Religion

Concert to Celebrate 70 Years of Israeli Statehood

The Choral Synagogue in Vilnius will host a concert to celebrate 70 years of Israeli statehood beginning at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, May 27, 2018. Notable Lithuanian musicians will perform Jewish songs and melodies. The event is free and open to the public.

Happy Birthday to Professor Pinchos Fridberg!

Our best wishes go out to Holocaust survivor, resident of Vilnius, Jewish intellectual, doctor habil. of physics, author of numerous articles, great Yiddish speaker and true Jewish and Litvak patriot Pinchos Fridberg!

We wish you the best health, patience, much happiness, more smiles and a care-free life filled with gentleness and happiness. Your sense of humor is endless and ironic, and everyone has greatly enjoyed your Motke Chabad stories published in Obzor.

Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

March of the Living 2018 at Ponar

For the eleventh time now in Lithuania the March of the Living walked the route from the Ponar train station to the Ponar Memorial Complex to commemorate the Jews murdered there. Among the marchers were Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman and Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moshe Šapiro. Other participants included Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius, Lithuanian ambassador to Israel Edminas Bagdonas and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, as well as members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, students from the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium, members of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel and Holocaust survivors Fania Brancovskaja and Sameul Bak.

The Lithuanian foreign minister, the Israel ambassador, representatives of the Vilnius mayor’s office, the LJC and former ghetto and concentration camp prisoners among others laid wreaths at a monument in the center of the Ponar Memorial Complex to the accompaniment of violin music.

Fania Brancovskaja spoke: “Ponar was a murder machine where from 1941 to 1943 before Vilnius was liberated from Nazi occupation murder was carried out continuously. Seventy-thousand Jews were murdered in Ponar just because they were Jews, all that remains of them is ashes mixed with sand. Not many of us are left, but we are here. I am one of those who went through the entire ghetto and please, do not forget them. As long as we live, we ask you to pass on the information to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren so that they do not forget the victims who died.”

Europe Day Celebration in Kalvarija, Lithuania

The Kalvarija Public Library held events to celebrate Europe Day on May 9, 2018. Historian Alvydas Totoris led a large group on a tour of Jewish features surviving in the small Lithuanian town. The walking tour concluded at the large synagogue complex in Kalvarija where there was an exhibit of old photographs of the city.

More information in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian Parliament Names 2020 the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History

“We praise the Lithuanian parliament’s unanimous decision to announce the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the History of the Jews of Lithuania in 2020. We appreciate this initiative was discussed with the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

“We consider this significant and a continuation of Lithuania’s pledge to take into consideration the history of the Jews of Lithuania and to pay it sufficient attention at the national level,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky commented.

The parliament, taking into account that in 2020 we will mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon, Eliyu ben Salaman Zalman, the great Lithuanian rabbi and the leader of the Litvak misnagdim school of thought, resolved to name 2020 the Year of the Vilna Gaon and of Lithuanian Jewish History. A total of 92 MPs voted unanimously in favor of parliamentary resolution No. XIIIP-1289(3) to name this commemorative year.

The resolution emphasizes Lithuanian Jews are an indivisible part of Lithuanian society from the time of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and have contributed significantly to the development of Lithuanian statehood, history, culture and learning.

This decision celebrates the more than 700 years of Lithuanian Jewish history as an inalienable part of Lithuanian history and deepens ties with the Lithuanian state among Jews living in Lithuania and those who have moved abroad.

The Lithuanian parliament proposed the Government form a commission for celebrating the Year of the Vilna Gaon and of the History of the Jews of Lithuania which would by February 1, 2019, draft a plan and series of measures for marking the year, and allocate funds for implementing the plan.

Discussion on How to Protect Disappearing Jewish Heritage in Kaunas

Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky have visited the former Kaunas Hassidic synagogue now falling into ruin. They toured the building together with Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department Kaunas chapter senior state inspector Andrius Liakas, Vilnius Art Academy Kaunas faculty professor and Kaunas city council member Jonas Audėjaitis and others. The Vilnius Art Academy currently manages the property.

