Kalvarija Municipality to Renovate Synagogue Complex

Vilnius, April 2, BNS–Leaders from the Lithuanian municipality of Kalvarija have decided not to break off an agreement on the utilization of the synagogue complex there as they had planned and are considering how to continue with renovation, following a meeting with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department.

Financing pathways using EU structural funds were presented to municipal leaders at the meeting with discussion of financing from the Cultural Heritage Department as well.

Under the project drafted by the LJC several years ago, the total cost of work to fix the synagogue complex came to just under 2 million euros, but no funding was found.

The municipality and the LJC signed a use agreement in 2014, under which the municipality pledged to protect and utilize appropriately the buildings until financing was found to begin restoration to adapt the complex for public cultural, educational and academic use, for tourism and other uses.

“We really don’t have this kind of money, this is a small municipality and we can’t save up such sums or spend that much on synagogues,” Kalvarija mayor Vincas Plikaitis told BNS.

Full Spectrum Passover at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a number of Passover seders Friday for all age groups and tastes. Besides the large hall of the Choral Synagogue, the LJC also put on a seder on the third floor of the Community building for the Gesher Club at the same time. Additionally, the Abi Men Zet Zich Club held a seder, and a seder is planned Thursday for members with children.

Žana Skudovičienė was MC and guided guests to their places at table. All seats except one were filled.

Laurina Todesaitė, a Hebrew teacher and expert in Jewish cuisine and traditions, among her other talents, introduced the Hagadah in Lithuanian and asked Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky to light the candles and to speak. Chairwoman Kukliansky lit the candles, said the blessing in Hebrew and welcomed celebrants briefly:

I would like to thank very much everyone who has come. It would be better if even more came, so many that we wouldn’t fit in the space. Perhaps we will remove this wall someday [indicates wall between hall and foyer] and then we can use the entire floor. Nonetheless I am very grateful to those who have come, and of course you didn’t come to listen to my speech. I want to say that Passover, besides all of its significance as [the holiday of] freedom and liberation, and whatever else, Passover is a family holiday. And if today you have come here, to our Jewish Community, I think the people who have turned out consider themselves a large family. I would like that family to grow, and that as many people as possible would contribute, so that our family would raise more children, gain more friends, more acquaintances, and bring more Jews here, into our Community. So I wish you all a good seder, a great celebration… I have to leave soon, but I do so with joy, because there are seders being held other places at the same time. It’s not easy to get around to all of them, but it’s a good thing when a person can choose whichever venue is more pleasant, and young people can be meet separately. Maybe we’ll hold macro-seder next time, we’ll see. Good evening to everyone.

Boris Traub and other musicians then played a stirring number, after which Laurina Todesaitė read from the Hagadah.

Choral Synagogue Preparing for Passover, Everyone Welcome

The Choral Synagogue in Vilnius is preparing for a Passover seder. This Passover will include young people, who have in past years held separate seders. The photographs above and below show the general section and a special section for young people. Tickets for the seder are still available and may be purchased at the door. The service begins at 7:00 P.M. tonight, Friday, March 30, and the seder begins at 7:30. Rabbi Krinsky and Rebbetzin Dina are preparing the seder.

Pesakh kasher v’sameakh!

Smuel Levinas, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Discovering Jewish Roots in Panevėžys


For the second time a group of 18-and-under young people from Odessa, Kiev, Minsk, Gomel, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kherson and Krasnoyarsk–85 people in all–have visited Panevėžys as part of a project called Return to Roots. The goal of the journey was to learn about the culture, heritage and history of Litvaks in Panevėžys and Lithuania. Visiting surviving cemeteries, the synagogue and the school, the students witnessed Jewish heritage with their own eyes. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told the story of the destruction of a Jewish cemetery in 1966 to exploit the headstones as construction material. He said the local Jewish community had gone to great efforts to have the stones returned to the cemetery where the “Sad Jewish Mother” monument now stands. The students showed keen interest in the history of the Jews in the city and World War II. The delegation visited the former Ponevezh yeshiva established by the famous rabbi, Josef Kahaneman. After touring the city the students visited the town of Subačius and the Jewish cemetery there, where rainfall prevented any clean-up work. Alderman Vidmantas Paliulis came to meet the students there. Paliulis has exerted enormous efforts to clean up and maintain the Subačius Jewish cemetery, nicknamed “Paris.” He explained it was called that because of the name of the small neighboring village Paryžius.

