News

AJC Delegation Visits Vilnius and Meets Foreign Minister

January 17, 2018, Vilnius–An AJC leadership delegation has concluded a two-day visit to Lithuania.

The delegation led by AJC CEO David Harris had excellent meetings with foreign minister Linas Linkevicius; speaker of parliament Viktoras Pranckietis; U.S. ambassador Anne Hall; Israeli deputy chief of mission Efrat Hochstetler and Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, an AJC partner organization.

After the meeting foreign minister Linkevicius expressed via twitter his gratitude to AJC for being “the first Jewish organization to firmly support Lithuania’s fight for freedom.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania also published a press release about the meeting.

AJC also had the opportunity to meet privately over dinner with a group of parliamentarians, former cabinet officials, other prominent Lithuanian leaders and ambassador Hall, organized by Emanuelis Zingeris, a seven-term member of parliament, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and long-time friend of AJC.

We Remember

The World Jewish Congress has launched this initiative for the second year in a row, with active participation by the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The campaign runs from January 8 to January 27, 2018. To be part of it, take a photo of yourself holding the inscription “We Remember” or “I remember” and post it on social media with the hashtag #WeRemember.

The campaign will run through International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the end of January, culminating with a live projection of all participant photos, interviews with Holocaust survivors, and messages from influencers from varied backgrounds, professions, ages and religions on the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau January 24 to January 27.

Last year the initiative had 25 million participants around the world.

Full story here.

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.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Meets AJC Director

“The creation and consolidation of the Lithuanian state 100 years ago would have been inconceivable without the contribution made by Jews. We respect Jewish traditions and celebrate the Jewish heritage,” Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius said in a meeting with American Jewish Committee director David Harris.

The meeting at the Foreign Ministry on January 17, 2018, included Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Participants discussed trans-Atlantic relations, European Union policy in the Middle East, Lithuanian-Israeli relations and plans to celebrate in meaningful way the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Lithuanian state together with ethnic minorities. The foreign minister also said Lithuania truly appreciates the activities of the AJC right up to the present day, and the AJC’s support for the development of Lithuanian democracy. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and embassies and consulates maintain regular contact with US and global Jewish organizations.

The AJC actively supports democratic change in Eastern and Central Europe. It was the first Jewish organization to support the recognition of Lithuanian independence, and NATO expansion. This year the AJC again reminded the world of the Lithuanian tragedy of January 13, 1991, saying that although Lithuania paid for it at great price in terms of blood and health, the Baltic nation paved the way for freedom and destroyed the Soviet Union.

The AJC opened an Eastern European office in Warsaw in 2017 in order to maintain close relations with the Baltic and Vyshegrad countries and their Jewish communities.

Information courtesy of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, www.urm.lt

Commemorative Chess Tournament

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will host a special chess tournament in honor of world champion Emanuel Lasker at 3:00 P.M., Sunday, January 21. FIDE master Boris Rositsan will direct the tournament. For more information, email info@metbor.lt or call +370 6 55 43 556.

On Kaunas, Sugihara and Lithuanian-Japanese Relations Past and Present


by Simonas Jazavita
Bernardinai.lt

Lithuania came under the Japanese media spotlight January 14. The small Sugihara museum on Vaižganto street became known to Japanese, but also to readers of major papers in Israel, the USA, France and other countries. Prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe found the time on his tour of Eastern and Central Europe to visit this museum which showcases Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara who worked here, in the provisional capital of Lithuania, in 1939 and 1949 and saved the lives of over 6,000 Jews.

Just because of Sugihara’s story, Kaunas and Lithuania are becoming a nice place dear to Japanese people. It’s not a coincidence that Abe’s portraits in the global media are often taken in Kaunas, even though he visited Latvia and Estonia first. If we make use of that historical tie, we could bring more of Japan’s attention to bear upon us rather than towards our neighbors, and make the tie stronger.