Participants discussed how to protect the Hassidic synagogue, an example of authentic Jewish heritage which is fast disappearing. Chairman Žakas and other members of the Kaunas Jewish Community presented to the parliamentary speaker the current needs of the Kaunas community and the need for a functioning synagogue. This synagogue was built in 1880 and following restoration would be one of only a handful of working synagogues in Lithuania, serving the religious and cultural needs of the local Jewish community. The Kaunas Jewish Community is the second largest Jewish community in Lithuania with more than 300 members.

Lost Shtetl Museum Construction Begins


Photo: Gintaras Šiuparys

A ceremony was held Friday to mark the beginning of construction work on the Lost Shtetl museum in Šeduva, Lithuania. The museum will be a completely new kind of experience using modern technology to present the history and culture of and to commemorate the former Litvak shtetl.

Marija Dautartaitė delivered a welcome on behalf of Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė, followed by speeches by speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis, prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, foreign minister Linas Linkevičius, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum director Markas Zingeris, US ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall, Finnish ambassador to Lithuania Christer Michelson, genealogist and education Eli Rabinowitz from South Africa and Australia, Holocaust film director Saulius Beržinis and Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund founder and museum project manager Sergey Kanovich.

Also attending were ambassadors and heads of mission from the embassies of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, France, Germany, Russia and Romania, as well as members of the municipal and regional governments and interested citizens from all parts of Lithuania.

Lag baOmer 2018

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community held a picnic/barbecue celebration of Lag baOmer at Didžiulis Lake May 3. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Rabbi Shalom Ber Krinsky and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon attended.

Lag baOmer is the holiday of the unity of the Jewish people and usually includes fun and games, singing and dancing and prayers to the Creator. Bonfires are lit at night. The most important celebration takes place with the lighting of a bonfire above the tomb of Simeon bar Yochai in Meron in Upper Galilee in Israel. The light from the fire is meant to recall the Sefer haZohar, or Book of Splendor, the earliest written work in the Kabbalah tradition whose authorship is ascribed to the tannaitic sage.

The book sheds great light on the wisdom of the Torah, about which King Solomon said: “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is a light.” And according to the prophet Jeremiah, the Creator says: “Is not my word like as a fire?”

Lag baOmer Celebration

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community invite you to come celebrate Lag baOmer, the day of the unity of the Jewish people, at the fort next to the A1 Vilnius-Kaunas freeway 1 kilometer from Grigiškės at 6:00 P.M. on May 3. There will be music, a barbecue and activities for children including trampolines, face painting and shooting bows and arrows.

Kaunas Jewish Community Invites You to Unveiling of Mapu Statue

A presentation and ceremony to unveil a statue to commemorate Abraham Mapu will be held at 5:00 P.M. on May 3 in Kaunas. The ceremony will take place in the courtyard of the Ars et Mundus art gallery located at A. Mapu street no. 20 in Kaunas. The sculptor was Martynas Gaubas. The event will include Jewish music. Ars et Mundus is the author of the project and Artkomas and the Kaunas Jewish Community are partners.

Israeli Ambassador Celebrates Sabbath with Kaunas Jewish Community

Last Friday Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon celebrated Sabbath with the Kaunas Jewish Community. Everyone was impressed by the ambassador’s warmth, informal communication, good mood, improving skills in the Lithuanian language and his vocal abilities.

Ambassador Maimon said he found a happy, family atmosphere in Kaunas which he often misses on Friday evenings in Lithuania and shared his nostalgia for Sabbath in Israel, where you don’t have to consult the calendar to know the day has come.

Old Užupis Jewish Cemetery Renovation Proposals

The Vilnius municipality is preparing proposals for renovating the old Užupis Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. The municipality’s planning agency Vilnius Plan has hired architect Victoria Sideraitė-Alon for this purpose and she has performed an examination of the territory and has provided proposals on how best to showcase fragments of headstones desecrated by the Soviets.