The students were then received warmly and fed at the Panevėžys Jewish Community.

Kaunas Jewish Community Honors Most Active Members

The Kaunas Jewish Community has been honoring its most active members for over two decades now. This year KJC chairman Gercas Žakas invited such members to an evening party to thank them for their sincerity, presence, communication and individual contributions of the most varied sort, including contributing homemade pastry for the Hesed Club, cakes cooked with love for various occasions, furthering traditions and the Yiddish language, honoring Holocaust victims, broadening individual horizons through excursions and cultural events, sharing memories and experience, participating at sporting events and extending a helping hand to other members of the community.

Live musical performances contributed to the fun with performances by the collective including Mihail Javič on saxophone, Arvydas Joffė on percussion, Rolandas Babraitis on keyboard and the young vocalist Viktorija. We all know small gifts can cement friendships and everyone who attended received valuable books.

Sabbath Celebration with MP Gabrielius Landsbergis

The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Sabbath last Friday with Gabrielius Landsbergis, a member of parliament, leader of the Conservative/Christian Democratic Party and great-grandson of Righteous Gentile Ona Landsbergienė.

Lansdbergis completed a degree in history from Vilnius University in 2003. In 2005 he was graduated from the International Relations and Political Science Institute of Vilnius University with a master’s in international relations and diplomacy. He worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and the Chancellery of the President of Lithuania. In 2007 he joined the staff of the Lithuanian embassy in Belgium. Landsbergis returned to Lithuania in 2011 and worked in the Chancellery of the Government of Lithuania. He was elected a member of the European Parliament in 2014 as a member of the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats faction. Landsbergis was elected chairman of the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats (Conservative Party) in April of 2015.

During the cozy meeting at the LJC, the young politician spoke of his family and early years, his work at the Lithuanian embassy in Belgium and his thoughts about the domestic political situation.

Landsbergis said Lithuanian schools aren’t dedicating enough attention to Lithuanian Jewish history and the Jewish contribution to the development of the nation.

“I don’t think many people know the major portion of the law of the land, the Lithuanian constitution, was written in Yiddish. Attorneys, Jewish legal experts, worked on this document. There are so many facts testifying to the Jewish contribution to the development of Lithuania. This is little discussed, unfortunately. I am interested and read as much as possible about Lithuanian Jewish history. I tell my children about it as well. We can only create an open European society through education,” MP Landsbergis said.

LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas moderated the discussion with Gabrielius Landsbergis.

“Returns” Music Festival

The Lithuanian Musicians Support Fund in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Goodwill Foundation present the 20th annual international music festival Returns at 6:00 P.M., March 29, 2018, on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius.

Musica Camerata Baltica, with Leonidas Melnikas on piano, Boris Traub on violin and Valentinas Kaplūnas on cello, will perform along with cantor Shmuel Yatom.

Admission is free.

For more information call 8 655 25898 or 261 3171, or see


Edmundas Ruvinas Zeligmanas passed away March 22. He was born February 25, 1931. He was a member of the Vilnius Jewish Community and the Union of Concentration Camp and Ghetto Prisoners. Our deepest condolences to his widow Janina, his daughter and all his many friends and family.

Zeligmanas was the sole survivor of the mass murder of the Jews of Šilalė. He was 10 when war broke out in Lithuania. He came from a religious family; his father was a cantor and studied at the Telzh yeshiva. Zeligmanas attended a religious school at the synagogue as a child. After losing his entire family in the Holocaust, he went on to study physics, taught physics, worked as an engineer at a counting machine factory and taught electronics at the Construction Technicum. He lived to have great-grandchildren. A frequent face at the synagogue in Vilnius while his health allowed, he was a regular member of the minyan there. May he rest in peace.

Legendary Jewish-German Silent Film Set to Music at Lithuanian National Philharmonic

A restored copy of Ewald André Dupont’s 1923 film “Das alte Gesetz” (The Ancient Law) is to be shown at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic in Vilnius at 7:00 P.M. on March 28, 2018, accompanied by the modern music of Philippe Schoeller, performed by the Orchester Jakobsplatz München orchestra conducted by Daniel Grossman.

