Litvaks

Moshe Arens, Former Defense Minister and Envoy to Washington, Dead at 93

Moshe Arens, Former Defense Minister and Envoy to Washington, Dead at 93

by Haviv Rettig Gur

“I loved you as a son loves a father,” says Netanyahu of his mentor, a founding member of Likud credited with shepherding advances in Israel’s military capabilities

Moshe Arens, an English-speaking US-educated aeronautical engineer who rose to become Israel’s three-time defense minister and mentored a young Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of his career, died on Monday at age 93.

Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1925, Arens moved with his family to Riga, Latvia, in 1927, then to the US just before World War II in 1939.

Full story here.

Osip Mandelshtam Commemorated in Kaunas

Osip Mandelshtam Commemorated in Kaunas

The Kaunas Jewish Community and the Russian meeting club Nadezhda held a commemoration of Litvak poet Osip Mandelshtam (aka Osip Mandelstam, 1891-1938) at Palangos street no. 1 in Kaunas, where the poet lived as a child, on December 27, 2018.

For many years it wasn’t known Mandelshtam died en route to his second deportation, the gulag in Kolyma, just as it wasn’t known he was a Lithuanian Jew and both parents were Litvaks: his father Emil Mandelshtam was from the town of Žagarė and his mother Flora Verblovskaya was from Vilnius. Many of the relevant documents in the life of Osip Mandelshtam are still unknown to literary experts.

The public release of these documents began relatively recently. Even so, even in the newest articles about Mandelshtam, for example, in Pavel Nerler’s “Osip Mandelshtam: Life and Family” (Znamya no. 12, 2016), the claim is made that Mandelshtam’s vital records have never been located. This is no longer true: Geršonas Taicas from Vilnius has found the record of Mandelshtam’s birth in Warsaw.

Taicas did further research and discovered the reason why Osip Mandelshtam (and his father, mother and their other son Aleksander) lived in Kaunas in 1896. Taicas also believes the surname, Mandelshtam, might not mean exactly what the accepted interpretation says it does, namely, “almond tree.”

Rudashevski Diary Book Design Wins Place in Tokyo Competition

Rudashevski Diary Book Design Wins Place in Tokyo Competition

Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary published in Lithuanian by the Lithuanian Jewish Community was compiled and translated by Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas. The unusual design of the book itself was the creation of Sigutė Chlebinskaitė. The Tokyo Type Directors Club has recognized the book design as worthy to be nominated along with another 2,860 books for their annual award in 2019, in the design category.

From the organizers of the Tokyo TDC Annual Awards 2019:

Dear Sigute Chlebinskaite,

Thank you very much for your entry to the Tokyo TDC Annual Awards 2019. We received 2,860 works from around the world. Among the entries, we are pleased to inform you that your entry below has been selected for our annual book. We hope the year 2019 will be a fruitful year for you.

Tokyo Type Directors Club

Condolences

Amos Oz (aka Amos Klausner) passed away December 28, 2018, following a battle with cancer. He was born in Jerusalem on May 4, 1939. His father was a Litvak from the Vilnius area who studied comparative literature. Our condolences to his friends, family and many fans.

Amos Oz, Saintly Intellectual Who Turned Israel’s Reality into Art, Dead at 79

Amos Oz, Saintly Intellectual Who Turned Israel’s Reality into Art, Dead at 79

(JTA)–Amos Oz would often speak in the kind of tossed-off epigrams that come only with a lot of practice. But just when you wanted to smack him for his breezy erudition, he would redeem himself with a flash of spot-on–and hilarious–self-awareness.

In 2011, speaking at the 92nd Street Y about the novel he’d just published in English, “Scenes from Village Life,” Oz said that 99 percent of the typical media coverage of Israel involves extremist settlers, ultra-Orthodox fanatics and brutal soldiers “and one percent saintly intellectuals like myself.”

