Religion

Jerusalemites: An Interview with Dr. Efraim Zuroff

Jerusalemites: An Interview with Dr. Efraim Zuroff

An occasional series of interviews with notable veterans or more recent olim who have chosen to make their homes in Jerusalem.

by David Olivestone

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is director of the Israel office and chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center which is based in Los Angeles. He has dedicated his life to tracking down and bringing Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to trial. The author of four books translated into 15 languages he is an imposing, warm and vibrant man with an extraordinary memory for names, numbers, dates, facts, places and, of course, history.

Surely no one grows up thinking “I’m going to be a Nazi hunter”. What else might have you become?

I was always tall, so as a kid my fantasy was to be the first Orthodox Jewish professional basketball player. I was on the teams both in high school and in college, but I wasn’t anywhere near good enough, nor could I have remained frum if I had tried to follow my dream. But basketball is still a passion of mine, and I’m a fan and go to Hapoel Yerushalayim games.

What’s your family background?

Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue

Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community invite you to come celebrate Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 6:00 P.M. on September 25. All in attendance will receive our calendar for the new year, 5783.

News from the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

News from the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

As summer came to a close, members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community travelled to Joniškis to see the synagogues there on August 22. Joniškis features two brick-and-mortar synagogues in its town center, built in the 19th century, the White and Red Synagogues. The White Synagogue was used in winter and the Red in summer. The restored synagogues have become a cultural attraction and a symbol of the city.

The interior of the Red Synagogue was recreated and restored with ceiling decorations, painted walls and the aron kodesh where the Torah scrolls were kept. Currently the synagogue houses an exhibit called “The History and Culture of the Jews of the Joniškis Region” which teaches the history of the Joniškis Jewish community before the Holocaust. The White Synagogue is hosting an exhibit using modern museum techniques to show the development of the town of Joniškis and important moments in its history.

After visiting the synagogues, members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community also visited Stonys’s dairy farm where they learned how cheese is made, how different cheeses are produced at the local farm and sampled the farm’s products.

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

by Olga Ugriumova, Lithuanian Radio and Television Russian service

Vilnius publishing house Hubris has published a Lithuanian translation of British writer and early proponent of Zionism Israel Cohen’s book “Vilna.” The author was born in London to a family of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He worked as a correspondent for the Times and the Manchester Guardian in Berlin, and also collaborated with Manchester Evening Chronicle and Jewish World, among many other publications. The book “Vilna” was first published in 1943 by the Jewish Publication Society of America as part of their Jewish Community Series showcasing Jewish communities in various countries for English speakers.

Full article in Russian here.

Publisher’s page here.

Litvak Cultural Forum to Bring Together Culture and History Lovers in Kaunas

Litvak Cultural Forum to Bring Together Culture and History Lovers in Kaunas

Culture enthusiasts are invited to the first Litvak Cultural Forum on September 29 and 30 at the Great Hall at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. The “Office of Memory” event within the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program includes a diverse events program at locations around the city.

Academics, historians, museum and education specialists, people from the world of art and members of different communities–the forum will bring them all together. Many of the visitors will be travelling to the land of their parents, grandparents and ancestors for the first time in their lives to attend the forum asking the vital question of what it means to be a Litvak. The forum’s other axis addresses culture and art as the key to history and commemoration as a path to a better future fostering openness and dialogue.

Office of Memory curator Daiva Price says the forum summarizes efforts and projects under the Kaunas 2022 program which have been going on since 2017.

News from the Kaunas Jewish Community

News from the Kaunas Jewish Community

Every summer members of the Kaunas Jewish Community travel together or separately and enjoy the warm weather and activities, but also visit many of the Holocaust memorials in Kaunas and throughout Lithuania. In August this kind of memorial pilgrimage took us to Prienai, Petrašiūnai and the Fourth Fort, and in early September to Ukmergė and Zapyškis where the “Symphony from the Jerusalem of the North” was performed in memory of the murdered residents of the shtetl and surrounding locations.

We find it keenly important that non-Jews and representatives from local municipal bodies are also involved in organizing these commemorations, and not just members of the Kaunas Jewish Community. They perceive the Holocaust as a shared tragedy, of all citizens, cities, towns and villages. Snapshots below.

Sabbath Times

Sabbath Times

The Sabbath begins at 7:33 P.M. on Friday, September 9, and concludes at 8:43 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.

Snapshots from European Days of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

Snapshots from European Days of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

Our annual series of events to mark the European Days of Jewish Culture saw a good turnout all day Sunday, which turned out to be sunny but framed by clouds. There was cantorial song at synagogue, a tour of Jewish Vilna, a panel discussion on echoes of Jewish culture in modern Lithuania’s cultural scene, we baked challa and slowly cooked the legendary floimen tsimes and there was singing, playing and dancing for all. For some snapshots from different events, concerts, workshops and lectures, see below.

