Learning

Miša Jakobas Retires

Miša Jakobas Retires

Miša Jakobas has retired as principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius. Lithuanian public radio and television conducted the following in-depth interview with him about education, life and his thoughts about the future.

Miša Jakobas Talks about Problems in Lithuanian Education after Leaving Jewish Gymnasium

by Aida Murauskaitė, LRT.lt

At the beginning of January the former Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium principal and mathematics teacher took on a new job having nothing in common with the school, except that it does have something in common with Jews and math. He is now the executive director of the Lithuanian-Israeli Chamber of Commerce.

After half of a century you have left your job as teacher and the gymnasium which you yourself established three decades ago. How did you come to this decision?

Lithuania and Russia: Two Peas in a Pod?

President Nausėda of Lithuania has announced that he will NOT attend the World Holocaust Forum on January 23. He objects to Russia being a speaker at the forum while he wasn’t invited to speak. Lithuania accuses Russia of distorting history, so let us examine Lithuania.

Christmas of 2019 presented bountiful gifts for Lithuanian fascists and Holocaust deniers. The Lithuanian Government presented a false report that Jonas Noreika had not murdered Jews; rather, he was a rescuer. It published this fairy tale through Baltic News Service. The story is as credible as Santa coming down the chimney with gifts.

Father Jonas Borevičius was a friend of the Noreika family in Lithuania while Jonas Noreika was perpetrating his war crimes. When the Soviets entered Lithuania and put a stop to the murders of Jews, Noreika’s wife, sister and daughter fled. The USA declined them visas, so instead they went to Argentina because Noreika’s older brother Stasys was living there on a farm. (Argentina was also openly accepting other Holocaust perpetrators and their families at the close of WWII). The Noreikas remained in Argentina for seven years until Father Borevičius was able to assist them in obtaining visas to enter the USA, possibly even as their immigration sponsor. He was a devoted friend to Mrs. Noreika and accompanied her to Lithuanian social events in Chicago.

Full text here.

The Vilna Gaon: The Central Figure Who Made Vilnius the Jerusalem of the North

The Vilna Gaon: The Central Figure Who Made Vilnius the Jerusalem of the North

by Mindaugas Klusas, LRT.lt

The Vilna Gaon, the 18th-century sage from the Jerusalem of the North, has left behind a significant legacy of Jewish scholarship as well as many legends about his erudition and idiosyncratic devotion to the study of religious texts.

Lithuania designated 2020 the Year of the History of Jews of Lithuania, and 2020 is also the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon. Lara Lempertienė, an historian and the head of the Judaica Department at the Lithuanian National Library, spoke with LRT.lt about the 18th-century sage from Vilnius.

While other nations are proud of battles and glorious buildings, Jewish history is about writing and books, Lempertienė quoted a modern rabbi. The Vilna Gaon and his town Vilnius, often dubbed the Jerusalem of the North, played a crucial role in this history.

Full text here.

Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel Protests Lithuanian Attempt to Whitewash Holocaust

In two months the Lithuanian parliament will recess. Prior to that MP Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chair of the parliament’s Commission on the Fight for Freedom and Historical Memory, will propose a parliamentary resolution declaring Lithuania has no responsibility for the murders and extermination of Lithuanian Jews during World War II because it was occupied by the Soviets and then by Nazi Germany. His resolution is to absolve Lithuania from the horrors of the Holocaust because it was occupied by Russia and Germany!

Member of parliament Gumuliauskas is not clearly anti-Semitic (compared to those living in Lithuania), he is a professor of history. His primary research during the Soviet era showed positive impact of the Communist Party on the Lithuanian theater. Apparently in 1987 he didn’t think that three years hence everything would be turned upside down. Instead of praising Communism a change had to be made: to stand out and to pave his way to the parliament, Jews can always be accused of something. Anti-Semitism has always been popular in Lithuania at all times. In 2016 the learned professor was elected to parliament. At the end of this year there will be another parliamentary election and an opportunity for him to stand out by proposing a parliamentary resolution which releases Lithuania and Lithuanians of involvement in the Holocaust, for the murder of 95% of Jewish citizens of Lithuania who had lived as good neighbors with Lithuanians for over 400 years.

Kosher Lithuanian Wheat Arrives in Israel, 13 Rabbis Supervised Shipment

Kosher Lithuanian Wheat Arrives in Israel, 13 Rabbis Supervised Shipment

Karolis Šimas, director of the Agrokoncerno grūdai company, says they have been preparing the sale of wheat to Israel from early in the summer of 2019. Certain procedures had to be follow to insure the wheat was certified kosher. Winter wheat can be found kosher but according to the requirements it cannot have contact with other kinds of grain. Israel’s special Office of Rabbi Landa service has to and did certify this. Even before the start of the winter wheat harvest, the grain elevators for the winter wheat were sealed under the supervision of a rabbi and a representative from Agrokoncerno grūdai. Several months later, before being loaded on a ship, the rabbi opened the storehouses and supervised the transport of the grain by automobile and railroad to the port.

