Grandson of Famous Rabbi Dovid Shapiro Visits Panevėžys

Grandson of Famous Rabbi Dovid Shapiro Visits Panevėžys

After a half-year of correspondence, Dovid Shapiro’s family helped fly grandson Ernest Milton (Shapiro) Hurwich with his daughters Anna Rut and Liba to Panevėžys from the USA. Ernest is the grandson of famous rabbi Dovid Shapiro and the family came to research their roots.

Rabbi Shapiro and his relatives lived the city of Panevėžys and in small towns in the region, according to documents discovered in the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s archives. More than 30 members of the Shapiro clan lived around the Jewish hospital on Ramygalos street in Panevėžys. The visitors were able to view original photographs and buildings and houses where Rabbi Dovid Shapiro and his brother Moshe were born and raised. The tumult of historical events and wars disrupted Jewish life and Panevėžys Jews entered a new phase of life after World War I when many migrated to South Africa, South America, the USA and Palestine. Dovid Shapiro’s family settled in the United States. His brother Moshe remained in Lithuania and was murdered in the Holocaust.

Anna Rut Hurwich is the genealogist in the family and is carefully investigating the family’s history.

What We Forget When Celebrating Town Holidays

What We Forget When Celebrating Town Holidays

Snapshot from a meeting in Laukžemė, from right: Marvin Hecker, Zita Aldona Danielienė, translator Olga Šardt, daughter Jenifer and wife, journalist Gaylon Finklea Hecker.

by Romualdas Beniušis, Pajūrio naujienos

Litvaks spread around the world by historical catastrophe and their descendants are coming back to Lithuania searching for their roots and visiting the places where the once-populous Lithuanian Jewish city and town communities were annihilated by the Nazis. They are also looking for the descendants of those who rescued individual Jews from the Holocaust.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Teaching the History of Ethnic Communities Is a Problem

Teaching the History of Ethnic Communities Is a Problem

Dr. Akvilė Naudžiūnienė. Photo: Evgenia Levin/

by Rosita Garškaitė

Historian Akvilė Naudžiūnienė who defended her dissertation “Ethnic Minorities in the Educational Narrative of Lithuanian History, 1918-2018” at Vilnius University last month says: “There is an attempt to integrate ethnic minorities in the teaching of history, but there is avoidance when they don’t fit the image of Lithuanian history being created.”

She interviewed teachers and found they tend to consider ethnic minorities a problem and a problematic issue, not a simple fact of life. This is especially true when it comes to the Polish and Russian communities. On the other hand, there are no problems regarding the Karaïtes and Tartars because they are exotic and teachers are able to talk about their ethnic foods. Jews are seen as a problem in the context of the Holocaust but become very interesting in discussions of cultural legacy and cooking.

How does the understanding of the ethnic minorities as a problem express itself?

Some teachers come out and say it is a problem and say it is difficult to teach the Holocaust and in Vilnius schools it’s hard to discuss Polish and Lithuanian relations in the interwar period. Teachers say disputes still arise between Lithuanian and Polish students. Of course this isn’t easy for teachers. Teachers also reported a negative reaction from students when they begin to talk about Russians in Lithuania. So the discussion is avoided, teachers close up and don’t want to do anything about it. This supports the idea there is an attempt to integrate ethnic minorities in the teaching of history when they are not perceived as problems and that there is avoidance of the topic when they are not in keeping with the vision of Lithuanian history being created.

You conducted 14 interviews with teachers. What else of significance emerged?

I observed efforts by separate teachers to, as it were, redeem the guilt of the Lithuanian people regarding the Holocaust. It was constantly noted in the interviews that there truly is discussion of Jews during lessons and the need to talk about the Holocaust. When this topic came up, the tone and even the manner of speech of the teachers changed. It seems to be this attitude is a learned response. I often felt some teachers were just saying what they thought they were supposed to say. The myth of multiculturalism is current in the schools, but almost none of the teachers were able to say how to apply this educational approach. The teachers didn’t get engaged is such things “from the top.” Although they frequently renew and enhance their own knowledge, it didn’t appear as if their understanding of how to teach has changed.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.

