Dear Arkadijus, the Lithuanian Jewish Community sends you, a unique jazz man and master of percussion, birthday greetings! We are proud of you and your music, spontaneous improvisations and beats. We wish you many more creative ideas and projects in your future leading to even greater jazz heights! Mazl tov!
The Bank of Lithuania is planning to issue a coin commemorating the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon in 2020.
It will bear an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuania, the phrase “Vil, Nor Goen,” which is a Yiddish pun meaning: if you want, you, too can become a genius, or gaon (sounds like “vilner Gaon”). “Gaon” originally comes from the word “genius” in Greek and traditionally refers to the Jewish exarch or spiritual leader in rabbinical Judaism. The Vilna Gaon is the latest and best-known of these figures.
The reverse side of the coin features the Hebrew letter shin, which also means 300. The letter shin is featured in well-known portraits of the Gaon wearing phylacteries. The shin on the phylacteries means that besides the Sabbath, the Jewish year has 300 days devoted to prayer.
by Arkadijus Vinokuras
That was what U.S. congressman Brad Sherman told Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis in his letter. He asked the prime minister to provide evidence demonstrating Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis, the head of the Lithuanian Provisional Government in 1941, was rehabilitated and acquitted by the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1974. Because this is something the Lithuanian Genocide Center has been claiming for about 10 years now. The congressman said this belief is baseless and contradicts U.S. law.
Sherman in the letter says without any doubt the Genocide Center’s findings on the exoneration and rehabilitation of the former LPG leader has no legal foundation at all. He says an investigation in 1974 was dropped because the man died and there was a lack of documents on Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis’s activities in Holocaust crimes. He said the U.S. Justice Department created a new section in 1979 which with the appearance of new information went on to investigate 60 Nazi criminals who had immigrated to the United States.
Why weren’t documents found? First, in 1944 Juozas Ambrazevičius changed his name to Juozas Brazaitis. In other words, he hid the fact of his change of surname from the U.S. immigration service. Second, the U.S. had a policy after the war of granting immunity to alleged war criminals who had information of use to the Central Intelligence Agency. Third, the section created by the Justice Department in 1979 had a staff of just three people who had no training or experience in investigating Holocaust crimes. Fourth, the Lithuanian archives only opened their doors after the fall of the Soviet empire.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky says she and Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky never agreed on setting up a yeshiva in the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. She says there was never any discussion about a Chabad Lubavitch Hassidic synagogue in Vilnius. Back in 2001 Rabbi Krinsky tried to set up a Hssidic synagogue but encountered opposition from Mitnagid Jews of Vilnius.
When Vilnius Religious Jewish Community chairman Simas Levinas announced in September, 2019, a yeshiva would be established at the synagogue, people began asking what kind of yeshiva it would be. During Rosh Hashanah Rabbi Krinsky spoke about the similarity between the Vilna Gaon and Chabad Lubavitch, but Lithuanian Jews know about the Litvaks’ opposition to Hassidism which began in the 18th century, about resistance to the movement which resulted in two groups of Jews, Hassidim and Mitnagdim.
These days Chabad rabbis are asked to work at Jewish Orthodox Mitnagid synagogues. This is acceptable. It was agreed with Rabbi Krinsky that he would conduct prayer services in the Litvak way. No one is opposed to the desire of opening a yeshiva. Chabad Lubavitch has its own building on Bokšto street [in Vilnius]. The rabbi may do whatever he likes there, for example, opening a yeshiva.
The board of directors of New York’s YIVO has voted to lend the pinkas of the Vilna Gaon synagogue to Lithuania for exhibition following a meeting with Lithuanian minister of culture Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, YIVO director Jonathan Brent said.
This is the book of vital statistics for the local Jewish community, a priceless source of information on the life of the Vilnius Jewish community. The document will be lent in 2020 as Lithuania marks its Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History. The plan is to show it at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Arkadijus Gotesmanas working together with director Adolfas Večerskis and artist Linas Liandzbergis created the Story of a Man of God almost a decade ago. Author of the music and text, he was also the performer of this drama. One week ago it was presented to an audience in Uzhgorod, Ukraine. In the one-man play Gotesmanas recalled horrible, funny, sad and happy events from his own life accompanied by creative percussion, the life of one man, one family, one people marked by the tragedies of the 20th century but nonetheless filled with unconditional love for faltering humanity.
The audience in Uzhgorod listened and watched in rapt attention. Arkadijus was born there 60 years ago. The “hometown boy” appears to have impressed the audience with his high degree of creativity, talent and musical ability. Arkadijus said he only really knew about “our Uzhgorod” from his parents before this. In infancy he and his parents left the city. So the next performance of Story of a Man of God might include this trip as well.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman wants to thank Bagel Shop Café director Dovilė Rūkaitė and senior cook Riva Portnaja for their wonderful idea to hold a Litvak culinary luncheon with a delegation from the Taube Jewish Heritage Tours with partial support from the Ethnic Minorities Department, and for their tireless enthusiasm in promoting and passing on the Litvak Jewish culinary heritage. Thank you to Taube delegation leader and Ashkenazi cooking expert Jeffrey Yoskowitz and to all the volunteers and guests who made this event so much fun. It was good to sit down together at a shared table and it was very delicious.
