THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Harley Felstein, chair and founder of the Sunflower Project in USA, hits back:
Zygimantas Pavilionis, Lithuanian ambassador to the U.S. (left),
and Harley Felstein of the Lithuanian Heritage Project
I have been under tremendous personal attack in certain press circles during the past month. The attack issues are mean-spirited and unwarranted
My fellow colleagues of Lithuanian descent, I would like to thank you for your staunch and unwaivering support over the past 18 months. My family’s documented roots in Lithuania trace back to the 1700’s, in and around the small town of Rokishkis in northeast Lithuania. As the chair and founder of the Sunflower Project, whose mission is to bridge and reconnect the Lithuanian people with the Jewish community of Lithuanian descent, I knew from the outset that to make progress and re-connect our deep roots was going to be a tremendous challenge.
As you maybe aware, I have been under tremendous personal attack in certain press circles during the past month. The attack issues are mean-spirited and unwarranted. The allegations have included that I have no connection to Lithuania (false), that I don’t know anything about Jewish cemeteries and their maintenance (despite my having worked in the funeral industry and in Jewish cemetery management for over 40 years professionally) or that somehow I am a “agent” of the Lithuanian government (absurdly false) as I am an independent volunteer who has been made aware of a need, and with others of like mind, am seeking to create an atmosphere of positive change.
You know the historical roots between the Lithuania and Jewish people are very deep - going back to between the 12th and 13th centuries. Those very roots can be re-established. But we need patience. We need understanding. We need reconnection. Focusing on death, deportation and destruction without a thoughtful view forward with steps towards reconciliation will simply make estrangement deeper. Yes, there’s a terribly painful past to acknowledge (much of which was suppressed in the years of Soviet domination) but there’s also a better future to envision – particularly as Lithuania accepts the responsibility of its incoming term Chairing the European Union
The Sunflower Project understands these mechanisms. We have already held successful events such as the first North American Joint Chanukah/ Kucios celebration last December at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, DC, with members of the greater Washington DC Jewidsh and Lithuanian communities in attendance. And we are planning new events for the fall and winter. The Sunflower Project understands how welcoming the atmosphere is during these events. Please note, there are two concerts being planned—one in Washington DC and one in Chicago which will highlight Jewish and Lithuanian musical traditions.
Therefore, please continue your support for the Sunflower Project. Please reach out to your neighbors and engage in constructive dialogue. Please feel free to write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know your thoughts.
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