24 February 2018
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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

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

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!

Kaunas was an important centre of Jewish life

- Posted by - (4) Comment

Kaunas Synagogue is one of two operating choral synagogues in Lithuania.

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.

Read more…

Kovno video:


Jewish bank in Kaunas
See also:

In pre-war Lithuania, many members of the Jewish middle class, especially the educated strata, who had already experienced to some extent the establishing of Jewish autonomy, mobilized their resources for the strengthening of the social economic basis of the Jewish masses and their livelihood. With the blessing and initiation of the Economics Committee at the Ministry for Jewish Affairs and with the assistance of the “Foundation”, a national financial system was established of co-operative credit societies. By the end of 1920, these were already active in 44 cities and towns and were named “Peoples Bank” (in Yiddish Folksbank). In addition to the positive local economic activity (extending loans etc) they were also of importance in the social and cultural sphere. In a number of places, the community organs and other organizations also used the bank building. There were also cases of the bank granting study scholarships and prizes for cultural activities.

The Central Jewish Bank. Kaunas, 1923.


Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (2) Comment

“My writing is about Vilna,” says Abraham Karpinovitch in a new film

Thieves, whores, and
gangsters who supplied
color to our lives

By Ellen Cassedy

“My writing is about Vilna,” says Abraham Karpinovitch in a new film – “not about the Vilna Gaon [the renowned rabbi of 18th-century Vilnius] or about the clergy or the intelligentsia, but about the thieves, whores, racketeers, and gangsters who supplied color to our lives.”

The film is the latest in a series about Jewish writers directed by Boris Sandler, the editor of the New York-based Yiddish newspaper ForvertsSandler presented the film, in Yiddish with English subtitles, at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on October 18, under the auspices of Yiddish of Greater Washington


Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (0) Comment

“Ikh bin a vilner,” Samuel
Bak declared, in Yiddish

Ellen Cassedy reporting from Washington D.C.

“Ikh bin a vilner,” Samuel Bak declared, in Yiddish, to an audience at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., October 15.

Echoing President John F. Kennedy’s famous statement in Berlin, the artist meant that he is from Vilna, of Vilna – and so is his abundant body of work.  

Bak was at the Embassy for the opening of an exhibition of his paintings, which powerfully evoke the city of his childhood – and its destruction during the Nazi era.   


Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Irene Veisaite is this
year’s recipient of the
Goethe Medal

Chairwoman of out VilNews Honorary Council,  literature professor and critic Irena Veisaite is a recipient of this year's Goethe Medal.

Once a year, the Goethe-Institut awards the Goethe Medal, an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany. This medal honours foreign personalities who have performed outstanding service for the German language and international cultural relations. The Goethe Medal was established by the executive committee of the Goethe-Institut in 1954 and acknowledged as an official decoration by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975. 

Since it was first awarded in 1955, a total of 326 personalities from 58 countries have been honoured.

Read more about the award and Professor Irene Veisaite:
Deutsche Welle      Jüdische Allgemeine     Goethe Institut   
VilNews (Ellen Cassedy)     VilNews (Aage Myhre)


Category : Front page / Litvak forum

The first time I heard the name of Žagarė

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Žilvinas Beliauskas

By Žilvinas Beliauskas
Manager of Cultural Projects
Vilnius Jewish Public Library 

The first time I heard the name of Zhagare (Žagarė) it was probably like for many Lithuanian kids related to cherries – Zhagre cherrys. Big and juicy ones. There were some of such trees in my parents’ orchard. Zhagare liqeuer came later. Maybe even later than mom‘s notice about St. Barbara of Zhagare (Barbora Žagarietė) from 17th century, though not beatified yet but very revered in Samogitia (Žemaitija) as a real saint in charge of many miraculous healings. And that was it for many years until it turned out that the family of my wife comes from Zhagare. During the first walking tour with her I enjoyed marvelous streets of wooden houses along river Shvete, radiating strange and sadly atractive kind of romantic atmosphere of brick houses around the Central Square. The architecture prompted straightforwardly that they used to belong to Jews and association with the direction sign by the road at the entrance to Zhagre showing the way to the Graveyard of the Jewish Genocide Victims made this atmosphere still blurry ghostly, not quite tangibly yet but bringing a distant smell of its “echos and absences” to use Roger Cohen phrase in his letter to the forthcoming event this Friday.


Category : Front page / Litvak forum

Echos and absences

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen,
Columnist, International Herald Tribune and New York Times

I look forward with considerable emotion to returning to Zagare for the unveiling of a plaque that will commemorate the slaughter of more than 2,250 Jews in the town on October 2, 1941. More than three score years and ten have gone by since that mass murder without full acknowledgment of its scope. The men, women and children taken from the main square into the woods to be killed have remained anonymous, mere shadows, their fates at first concealed by Soviet political calculation and taboos, and then only falteringly recognized after Lithuania gained independence in 1990. I do not know the Jews who were killed but I know that each of them valued life and its joys as we do, and I know that my grandmother, Pauline (“Polly”) Soloveychik would have been among them had she not left Zagare for South Africa in the early 20th Century. For me, the fate of the Zagare Jews is personal.