The rare books department of the Kaunas Public Library hosted the launch of the book “Vilkijos getas. 1941 metai” by Aleksandras Vitkus and Chaim Bargman. Vilkija deputy alderman Algimantas Smolenskas led the event.
Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas spoke about Lithuanian Jewish community activities before 1940 and the active participation of Jews in the country’s cultural, economic and social life.
Participants discussed current commemoration policies, Lithuanian and Jewish relations, what goes into determining Nazi collaboration, education and other topics.
The Jewish community formed in the village of Vilkija, just 30 kilometers from Kaunas, in the late 18th century. According to the censuses, there were 652 Jews in Vilkija in 1766, 789 in 1847 and 1,431 out of a total population of 2,012 in 1897.
It’s long been the tradition during SUkkot to set up a booth, invite guests and treat them to various family recipes. While they say there is no traditional Sukkot dish, it does seem to be characteristic to make things which are stuffed and rolled, like the Torah scroll. Stuffed cabbage and filled pancakes are popular.
Ashkenazi cooking expert Jeffrey Yoskowitz visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the first day of Sukkot and made select dishes from the Litvak culinary legacy. Guests–loves of Litvak cooking–joined in and for every dish there were multiple stories and recollections from childhood. There was even a dispute on the correct form cut carrots should take.
Jeffrey Yoskowitz is leading a Taube Jewish Heritage Tours tour currently in Lithuania. He and Dovilė from the Bagel Shop Café had a long discussion on which dishes to include in cooking workshops. In the end they arrived at the solution of Litvak exceptionalism: to select the dishes which Polish Jews don’t make and which are unknown to the American Jewish community.
by Vilius Petkauskas, 15min.lt
Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis has received a letter from the Congress of the United States requesting Lithuania stop claiming U.S. institutions had found Lithuanian Provisional Government prime minister Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis hadn’t been party to the genocide of Lithuanian Jews [was not a Holocaust perpetrator] in 1941.
According to information available to 15min.lt, the chairman of the [subcommittee on Asia of the] Foreign Affairs Committee [representative Brad Sherman of California] sent a letter to Skvernelis which asks the Lithuanian PM to require the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania to stop claiming erroneously Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis had been exonerated. Prime ministerial press representative Tomas Beržinskas confirmed such a letter had been received.
“Yes, the prime minister has received such a letter. A reply has not been drafted yet,” he told 15min.lt
Full article in Lithuanian here.
professor Pinchos Fridberg
Comments on the Title of the Article
1. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty called me an Holocaust historian. I won’t deny such words please the ear. They aren’t true, though. I’m actually a pedant: I read very carefully without missing a letter. And at the same time I also think a little bit.
2. The real (infallible) Holocaust Historians work at the Genocide Center. For that reason in the second instance I write Historian capitalized and without quotation marks. The findings of the research of these historians are even carved in granite.
3. To my very odd question “can we rely upon the archival document?” I can give a not less odd reply: who can deny that this document wasn’t created by NKVD agents seeking to discredit collaborators who worked closely with the Nazis?
Nerijus Brazauskas, PhD, has written a history of the destruction of the old Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai up to 2016. The newspaper Šiaulių kraštas has published the study in Lithuanian on their website. He attempts to determine whether the former cemetery, which is state-protected heritage site, should be protected by the Šiauliai Jewish Community or whether it is a matter for the local municipal administration. He details the partial destruction of the cemetery, along with the complete destruction of the Lutheran cemetery, in the 1964-1965 period by the Soviet authorities and calls it an attempt to erase Jews from public memory. He concludes it should be restored and maintained as a sacred site of memory and says both institutional and civic efforts could be harnessed to that purpose.
Full paper in Lithuanian here.
Note: On October 3 Irena Gečienė passed away. The Lithuanian Jewish Community expresses its condolences to her daughter Jurgita and brother Eduardas.
Before the tragic losses of World War II, Joniškis in northern Lithuania was a very Jewish town known as the shtetl of Yanishok with a vibrant Jewish community. Nothing was left after the Holocaust which only a few Jews survived here, as was the case throughout Lithuania. Now only the two restored synagogues and the only living Jew recall that Yanishok.
They Donned White Armbands and Went to Shoot Jews
Irena Gečienė remembers November 27, 1944, when the war hadn’t ended yet, in the town of Žagarė.
