Litvaks

What Happened to Poland?

The Jews of Poland were once the largest Ashkenazi Jewish community in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but those of them who remain today, it seems, will not be able to understand the decision made by the Polish Sejm on January 26, 2018. Historically Lithuanian and Polish Jewish communities are connected by ties of friendship in all spheres, we maintain exemplary relations with the secular and religious community, we know of the efforts made by Lithuanian MPs in solving disputes over the use of Polish orthography and we remember the efforts made by the Polish presidents Aleksandr Kwaszniewski, Lech Kaczynski and Bronislaw Komorowski to improve relations with Lithuania.

What could have happened so that the current members of the Polish parliament adopted a law imposing three years’ imprisonment to anyone who openly says the Polish state or nation is guilty of Nazi crimes, or who uses the formula “Polish death camps?” The law reflects the official position of the Polish Government that the great majority of Poles acted heroically during the Nazi occupation. Nonetheless there were many in the country who did collaborate with the Nazis and committed horrific crimes.

Another question arises for me: isn’t it from such irresponsible steps, from these sorts of anti-Semitic laws and assessments as well as statements that everything began during World War II?

We also remember Chiune Sugihara who provided the Jews of Poland condemned to the Holocaust in Kaunas his “visas for life.”

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Emmanuel Levinas and His Connection with Lithuania

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted the launch of “Laikas and kitas,” a Lithuanian translation of Litvak philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’s book “Time and the Other,” on January 25. Translator Viktoras Bachmetjevas, an advisor to the Lithuanian minister of culture, was there, as were Dr. Aušra Pažėraitė of the Religious Studies Center of Vilnius University, philosopher Dr. Danutė Bacevičiūtė of the same center and Vytautas Magnus University Public Communications Cathedral teacher Algirdas Davidavičius. The four held a panel talk and talked about the book based on a series of lectures by Levinas.

The Jonas ir Jokūbas publishing house published the book with support from the Goodwill Foundation.

Dr. Aušra Pažėraitė agreed to talk more about the Litvak philosopher for www.lzb.lt.

§§§

We can speak of two aspects of the connection between one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), and Lithuania. First, it is known he was born and grew up in Kaunas and his parents were also from Lithuania. He was born in Kaunas January 12, 1906, old style, which is December 30, 1905, on the Julian calendar, or the 15th of Tevet on the Hebrew calendar. Kaunas then was the seat of the Kovna guberniya in the Russian Empire. According to the entry in the vital records of the Kaunas Jewish community, his father was Kaunas resident Yekhiel Levin and his mother was named Dvoira. There’s also a date for his circumcision in the entry, January 6 according to the Julian calendar.

His father was also a native resident of Kaunas, born there to Abraham Levin and Feige in 1878, and his mother came from Ylakai, where she was born in 1881 to Moshe Yitzak and Eta Gurvich. He attended a Jewish primary school in Kaunas until World War I. The family was forced to evacuate as many Lithuanian Jews were during World War I. The Levin family ended up in Ukraine, where Emmanuel was accepted at a gymnasium in Kharkov, where at the same time a Kaunas boys gymnasium had been relocated. The story goes the entire family was overjoyed because this represented an opportunity for Emmanuel to pursue a higher education somewhere in the Russian Empire, but the war ended and the chaos and changes of the revolution began and Lithuania achieved independence, the family returned to Lithuania.

Jewish Educational Conference Lithuanian Limmud 2018

Dear friends,

This year Limmud will be even better than usual, so if you haven’t registered yet, do so now.

The conference will take place at the Vilnius Grand Resort Hotel from February 9 to 11.

Lecturers and performers are to include:

Prof. Zeef Chanin from Israel.

Yulia Rutberg, an actress from Russia, to host the Creative Evening.

Yuri Tabak, religious studies scholar, Jewish history expert and writer from Russia.

Tzvi Kaplan, rabbi, family specialist and psychologist from Israel.

Dr. Lara Lempertienė, scholar, Vilnius University teacher, senior bibliographer for Jewish books at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, from Lithuania.

Regina Pats, a film expert from Estonia, to present program of new and interesting films.

Hop Stop Banda, a German musical band.

Maja Tarachovskaja, teacher, writer from Lithuania.

Sasha Song, a vocalist from Lithuania.

Ala Segal, beauty expert, Lithuania.

Grigoriy Abramovich, rabbi, Belarus.

Irina Abromovich, rebitsen, Belarus.

Svetlana Liser, yoga activities, Lithuania.

Laurina Todesaitė, Jewish culinary expert, Lithuania.

Boris Kirzner, violinist, Lithuania.

Daumantas Levas Todesas from Lithuania, to present the film “Aš turiu papasakoti” [I Must Tell the Story].

Boris Burda from Ukraine and the game “Who, what, where?”

Play by students of Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium “Let Me Live.”

For more information, contact limmudlietuva@lzb.lt or call Žana Skudovičienė at +37067881514.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s Speech at Lithuanian Foreign Ministry January 26

Honorable foreign minister,

Dear Holocaust survivors,

Dear rescuer friends,

Members of the Jewish Community,

Honored ambassadors,

This day is dedicated to remembering, thinking and looking towards the future.

We have gathered here to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Today we mourn together.

Let us honor the victims of the Holocaust with a minute of silence.

We mourn our countrymen, our friends, patriots, and in the case of members of my community, every time we experience the loss again of our family members.

We appreciate that the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, in other words, the Lithuanian state, initiated this shared honoring of the victims.

Lithuanian State Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Užsienio reikalų ministerijoje surengtasTarptautinės Holokausto aukų atminimo dienos minėjimas

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry in conjunction with the Lithuanian Jewish Community commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the ministry Friday, January 26.