Lithuanian Media: Vilnius Government Wants to Change Name of Škirpa Alley

Lithuanian Media: Vilnius Government Wants to Change Name of Škirpa Alley

Note: the views expressed below are mainly those of BNS and and not necessarily those of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

The Vilnius city council Wednesday approved further deliberation on a proposal to rename the alley named after the controversial diplomat and military officer Kazys Škirpa located in the center of the capital.

A final decision will come out of the next council meeting in two weeks. People close to Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius proposed calling it Tricolor Alley.

The mayor said this decision should be adopted in view of Škirpa’s anti-Semitism.

“This man had a plan to get rid of Lithuanian citizens, to send the Jews away, to rub them out when the chance arose. Clearly such a person who sowed discord, who encourages Holocaust activism, should truly not be honored in the city of Vilnius,” Šimašius told reporters before the council meeting Wednesday.

Is It OK to Commit Crimes for a “Big Idea?” A Reply to Kamilė Šeraitė

Is It OK to Commit Crimes for a “Big Idea?” A Reply to Kamilė Šeraitė

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

In the opinion of Vilnius City Council councilor Kamilė Šeraitė, it’s OK to throw out a portion of the nation’s population for a “big idea” and it’s OK to name an entire street after the man who deported them.

Based on Nazi race ideology–out of love for Lithuania–Kazys Škirpa decided the Jews needed to be driven out. Those who sought bring the sun from Moscow and who adopted the Bolshevik ideology also did so out of love for Lithuania. So let’s name streets after them, too. They didn’t murder people, either.

After learning Šeraitė’s opinion I was left unpleasantly surprised. The young female Lithuanian politician raised in democratic Lithuania was not able to grasp the crux of the problem of whether Škirpa and Noreika “are worthy of heroization” or not.

Intentionally or not, the author, as with her ideological coach Vidmantas Valiušaitis, is promoting the ideology of dictatorships which claims that any crimes against humanity can be committed if they are done so for the sake of great ideas.

Vilnius City Council Courageously Decides to Postpone Decision on Street Named after Nazi

Vilnius City Council Courageously Decides to Postpone Decision on Street Named after Nazi

The Vilnius City Council Wednesday began consideration to rename Kazys Škirpa Alley in the capital to Tricolor Alley. The short street is located at the heart of Vilnius and runs along the iconic Hill of Gediminas. The city council decided to consider the issue and postponed making a final decision until the next sitting of the council on July 24. A group of proponents of keeping the street named after the leading Lithuanian Nazi ideologue and diplomat to Nazi Germany unfurled signs at a picket outside of city hall.

Renaldas Vaisbrodas, the former executive director of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and now a member of the Freedom Party faction in city council who initiated the latest in a series of attempts over recent years to remove this shameful reminder of Lithuania’s role in World War II, said: “The initiative to rename the alley Tricolor Alley didn’t come out of nowhere: there is simply no room for anti-Semitism in contemporary Vilnius. We propose fixing the political mistake made back in 1998 when the street was named after Škirpa. The naming of the street after this controversial historical figure is unacceptable to a portion of city residents and has garnered negative attention from the foreign media repeatedly. Making the right decision would demonstrate the aspiration to unite city residents and to highlight courageous acts, such as when volunteer soldiers with Kazys Škirpa in the vanguard raised the Lithuanian flag on the Hill of Gediminas on January 1, 1919.”

The issue was raised earlier with the Names, Statues and Memorial Plaques Commission of the Vilnius City municipality. The commission arranged an unscientific internet poll on whether to change the name or not with over 600 internet responses, of which about 70 percent said it should continue to be named after the Lithuanian Nazi ideologue. The commission rejected the proposed change then and sources close to the process reported nationalist and conservative members of the commission were largely responsible for torpedoing the initiative by former Liberal Union party Vilnius city councilor Mark Harold. The newest attempt to change the name of the alley is not widely expected to pass in the council’s sitting on July 24. Those voting against putting the item on the agenda for July 24 included councilors listed as Liberal Union, Freedom Party, Union of Peasants and Greens and Conservative Party members, including former Vilnius mayor Artūras Zuokas.

