News

AJC Concerned over BDS Boost from EU Court’s Labeling Decision, Calls for Deeper EU-Israel Ties

AJC Concerned over BDS Boost from EU Court’s Labeling Decision, Calls for Deeper EU-Israel Ties

Brussels, November 12, 2019–The AJC Transatlantic Institute regrets today’s EU Court of Justice decision mandating the labeling of Israeli foodstuffs produced beyond the Green Line. The ruling will likely be instrumentalized by those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state, which is why it’s now more urgent than ever to deepen the mutually beneficial EU-Israel ties.

“As supporters of a negotiated two-state solution, we believe that discriminatory labeling won’t help to advance peace. The weaponization of EU consumer protection law will complicate finding an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, which can only succeed in the diplomatic – not the judicial – arena,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, the Brussels-based EU Office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

“The blunt instrument of across-the-board labeling doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the conflict as, for instance, the rules also apply to the settlement blocs adjacent to the Green Line, which will remain Israeli in any conceivable future peace deal. What’s more, labeling is even mandated in the Golan Heights, a territory that has no connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and luckily is no longer under the control of the murderous Assad regime and his Iranian and Russian accomplices,” Schwammenthal said.

Survey of Anti-Semitism in the European Union

Dear friends and colleagues,

Tomorrow, 81 years ago, the Nazi regime ordered a concentrated pogrom against Jewish communities. At least 91 Jews were murdered, hundreds of synagogues were burnt down and thousands of Jewish-owned businesses and houses were looted. Krytasllnacht or the Night of Broken Glass would be remembered as the beginning of the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews. More than 75 years after the Holocaust some prefer to think anti-Semitism has been banished from our societies, yet as we witness again and again violence and murder inspired by a hatred of Jews, we can see that anti-Semitism remains deeply ingrained in Europe. The anti-Semitic attack last month on the synagogue in Halle, Germany, once again reminded us anti-Semitism remains a threat to our European values and that we must remember we have responsibilities arising from our shared history.

World Sabbath Celebration November 15

World Sabbath Celebration November 15

The Vilnius Jewish Religious Community invites you to take part in the Shabbat Project’s 2019 global sabbath celebration November 15, starting at 4:00 P.M. at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Come celebrate the sabbath together with millions of Jews around the world. Sabbath favorites will be served following the service.

South Africa’s Rabbi Warren Goldstein began the global sabbath celebrations in 2013. The goal of the international project is to bring Jews around the world together, to remind them of our roots and to get them involved in the community.

City of Vilnius Again Promises to Remove School from Great Synagogue Site

City of Vilnius Again Promises to Remove School from Great Synagogue Site

The newspaper Kauno Diena reports the Vilnius city council has voted to raze and remove a brick school building from the Great Synagogue archaeological site in the Lithuanian capital.

The school built 55 years ago hasn’t been in operation for several years but is being rented by 10 renters, following an earlier announcement by the city of Vilnius it would be completely removed. The city’s promise of the imminent removal of the school has become a standing joke among the team of international archaeologists who have been conducting digs every summer there for five years.

Lithuanian news report here.

Vil, Nor Goen: Lithuanian Mint to Issue 10 Euro Vilna Gaon Coin

Vil, Nor Goen: Lithuanian Mint to Issue 10 Euro Vilna Gaon Coin

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.

Condolences

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community mourns the death of the mother of member Zinaida Barienė and sends its deepest condolences. We wish strength for the entire family at this difficult time.

Remembering the Great Aktion in Kaunas

Remembering the Great Aktion in Kaunas

The Kaunas Jewish Community conducted the sad annual commemoration of the Great Aktion in Kaunas at the end of October. The largest single mass-murder episode in the Holocaust in Lithuania, the Great Aktion was the murder of around 10,000 people in a 24-hour period at the Ninth Fort on October 28 and 29, 1941. “Aktion” is the word the Nazis applied to their mass murder operations.

Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community unveiled a stele or stone marker this year dedicated to preserving the memory of the Kaunas ghetto ältestenrat, or council of elders. The stele was commissioned by the city of Kaunas.

A survivor, Fruma Kučinskienė, spoke about the council, its head Elchanan Elkes and her memory of undergoing the selection of victims for the Great Aktion by the war criminal Helmut Rauca on Democrat Square in the ghetto. Rauca was discovered living in Canada after the war where he ran a resort.

It is believed the 10,000 or so victims included around 4,300 children.

Condolences

Saida Mazu passed away October 28. She was born in 1941. Our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Condolences

The sad news has reached us Ričardas Baltusevičius passed away on October 25. He was born in 1965. Our deepest condolences to his brother Robertas and his family and friends.

Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis Was Neither Exonerated Nor Rehabilitated

Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis Was Neither Exonerated Nor Rehabilitated

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.

Rule of Law? Not Funny

Rule of Law? Not Funny

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

Today’s Lithuania has utterly failed to give birth to political visionaries prepared to replace society’s erroneous tolerance of legal nihilism. What other explanation could there be for president Gitanas Nausėda’s reluctance to criticize the wanton behavior of the nationalists? It seems the state has been encompassed by legal paralysis again, just as in the “good old days” of the violet criminals [apparently a reference to a pedophilia scandal in Lithuania–translator].

