and Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. Among other things, the speakers talked of Israel’s strength, achievements, discoveries and inventions of global significance and of Israel as an example for Lithuania to follow.

The event featured an orchestra and students from all grades performing song and dance. Teachers also sang and parents brought dishes for an outdoors potluck on the school’s playground and athletics field.

Memorial Plaque Unveiled on Ninth Fort Mass Murder Field

At the field of mass murder at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas a ceremony to unveil a memorial plaque took place April 13. The plaque commemorates the Jews deported from Frankfurt murdered on November 25, 1941, at the Ninth Fort.

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, deputy Lithuanian foreign minister Darius Skusevičius, Kaunas municipality deputy director of administration Nijolė Putrienė, Frankfurt Administration Cultural Department director Johannes Promnitz and representatives of the Brueder-Schoenfeld Forum participated. The memorial plaque was the result of cooperation between the Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum, the Kaunas municipality, the Brueder-Schoenfeld Forum organization and the Frankfurt municipality.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė Congratulates Israel on Independence Anniversary

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė greeted Israeli president Reuven Rivlin on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. She wished the State of Israel and all of its people peace, unity and success on the occasion of this important milestone.

“The head of state said Lithuania is proud of its active Jewish community and our shared history, human relations and growing mutual understanding.”

Full press release in English here.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Congratulates Israel on 70 Years of Independence

Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis greeted Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and all the Israeli people on the 70th anniversary of Israeli independence.

“I wish the people of Israel peace, security, constant well-being and all manner of success. Lithuania highly esteems our partnership with Israel. The close ties between Israel and Lithuania have contributed to the comprehensively developing, very friendly and intense relations between our countries. We take great joy in the contribution Lithuanian Jews made to the founding of the State of Israel. I am certain our great cooperation–both bilaterally and at the international level–will continue to take place in a spirit of mutual understanding and will thus strengthen the ties between our people,” the Lithuanian PM said in his greeting.

PM Skvernelis also invited his Israeli counterpart to visit Lithuania which this year is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the restoration of her statehood.

Notice Concerning Mini-Maccabiah Games

The Makabi Lithuanian Athletics Club is an associate member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Following the statement by four regional Jewish communities (Klaipėda, Vilnius, Šiauliai and Ukmergė) expressing lack of confidence in the leadership of the LJC, which may be understood additionally as a lack of confidence in the leaders of the athletics club, we are compelled to state that the position of the aforementioned four LJC members does not reflect the opinion of the majority of LJC association members, of which there are 28.

In light of the situation which has arisen, it would not be appropriate to hold the Mini-Maccabiah Games in Klaipėda, because this could give the wrong impression to Lithuanian Jews and could be misinterpreted as some sort of support of the position adopted by the Klaipėda Jewish Community.

We will announce a new date and venue for the Mini-Maccabiah Games in the near future.

Semionas Finkelšteinas, president
Makabi Lithuanian Athletics Club

Užupis Jewish Cemetery Commemorative Monument Proposal Approved by LJC Advisory Group


The heritage issues advisory group of the Lithuanian Jewish Community has learned of plans for renovating the Užupis Jewish cemetery tendered by the Vilnius municipality and a composition called Arch made of desecrated headstone fragments used as stairs during the Soviet era.

The international creative team behind the Arch are architect Viktorija Sideraitė Alon, creator/designer Albinas Šimanauskas and Israeli architect consultant Anna Perelmuter. The composition uses a symbol created by the Litvak American painter Samuel Bak.

The heritage issues advisory group of the Lithuanian Jewish Community helps solve outstanding Lithuanian Jewish heritage issues professionally and effectively. The group includes Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, POLIN Polish Jewish museum advisor to the director and senior curator of exhibits; Assumpció Hosta, general secretary of the AEPJ; writer Sergejus Kanovičius, founder of Maceva and the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund; professor James E. Young of University of Massachusetts, Near Eastern Studies, English, Judaism; Samuel Kassow, doctor of philosophy, POLIN senior researcher specializing in 19th century history and the history between the world wars; Lyudmila Sholokhova, PhD, YIVO director of archives and library; and Sergey Kravtsov, senior researcher, Jewish Art Center, Hebrew University.