At the port as the grain was being loaded onto the ship it was again checked thoroughly. Thirteen rabbis supervised and a total of 11 grain elevators and the storage facility at the port were sealed and unsealed, as was every train car and automobile carrying the grain. The elevators and the storehouse at the port had to be made extremely clean and so did the machinery for loading it, in order to receive the kosher seal.

Kosher grain cannot have contact with other grains, so all the storage spaces were cleaned to make sure not a single grain from earlier remained.

Full article in Lithuanian here.

Condolences

In great sadness we report the death on January 15 of the long-time, active member of our community Vladimir Vakhman at the age of 77. He was born September 24, 1943, in Nazi-occupied Kiev. He only survived by being hidden until the Soviet army liberated the Ukrainian capital. Actually he didn’t see the light of day until then. Vakhman was well known to collectors and book lovers in Vilnius. Readers of Obzor know his translations from Lithuanian to Russian. Vladimir Vakhman will stay in our hearts forever as a conscientious fellow traveller who was always ready to help others. Our deepest condolences to his widow and children.

MP Behind Holocaust Resolution Claims He Was Misunderstood

MP Behind Holocaust Resolution Claims He Was Misunderstood

Lithuanian MP and chairman of the parliament’s Commission on the Fight for Freedom and Historical Memory Arūnas Gumuliauskas announced earlier he is drafting a parliamentary resolution saying the Lithuanian state and the Lithuanian people are guiltless in the mass murder of Jews during WWII. The announcement made in mid-December provoked public discussion and it seems the author, who said earlier Lithuania’s position on the Holocaust cannot be the same as the West’s, has changed his mind and is now citing resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in 2009 and 2019 as the foundation for his resolution.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky refrained from any categorical comment on the planned resolution because of the lack of information surrounding it.

“We only know about this draft from the press, so it’s very difficult to judge it, because we just don’t what it really says,” Kukliansky told alfa.lt

Lithuanian Jews Concerned over Possible Holocaust Legislation

Lithuanian Jews Concerned over Possible Holocaust Legislation

Photo: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

Lithuanian Government “shares concerns” of Jewish community over proposed Holocaust law

Lithuania’s Jewish community and members of the expatriate Lithuanian Jewish community in Israel have expressed serious concern about possible legislation in the parliament in Vilnius which would declare the Lithuanian state and people didn’t collaborate in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

Member of Lithuanian parliament Arūnas Gumuliauskas and chairman of its State Historical Memory Committee said last month he would propose legislation declaring the Lithuanian state didn’t participate in the murder of Jews because it was an occupied nation, first by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany.

The parliamentary draft resolution has not yet been submitted to the parliament. The parliament goes into recess this Wednesday.

Gumuliauskas’s resolution, which he said was being prepared by the committee, would also claim the Lithuanian people could not have participated in the murder of Jews since Lithuanians were “an enslaved people” during World War II.

Full article here.

Reconstruction of Sports Palace Agreed, First Event Scheduled in 2023

Reconstruction of Sports Palace Agreed, First Event Scheduled in 2023

Press release, lrytas.lt

Representatives and technical coordinators from Lithuania’s Turto Bankas, which administers and maintains real estate belonging to the state, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe have arrived at joint solutions for renovating Vilnius’s Palace of Sports as a conference and cultural venue and preserving the territory of the old Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery which surrounds the building.

The reached basic agreement on solutions for reconstruction and maintaining the cemetery territory.

The decisions made regarding the technical project are based on a protocol signed by Lithuanian Government and the Lithuanian Jewish Community in 2009 on heritage protection for the site and a buffer zone and on reconstructing the former sports arena for conferences and other cultural events. The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe approved the protocol in 2016.

How a Geologist Dug Up Historical Findings

How a Geologist Dug Up Historical Findings

by Arkadijus Vinokuras, translated by Geoff Vasil

Lithuania’s Genocide Center has published another finding of alleged historic dimensions, transforming Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika into a Righteous Gentile who rescued Jews from the Holocaust. The story goes, he organized a network for rescuing Jews from the Šiauliai ghetto. How many professional historians did it take, after long discussion and examination of the facts, witnesses and circumstance, to come to this stunning conclusion exactly on Christmas Eve? One. And he’s not an historian, he’s a geologist working as a public relations expert.