It requires exceptional courage to change society’s flawed tenets. Especially when a portion of citizens consumed by fear still seek strength from Lithuania’s authoritarian past.

Looking back over 30 years of Lithuanian society’s process of becoming freer, one cannot fail to see this process has become stuck. Over these years no Lithuanian political party has been able to look directly without fear at Lithuanian history in the bloody years from 1941 to 1944. No political party has been able to offer an alternative to the pre-war authoritarian nationalism which holds no respect for the principles of the legal state and the rule of law.

AJC Hosts Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius in Washington

AJC Hosts Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius in Washington

At an American Jewish Committee (AJC) reception, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius was praised for his efforts to correct the narrative around Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust.

Earlier this summer, Šimašius oversaw two important decisions regarding Holocaust memory in Lithuania. The first was changing the name of a street honoring Kazys Skirpa, founder of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) resistance organization, and the second was removing a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika, an anti-Soviet fighter who was responsible for the imprisonment of Šiauliai Jews and seizure of their property during the Holocaust.

Happy birthday to Gita Grinmanienė!

Happy birthday to Gita Grinmanienė!

Congratulations to Gita Grinmanienė Zimanaitė on her 80th birthday. Gita – Member of the Alliance Committee and Council of Former Ghetto and concentration camp prisoners . The Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) community is well acquainted with the Gita as an active member of the community.

Gita survived the Holocaust. She was rescued from the Kaunas (Kovno) ghetto by Lithuanian family.

Dear Gita, when you look back over 80 years, we hope that your memories are warm ones. When you celebrate today, we hope that your heart is filled with love and joy. When you look forward to the future, we wish that all your dreams and wishes come true.

Mazel tov! Live to 120!

Photos from the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot Celebration at the LJC

Photos from the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot Celebration at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invited members and members of the Gesher, Kavaret and Rikudey Am Clubs as well as students from the Raimondas Savickas Art Studio and from the Community’s Hebrew classes to come celebrate two holidays–Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot–at once on October 10. Žana Skudovičienė organized and conducted the festivities, delivering a thank-you speech at the beginning to the heads of the clubs, studio and classes. Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky gave holiday greetings to all participants and spoke about the preceding year, 5779, saying the Community had a lot to be proud of but that there is always room for improvement. The performance by the Fayerlakh group enhanced the evening and made it complete.

Nine of Ten American Jews Worried Anti-Semitism Rising

Nine of Ten American Jews Worried Anti-Semitism Rising

Photo: a person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The overwhelming majority in an AJC poll of over 1,200 Jewish respondents across political and religious lines see Jew-hatred as a problem

Some nine out of 10 Jews in the United States believe anti-Semitism is a problem in the country, with widespread fear that it is on the rise, according to a recent survey by the American Jewish Committee. The survey is the largest and most comprehensive conducted among Jews on the topic of Jew-hatred in the US to date.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents to the AJC poll said anti-Semitism was a “very serious problem” and 50% said it was “somewhat of a problem” — adding up to 88%. Eighty-four percent said that anti-Semitism has increased over the last five years; 43% said that it increased a lot over that time span.

Congratulations to Avital Libman, Runner-Up Lithuanian Miss Universe

Avital Libman has become first runner-up in the Miss Universe Lithuania contest. Well done! We’re proud of Avital. She’s beautiful and courageous, and during the contest she said that she’s still at school but during her free time she volunteers for the Jewish community. The Lithuanian Jewish Community congratulates Avital and we wish her all the best, further achievements in school and future contests, and that her dreams come true.

Faina Kukliansky Proposes Special Attention Be Paid to Anti-Semitic Crimes

Faina Kukliansky Proposes Special Attention Be Paid to Anti-Semitic Crimes

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky says in light of increasing anti-Semitic graffiti recently the Lithuanian criminal code could be expanded to include acts of vandalism against Jews.

“Anti-Semitism is assigned a special article in the criminal code in Britain. I don’t know whether anyone in Lithuania is making graffiti against Tatars. But the swastika is a thing which recalls the Holocaust during which the community was exterminated. So it’s clear these crimes need to be taken care of. If we are given such exceptional treatment from the anti-Semite camp, then perhaps we should be given special treatment by the state as well,” she said.

Justice minister Elvinas Jankevičius says the criminal code currently allows for bringing to criminal account the sowing of ethnic or religious discord, and that such law would be excessive. Kukliansky told BNS there were five such incidents over the past month in Vilnius, Šiauliai and the Kaunas region, with swastikas, crossed-out stars of David and the vandalization of a statue in Šiauliai honoring 20th century industrialist Chaim Frenkel.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Come Celebrate Simchat Torah

Come Celebrate Simchat Torah

This marks the end of the Jewish New Year cycle. On the 23rd of Tishrei we celebrate the last but happiest of the New Year holidays, Simchat Torah. The name itself says this is a day we should be happy together. Simchat Torah is a holiday symbolizing the unity of our people, independent of age or religiosity. Simchat Torah is the day we realize we are one family, sharing the bond of faith and love of the Most High.

We wish you a happy and joyful 5780 in the name of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community and the Lithuanian Jewish Religious Association. Everyone is invited to carrying of the Torah and a shared meal at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 7:00 P.M. on October 21.

Faina Kukliansky, Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky and Simas Levinas

Correction

Correction

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.