Oz died Friday at age 79, having won nearly every literary prize short of the Nobel and having become perhaps Israel’s most widely translated author. If Jews were in the canonization business, Oz would have earned his wings (halo? robe? my theology is shaky) on the basis of “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” his 2002 novel cum memoir. Like so much of what he wrote, the book is not just autobiographical, but a biography of Israel itself. Although his story ends before he is out of his teens, the young Amos bears witness to the destruction of European Jewry, the height of the British mandate, a Hebrew renaissance in Jerusalem, the great Zionist debates (and debaters) of the day, the rise of the kibbutz movement and the birth of the state.

Full text here.

Kaunas Marks Anniversary of Death of Osip Mandelshtam on December 27

Kaunas Marks Anniversary of Death of Osip Mandelshtam on December 27

The Kaunas Jewish Community and the Lithuanian-Russian Meeting Club Naderzhda invite the public to a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the death of famous Litvak poet Osip Mandelshtam at 12 noon on December 27 outside the house where he spent his youth, located at Palangos street no. 1. Similar commemorations are to take place simultaneously in Riga, Kiev, Warsaw and Paris.

Works by Litvak Sculptors Presented in Panevėžys

Works by Litvak Sculptors Presented in Panevėžys

The Panevėžys Jewish Community opened an exhibit of works by famous 19th century Litvak sculptor Mark (Mordechai) Antokolski to mark the 175th anniversary of his death at the Panevėžys Jewish Community headquarters in cooperation with the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.

Antokolski was born in the Antakalnis neighborhood in Vilnius in 1843 to a religious Jewish family. From childhood he liked to draw and he learned to carve wood. He matriculated at the St. Petersburg Art Academy in Russia in 1862, was graduated in 1871 and thereafter embarked on a series of works on Jewish and other themes. His bas-relief “Jewish Tailor” won a silver medal. His works were much heralded in artistic and cultural circles in St. Petersburg.

His works reflect a variety of subjects, including scenes from antiquity and Christian, historical and ethnic themes. The sculptor passed away in 1902 and is buried in St. Petersburg. A small street in the Vilnius Old Town was named in his honor following his death.

Information Board Teaches Visitors about Panevėžys Jewish Cemetery

Information Board Teaches Visitors about Panevėžys Jewish Cemetery

The Panevėžys Jewish cemetery marked its 300th anniversary this December 18. It opened on the outskirts of the city back in the 18th century, on a plot of land bought by Jews who were moving to Lithuania. People of all different walks of life were buried there, including rabbis, scholars, businesspeople and farmers. During World War I Jewish volunteer soldiers who fought for Lithuanian independence against the Kaiser’s Germany were laid to rest there.

The cemetery expanded in the 19th and early 20th century. It is now listed on the Lithuanian cultural heritage registry as an historic monument and enjoys the protection of the state. Jewish burials ceased after World War II because there were so few Jews left in the city. The cemetery was closed in 1955. In 1966 city officials liquidated the cemetery and created a city park on the site. A fountain was placed in the middle of the cemetery. Headstones were taken and used for construction in Panevėžys, for building fences in the city center and also incorporated into a decorative wall at the J. Miltinis Drama Theater. Way back in 1980 there were attempts to correct the damage done; the fountain was moved to Senvagė leaving an open pit in the cemetery. The newly recreated Panevėžys Jewish Community and friends from Israel, the USA, South Africa and other countries called for fixing the damage in 1991, and in 2003 they all supported Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman’s idea to commemorate the dead with a statue. The architect Vytautas Klimavičius designed the ensemble and Panevėžys sculptor Vytautas Tallat-Kelpša made the statue which stands there today, “Sad Jewish Mother,” unveiled in 2009.

Congratulations to Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Lithuania’s New Minister of Culture

Congratulations to Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Lithuania’s New Minister of Culture

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely congratulates Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas on his selection as Lithuania’s new minister of culture.

Dr. Kvietkauskas will be the first member of the Lithuanian Government to speak Yiddish in many years. Likely the last was Jewish affairs minister Jokūbas Vygodskis who left the post when the interwar Republic of Lithuania annulled official Jewish autonomy in the country.