Fifty-Fifth Esperanto Days Events Held in Panevėžys, Lithuania

Fifty-Fifth Esperanto Days Events Held in Panevėžys, Lithuania

Esperanto is a synthetic international language with speakers around the world. This year Panevėžys hosted representatives from over 30 countries, more than 400 people from Japan, China, the EU, the Baltic states and elsewhere. Lithuanian Esperanto Union director Povilas Jegerovas praised the warm welcome Esperanto enthusiasts received in the northern Lithuanian city and noted the Esperanto congress was being held to mark Esperanto Days in the Baltic region.

A number of Lithuanian politicians and public figures sent statements to be read at the event, including EU commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Viktoras Pranckietis, foreign minister Linas Linkevičius and minister of culture Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas. Lithuanian MP Povilas Urbšys personally attended and welcomed participants, noting the 160th birthday of Esperanto inventor Ludvik Zamenhof was coming up this December 15. Urbšys said the idea of a universal language is worthy of attention and Esperanto unites people and facilitates understanding around the world. As the world currently undergoes polarization with various new conflicts arising, Esperanto is needed more than ever, he said, calling it a language of peace and saying the audience were people of peace.

Esperanto Days are being marked from July 5 to 14. The Panevėžys Jewish Community will hold meetings with and receptions for participants during the Esperanto congress.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community: Ona Šimaitė Commemoration in Akmenė

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community: Ona Šimaitė Commemoration in Akmenė

A day-long commemoration of Righteous Gentile Ona Šimaitė lasting into the evening will be held in Akmenė, Lithuania, July 22. “Šimaitė Invites You to Speak” is a project dedicated to honoring the local Jewish community and Ona Šimaitė and Righteous Gentiles in general. It was initiated by the Marijus and Diana Lopaitis family with the Akmenė regional public library and with support from the Akmenė town community, the Lithuanian Cultural Council, the Jakovas Bunka support fund, the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community and the Akmenė regional administration to be held on the birthday of the town of Akmenė.

Events will take place at the Akmenė Regional History Museum at Kasakausko street no. 17 and the Akmenė House of Culture at Sodo street no. 1 in Akmenė.


11:00 Conference “Šimaitė Invites You to Speak” (Akmenė Regional History Museum)

part 1: The history and fate of the Akmenė regional Jewish community
part 2: Ona Šimaitė: The Story of a Righteous Gentile
part 3: Official openings of exhibits including of manuscripts by Šimaitė, a photo exhibit called “Kaddish for the Wooden Synagogues of Lithuania” and carvings and the exhibit “The Litvak Literary Legacy” by the Akmenė regional public library.

Anna Halberstadt: There Must Be a Different World in Texts

Anna Halberstadt: There Must Be a Different World in Texts

Photo: Poetess Anna Halberstadt, by Dainius Dirgėla

When I come back here again
This city seems half real, half hallucination

Anna Halberstadt writes in her poem Vilnius Diary. She was born and raised in Vilnius, studied in Moscow and for almost 40 years now has lived in New York City. In 2017 her book Vilnius Diary (Turtle Press, NY 2014) appeared in Lithuanian, translated by Marius Burokas, the winner of the 2019 Marionis prize at the Poezijos pavasaris [Poetry Spring] event, published by the Lithuanian Writers Union. Besides being a poetess, Halberstadt is a psychologist and psychotherapist. Her grandfather on her mother’s side was a doctor–a plastic surgeon and dentist–in Vilnius. Her grandfather on her father’s side was I. Levin who was a judge in Švenčionėliai, Lithuania, before the 1917 Russian Revolution. Halberstadt’s father Simonas Galberštatas taught at the Natural Sciences and Medicine Faculty of Vilnius University. Her great-grandfather’s home built in 1905 still stands on Naugarduko street in Vilnius.

