VilNews

THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

26 April 2017
www.holidayinnvilnius.lt/
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Section 9: LITVAK FORUM


Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel.

 


Ehud Barak

Former Prime
Minister of Israel

 


Menachem Begin

Former Prime
Minister of Israel


Ariel Sharon

Former  Prime
Minister of Israel


Michael Bloomberg
 
Former New York Mayor


Dr. Ruth Rabinowitz
 
Rep. Zulu Party in the South African Parliament


Joe Slovo

South African communist leader, minister


Ben Bernanke

Former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve


Mendel Kaplan

South African industry magnate, philanthropist

 


Sol Kerzner

South African casino magnate (Sun City)


Sammy Marks

Father of the South African
Litvak Community,
businessman, politician


Michael Marks

Founder of
Marks and Spencer


Aaron Klug

Biophysicist,
Nobel laureate


Roman Abramovich 

Oligarch. owner of
Chelsea Football Club.


Al Jolson

Singer, songwriter,
dancer, entertainer


Walter Matthau

U.S. actor


Aaron Copland

U.S. composer


Harrison Ford

American actor
and producer


Leonard Cohen

Canadian singer-songwriter/poet


Bob Dylan

U.S. singer-songwriter, author, musician and poet


Jon Stewart

U.S. TV comedian

THE EXTRAORDINARY, LITTLE KNOWN HISTORY ABOUT THE LITVAKS (LITHUANIAN JEWS)
In the early 1300s Grand Duke Gediminas began to invite Jews from all over Europe to his expanding Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Here thousands of persecuted Jews from many countries got a safe haven to develop their culture, religion and intellectualism at a remarkably high level. When Napoleon in 1812 came to Lithuania, he was very puzzled by what he saw, and it was him who first named Vilnius 'Jerusalem of the North'. Through 600 years the Lithuanian Jews (the Litvaks) remained one of the most important pillars for development in Lithuania and neighbouring countries, until Holocaust tragically wiped out 95% of the Jews living in Lithuania. But around the world descendants of the Litvaks still today play remarkably strong, leading roles. A little known, extraordinary story!

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The Genocide and Resistance
Research Centre of Lithuania
(GRRCL) insults all Jews and
decent citizens here

SERGEY KANOVICH
Photo R. Dačkaus

By Dovaidas PABIRŽIS
Journal “Veidas”
 
Poet and social activist Sergey Kanovich, who lives between Vilnius and Brussels, as he says, is currently implementing the project of his life, “Lost Shtetl”. The restored cemetery of Šeduva and completely redone memorials at the mass killing places in the vicinity of the town, were presented to the public some time ago, an exceptionally beautiful and touching monument by Romas Kvintas was unveiled in the town’s center in October, and the cultural center of Šeduva has been restored. However, there’s still much to be done – among the plans, the “Lost Shtetl” museum which will focus on the history of Lithuanian Jewry.

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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The Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews)
and their formidable position
in world history
By Aage Myhre
Editor-in-Cief

I have on various occasions, in several countries, asked people if they know of the Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) and their special place in world history and in many of today's countries and societies around the world. The answer is usually negative, which has puzzled me – in view of the unprecedented and exceptional role the Litvaks have had within a very wide range of fields, in politics, economics, business and science, to prominent roles in music, movies and many other cultural fields.