Sideraitė-Alon’s creative group (Samuel Bak is the author of the main symbol, A. Šimanauskas is the creator/designer, A. Perelmuter is the Israeli architect and consultant) has proposed a project called Arch, which was unanimously approved by an international advisory group on heritage issues established at the Lithuanian Jewish Community and by artists and intellectuals including P. Morkus, M. Ivaškevičius, S. Beržinis, S. Valius and by the Jewish Religious Community and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

The Arch project proposal has not received the approval of the Vilnius Plan agency, which instead proposed a different project to commemorate the road blazed through the cemetery during the Soviet era, actually more of a ditch, called Kirkuto alley, but without any monument carrying a deeper semantic or emotional content. Instead, the alternate proposal is for arranging the headstones and fragments, more or less appearing now as stairs, in an artificial layer of soil above the parking lot where they are now housed to create the effect of a small “Jewish” graveyard there.

Public Notice

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has learned from media reports Kalev (Calev) Krelin, who was born and lived in Moscow, is carrying on activities in Lithuania presenting himself as Chief Rabbi of Lithuania, or at least he is being presented as such.

We would like to inform the public the office of chief rabbi was abolished several years ago as the hiring of new rabbis was taking place, and Kalev Krelin was never appointed to that office. At the current time there are no contractual ties between this person and the LJC or the Lithuanian Jewish Religious Community, and we give notice Kalev Krelin has no legal basis to act in the name of the LJC. Likewise, the LJC is not responsible in any way for agreements made by this person nor for the legal consequences arising from such agreements.

Healthy Living according to the Torah

Natalja Cheifec presents a new lecture in Lithuanian on the Torah’s attitude towards medicine and human health.

You will hear about:

–Maimonides’s 33 suggestions for remaining healthy into old age;
–the connection between physical and spiritual health;
–does the Jewish worldview have a place for vegetarianism?

and much, much more about how to avoid illness and preserve common sense.

The lecture is to take place at 6:00 P.M. on April 18 on the second floor of the LJC. Admission is free but registration is requested via internet at goo.gl/JbypwU

Užupis Jewish Cemetery Commemorative Monument Proposal Approved by LJC Advisory Group


The heritage issues advisory group of the Lithuanian Jewish Community has learned of plans for renovating the Užupis Jewish cemetery tendered by the Vilnius municipality and a composition called Arch made of desecrated headstone fragments used as stairs during the Soviet era.

The international creative team behind the Arch are architect Viktorija Sideraitė Alon, creator/designer Albinas Šimanauskas and Israeli architect consultant Anna Perelmuter. The composition uses a symbol created by the Litvak American painter Samuel Bak.

The heritage issues advisory group of the Lithuanian Jewish Community helps solve outstanding Lithuanian Jewish heritage issues professionally and effectively. The group includes Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, POLIN Polish Jewish museum advisor to the director and senior curator of exhibits; Assumpció Hosta, general secretary of the AEPJ; writer Sergejus Kanovičius, founder of Maceva and the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund; professor James E. Young of University of Massachusetts, Near Eastern Studies, English, Judaism; Samuel Kassow, doctor of philosophy, POLIN senior researcher specializing in 19th century history and the history between the world wars; Lyudmila Sholokhova, PhD, YIVO director of archives and library; and Sergey Kravtsov, senior researcher, Jewish Art Center, Hebrew University.

Experts unanimously supported the artists’ idea for commemorating the Jewish cemetery and offered a number of useful suggestions and observations which will be taken into consideration.

This week members of the advisory group plan to discuss the project proposals with the mayor and city administration specialists.

Later the project ideas and visualizations will be presented to the public.

Israel At 70

by AJC CEO David Harris

Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary this month. Let me put my cards on the table — I’m not dispassionate when it comes to Israel.