Lithuanian Cinematographer and Cultural Expert Pranas Morkus Has Died

Lithuanian Cinematographer and Cultural Expert Pranas Morkus Has Died

The Lithuanian Jewish Community mourns the death of the famous Lithuanian filmmaker and cultural scientist Pranas Morkus (1938-2022) and we extend our most sincere and deepest condolences to his family members and friends.

Morkus was born February 18, 1938, in Klaipėda to the family of theater actress Galina Yatskevich. From 1955 to 1957 he was a student at the Lomonosov Philology Department of Moscow State University, and from 1957 to 1960 at the History and Philology Faculties of Vilnius University.

From 1962 to 1964 he was attended the highest-level courses for scriptwriters and directors in Moscow. He was a member of the Lithuanian Union of Cinematographers. From 1960 to 1962 he was editor-in-chief of radio theater for the Television Radio Committee of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, and from 1968 to 1970 he served as editor-in-chief for the creative body Lietuvos Telefilmas.

A Cry to Heaven

A Cry to Heaven

Photo: Jewish nursery school in Plungė, Lithuania. Almost no Jewish children survived in Lithuania. Photo source: Screenshot from the documentary J’Accuse

Renowned cantors unite to give their voices to Baltic Truth premiere

There were very few survivors from Lithuania. In the villages, there were almost none. We know what happened in some locations because we have testimonies from some survivors.

Yakov Zak testified about the Lithuanian Holocaust: “The rabbi of Kelmė, Kalmen Benushevits, who had escaped to Vaiguva at the outbreak of the war, had been brought together with the Jews from Vaiguva. He had been forced to kneel next to the pit the entire day. He had quietly whispered a prayer, watching while the Jews were shot. After all the Jews were shot, he was shot as well.”

And:

“The mystic religious melodies of the yeshiva students, their rabbis and leaders were eternally silenced. The town was ruined down to the foundations; the Jewish community of Kelmė was ruined forever. Peasants also related that while the yeshiva students were being taken to be shot, they did not weep. Like stone statues, they moved slowly, with their eyes raised to the sky, murmuring prayers.”

European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

This year will be the seventh the Lithuanian Jewish Community is holding events for the European Days of Jewish Culture. This year’s theme is renewal.

Renewal is woven into almost all aspects of Jewish life. Jewish life is continually building on the past in new ways, bringing a sense of constant change along with a reassuring sense of continuity. The Jewish New Year opens with the festivals of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. These holy days through their traditions and prayers present an opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge our past actions while looking ahead with new resolutions, optimism and determination. During this period we reconcile personal and communal differences within ourselves and with others as we actively strive to renew our aspirations for the coming year, and beyond.

We invite you to attend the events, all of which are free and open to the public.

Register here, space is limited.

Program:

Last Summer Sabbath Dance

Last Summer Sabbath Dance

Come to celebrate the last sabbath of the summer at the Cvi Park Israeli food kiosk with Israeli dancing. The event starts at 6:00 P.M. on Friday, August 26. The event is free and open to the public.

Thousands Gather for Jerusalem Funeral of Shas Spiritual Leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen

Thousands Gather for Jerusalem Funeral of Shas Spiritual Leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen

Police and emergency services spread out in force along procession’s route in the capital; event expected to disrupt traffic

Thousands of people are now taking part in the Jerusalem funeral of Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party’s spiritual leader.

Police are spread out in force along the funeral procession’s route from the Porat Yosef Yeshiva that he led in Jerusalem’s Geula neighborhood toward the Sanhedria cemetery.

Traffic disturbances are expected.

Large numbers of emergency personnel are also on hand. Magen David Adom has urged attendees to bring water, avoid crowding and refrain from climbing on roofs or poles to get a better view.

Full story here.

Dybbuk Exhibit in Jerusalem

Dybbuk Exhibit in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Theater Archive and Museum is hosting an exhibit to mark the 100th anniversary of the staging of S. An-sky’s “Dybbuk” at the Habima Theater in Moscow. The exhibit opened August 8 at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, according to Birobaidzhaner Shtern.

An-sky’s “Dybbuk, or, Between Two Worlds” was written in Yiddish. The Moscow production was translated to Hebrew by Evgeny Vakhtangov and Haim-Nahman Bialik. The Vilner Troupe presented the play in Yiddish in Warsaw in 1920, directed by Dovid Herman. The Polish film “Dybbuk” directed by Michał Waszyński was shot in 1937 and marks the birth of Yiddish cinema. The Hebrew-language production in Moscow, however, is considered special because its success became a kind of calling card for Habima, which in turn eventually became the National Theater of Israel.

Full article in Yiddish here.