Go to our SECTION 9 to read more Litvak stories ...
Litvak fiddler in
Vilnius Old Town
The Litvaks
Jews trace their origins in Lithuania back to the days of Grand Duke Gediminas in the early 14th century, and by the late 15th century there were already thriving Jewish communities here. In time, Vilnius became known as the "Jerusalem of the North," a centre of Jewish religious learning. The Jews of Lithuania lived an intense Jewish life, and their role and influence in the major Jewish political and cultural movements were far greater than their numbers would have suggested. Vilnius became a prominent international, intellectual centre. Here there were once as many synagogues (totally 96) as churches—including the Great Synagogue, built in 1573, a vast complex of prayer spaces and schools.
Vilnius was like
a Mediterranean city
EMMANUEL ZINGERIS: “Vilnius was like a Mediterranean city. Lithuania before Holocaust was a society of love, full of colourful life and warm interaction between people. Imagine that here, in the street we are sitting, the windows would now be open, the mothers would be shouting to their children, and the street would be filled with joyful people discussing, singing, reading and mingling in a happy crowd of friends, colleagues and visitors.”
THE GAON (Wisest Rabbi) of Vilna.
Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna was born in Vilnius in 1720 and died in 1797.
“If you seek wisdom,
Vilnius is the place to go”
Before WWII there was a saying among European Jews: if you are keen on earning money, go to Lodz; if you seek wisdom, Vilnius is the place to go. “I live in this city with a feeling that it does not belong to me and that I have only come here for a visit – as a human being, a poet and a Lithuanian. In this respect Vilnius could be compared only to Jerusalem. Only Jerusalem is the city of God, whereas Vilnius is the city of a dream. Trivial as it might seem, it was founded after Gediminas has a dream. It’s as if Vilnius was not created by man – you have the feeling that Vilnius has risen from the ground, from the confluence of the rivers, from the landscape – it rises on its own, possibly with some support by man. It is also in the details that the beauty of Vilnius lies. On the one hand, the Vilnius of the dream lets its citizens merely touch it; on the other hand, Vilnius sucks them in and swallows them”
Kovno Chief Rabbi Yitzchak
Elchanan Spector (1817-1896),
served as chief rabbi of Kovno, the
most prominent rabbinical position
at the height of 19th century
Lithuanian Jewry.
Kaunas was an
important centre of Jewish life
Jews are first known to have lived in Kaunas (Kovno) as early as 1410 when they were brought forcibly as prisoners of war by the Grand Duke Vytautas. Many of those Jews were later active as traders between Kovno and Danzig (today's Gdansk, Poland). Living conditions for many Jews were squalid. In 1858, archaic living restrictions were relaxed and all but 6,000 of the city's 35,000 Jews flocked to the Old Town in search of something better. In July 1941, however, the Nazis expelled all the Jews from the town and sent them back to Slobodka. The Kovno Ghetto was thus established. Kaunas became an important center of Jewish cultural life in the latter half of the 19th century. Distinguished Jewish leaders moved here from Vilnius, the capital, to establish yeshivas. Influential thinkers also moved to Kaunas.
The Jewish Museum in Cape Town
is more Lithuanian than
Lithuania itself.
90% of all Jews in
South Africa are Litvaks
It is considered that around 90% of the approximately 80,000 Jews living in South Africa are of Lithuanian descent (the so-called Litvaks), which thus constitutes the largest pocket of Litvaks in the world! You are hereby invited to learn more about this unique Jewish community that still holds Lithuania alive in their hearts, museums and synagogues. The Jewish Museum in Cape Town offers visitors a journey back in time. Most museums do. The striking feature of this museum, however, is that the journey to the past also brings us to a completely different part of our world, from Africa's southern tip to a seemingly modest little country far to the north.
Two children in the Kaunas
(Kovno) Ghetto, Lithuania.
Yad Vashem Photo Archive, 4789
Kaunas Ghetto (1941-1944):
An entire urban district
turned into a merciless death camp
What happened to the Jews in Lithuania during World War II is a matter of grim record. Of the 250.000 Jews in 1939, only between 12.500 and 17.500 survived; of those, only about 200 remain today. It has been estimated that of the 265.000 Jews living in Lithuania in June 1941, 254.000 or 95% were murdered during the German occupation. No other Jewish community in Nazi-occupied Europe was so comprehensively destroyed.
Professor Irena Veisaite,
a Holcaust survivor. .
“I do not remember the faces of
any evil people from my past,
but I do very well remember the
faces of those that expressed
goodness. We have to learn
to love and to understand.”
Litvaks of today
During the 19th and 20th century, tens of thousands of Lithuanian Jews emigrated to the United States of America. Many Lithuanian Jews also emigrated to South Africa which became famous as a haven for its 100.000 Jews who were spared the Holocaust. A small number also emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine. The rise of the Nazis in Germany and the ensuing Holocaust destroyed the vast majority of Jews who had not managed to leave Lithuania and its environs.
Jews of Lithuanian origin are today in leading roles and positions around the world – some of our nowadays most famous politicians, scientists, businessmen, economists, actors, writers and singers have Litvak background.