For centuries, Jews around the world prayed for a return to Zion. We are the lucky ones who have seen those prayers answered.

The establishment of the state in 1948; the fulfillment of its envisioned role as home and haven for Jews from anywhere and everywhere; its wholehearted embrace of democracy and the rule of law; and its impressive scientific, cultural, and economic achievements are extraordinary accomplishments.

Film “My Vilnius” at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community began marking Yom haShoa with a screening of the documentary film “My Vilnius” about centuries-old Jewish Vilna life snuffed out in the Holocaust.

Directors Saulius Beržinis and Vytautas Gradeckas and photographer Rimantas Dichavičius attended the screening on April 10. The soundtrack featured works by composer Anatolijus Šenderovas. At the same event an exhibit of works by graphic designer Ovidijus Talijūnas was also launched. Called “Manologas,” each picture features a letter of the Yiddish alphabet and an interpretation of the letter’s meaning.

The images of a lost world on screen with all the people, buildings, cemeteries and synagogues reminded the audience Vilnius was the Jerusalem of Lithuania before the Holocaust, sometimes called the spiritual center of Jewry. With that in mind, we listened intently on the eve of Holocaust Day, Yom haShoa, to photographer Rimantas Dichavičius who managed to capture something of what left after the Holocaust in Vilnius, namely, the Jewish cemetery on Olandų street destroyed in 1965.

Headstones were used as construction material and over the decades the approximately 10-hectare territory was overgrown with bushes and trees. The territory is currently being put in order and should feature a monument soon.

LJC Holds Passover Camp

The Lithuanian Jewish Community offered children on school vacation the chance to attend a Passover camp. For three days boys and girls participated in events, under the supervision of camp counselors and teachers, including chemistry experiments, making Jewish souvenirs, dance classes, learning “Lego engineering” and a tour of Jewish sites in Vilnius.

Television personality Karina German and Nikita Jusupovas participated at the closing ceremony April 5.

Some of the thoughts among parents, children and camp counselors:

Viljamas: “It’s very good the community holds these kinds of camps during vacation. My children–I have two–enthusiastically participate in these programs. It’s important children get more information about their culture and traditions. I myself grew up in the community, and I think we see a continuity of events and activities, when children attend Jewish community camps. It’s very important for us to preserve our traditions and culture. I am a professional guide. My mission is to teach my children about history, heritage the culture of Lithuanian Jews. Today I told my children the story of ORT and we walked around Jewish Vilnius. The children liked it. I’m hoping they’ll want to learn more about the history of our city in the future as well.”

Passover Greetings from Former Prime Minister

Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania

Honored chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Faina Kukliansky,

I sincerely greet you personally and the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the occasion of the holiday of Passover.

The recollection of the remarkable pages of Jewish history allow us to take joy in the achievements which have been achieved over its long journey.

The liberation from the yoke of slavery in Egypt occupies a special place.

The holiday of Passover allows us to understand the value of the price of freedom and that the unity of the nation, of the community, is an essential precondition for not losing that freedom.

I greet the members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community a great holiday, in the spirit of joint effort and forgiveness towards one another.

With great honor and good wishes,

[signed]

Gediminas Kirkilas, chairman of the European Affairs Committee, deputy speaker of parliament

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates Passover

Armed with a festive mood members of the Kaunas Jewish Community met for one of the happiest times of the year to commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people from the Land of Egypt and to celebrate the coming of spring during Passover. There was a musical program and a quiz to test knowledge of holiday traditions. The winners–Filomena Jančiuvienė, Raja Verblinskienė and Robertas Baltusevičius–received health-care products as prizes. It was endlessly good to see how warmly members got along and how much fun we all had together, without regard to age.

Beloved and much-missed Fayerlakh musicians Michailas and Leonardas helped put the icing on the cake and seemed willing to play till dawn.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community Social Programs Department and the Goodwill Foundation financed the event.