The film was a sensation at the 68th Berlin Film Festival when it was set to French composer Philippe Schoeller’s music. The restored film premiered at the Friedrichsstadt-Palast theater in Berlin on February 16, 2018.

The film is on tour around Eastern Europe with the first stop after Berlin in Vilnius. It will be screened in Budapest, Warsaw, Vienna, Munich and then San Francisco after that.

The Ancient Law is considered an important historical German and Jewish cinematic production recreating the introverted world of the Eastern European shtetl contrasted with Vienna of the 1860s and speaks to Jewish assimilation in Europe in the 1800s.

Jewish Kindergarten Being Established in Vilnius

One of the goals the Lithuanian Jewish Community has set for itself is the establishment of a modern Jewish kindergarten meeting the highest international standards in the Žvėrynas neighborhood of Vilnius next to the existing Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium.

LJC Shalom preschool director Ruth Reches, a clinical psychologist working on her doctorate and a Hebrew teacher, is helping plan the future Jewish kindergarten. She said the need for this type of preschool has been long-standing but a number of obstacles have hindered its creation, not least the lack of financing.

“The parents of children of other ethnicities have the opportunity to choose a Lithuanian, Russian or Polish kindergarten. There is no kindergarten meeting the needs of people of Jewish ethnicity. There is no kindergarten where children from an early age have the opportunity to learn Jewish traditions and culture, to celebrate Jewish holidays. At the SHolem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium children are able to grow up in a Jewish environment, to celebrate Jewish values, but it would make sense to begin teaching them earlier, at preschool age,” she said.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Sabbath Celebration

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to a Sabbath celebration with Righteous Gentile Ona Landsbergienė’s great-grandson Gabrielius Landsbergis. LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas will moderate.

The Sabbath ceremony will be held on the second floor of the LJC at 6:30 P.M. on Friday, March 23. The number of seats is limited and registration is required. Call 8 678 81514

A Year of the Jews without Jews?

Position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community
March 13, 2018

Today the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania is scheduled to consider announcing 2019 the Year of the Jews. What the Lithuanian Jewish Community thinks about this is apparently of interest only to members of the media, not the initiators of the Year of the Jews measure.

The writers of the measure have not consulted with the LJC, the largest Jewish organization in Lithuania, at any stage of their initiative, which compels us to question the contents of the proposed resolution and its sincerity. The laconic legislation contains nothing that doesn’t happen every other year, except for, one supposes, allocation of funding for a special commission or commissions. We hope if the measure is adopted it won’t turn into the formation of yet another commission which takes students on Holocaust “excursions” through mass graves during Sabbath.

With no prospect of learning the plans and intentions of the authors of the idea first-hand, this strange initiative looks like some sort of atavism of former times, as when Thursdays were fish day. On other days the people were not provided fish, but on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Lithuania, is the issue of Jews really so uncomfortable and uninteresting? A whole slew of important dates for Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jewish Community are yet to come this year, including the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Community; the 100th anniversary of the unification of Lithuanian Zionists, who supported Lithuanian statehood; the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto and the 115th anniversary of the founding of what is now Vilnius’s only working synagogue. We therefore call upon the authors of this Year of the Jews to begin that year this year, to celebrate 100th anniversary of the modern Lithuanian state together with the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community esteems the progress of the state in solving issues topical for all of us, but political games using the Jews but not including the Jewish community are not an appropriate way to insure effective dialogue between ethnic Lithuanians and Jews.

Lithuanian Jewish Community

Pylimo g. 4
LT-01117 Vilnius
T:+370 5 261 3003

Passover, the Holiday of Liberation and Freedom

Passover Seder by Malcah Zeldis, © 2018

Natalja Cheifec invites you to attend her lecture on Passover in Russian at 6:00 P.M. on March 14 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Short synopsis:

-How the Jews were enslaved in Egypt
-How the Egyptians oppressed the Jews
-Moses, the leader of the Jewish people
-Why the Jews needed liberating
-How G_d punished the Egyptians, the 10 plagues
-Preparing for the Passover holiday: why yeast is avoided
-Celebrating Passover:

*four cups of wine
*required elements of the Passover table
*why leavened foods are not eaten or drunk on Passover

To register, see

Passover Seder at Choral Synagogue

Everyone who wants to experience and learn the true spirit of this holiday is invited to come celebrate Passover at 7:30 P.M. on March 30. The seder will include a large selection of kosher Italian and French wines. One ticket costs 15 euros if you buy it before March 25, 20 euros after that and there’s a family package for 40 euros (for parents and children). Preschool-age children admitted without tickets. Tickets are available at the synagogue from 9:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. every day except on Sabbath, and at the LJC from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on workdays from Liuba on the second floor.