You often mention you had a wonderful literature teacher, Roza Glintershchik. Could you tell us more about her and her group of literati?

Roza came to teach us Russian literature when I was a seventh-grader at the Salomėja Nėris high school in Vilnius. Now I understand she was a young woman, 36, but at the time she seemed very serious to me with her dark suit jackets and white blouses, with glasses adorning her nice face and clever eyes. She immediately raised our level of education. She spoke with us as if we were adults and wouldn’t tolerate any mediocrity.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.

Germany Extends Holocaust Compensation to Survivor Spouses

New York-based advocacy group successfully lobbies German government to continue payments to 30,000 elderly

BERLIN (AP)–The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jews who suffered under the Nazis said Tuesday that Germany has agreed to extend compensation to their surviving spouses and to increase other payments, taking the total to be paid out in 2020 to around $1 billion.

Until now, pension payments to Holocaust survivors had been stopped upon their death, but the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany said Berlin has now agreed to continue survivor pensions for nine months after a death to the spouse.

The payment is expected to be granted to some 14,000 spouses retroactively and a total of about 30,000 people are expected to qualify, Claims Conference negotiator Greg Schneider said.

Full story here.


With sadness we report the death of long-time Community member Ela Čumanova on July 8. She was born in 1953. Our deepest condolences to her late husband Michailas and her sons Jevgenijus and Aleksandras.

Locating the Lost Shtetl of Rumšiškės: Targum Shlishi Supports Team from University of Hartford

Locating the Lost Shtetl of Rumšiškės: Targum Shlishi Supports Team from University of Hartford

(Miami, July 7, 2019)—This summer a team from the University of Hartford is working to locate the lost shtetl of Rumšiškės (Rumsheshok) in Lithuania, which is now located under Lake Kaunas. Home to approximately fifty Jewish families who were massacred in 1941, the village was abandoned and the Soviets later created a dam, resulting in the village’s remains now being under water. Filming throughout the process will document the work, which will result in a documentary film, museum exhibitions, and presentations in Lithuania and the U.S. Targum Shlishi’s grant is helping to support the five-person student team, which is led by archaeologist Richard A. Freund, a professor at the University of Hartford who has headed the university’s Vilna Excavation Projects for the past four years.

Project Background and Scope

“This is a unique program for students to work on. The students will document our summer excavations and create a documentary film that will show our underwater search for the lost village of Rumshishok,” Freund explains. “We will be working with high-tech, robotically-operated vehicles and professional divers to find the village and we will work with our ground penetrating radar equipment to identify the location of the mass grave of the Jews of Rumshishok which will ensure that no future development can take place at that site.”

More Events to Mark 75th Anniversary of the Destruction of the Kaunas Ghetto

More Events to Mark 75th Anniversary of the Destruction of the Kaunas Ghetto

July 11

6:00 P.M. Screening and discussion of the film Gitel directed by Robert Mullan, 2016, at the Vincas Kudirka Public Library, A. Mapu street no. 18, Kaunas.

7:00 P.M. Thematic tour “Holocaust in Lithuania” at the Ninth Fort Museum, Žemaičių highway no. 73, Kaunas.

8:00 P.M. Screening and discussion of the film “Devil’s Arithmetic” directed by Donna Deitch, 1999, at the Ninth Fort Museum, Žemaičių highway no. 73, Kaunas.

July 12

5:00 P.M. Free guided tour called “Voices of Hope” starting at the Kaunas Municipal Museum, Petrausko street no. 31, Kaunas. Registration required, call (8 37) 731 184 or email

Grigory Kanovich: I Tried to Create a Written Monument to the Lithuanian Jews

He is the last Lithuanian Jewish author with first-hand experience of the shtetls, the small Jewish towns which vanished from the face of the earth in 1941.

”I have tried to create a written monument to the Lithuanian Jews”, says Grigory Kanovich in an interview with Baltic Worlds.

Kanovich turns 90 this summer. At 85 he stopped writing when he published his last book, Shtetl Love Song. The book Devilspel, from which an extract is published in this issue of Baltic Worlds, was written back in 2002 but not translated into English until now.