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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Exhibition at the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon
State Jewish Museum, Naugarduko street 19/2, Vilnius.
16 December 2015 – 13 March 2016.

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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Memory of the Vilnius
sound that once was

"The Eternal Question” / “DI ALTE KASHE”
FRAIDY KATZ sings in Yiddish

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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Doing business in Lithuania 

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

Since 2013, a debate has raged within Lithuanian society about a Holocaust perpetrator named Noreika. There is no question of his guilt, his signature is on Holocaust documents, witness statements place him squarely as a perpetrator, yet honors for him remain littered throughout the country, a complete absence of morality and accountability, rather, the elevation of a bigot, a murderer and a thief.

People of conscience, leaders, academics and political figures have called on the Lithuanian Government to revoke the honors awarded to a clearly identifiable criminal, yet the Lithuanian Government body assigned to examine history is a Government Agency named “The Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania” (LGGRTC) administered by Terese Birute Burauskaite. Mrs. Burauskaite is all powerful, enquiries are directed to her, protests and revision requests. Mrs. Burauskaite, a Presidential appointment, issues her decrees in the name of the Lithuanian Government, she is the first, only and final word.
Reflecting the independent nature of Lithuanian Government Departments, Mrs. Burauskaite took it upon herself to issue a defense of the perpetrator Noreika, revising settled international criminal law to state that those that issued orders to perpetrate Holocaust crimes, were not guilty if they were pressured to issue orders. Her decree was a masterpiece of twisted logic, obfuscated facts, and ideology. Adolph Eichmann posted that same defense and lost, but Lithuania’s Genocide Center’s revisionist history, now posits that this defense claim is valid. Mrs. Burauskaite has taken it upon herself to become the arbiter of guilt, as sole Judge and Jury, with the full authority of the Lithuanian Government.
There is no opposing Mrs. Burauskaite’s position, facing opposition, her Center posted the following on their official Government website: “Behind the slander of Lithuanian patriots are our neighbors in the East. They are being helped not only by Jews, but by enough of Lithuanians. You can find their names signed under the request to strip state honors, to remove the plaque, under the slanderous articles. Some do this on purpose, others out of stupidity.” i.e. those that speak for truth, and in opposition to Holocaust denial, are Kremlin agents, Jews, and enemies of the State. A Center tasked with examining genocide and the Holocaust claims “Jews” as a race and a group are collectively guilty, and collectively traitors to the nation.
It is clear that the Holocaust in Lithuania is not a distant memory, but an active agenda. Multiple calls to the Government have gone unanswered as of the time of submission of this article, leaving no uncertainty that Mrs. Burauskaite’s statement is now the official Government position.
Even if subsequently withdrawn, this matter shows that there is no accountability in Lithuanian Government offices. Foreign businesses cannot expect justice in Lithuanian Courts, they cannot expect impartial treatment by Government divisions, and therefore, it would be an impossibility to operate a business in Lithuania under the guise of law. Boardrooms need to consider that the Soviet mindset and rule of law remain in effect in today’s Lithuania, and doing business in Lithuania is at the risk of the foreign investor.
Officially sanctioned Government Jew hate aside, Lithuania has shown that her Courts and Government lack impartiality and are not ready as a center for business.

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Category : Litvak forum

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Letter from a Lost Shtetl

image010 (1)

GRANT ARTHUR GOCHIN WITH LITHUANIAN
PRIME MINISTER ALGIRDAS BUTKEVICIUS

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California, USA

Lithuania is changing. Clearly, my Grandfather would be proud to be here. Samuelis Gochinas, born in Lithuania and deported to Ukraine during World War I, only wanted to come home. He was a Jew. He was also a Lithuanian. Lithuania was his home, as it had been for generations of his forefathers.