Pakruojis Wooden Synagogue Featured on Lithuanian Public TV Culture Channel

“Lithuania is slowly restoring the country’s rich legacy of synagogues. Synagogues are still standing in towns, the former shtetlakh, where not a single Jew has remained. Braver and cleverer mayors and communities, encouraged by the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department and the Lithuanian Jewish Community, have begun restoring what has now become the priceless Jewish legacy, wiped out by the Holocaust. The synagogues are coming back and are being used for the cultural needs of the towns.

“Lithuanian public television channel Kultūra is producing a series called Reflections devoted to heritage. On this page you will find and be able to watch a film about restored synagogues. At the beginning you will see the oldest surviving wooden synagogue in Lithuania, restored in 2017. The synagogue operated as such until World War II, when the Holocaust exterminated the Pakruojis Jewish community. The regional administration of Pakruojis has renovated the Pakruojis Jewish synagogue and adapted it for public use. The project was financed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The restorers did great work and the interior is dominated by characteristically Jewish elements of decor and Jewish ethnic symbols, and the painting is filled with floral and faunal motifs. The former aron kodesh of this synagogue is especially decorative and impressive.

“After the Pakruojis synagogue, you will also see restored synagogues of Kaunas and Joniškis in the film”

Video program in Lithuanian here.

Purim Celebration and Concert in Panevėžys

The Israeli embassy sponsored a free concert to celebrate Purim in Panevėžys.

Mayor Rytis Račkauskas spoke before the concert and said: “As Lithuania celebrates one hundred years since the restoration of statehood, Israel is also marking its own celebration of 70 years. But we are connected by more than shared celebrations. I am impressed by our beautiful cooperation and warm communication with the embassy. Soon Panevėžys will experience an Israeli film festival, and today I am pleased to welcome you to this concert which is also a gift from the Israeli embassy and ambassador Amir Maimon. I’d like to use this occasion to thank the ambassador for this cooperation and bringing our cultures together.”

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon thanked those who attended to listen to the performers Iris and Ofer Prtugaly from Israel. After the concert Maimon, Račkauskas and the musicians attended a Purim celebration with the Panevėžys Jewish Community.

Ambassador Maimon said the Israeli embassy is planning to hold a cinematic event called “Israeli Cinema in Your City” in Panevėžys in May.

Purim Carnival for Kids

Dear parents,

Kids aged 4 to 13 are invited to attend a Purim carnival at the Lithuanian Jewish Community at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, March 4. Kids should come in costume and there will be a program of events, gifts and traditional Purim treats. For more information email or call +37067257540

Se you there!

Purim at Choral Synagogue 2018

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Religious Jewish Community hosted a Purim spectacular at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius February 28 including a reading of the Book of Esther accompanied by audio-visual aids in English and a concert.

The cold snap enveloping Eastern Europe precluded a large number of children turning out, but those who did had adorable costumes, including a small bear, a policeman, at least one doctor, a king with golden crown and perhaps the most contemporary costume, a slightly older child wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and seemingly dressed in full-body ninja attire. Some adult women also dressed up, including synagogue regular Ruth Bloestein with wig, hat and ultra-rosy cheeks sitting in the women’s gallery.

Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky began the event slightly after the starting time of 6:30 and presented a number of gift baskets to leaders in the Community including Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. He also greeted Litvak guests visiting from Israel in the women’s gallery. He followed with an animated reading of the Book of Esther during which he exchanged hats with children in the wings, first adopting an undersized top hat and then exchanging it for a London bobby’s helmet about three sizes too small for him. While he read from the scroll, a projection television system played a series of comic panels from the story of Esther in English.