Experts unanimously supported the artists’ idea for commemorating the Jewish cemetery and offered a number of useful suggestions and observations which will be taken into consideration.

This week members of the advisory group plan to discuss the project proposals with the mayor and city administration specialists.

Later the project ideas and visualizations will be presented to the public.

Film “My Vilnius” at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community began marking Yom haShoa with a screening of the documentary film “My Vilnius” about centuries-old Jewish Vilna life snuffed out in the Holocaust.

Directors Saulius Beržinis and Vytautas Gradeckas and photographer Rimantas Dichavičius attended the screening on April 10. The soundtrack featured works by composer Anatolijus Šenderovas. At the same event an exhibit of works by graphic designer Ovidijus Talijūnas was also launched. Called “Manologas,” each picture features a letter of the Yiddish alphabet and an interpretation of the letter’s meaning.

The images of a lost world on screen with all the people, buildings, cemeteries and synagogues reminded the audience Vilnius was the Jerusalem of Lithuania before the Holocaust, sometimes called the spiritual center of Jewry. With that in mind, we listened intently on the eve of Holocaust Day, Yom haShoa, to photographer Rimantas Dichavičius who managed to capture something of what left after the Holocaust in Vilnius, namely, the Jewish cemetery on Olandų street destroyed in 1965.

Headstones were used as construction material and over the decades the approximately 10-hectare territory was overgrown with bushes and trees. The territory is currently being put in order and should feature a monument soon.

LJC Holds Passover Camp

The Lithuanian Jewish Community offered children on school vacation the chance to attend a Passover camp. For three days boys and girls participated in events, under the supervision of camp counselors and teachers, including chemistry experiments, making Jewish souvenirs, dance classes, learning “Lego engineering” and a tour of Jewish sites in Vilnius.

Television personality Karina German and Nikita Jusupovas participated at the closing ceremony April 5.

Some of the thoughts among parents, children and camp counselors:

Viljamas: “It’s very good the community holds these kinds of camps during vacation. My children–I have two–enthusiastically participate in these programs. It’s important children get more information about their culture and traditions. I myself grew up in the community, and I think we see a continuity of events and activities, when children attend Jewish community camps. It’s very important for us to preserve our traditions and culture. I am a professional guide. My mission is to teach my children about history, heritage the culture of Lithuanian Jews. Today I told my children the story of ORT and we walked around Jewish Vilnius. The children liked it. I’m hoping they’ll want to learn more about the history of our city in the future as well.”

Yom haShoa Commemoration at the LJC

Yom Ha Shoa aukų pagerbimas Lietuvos žydų (litvakų) bendruomenėje

Holocaust Day or Yom haShoa was marked at the Lithuanian Jewish Community Thursday with the sound of a siren blaring and standing in silence in memory the victims.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky recalled the family members she lost to the Holocaust buried in Kaktiškės, Lithuania. She lit a candle and recited their names. Survivors Mina Frishman, Shapsai Kholem and Fania Brancovskaja also lit candles, as did Ruta Kaplinsky, the daughter of Shmuel Kaplinski who guided a group escaping the Vilnius ghetto through the sewer.

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon lit a candle in honor of those who heroically opposed the Holocaust, those who rescued Jewish children and the brave fighters and partisans. The ambassador spoke of the Warsaw Uprising; Israeli president Reuven Rivlin was in Warsaw today to mark the 75th anniversary of the uprising.

About 240,000 Jews lived in Lithuania before the Holocaust. Almost every town and village had a Jewish community. There are about 250 Jewish mass murder and mass grave sites known in Lithuania.

Come Watch Meyn Vilne Film

You’re invited to a screening of the first part, “People and Stones,” of the documentary film “Meyn Vilne” at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 10, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius.

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Passover

Armed with a festive mood members of the Kaunas Jewish Community met for one of the happiest times of the year to commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people from the Land of Egypt and to celebrate the coming of spring during Passover. There was a musical program and a quiz to test knowledge of holiday traditions. The winners–Filomena Jančiuvienė, Raja Verblinskienė and Robertas Baltusevičius–received health-care products as prizes. It was endlessly good to see how warmly members got along and how much fun we all had together, without regard to age.