What do the professional historians say about this finding (it was written based on testimony by the Catholic priest Jonas Borevičius to a court in the United States)? Director and senior academic of the Lithuanian History Institute, doctor habil. of the liberal arts Alvydas Nikžentaitis and Vilnius University History Faculty professor Dr. Nerijus Šepetys appear to hold the same opinion: if this were a student’s work, it wouldn’t weather critique and would receive a very poor grade indeed. It’s appalling the director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania signed off on the finding.

Before I go further, I’d like to remind my detractors as well as proponents I have never, neither in writing or orally, demeaned Jonas Noreika’s nor Kazys Škirpa’s devotion to Lithuania from 1941 to 1944. If real, reliable documentary evidence were discovered demonstrating I have made a mistake, for example, regarding Jonas Noreika, I would change my mind. My criticism was and is directed against the criteria for heroization by which the Genocide Center facilely lionizes those who are tainted with the persecution of their Jewish fellow citizens.

AJC Jewish and Proud Campaign

AJC Jewish and Proud Campaign

Dear reader,

I was going to tell you about the importance of being #JewishandProud in the face of rising anti-Semitism.

I was going to try to string together some eloquent words about our responsibilities to our fellow Jews.

I was going to tell you that #JewishandProud is already being used around the world in 28 countries and counting; that it has attracted support and pledges of participation from Hollywood stars, to members of Congress, to British lords.

Find out how you can participate at AJC.org/JewishandProud.

Lithuanian Parliament Hosts Photo Exhibit “Brave Jews in the Battle for Lithuanian Freedom”

Lithuanian Parliament Hosts Photo Exhibit “Brave Jews in the Battle for Lithuanian Freedom”

The Lithuanian parliament is hosting a photo exhibit called “Brave Jews of the Battle for Lithuanian Freedom” in its exihibt space from January 2 to 15. The photo exhibit chronicles Lithuanian Jewish veterans who fought for Lithuanian independence in the run-up to the first republic in 1919, including a large number of officers, recipients of military awards and those who laid down their lives for the new state.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vytis Support Fund organized the photo exhibit. It was inspired by a similar exhibit at Yad Vashem on Austrian Jewish military heroes.

Old Argument Lithuania Guiltless in Holocaust Rehashed

Old Argument Lithuania Guiltless in Holocaust Rehashed

A Lithuanian MP announced December 16 he would draft and submit legislation for a parliamentary resolution declaring the Lithuanian nation or people and the Lithuanian state were not complicit in the Holocaust, since Lithuania was occupied by Nazi Germany at the time upwards of 96% of all Lithuanian Jews were exterminated, mainly at the hands of ethnic Lithuanians.

Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chairman of the parliament’s Commission on Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory, allegedly announced his intention to introduce the legislation at an event at the Lithuanian National Library.

A press report on Lithuania’s 15min.lt website said the idea was reminiscent of Poland’s recent law making it illegal to call Nazi death camps in Poland “Polish.” Gumuliauskas refused to disclose details of the language of the resolution, saying it hadn’t been written yet, and hinted he would not reveal either who his advisors were in writing the document.

It’s My Personal Affair What I Write, Orwellian Genocide Center Historian Claims to Lithuanian Media

It’s My Personal Affair What I Write, Orwellian Genocide Center Historian Claims to Lithuanian Media

Just when the roiling waters surrounding the Noreika controversy in Lithuania started settling, Lithuania’s Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania (abbreviated to Genocide Center among almost all vulgar mortals) has stirred the pot yet again with a new “historical finding” exonerating the Holocaust perpetrator, whom they plainly stated was a Holocaust perpetrator in their earlier “findings.”

Based on a deposition and/or court testimony allegedly made in Chicago in 1984 or 1986 by a Lithuanian Jesuit, the latest finding by Lithuania’s state-funded Holocaust distortion agency says Jonas Noreika set up a network of priests to smuggle Jews out of the Šiauliai ghetto to safety on the farms of sympathetic farmers, and that he was the leader of some mythical anti-Nazi underground resistance movement during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania.

Lithuanian Holocaust distorters in the past, including at the Genocide Center, have dismissed almost all Holocaust survivor testimony as hearsay which cannot be taken at face value without a deep review of the facts. Facts they claim only they are privy to. In actuality, when independent Holocaust researchers conducted studies on Noreika for Grant Gochin’s court case against the Genocide Center for the crime of Holocaust distortion and denial, the Center fired back on their website claiming Gochin’s research was amateurish and “might be” in violation of both the Lithuanian criminal code and the Lithuanian constitution. Gochin’s research, incidentally, turned up testimony by an eye-witness that Jonas Noreika as LAF commander in Žemaitija, the western region of Lithuania, directly issued the command to execute a group of over 1,000 Jews.