Nothing stays the same. Lithuania is experiencing a defined period of rediscovering its roots as an open and tolerant society. However, there is still a long way to go.

As I write on this crisp autumn morning, standing in the gentle sunlight, amongst recently restored Jewish tombstones of a lost shtetl in Northern Lithuania called Seduva, I am struck by the societal changes I see evolving.…

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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NEW book by Yves Plasseraud:

about Professor Irena Veisaite

Her intelligence and

strength struck me

image011 (1)

THE NEWLY PUBLISHED BOOK ABOUT IRENA VEISAITE

By Yves Plasseraud,
Paris, France

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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“If you seek wisdom,
Vilnius is the place to go”

Adv. Marcelle Juliet Saul Sheiman, an attorney to the Supreme Court of the Republic of South Africa and Israeli advocate, who attended the World Lithuania Economic Forum in Vilnius earlier this month. Marcelle Juliet Saul Sheiman (MS) currently serves as Chairman of the Israel-South Africa Chamber of Commerce.

South African attorney Marcelle Juliet Saul Sheiman:
Lithuanian Impressions 2010

15.05.2010
I am in Lithuania now and described my thoughts last night when I went along to the Shabbat dinner hosted by the Vilna Chabad Rabbi Krinsky: ones of belonging and identity.

I described these thoughts and feelings to the guests there - a community of English Jews who came as part of Jewish Journeys, a Canadian Rabbi and his wife, the Israeli now living in Lithuania and studying at its universities, and to the very elderly community members who were there (a meager amount of people). This followed the short lecture by the Rabbi as to Shavuot, and numbers - and how people were and are counted and the meaning of numbers in our life. He spoke of the being part of the Jewish people and how some no longer want to be a part of it and of the many dead.

I started telling the people about my feelings on landing in Lithuania – one of sadness in what was – the rise and fall of Yiddish civilization and how much had been and how many had lived and then also the feeling of belonging, something in me of belonging here. There was a part of me that was here.

I also very much felt a sense of belonging that night – interestingly enough juxtaposed to what was expressed by one person – his sense of alienation in Lithuania.

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Category : Litvak forum

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90% of all Jews in
South Africa are Litvaks

Text and photos: Aage Myhre

It is considered that around 90% of the approximately 80,000 Jews living in South Africa are of Lithuanian descent (the so-called Litvaks), which thus constitutes the largest pocket of Litvaks in the world! You are hereby invited to learn more about this unique Jewish community that still holds Lithuania alive in their hearts, museums and synagogues.


The Jewish Museum in Cape Town is more Lithuanian than Lithuania itself.

The Jewish Museum in Cape Town offers visitors a journey back in time. Most museums do. The striking feature of this museum, however, is that the journey to the past also brings us to a completely different part of our world, from Africa's southern tip to a seemingly modest little country far to the north, to a country where around 90% of South Africa's Jewish population has its roots (there are today about 80,000 Jews in South Africa).

The museum's basement is dominated by a village environment (shtetl) from the late 1800s. A few houses are reconstructed in full scale, and you can clearly see how people lived and co-existed at the time. The village is called Riteve. It was recreated in the museum on the basis of entries made in the 1990s by a group of experts who went from South Africa to Lithuania to find traces of the family of the museum's founder, Mendel Kaplan.

The village is called Rietavas in Lithuanian. It is there to this day, less than a half hour drive from Klaipeda, at the highway direction Kaunas and Vilnius. The Kaplan family emigrated from here in the 1920s, while the village's population was still 90% Jewish. Today, no Jews live in Rietavas.

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

Sad fate of wooden synagogues in Lithuania

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Inside of former synagogue. Used for storage (Photo: AFP)

Lithuania's wooden synagogues, the vestiges of a Jewish presence which was wiped out in the Holocaust, are falling into ruin from a lack of funding and support.

Hidden behind a row of houses, the wooden synagogue in the eastern town of Alanta looks more like a barn than a former house of worship.