Full story in Lithuanian 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.

New Series of Seven Lessons Begins at Choral Synagogue

The first of seven lessons in the “Oh My G_d” series kicked off Sunday at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius with 40 people attending. They discussed the topic “How can we know G_d exists?” Seminar organizer and moderator Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky engaged the majority of people at the seminar and drew them into the discussion with his passion and characteristic sense of humor.

The main topics of discussion were:

– Is belief based on reason or blind faith?
– What sort of proof is there that G_d exists?
– What are the arguments of atheists?
– Is atheism more rational than belief?

Participants lingered after the formal lesson ended, discussing and spending time with one another, and were treated to cakes and fruit brought by Rebbetzin Dina.

The “Oh My G_d” series of seminars will now include seven classes. The next seminar’s topic will be “Are there logical proofs G_d exists” with the following subtopics for discussion:

– Whence does belief in G_d arise?
– Is there rational proof G_d exists?
– Is it more rational to believe on G_d the Creator, or something else?

All are welcome at the next, the second seminar, at 4:30 P.M. on Sunday, January 21 at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Both men and women are encouraged to come. The seminar will last approximately one hour.

Discussion on Maintaining Žaliakalnis Jewish Cemetery in Kaunas

Work has begun on restoring a monument to Holocaust victims at the mass grave at the Žaliakalnis Jewish cemetery in Kaunas. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, representatives of the Kaunas municipality, Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas, LJC heritage specialist Martynas Užpelkis and architect, designer and museum specialist Victoria Sideraitė-Alon met to discuss the issue, after which they visited Sugihara House and its new exhibit “Casablanca North: Kaunas 1939-1940” on the newly renovated second floor of the museum with a guided tour by Sugihara House director Simonas Dovidavičius.

Sugihara House is also exhibiting a show and film about Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved about 20,0000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

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.

Condolences

The Lithuanian Jewish Community express our sincerest condolences on the death of Arkadijus Vinokuras’s mother.

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.

Classes Begin January 14 at Choral Synagogue

A series of six lessons kicks off at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius beginning 4:30 P.M., Sunday, January 14, 2018. The six lessons will take place on consequetive Sundays at the same time and place. This is an opportunity to learn about the unique nature of Judaism. Discussions will be led by Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky in a language or languages appropriate to the audience. Both women and men are encouraged to attend. See you there!

Japanese PM Abe to Visit Sugihara House in Kaunas


Photo of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara and an old Japanese flag on display at the Sugihara House Museum in Kaunas which housed the Japanese Consulate from 1939 to 1940. Photo: AFP-JIJI

KAUNAS, LITHUANIA–A Japanese diplomat who saved 6,000 European Jews from the Holocaust by issuing visas so they could escape war-torn Lithuania will be hailed by Japan’s prime minister decades after defying Tokyo to help the refugees.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe will pay tribute to Chiune Sugihara on Sunday when he visits the two-story building that housed the consulate where he worked in the Baltic state’s second city Kaunas.

Sugihara is thought to be among around 15 diplomats who issued visas to European Jews during World War II and is often called “Japan’s Schindler”–a reference to German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.

Launch of Lithuanian Book about Israel

Thursday evening the Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted the launch of Živilė Juonytė’s new book “Izraelis ir jo žmonės. Viena šalis. Daug veidų” [Israel and Its People: One Country, Many Faces]. Juonytė and the LJC’s new liaison for social media Viktorija Pajarskė formed a small panel for a brief Q&A session after the author described her experience of Israel as an exchange student there for one year and in trips made after that. Juonytė said she wanted to portray Israel differently from that of the media, which paint a picture of conflict. Juonytė was the editor of the Bagel Shop Newsletter before her trip to Israel and now works for the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. The softcover 200-page octavo, A5 book (ISBN 978-6098-105-41-4) is full of color photographs on glossy paper and costs 12 euros from the publisher, Aukso pieva.