Kanovich has lived in Israel since 1993, and his son Sergey has helped in translating our questions into Russian and then translating the answers into English. First his father only answered three of the questions, and he was too tired to continue, but the following day came the rest of the answers.

Full text here.

Changing the Name of Škirpa Alley: A Hasty Initiative

Changing the Name of Škirpa Alley: A Hasty Initiative

Note: The author of the following opinion piece identifies as a Jewish woman and is a member of the Šiauliai City Jewish Community, which is not a constituent member of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Her views are not shared by the Lithuanian Jewish Community in any way and are presented here only in the interest of informing our readers of arguments for commemorating Holocaust perpetrators in Lithuania. Kazys Škirpa, the person in the middle to the left of Adolf Hitler in the photograph above, was a leading proponent of Nazi ideology and worked closely with the German Abwehr, or military intelligence, to ease the invasion of Lithuania by the Wehrmacht during World War II. The Vilnius city council is planning in the next few days to again address the issue of the known Nazi collaborator’s name being honored as a street name in the center of the nation’s capital. A similar move by Vilnius city council members several years ago was shot down before it came to a vote.

Photo: Škirpa celebrating Hitler’s 50th birthday, April 21, 1939. Note Lithuania Lithuania acquiesced to Hitler’s ultimatum and handed the Memel region, aka Klaipėda, back to Germany on March 23, 1939. Škirpa is on the far right in the photograph. Photo from Kazys Škirpa’s own memoirs in the book “Lietuvos nepriklausomybės sutemos (1938-1940)” [“The Twilight of Lithuanian Independence (1938-1940)”], Chicago-Vilnius, 1996.


Changing the Name of Škirpa Alley: A Hasty Initiative

by Kamilė Šeraitė, councilor, Vilnius city council

The Holocaust will remain Lithuania’s tragedy through the centuries, not just for the families touched by tragic fate whose descendants carry in their heart the yellow star of David, not just for the members of the Jewish community who have fought many long years for the memory of each innocent life which perished, but as the tragedy of our people.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky Awarded Star of Lithuanian Diplomacy

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky Awarded Star of Lithuanian Diplomacy

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius awarded a Foreign Ministry award called the Star of Lithuanian Diplomacy to Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky July 5.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s highest award was bestowed on chairwoman Kukliansky in recognition of her active involvement in organizing international dialogue and important agreements, cooperation between the LJC and Foreign Ministry, her contribution to making the Goodwill Law a reality and the active involvement of the LJC under her leadership in projects at Lithuanian diplomatic offices.

“I am proud of our friendship and cooperation. This is vital to the interests of our state. Your work goes beyond just leading the Jewish community, and your work for the good of Lithuania is very visible,” Lithuanian foreign minister Linkevičius said.

European Days of Jewish Culture

The European Days of Jewish Culture celebrations are scheduled to kick off September 1 and around that date. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Days. As in previous years, Lithuania is participating, although the theme for this year’s events in Lithuania is yet to be announced. The provisional theme announced by the main organizers is “innovation.”

More information here.

Archaeological Dig Resumes at Great Synagogue Site in Vilnius

Archaeological Dig Resumes at Great Synagogue Site in Vilnius

The summer archaeological dig at the site of the former Great Synagogue in Vilnius is set to resume this year starting July 1 and running to July 19. The team includes archaeologists from Lithuania, the USA and Israel. The continuing exploration of the site is being supported by the Goodwill Foundation in partnership with the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

In 2011 the team discovered the exact boundaries and fragments of the former building. In 2016, 2017 and 2018 they explored the former mikvot, or bathhouses used for ritual purification and located the central bimah of the synagogue.

This year they hope to continue exploring the remains of the building and to locate the aron kodesh, the ark used to house the Torah scroll in synagogues. Within the first three days of digging the team had already uncovered the rear entrance to the main hall of the subterranean synagogue, a set of descending steps located near the mikvot.