This rundown building, which served as a fertilizer warehouse during the days of state farms, is now used for storage by Algis Jakutonis, a farmer living next door.

"I store my stuff there, and we still find traces of the Soviet era," said the 60-something Jakutonis, while displaying the large iron key to the former synagogue, which he acquired before Lithuania's independence in 1990.

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Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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Israeli President Shimon Peres invited to head the advisory board for restoration of the Vilnius Great Synagogue


The government of Lithuania asked Israeli President Shimon Peres to head the international advisory board for the restoration of the Vilnius Great Synagogue.

“The [restoration] project is an important part of the effort to both preserve and restore Vilnius’ Jewish heritage, and I think that President Peres could bring valuable guidance and insight to our project,” Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas said, according to the Baltic Review news site.

The comprehensive restoration and construction project could be completed as early as 2017, according to Tuesday’s report.
The offer came during a visit to Israel this week by Zuokas and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius in which they met with Peres.

If Peres agrees, he would join Lithuania’s former President Valdas Adamkus, current Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius and the prominent architect Daniel Liebeskind, who are all members of the board.

The Great Synagogue in Vilnius was an icon of Lithuanian and Eastern European Jewish culture before it was ruined during World War II and demolished in the 1950s. From the 16th through the 20th centuries, it was among the best-known synagogues in Central Europe.

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The Great Vilna Synagogue

The Great Synagogue of Vilna which once stood at the end of Jewish Street in the centre of Vilnius (where today’s courtyard between Vokieciu Street and Stikliu Street is located), was built between 1630-1633 after permission was granted to construct a synagogue from stone. Standing on the spot of an existing synagogue built in 1572, the site had first been used to house a Jewish house of prayer in 1440.

According to legend it was so magnificent and impressive, Napoleon who stood on the threshold of this synagogue in 1812 and gazed at the interior was speechless with admiration. The synagogue had a number of entrances. One, at street level, consisted of a pair of iron gates which, had been donated by a tailors’ society in 1640. The other entrance on the western side, added in 1800, was a bit more imposing. An elevated two-tiered wooden gable with a portal and wrought iron posts. There was a heavy iron door with an original Hebrew inscription indicating it was a gift of a "society of Psalm reciters" in 1642.

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Category : Litvak forum

Author Ellen Cassedy in her ancestral homeland

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The U.S. author of the book "We are here" (Mes esame čia), Ellen Cassedy (right), was in Lithuania last month. Here in eager discussion about Jewish life in Lithuania before the Holocaust and now today.


Ellen Cassedy in Vilnius last month, with her husband Jeff.

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Category : Litvak forum

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Kaunas massacre of 29 October 1941
The largest mass murder
of Lithuanian Jews


Thousands of Jews were killed to fall in pits like these.

Kaunas massacre of 29 October 1941, also known as the Great Action, was the largest mass murder of Lithuanian Jews.

By the order of SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger and SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca, the Sonderkommando under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, and 8 to 10 men from Einsatzkommando 3, in collaboration with Lithuanian henchmen, murdered 2,007 Jewish men, 2,920 women, and 4,273 children in a single day at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania.

With the arrival of the SS Einsatzgruppen, the 'Great Action' began on October 28th. The Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto were assembled on Democrats Square and all those fit for work were allowed back into the Ghetto. The others, over 9,000 men, women and children were marched to the SS execution centre in the Ninth Fort and there, stripped of their clothes and in the freezing cold, they awaited their fate. In groups of 200, they were stood on the edge of large pits, dug previously by Russian P.O.W.s, and were systematically machine-gunned to death.

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Category : Litvak forum

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How I escaped from
the Kaunas Ghetto


My coffee chat with Irena Veisaite (84) started here in the kitchen of her
cosy apartment in the outskirts of Vilnius Old Town. What a life story
hasn’t this gentle lady got to tell...

Text/photos: Aage Myhre

A room full of books. A desk covered with pamphlets, documents, newspaper clippings. Walls and bookshelves overcrowded with framed photographs of friends and relatives. Her today’s home in Vilnius is filled with warmth  and  wisdom.