Local resident reported Saturday evening the statue commemorating Jewish Lithuanian industrialist Chaim Frankel in the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai had been vandalized. Male genitalia were painted on his trousers with what appeared to be white paint. This follows the appearance of a swastika at the Lithuanian Jewish Community headquarters in Vilnius in August. The male genitalia remained on the Frankel statue as of midnight as Sunday turned to Monday, October 7.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky commented on the incident: “Maybe the Frankel statue was vandalized by drunken youth, or maybe not, but this again is an opportunity to talk about anti-Semitism, especially as we prepare to participate in International Holocaust Day events in January and to mark 2020 as the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History in events around Lithuania.”
Lithuanian television channel TV3 ran the incident as their top story on Sunday with an interview with chairwoman Kukliansky, who said Frankel put Šiauliai on the map and his factory later served as a life saver for Jewish ghetto inmates who were allowed to work there, “as in Schindler’s List.”
Speaking directly to www.lzb.lt, Faina Kukliansky said: “This was just one Jewish family whose contribution to Lithuanian industry was priceless and whose memory has been desecrated so brutally just as the Jews were brutally murdered during the second half of 1941.”
by Vytautas Bruveris for Lietuvos rytas, photo by R.Danisevičius courtesy lrytas.lt
Are all the people murdered by the Soviets whose names are engraved on a building right in the center of Vilnius worthy of this sort of exceptional respect? Documents from researchers which Lietuvos rytas examined raise this question.
They helped in murdering Jews and seizing their property. They murdered and raped family members–women and children–of Soviet collaborators. There was a thief who pretended to be a partisan. Most of them fought on the side of the Nazis and in their military.
These hair-raising shadows darken the biographies of many of the people whose names are inscribed on the outer wall of the former KGB headquarters on Gediminas prospect across from Lukiškių square in Vilnius.
It’s becoming clear the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania was likely too hasty in so exceptionally honoring people murdered by the Soviet occupiers and many of them probably don’t deserve commemoration.
This is clear from documents the Center itself has.
Not Only the Names of Angels Decorate the Wall of Martyrs in Central Vilnius
Another scandal is brewing: it’s becoming clear not just the names of angels decorate the wall of martyrs in central Vilnius
by Rimvydas Valatka, lrytas.lt, from facebook
It would appear the hunger to rehabilitate the looters and murderers of Jews by incorporating them in the ranks of those who have laid down their lives for their country, the partisans, has become a sort of auxiliary to the discipline of history for the Genocide Center.
Six murderers and looters of innocent people commemorated as heroes–this is not just a plaque commemorating General Storm [Jonas Noreika] who collaborated with the Nazis on this question. This is already a very brown matter. Perhaps some Pro Patria Lithuanian teacher will splash brown paint upon the wall?
The forces of the defenders of Nazi collaborators should move quickly to the former KGB headquarters because the historians are beating “our own people.”
A series of several concerts with world-famous performers, composers and material from the works of Grigoriy Kanovitch will be held to celebrate Kanovitch’s 90th birthday. Kanovitch is the author of a number of classics in Jewish literature and is a recipient of the Lithuanian National Art and Culture Prize. Lithuanian Jewish Community members will receive a 40% discount on the ticket price.
For more information, see here.
by Sigitas Parulskis
When I think about Lithuanian anti-Semitism, there is a lack of reasoning. How can you hate someone who isn’t there? And there are almost no Jews left in Lithuania. It would be the same as being afraid of or hating the Wizard of Oz because he didn’t give you a brain.
Lithuanian anti-Semitism’s list of grievances, its casus belli, was fully formed in the period from 1939 to 1941. The loss of the Klaipeda region, the Soviet occupation, deportation, massacres, the Nazi invasion–all good reasons to look for a culprit. And here we are, still afflicted by this hapless anti-Semitism. Is it in our subconscious? In our genes? We are no longer living under conditions of occupation and war, so where does this anachronism come from?
Is it possible for us to overcome our warped relationship with Jews? Everything’s possible, if there’s a will and reason. And this is a political rather than a cultural relationship. The political man proclaims truth is on my side, while the cultural man asks what in the hell truth is anyway, and to me this question seems more interesting, more imaginative and more human.
Full text in Lithuanian here.
The Kaunas Jewish Community and the Ninth Fort Museum held a Holocaust commemoration on the morning of September 23. Kaunas students and cultural workers also participated in the civic initiative called “Way of Memory.”
Georgian musician Davit Kldiashvili performed and attendees viewed a Ninth Fort exhibit on the Holocaust.
After the event a group of Kaunas Jewish Community members attended the Holocaust commemoration held in Balbieriškis which also commemorated the vitality of Jewish life in the Lithuanian shtetlakh and Volfas Kaganas, Lithuanian military volunteer and twice recipient of the Order of the Cross of Vytis.