Beloved and much-missed Fayerlakh musicians Michailas and Leonardas helped put the icing on the cake and seemed willing to play till dawn.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community Social Programs Department and the Goodwill Foundation financed the event.

Condolences

Sara Ginaitė-Rubinson died April 2. She was born March 17, 1924. She joined the underground resistance in the Kaunas ghetto, fought as a Jewish partisan, married a fellow partisan and was a professor of political science at Vilnius University after the war. She moved to Canada with her two daughters in 1983 following the death of her husband. She was the author of numerous books and was an outspoken proponent of Holocaust education in Lithuania. Her book “Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas, 1941–1944” was published in Canada and won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Holocaust History in 2008. She wrote several books about the Holocaust and lost Lithuanian Jewish communities in Lithuanian, including “Žydų tautos tragedijos Lietuvoje pradžia” [The Beginning of the Tragedy of the Jewish People in Lithuania].

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sends its deepest condolences to Sara’s entire family in Canada and her many friends in Lithuania. Her deep commitment to the memory of those murdered lives on.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Responds to Proposed Legislation to Censor “Goods”

The Lithuanian Government has sent proposed amendments on the consumer-protection law to parliament for consideration which would ban sales of goods which “distort the historical facts of Lithuania or belittle Lithuania’s history, independence, territorial integrity and constitutional order.”

Proponents of the amendments say they’re needed to stop sales of toys which allegedly commemorate the incorporation of the Crimean Peninsula into the Russian Federation. Lithuanian legal, trade and consumer experts say the amendments aren’t specific and that anything which is sold is a “good,” meaning the law could be used to censor books.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has made the following statement regarding the matter:

“These kinds of amendments without precise explanation raise well-founded concerns and recall the dark times of government censorship. History and the writing of annual chronicles are two different things. Historical memory, especially concerning our country’s greatest historical tragedy, the Holocaust, is still in its beginning stages and probably won’t ever be final. These sorts of foolish, misguided attempts by the Government to protect consumer rights have given rise to anger, with foundation, in the international Jewish community. In Europe, where anti-Semitism is on the rise, and especially in Central and Eastern Europe, where laws are being passed on the ‘appropriate’ interpretation of history, Lithuania must remain open and democratic. Freedom of speech and human rights must be insured in our country just as actively as the calls to fight for the protection of consumer rights through these amendments.”

Discovering Jewish Roots in Panevėžys

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For the second time a group of 18-and-under young people from Odessa, Kiev, Minsk, Gomel, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kherson and Krasnoyarsk–85 people in all–have visited Panevėžys as part of a project called Return to Roots. The goal of the journey was to learn about the culture, heritage and history of Litvaks in Panevėžys and Lithuania. Visiting surviving cemeteries, the synagogue and the school, the students witnessed Jewish heritage with their own eyes. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told the story of the destruction of a Jewish cemetery in 1966 to exploit the headstones as construction material. He said the local Jewish community had gone to great efforts to have the stones returned to the cemetery where the “Sad Jewish Mother” monument now stands. The students showed keen interest in the history of the Jews in the city and World War II. The delegation visited the former Ponevezh yeshiva established by the famous rabbi, Josef Kahaneman. After touring the city the students visited the town of Subačius and the Jewish cemetery there, where rainfall prevented any clean-up work. Alderman Vidmantas Paliulis came to meet the students there. Paliulis has exerted enormous efforts to clean up and maintain the Subačius Jewish cemetery, nicknamed “Paris.” He explained it was called that because of the name of the small neighboring village Paryžius.

The students were then received warmly and fed at the Panevėžys Jewish Community.

Jewish Theater in Inter-War Lithuania

An event to launch the new book “Žydų teatras tarpukario Lietuvoje” [Jewish Theater in Inter-War Lithuania] by Dr. Ina Pukelytė will be held at 6:00 P.M. on the second floor of the Grand Dukes Hall in Kaunas on Wednesday, April 4.