Was this the way they lived? The Lithuanian Jews, often named as the Litvaks.  Before the World War II horrific events so brutally took them and their culture here in Lithuania away forever?  Or perhaps not forever? 
Because here she lives, Irena Veisaite, born in this country in 1928. She is one of the few Litvaks who survived the Holocaust in Lithuania. A living evidence of cruelty and injustice. Yet with less bitterness and anger than you might think.

"Love," she says, "love is so much more important than hatred. Hatred is the most destructive feature that humanity possesses and even in the most difficult times I experienced a lot of kindness".

Irena was born in 1928 in Kaunas, the inter-war Lithuanian capital when Vilnius and the south-western part of the country was occupied by Poland. Her parents had a liberal European education and she grew up, as she describes, surrounded by very different people.  She was playing with the neighbourhood children and never thought much of what nationality the other kids were. It was only when rumours of a potential war grew in strength that she began to feel a certain degree of insecurity.

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Category : Litvak forum


OPINIONS

Have your say. Send to:
editor@VilNews.com



    • Chiune Sugihara:
      The Japanese diplomat/spy who became a hero of the Holocaust


      An article by Dr. Boris Bakunas, exclusively for VilNews.
      Read it
      HERE

      Comments:
      __________________________

      This man and his wife belong in the annals of history, not to be set aside, but to be lauded, loud and clear from every person with a heart and soul
      How many outside of Lithuania know about this brave man? How many would have done what he did - a rhetorical question because we know the answer. This was an act of charity, an act of love for fellow human beings. This man and his wife belong in the annals of history, not to be set aside, but to be lauded, loud and clear from every person with a heart and soul. What happened to the Jews in Europe in general is horrific, hate begets hate, love saves lives as demonstrated by this great diplomat. Thank you for the story, Boris. It is heart warming despite the background of horror that made it possible.

      Bernard Terway
      __________________________

      Sugihara deserves to be placed among the giants in Lithuanian history.
      Schindler is lauded for saving Jews from whose labor he acquired his wealth. Why then are Sugihara's selfless and heroic deeds submerged in the mists of time, only to be brought to the surface by wonderful articles as this? Sugihara deserves to be placed among the giants in Lithuanian history.

      Jon Platakis
      __________________________

      In Japan, where he was first considered to be a traitor, he is celebrated as a hero
      Sugihara is very famous. There is a prize in his honor, several streets named after him in Lithuania, and various initiatives where he is mentioned. Also, in Japan, where he was first considered to be a traitor, he is celebrated as a hero, and all Japanese tourists consider it a must to visit the former consulate in Kaunas.

      Daiva Repeckaite
      __________________________

      It is very important for Lithuanians, Israelis, the people of Japan, and people of goodwill around the world to spread their story as an example of what individuals can do to stem the hatred
      Chiune and Yukiko's Sugihara's fame are increasing. And it is very important for Lithuanians, Israelis, the people of Japan, and people of goodwill around the world to spread their story as an example of what individuals can do to stem the hatred and...See More

      Boris Bakunas...
      Read more...


    • Kovno Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector (1817-1896), served as chief rabbi of Kovno, the most prominent rabbinical position at the height of 19th century Lithuanian Jewry.

      Jewish postcards from the past
      http://vilnews.com/?p=790

      We were very impressed with the scope of the articles, photos and vast scope of coverage of all things Lithuanian

      Stephanie Comfort's Jewish Postcard Collection has been featured in the online Lithuania News called the "VilNews e-magazine". The VilNews e-magazine was launched on February 15, 2011 and hopes to be one of the most comprehensive online resources for Lithuania.

      We were very impressed with the scope of the articles, photos and vast scope of coverage of all things Lithuania and wish them much success.

      Read more...

    • Harley Felstein, chair and founder of the Sunflower Project in USA, hits back:
      Sat, 25th August, 2012 - Comments

      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”

      See also:
      http://vilnews.com/?p=9949
      http://vilnews.com/?p=13081


      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 may be 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.