Kvietkauskas has translated a number of Yiddish works into Lithuanian. After completing Lithuanian literature and language studies at Vilnius University, he studied at Oxford’s Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He also acquired skills in Yiddish from Fania Brancovskaja, the Jewish partisan and Vilnius ghetto inmate.

Jewish Heritage Experts Agree Guidelines for Commemoration of Great Synagogue

Jewish Heritage Experts Agree Guidelines for Commemoration of Great Synagogue

At the behest of the Lithuanian Jewish Community an international Heritage Advisory Group consisting of renowned global experts on Jewish heritage was formed, including:

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, advisor to the director and senior curator of main exhibits at the POLIN Polish Jewish History Museum; Assumpció Hosta, general secretary of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ); Sergey Kanovich, founder of the Maceva NGO and project manager of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund; Lyudmila Sholokhova, PhD, director, YIVO archive and library; Sergey Kravtsov, senior research correspondent, Jewish Art Center, Hebrew University; the Lithuanian Jewish Community was represented by LJC heritage conservation specialist Martynas Užpelkis and architect and designer Victoria Sideraitė-Alon.

The expert group now has issued a set of recommended guidelines for the memorialization of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.

Since it is basically clear that attempts to rebuild the Great Synagogue would send a false message, they instead recommended emphasizing the uniqueness of the site’s history and its current state. Commemoration should pursue the objectives of conserving what remains and proper education. The project should focus on recovering and expressing the centrality and unique meaning of the site in Lithuanian Jewish history and memory.

Kaunas Jewish Community Chairman Gercas Žakas Recognized

Kaunas Jewish Community Chairman Gercas Žakas Recognized

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas received the Lithuanian state’s award “For Merit” on International Tolerance Day. Dainius Babilas, the director of Kaunas’s Ethnic Cultures Center, called Žakas one of the most active members of the city working in the cultural and social activities of the ethnic communities, both as head of the Kaunas Jewish Community and as the leader of various projects.

Since taking the post as Kaunas Jewish Community chairman in 2000, Žakas has rallied many Jewish people, initiated dozens of cultural projects and educated people on the history of Lithuanian Jews and the Jewish legacy during public events. Thanks to his resolution and consistency, the city of Kaunas remembers so many of its famous citizens who have made major contributions to Lithuania and humanity.

The newspaper Kauno diena has published an article in Lithuanian about Gercas Žakas and his work, available here.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The Polifonija music auditorium hosted a concert December 3 held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community.

Most of our current members responded 30 years ago to an invitation published in the newspaper Šiaulių naujienos to attend a meeting of the Sąjūdis initiative group [Lithuanian independence movement] at the Planning Institute. About 100 Jewish residents of Šiauliai attended and the Šiauliai Jewish community was reconstituted, including the Jews of the region and formally called the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community, the successor organization to the formerly large Šiauliai City Jewish Community which ceased functioning in 1941.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community chairman Naumas Gleizeris began the evening by welcoming and greeting the audience on Hanukkah and the 30th birthday of the organization. He thanked all guests for spending the evening with Community members.

Linas Adomaitis: Kaunas is Full of Culture, Full of Intelligence


Virginija Vitkienė next to Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas

Culture is a wide open door. It is a journey to one’s self. It is also a person’s relationship with another person. This week the team of “Kaunas, Cultural Capital of Europe 2022” invited residents of the city and region of Kaunas, friends and partners to get to know the city better during an open-door day. “This is not the first but the fourth year of the team. For two years we prepared, and for the other two we acted,” Kaunas 2022 director Virginija Vitkienė said. Several weeks ago Kaunas residents visited Brussels where they met with representatives of the European Commission supervising and assessing the activities of the European cultural capitals. Vitkienė said this was the first check-up on their activities and there will be three in total in the run-up to 2022.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia

Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia

On December 4 the Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a meeting/lecture/discussion and exhibition opening called “Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia” dedicated to discussing the deportations from Lithuania in June of 1941. Usually the official accounts of the deportations seem to suppress the multi-ethnic composition of deportees and the diversity of their positions and beliefs. The only thing uniting all the deportees was the fact they were considered undesirable by the new occupational regime.