Statement by Lithuanian Jewish Community on Erroneous Information about Jonas Noreika Propagated by the Genocide Center

Statement by Lithuanian Jewish Community on Erroneous Information about Jonas Noreika Propagated by the Genocide Center

The Lithuanian Jewish Community strongly condemns irresponsible statements issuing from the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania leading the public into error in connection with the actions of Jonas Noreika as head of the Šiauliai district during World War II.

The statement Jonas Noreika “didn’t understand ghettos were one of the stages of the Holocaust” till the liquidation of the Žagarė ghetto is an example of Holocaust revisionism and denial, committed by a state-funded institution. So-called evidence presented allegedly showing Jonas Noreika organized the rescue of Jews is not based on any facts or testimonies by Holocaust survivors. Does the staff of the Genocide Center really want us to believe they have now found a way to interview Jonas Noreika himself, and can therefore state definitively what he “knew” and “when he knew it?”

Based on Noreika’s actions just in establishing ghettos and selling the property of murdered Jews alone, the Lithuanian Jewish Community states once again, that Jonas Noreika was a Holocaust perpetrator. The LJC reserves the right to take the Genocide Center to court and to seek other legal remedies regarding their on-going speculations on the Holocaust.

If the Genocide Center’s Finding on Noreika Were Student Work, It Would Get a Failing Grade

If the Genocide Center’s Finding on Noreika Were Student Work, It Would Get a Failing Grade

by Rūta Miškinytė, 15min.lt

Following the publication by the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania of a finding compiled by Dalius Egidijus Stancikas on Jonas Noreika’s alleged rescue of Jews from the Holocaust, Lithuanian historians have expressed dissatisfaction with the finding and its methodology. Lithuanian History Institute director Alvydas Nikžentaitis lambasted its uncritical acceptance of sources while Vilnius University History Faculty dean Nerijus Šepetys said the finding was a disgrace to the Genocide Center and highly mendacious.

The Genocide Center Wednesday published the finding claiming controversial figure Jonas Noreika Jonas Noreika engaged in rescuing Jews from the Holocaust and set up a network for doing this. The only piece of evidence offered was an oral testimony from Jesuit priest Jonas Borevičius published in the United States in 1986.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Israeli Ambassador Presents Publication of His Novel in Lithuanian

Israeli Ambassador Presents Publication of His Novel in Lithuanian

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yossi Levy is a veteran novelist with some six titles under his belt in the Hebrew book market. His latest, Love Peddlers (a provisional title since no English translation yet exists), was translated to Lithuanian and published by Sofoklis in Vilnius just recently under the title Meilės preikeiviai, roughly, “Merchants of Love,” certainly a more intriguing if not salacious hook for readers than the classic anti-war work Merchants of Death.

To celebrate the publication, a book launch was held at the Lithuanian National Library, moderated by Litvak author and former director of the Vilna Gaon Museum Markas Zingeris. The format was a sort of back-and-forth loose discussion, with Mr. Zingeris posing questions and thoughts, and Mr. Yossi responding. Unfortunately for whatever reason Markas Zingeris’s voice didn’t carry in the room in Lithuanian or English, so the effect was of some random words and phrases, followed by monologues by the Israeli ambassador which might or might not have addressed the question.

Yossi Levy’s side of the discussion was charming, personal, funny and at times spell-binding. He spoke about himself more than his work, which he said was both autobiographical and not autobiographical. He talked about his diplomatic career, which he said was wholly in Europe, and wondered why he chose Europe, since his family has no roots there. He shared the difficulties of being gay in Israel and elsewhere, and talked about his husband and their child. He also said there was a tension in his life between his role as writer and diplomat. As a writer he was able to explore topics which would be strictly taboo in the diplomatic sphere. As an example, he talked about something he wrote about a Jewish homeland in Europe, loosely centered on present-day southeastern Poland, whence Israeli Jews could be evacuated from the tense situation in the Middle East. “I called one city Tel-Lvov,” he said with a smirk.

Condolences

Condolences

Simonas Dovidavičius passed away December 14. He was deputy chairman of the Kaunas Jewish Community, the founding light and director of the Sugihara House museum in Kaunas, highly educated, a tour guide and a good friend. His loss is a great loss to the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Kaunas Jewish Community. Our condolences to his many friends and loved ones.

Those wishing to bid him farewell may do so at the St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kaunas, Radvilėnų highway no. 15A, Kaunas, on Tuesday, December 17, beginning at 5:00 P.M. He will be buried at noon on December 18 at the Aleksotas Jewish cemetery in Kaunas.