      Read more…
      Read more...

    • By reading Israeli newspapers one can hear more sobering voices. I say, It is time to heal the wounds and start living in peace again, as we have done for hundreds of years

      Vytautas Sliupas

      By Vytautas Sliupas, California

      “The Times of Israel”, March 11, 2012,  carries a news article “Nazi hunter leads criticism of Lieberman for cordially hosting Lithuanian FM”.  But not everyone was happy about this warm reception Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gave his Lithuanian Counterpart.  About a dozen demonstrators were carrying signs disapproving Foreign Minister’s Audronius Azubalis visit.  Protest was co-organized by Efraim Zuroff, a well known Lithuania baiter.


      Efraim Zuroff

      The article further quotes: ”The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, however, seems unfazed by these accusations”.

      My Kudos to both Foreign Ministers for trying to normalize the strained relations and to remove the mutual distrust.

      There are Jewish voices that are more conciliatory and thoughtful.  In the Comments column:


      Arik Elman

      Mr. Arik Elman  writes “both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes should be considered to be the main disasters of the 20th century.  My family lost relatives to both and I really fail to see a problem to that statement... Why is that Mr. Zuroff is so fixated on a tiny Lithuania instead of looking to the West?”


      Meir Rhodes

      Mr. Meir Rhodes writes: ...”both stalin and hitler were anti-Semitic monsters... stalin was preparing to deport and destroy the Jews in 1953...”


      Zalman Lachman

      Mr. Zalman Lachman writes: ... “The argument who was worse, Hitler or Stalin, is just silly... While everyone is busy arguing  about last generations haters, there is a fellow in Persia preparing to kill us all right now... Let’s face the present... Efraim, how about we make an effort... and let the Lithuanians deal with their own history”.


      Daniel Teeboom

      Mr. Daniel Teeboom writes: ... “Efraim Zuroff... I think it is a mistake to allow events from 70 years ago determine who should be our friends and who should not... So really, why care about Baltic deflections and demand so much from prospective friends?”

      By reading Israeli newspapers one can hear more sobering voices.  I say, It is time to heal  the wounds and start living in peace again, as we have done for hundreds of years.

      Vytautas Sliupas
      California

      Read more...

    • Lithuanian Jewish Community
      Lietuvos Žydų Bendruomenė

      LJC Chairman Dr. Simonas Alperavičius

      The Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) is an organisation offering a wide range of cultural, communal and social services from kindergarten through to senior level. Dr. Simonas Alperavičius has been the leader of the organisation since 1992. Along with the two functioning houses of worship, this is where you can meet the genuine Jewish locals and read the country’s only Jewish newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania, available in English, Yiddish, Lithuanian and Russian. The building also houses a youth club, Jewish Student Union, Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Inmates and the Union of WWII Jewish Veterans.

      The LJC Chariman, Simonas Alperavičius, was born 11 October 1928 in Vilnius. In 1933, his family moved to Kaunas, where he completed six grades at the Kaunas Sholom Aleichem Jewish gymnasium. At the outbreak of World War II, he and his parents escaped to Russia.

      In 1944, Alperavičius returned to Vilnius, where he graduated from the city‘s 4th Gymnasium in 1947. In 1947-1952, Alperavičius studied law at Vilnius University and graduated magna cum laude.

      Alperavičius spent a period working in the Klaipėdas regional Ministry of Justice, and in 1961-1988 he taught at the Ministry of the Interior.

      In 1989, he became executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania and in 1992 he was elected chairman. In 2006, he was elected chairman of the Jewish Community of Vilnius. He currently leads the Religious Jewish Communities of Vilnius and Lithuania. Alperavičius helped organize the first and second World Litvak Congresses.

      Writer Grigory Kanovich – first Chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community

      Grigory Kanovich is one of the most re-known contemporary Jewish writers novelist, play and script writers. Grigory Kanovich was born in traditional Jewish family on 18th of June 1929 in Jonava (Yonava), Lithuania. His family escaped the WWII and spent evacuation in Kazahstan and Ural. In 1945 his family returned to Vilnius where he took Slavistic studies at Vilnius State University which he graduated in 1953.
      Read more...