Category : Front page / Litvak forum

“Why do you love Jews so much?”

- Posted by - (14) Comment

Vilnius, the old Jewish Synagogue.

By Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief

I have repeatedly been asked, by Lithuanians and others why VilNews, and I as a Norwegian without a single drop of Jewish blood, love Jews so much? Recently I met a Lithuanian-American, well educated and well read, who yet bombastically trumpeted. "You lick the asses of the Jews, Aage."

During my meetings with Jews in South Africa, where 90% of the Jewish population of almost 100 000 are of Lithuanian descent, I have also been asked why I have such great interest in Litvaks.

My answer to all these, has been that I do not love Jews more than other peoples.

But I also tend to add that I am always impressed by people who achieve more than the common herd. Intelligence and wisdom are to me among the most important qualities a person can have, and I have no problem admitting that these are qualities I've seen a lot of among the Jews I have known through life.

As to the Litvaks, they were subjected to an almost total extinction here in Lithuania during the Holocaust. It was an assault and a genocide of an unimaginable scale that we must never forget, and which memory must find its fair balance in the mental as well as in the practical.


Category : Lithuania in the world / Litvak forum

- Posted by - (2) Comment

Ona Šimaitė:
Righteous – and Human

Julija Šukys,
Author of
Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė

Julija Šukys interviewed by Ellen Cassedy

In her new book, Epistolophilia, Julija Šukys follows the letters and journals—the “life-writing”—of Ona Šimaitė (1894–1970), a Lithuanian librarian who again and again slipped into the Jewish ghetto of German-occupied Vilnius carrying food, clothes, medicine, money, and counterfeit documents.  Often she left with letters to deliver, manuscripts to hide, and even sedated children swathed in sacks. In 1944 she was captured by the Gestapo, tortured for twelve days, and deported to Dachau.

Šukys beckons back to life this quiet and worldly heroine.  Ona Šimaitė is a giant of Holocaust history – one of the “Righteous among the Nations” honored at the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel – and yet little known. 

Julija Šukys lives in Montreal, Canada. In addition to Epistolophilia, she is also the author of Silence Is Death; The Life and Work of Tahar Djaout.  Visit her website at


Category : Lithuania in the world / Litvak forum

- Posted by - (5) Comment

Lithuanian Jewish History –
can we stop the sand clock?

Sergejus Kanovičius

Interviewer Andrius Navickas
Authorized translation by Judita Gliauberzonaite and Kerry Shawn Keys
We offer you an interview with the poet, public figure, co-founder of NGO Maceva and the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s public relations advisor, Sergejus Kanovičius, about the current situation of Jews in Lithuania and what is today the most inciting factor of anti-Semitic manifestations in Lithuania.


Are there any statistics of how many Jewish people are left in Lithuania today, and whether this group is increasing or decreasing in number?

In 1988, there was an inaugural congress of the Lithuanian Jewish community and five hundred of the delegates barely fit into the Trade Union Hall on Tauras hill. About 20 thousand Jews were still living in Lithuania at that time. Today, according to unofficial estimates, the Jewish population of Lithuania consists only of 3.500 Jews. Thus, the dynamics are sad. More Jews die in Lithuania than are born, and we can say that we are witnesses of the extinction of the Jewish community in Lithuania, or, at least, its last century.

True, the remaining Lithuanian Jews live a full life. The community’s updated web page ( has recently been launched, children attend Jewish schools, and the Maccabi Sports Club is active, as well as a number of cultural organizations. Life in the Jewish community is in full swing, something is always happening there, and it does not seem that we are seeing a sad period of the life of the Lithuanian Jewry. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, the last Jewish watchmakers, carpenters, furniture makers, tailors, shoemakers, and barbers have disappeared.


Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Michel Hazanavicius,
5 Oscar Prize winner,
is a French Litvak

The French film maker and Director Michel HAZANAVICIUS (born in Paris, 1967), who won 5 Oscars in Los Angeles recently for his black and white sillent movie, The Artist, starring Jean Desjardins and Bérénice Bejo, is of Litvak descent.
His grand-parents emigrated from Lithuania to France in the 1920s.…


Category : Litvak forum


Have your say. Send to:

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

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


      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...

    • 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

      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.


    • 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:

      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…

    • 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


    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

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...


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.


VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the
Code of Ethics: See Section 2 – about VilNewsVilNews  is not responsible for content on external links/web pages.
All content is copyrighted © 2011. UAB ‘VilNews’.

مبلمان اداری صندلی مدیریتی صندلی اداری میز اداری وبلاگدهی فروشگاه اینترنتی گن لاغری شکم بند لاغری تبلیغات کلیکی آموزش زبان انگلیسی پاراگلایدر ساخت وبلاگ بوی دهان بوی بد دهان