The event was humble, tasteful and without much fanfare, but was attended over 100 people, including survivors, children of survivors, grandchildren, foreign ambassadors, staff and members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the foreign minister and the father of Lithuanian independence, professor Vytautas Landsbergis, along with many ministry employees.

Foreign minister Linas Linkevičius spoke briefly and fully “owned” the Holocaust for Lithuania, saying while it was sad to begin the year celebrating the 100th birthday of the modern state with the Holocaust, it was necessary so that people would never forget. He called the Holocaust a scar across the face of the nation and the darkest page in Lithuania’s and humanity’s history, but also pointed out Lithuania now boasts 891 Righteous Gentiles.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke and said the fact the Foreign Ministry was hosting the event meant the Lithuanian state was recognizing the importance of remembering what happened. She also announced the upcoming release of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary in Lithuanian.

A representative from the Israeli embassy praised Lithuania for adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Rafailas Karpis performed songs in Hebrew and Yiddish.

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.

Al Jaffee Cartoon Exhibit “Childhood Adventures in Zarasai”

The exhibit at the Zarasai Regional History Museum contains illustrations by Al Jaffee included in Mary-Lou Weisman’s book “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life: A Biography.” In an interview with his biographer Al Jaffee called himself a reverse immigrant: when most people were leaving Lithuania for the USA, he went in the opposite direction. Savannah in the 1920s had electricity, inside toilets, asphalt streets, movie theaters and newspapers with daily comic strips. Zarasai, however, hadn’t changed much since the end of the 19th century. Al was the odd man out among the local children in Zarasai, where multilingualism was the rule and people spoke Lithuanian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish. He did manage to adapt to live there, though. The children invented games as children do and the entire town was their playground. The small town became the petri dish where Al and his brother Harry developed their creative talents. Even now Al says the years of his childhood he spent in Zarasai are some of the happiest years of his life.

Al’s popularity has grown continuously. In 1955 he began drawing for Mad magazine in New York City. He’s still drawing now. He lives with his wife Joyce in Manhattan.

You’re invited to visit the exhibit weekdays from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. (other times are available as well if prior notice is given).

We Remember 2018: Once Upon a Time There Lived Aizik Kanovich


Rokha (Rocha-Samuraj) and Dovid Kanovich, Solomon’s brothers Moshe-Yankel,
Aizik and Motl, sister Khava (from collections of Sergejus Kanovičius and Lisa
Abukrat-Kanovich)

by Sergejus Kanovičius

The sky was light blue. “So clear, almost like the water in the yard of the house in Jonava,” Aizik Kanovich thought, and closed his eyes again. A few flakes of snow fell from the blue of the sky. In a way you could almost count. Like members of the family: the snowflake Sara, snowflake Rosette, snowflake Yosif and snowflake Bernard, one, two, three, four, Aizikas counted with his eyes shut.

“Faster, move, move, go on, the train won’t wait,” the bossy voices echoed.

“Aizik, Aizik, get up, we don’t have much time, just a little, and we’ll be on the train. And a little longer and we’ll be home in Paris,” Moris-Moshe Zuskind whispered, bent down towards his friend, his hands tucked into his armpits away from the cold.

Aizik’s thoughts travelled back to his first home, where he was born, on Fishermen’s Street in Jonava. Back to December, 1920, when he crossed the threshold and proudly said:

“Look here, I have a passport. With the signature of burgermeister Ramoška. Now I can go.”

“When?” the quiet Shlome asked.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Kaunas 2022 Program to Revive Lost Memory

The first event in the Kaunas 2022 program has been held at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum and was dedicated to commemoration of the Kaunas Jewish community before the Holocaust.

Kaunas residents often boast their city is the most Lithuanian city, but that’s not the whole truth. In the early 20th century Kaunas was very multicultural and this was an important part of the city’s identity. The “Office of Memory” part of the Kaunas 2022 program is aimed at reviving the history of the city and encouraging residents to remember that which has been forgotten.

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon said there must be realization the Jews of Kaunas were Lithuanian citizens who had lived in the country for aeons, loved their country and worked to improve it. The ambassador spoke of a modern Jewish museum, one which would be attractive and interactive, “telling the story of the entire nation through the stories of different individuals.”

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas said the old Hassidic synagogue in Kaunas would be an ideal site for such a museum. He also said the heroes of the brutal period of the Holocaust cannot be forgotten and that a monument to Lithuanians who rescued Jews should be erected outside the museum.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Documentary about Kovner’s Planned Revenge for Genocide to Air on British TV


Abba Kovner stands at the center of the Vilna ghetto fighters, some of whom later joined the group Nakam. (CC BY-SA Wikimedia Commons)

Film to show new details of Jewish post-war revenge plot to poison German cities

UK’s Channel 4 to air documentary featuring long-lost tapes describing how a Jewish group sought to exact revenge for the murder of 6 million

A new documentary promises to release never-before-seen evidence on the plot by a group of Holocaust survivors to poison hundreds of thousands of Germans in an act of revenge after World War II.

The film “Holocaust: The Revenge Plot” revolves around tapes of resistance fighter and later-poet Abba Kovner detailing his recollections of the plan, according to Britain’s Channel 4, which commissioned the documentary.

The tapes were recorded in 1985 as Kovner was dying from cancer and explore the 1946 plans to poison the water supplies in several German cities and a second plot to kill thousands of SS officers being held in an American prisoner camp.

Kovner is said to reveal how his secret organization, code-named Nakam (Hebrew for vengeance), infiltrated the waterworks of Hamburg, Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Munich in order to poison the water supply with arsenic.

Full story here.

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.

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.