    • Jewish culture returns to Vilnius
      Wyman Brent, book collector, Professor Dovid Katz, director of the Litvak Studies Institute, Dr. Simonas Alperavičius, head of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Emmanuel Zingeris, Member of Seimas (Parliament), Žibartas Jackūnas, Vilnius City Councillor.

      Many of us had a certain feeling of participating in writing a new chapter of history when we met this early June day two weeks ago. Vilnius, which for hundreds of years had been one of the world's most important centres of Jewish culture and learning, was, as we know virtually wiped out from the Jewish world map during the Holocaust, but as we meet here - individuals from many countries, nationalities and cultures - this early summer day to celebrate that an American Baptist has collected more than 5000 books for what eventually will become a Jewish library of 200,000 titles, the feeling of a new dawn is clearly present.
      Read more...

    • World famous Litvaks
      Many famous Jewish people lived and created in Lithuania. It was not for nothing that Vilnius was called "Jerusalem of the North" - as the wealth of its sages and of its religious scholarship competed with that of Jerusalem. The Jews made a large cultural and economic contribution, to both the Jewish people and to Lithuanians.
      Read more...

Getting this undertaking off the ground is awe-inspiring

Congratulations on the VilNews debut in this new, expanded format. It looks very good indeed, is highly informative, and I wish you much success with it. The sheer amount of effort and dedication that must have gone into getting this undertaking off the ground is quite awe-inspiring. You are doing an important, noble thing for the beautiful country you love. It is indeed an exceptionally interesting, genuinely fascinating country, with a turbulent past and difficult present -- a place that, despite (and in part, due to) the many still-unresolved issues of history, never is not-interesting, where "the past is not dead. It isn't even past," to quote Faulkner -- and as someone who also has been held under its thrall for many years, I share your desire to see as many people as possible the world over to discover it, come visit -- and fall in love with it, too, and keep coming back. My very best wishes to VilNews.
Mikhail Iossel, Professor, Montreal, Canada


"Legendary Litvak heroes of Africa"
Eugene Rangayah:

I am not sure about the source of the information entitled Jews in South Africa. Especially with regards to point 3, which clearly, in my opinion, is aimed at marginalising the involvement of Muslims in the anti-apartheid struggle... Read more...

Further to my comment above, one also has to acknowledge that Jews were regarded as White in Apartheid South Africa and enjoyed the benefits afforded to them as White South Africans. Some chose to oppose it, who have been duly honoured, and some chose to ride the wave of these benefits. Read more...

I appreciate that White South Africans, who chose to join the struggle had everything to lose. That is not what I dispute about the article. The article, in my opinion, does a direct comparison between Muslim and Jewish participation in the anti-apartheid movement, resulting in the Muslim involvement being marginalised. Why does it not measure Hindu, Buddhist or Christian involvement? I do not think that this forum, should be used as an instrument to spruce up anyone's involvement in the anti-apartheid movement at the expense of others. If the intention was to highlight the contribution of the Jewish community, then that's fine, as it is the Litvak forum, but definitely not at the expense of the Muslims or any other religious sect. Read more...

Grant:

Correct – Jews were regarded as white in South Africa and did enjoy all the privileges. What made their sacrifices even more remarkable was that they put themselves at risk and all the privileges at risk to fight a fight where they were not victims themselves. Read more...


We were very impressed with the scope of the articles, photos and vast scope of coverage of all things Lithuania

Stephanie Comfort's Jewish Postcard Collection has been featured in the premier launch of the online Lithuania News called the "VilNews e-magazine". The VilNews e-magazine was just launched on February 15, 2011 and hopes to be one of the most comprehensive online resources for Lithuania. We were very impressed with the scope of the articles, photos and vast scope of coverage of all things Lithuania and wish them much success.

JEWISH POSTCARD COLLECTION

http://jewishpostcardcollection.com/




VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editorseditor@VilNews.com.
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