All theater and book lovers are invited to attend to learn more about Jewish activities in Lithuania and other countries in the period between the two world wars, the place Lithuanian Jewish theater holds abroad and about the evolution of Lithuanian theater after the war.

Head of Vytautas Magnus University’s Theater Studies Cathedral Dr. Edgaras Klivis is to moderate the event.

Public Launch of Rudashevski Vilnius Ghetto Diary at LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a second, more public launch of the new Lithuanian translation of the Yitzhak Rudashevski Vilnius ghetto diary Tuesday, following last month’s and exclusive initial presentation at the Vilnius Book Fair.

Rudashevski was 14 when he and his parents were imprisoned in the Vilnius ghetto. He celebrated his 15th birthday there. The family hid during the ghetto liquidation, were discovered and then murdered, presumably at Ponar outside Vilnius. Over the last two decades Rudashevski’s diary has emerged as one of a handful of testimonies by children. It was initially published in extracts in the original Yiddish in Israel, and then in English in 1973. An older and newer French translation ha4xandra Zapruder’s books about children in the Holocaust and in a documentary on the same topic aired on MTV.

Congratulations to Arkadijus Gotesmanas, Winner of the Birštonas Jazz Festival Grand Prize

The grand prize at the Birštonas Jazz Festival has been presented to improvisational percussionist Arkadijus Gotesmanas. The jazz festival in the Lithuanian town attracted over 3,000 audience members over three days. Performers noted an increasing interest in Lithuanian jazz by younger musicians.

Gotesmanas was awarded the grand prix statuette for a drum performance of an improvisation by the artist Marijus Petrauskas. In addition, he received tickets for two to stay at the Eglė health resort in Birštonas, which is known for its health spas.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulates Arkadijus Gotesmanas on this, his most recent recognition.

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Most Active Members

The Kaunas Jewish Community has been honoring its most active members for over two decades now. This year KJC chairman Gercas Žakas invited such members to an evening party to thank them for their sincerity, presence, communication and individual contributions of the most varied sort, including contributing homemade pastry for the Hesed Club, cakes cooked with love for various occasions, furthering traditions and the Yiddish language, honoring Holocaust victims, broadening individual horizons through excursions and cultural events, sharing memories and experience, participating at sporting events and extending a helping hand to other members of the community.

Live musical performances contributed to the fun with performances by the collective including Mihail Javič on saxophone, Arvydas Joffė on percussion, Rolandas Babraitis on keyboard and the young vocalist Viktorija. We all know small gifts can cement friendships and everyone who attended received valuable books.

Sabbath Celebration with MP Gabrielius Landsbergis

The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Sabbath last Friday with Gabrielius Landsbergis, a member of parliament, leader of the Conservative/Christian Democratic Party and great-grandson of Righteous Gentile Ona Landsbergienė.

Lansdbergis completed a degree in history from Vilnius University in 2003. In 2005 he was graduated from the International Relations and Political Science Institute of Vilnius University with a master’s in international relations and diplomacy. He worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and the Chancellery of the President of Lithuania. In 2007 he joined the staff of the Lithuanian embassy in Belgium. Landsbergis returned to Lithuania in 2011 and worked in the Chancellery of the Government of Lithuania. He was elected a member of the European Parliament in 2014 as a member of the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats faction. Landsbergis was elected chairman of the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats (Conservative Party) in April of 2015.

During the cozy meeting at the LJC, the young politician spoke of his family and early years, his work at the Lithuanian embassy in Belgium and his thoughts about the domestic political situation.

Landsbergis said Lithuanian schools aren’t dedicating enough attention to Lithuanian Jewish history and the Jewish contribution to the development of the nation.

“I don’t think many people know the major portion of the law of the land, the Lithuanian constitution, was written in Yiddish. Attorneys, Jewish legal experts, worked on this document. There are so many facts testifying to the Jewish contribution to the development of Lithuania. This is little discussed, unfortunately. I am interested and read as much as possible about Lithuanian Jewish history. I tell my children about it as well. We can only create an open European society through education,” MP Landsbergis said.

LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas moderated the discussion with Gabrielius Landsbergis.