The event was organized by the Vilnius Jewish Public Library and the Jakovas Bunka welfare and support fund. The photographic exhibition contained pictures of graves in Siberia, including those of Jewish, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian deportees. The photos came from the collections of the Lithuanian National Library, the Center for the Research of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, the photographer Gintautas Alekna and Dalia Kazlauskienė, the widow of photographer Juozas Kazlauskas. The project received support from the Department of Ethnic Minorities under the Lithuanian Government.

LJC board member Daumantas Levas Todesas, Vilnius Jewish Public Library director Žilvinas Beliauskas and Department of Ethnic Minorities director Dr. Vida Montvydaitė spoke to the topic at the event.

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Maša Grodnikienė recalled for us the first Hanukkah celebration by the constituent Lithuanian Jewish Community back in 1988.

Lithuanian Jews who survived World War II celebrated Hanukkah quietly at home. In 1987 the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association formed and Emanuelis Zingeris became chairman.

On December 4, 1988, Lithuanian Jews came together and collected funds for a shared Hanukkah celebration. This was a memorable holiday in Vilnius, a big event with a beautiful group of people at the Dainava restaurant. Yiddish was spoken and sung. The cultural events group of the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association drafted the program and organized the event. The Fayerlakh Jewish ensemble with directors Griša Kravecas and Ana Kravec performed, as did the ethnographic ensemble conducted by Amos Traub and the Kaunas Jewish stage ensemble. Chaimas Gurvičius directed the concert. About 370 people attended. Chairman of the board of the Lithuanian Cultural Fund Česlovas Kudaba greeted the audience, and deputy chairman Tarvydas also took part. This was a grand Hanukkah evening celebration with a concert and speeches.

Remember what that time was like in Lithuania–the independence movement Sąjūdis had formed and Lithuanian Jews from different cities and towns came together and were part of Sąjūdis. Everyone was exhilarated, excited, happy that finally with the national rebirth of Lithuania the Jews of Lithuania could celebrate together that great holiday of the triumph of the spirit, Hanukkah. The majority sought to attend, there weren’t enough places and it was impossible to get in. At that time there were 17,000 Jews living in Lithuania.

So Close to the Holocaust…but So Innocent

So Close to the Holocaust…but So Innocent

by Grant Arthur Gochin

On November 24, 2018 the German Government announced they will charge a 95 year old man with 36,000 counts of accessory to murder during his “service” as a guard at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Guards at concentration camps participated in murders of Jews, that was part of their job.

German courts convicted Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp, for complicity in mass murder. This month, November 2018, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, Johann Rehbogen, has been placed on trial in Muenster, Germany, accused of complicity in mass murder at the Stutthof concentration camp. Germany is working to punish the last remaining Holocaust perpetrators for their crimes against humanity.

The genocide of Lithuanian Jews had already been largely completed by January 1942, when Germany formally followed the same path as Lithuania at the Wannsee Conference; to now also commit genocide of Jews throughout Europe. Both Lithuania and Germany were intent on murdering Jews.

Full editorial here.

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to come to a meeting/lecture/discussion/exhibit opening at 6:00 P.M. on December 4. The LJC is located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. The “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia” event is dedicated to discussing the deportations from Lithuania in June of 1941. The official telling of the story of the deportations often seems to exclude the multi-ethnic nature of the deportees and their diversity of views and beliefs. They were only united in the fact the occupational regime which swept into power didn’t approve of them.

Dr. Violeta Davoliūtė will give a presentation based on her research. LJC board member Daumantas Todesas, Vilnius Jewish Public Library director Žilvinas Beliauskas and Lithuanian Department of Ethnic Minorities director Dr. Vida Montvydaitė will also speak on the topic of the event.

An exhibit of photographs will officially open at the same time.