Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius)

Democratically Elected Leadership of Vilnius Jewish Community Shows Consistent Moral Clarity on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery’s Fate



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  CEMETERIES  |  OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  PETITION

VILNIUS—During the fiascos of recent formal visits to Lithuania by the chairperson of the US taxpayer-funded “Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad” (known for short as “USCPAHA”), a ubiquitous feature was the seemingly unending stream of photo-ops with leaders of the “official” state-sponsored Jewish community which has quite naturally supported government plans for a convention center and annex to be situated in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. What many foreign visitors do not understand is that this enterprise does not have democratically legitimate leadership. In the middle of the last leadership election, in spring 2017, the chairperson changed the rules to disenfranchise the three thousand Jewish citizens of Lithuania in favor of a “new system” whereby “associations alone” would vote, these being the chairperson’s own board of associates. When the Vilnius Jewish Community held a very public and democratic vote, the state-sponsored official community echoed antisemitic tropes that the current Jews are some kind of Russians who say they are Jews. In November of 2018, the courts ruled her election illegal, a remarkable public demonstration followed last spring, but then, after an array of legal ruses, some quite amusing, the appeals court last month legalized her election. But not-illlegal is not moral, and being “not illegal” is a rather poor standard for Jewish and democratic legitimacy in the  small and fragile post-Holocaust space. More and more people are calling for a simple solution: new and fair elections under the aegis of an outside ombudsman or polling organization, in which every Lithuanian Jewish citizen has one vote.

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Posted in Bold Citizens Speak Out, Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Democratically Elected Leadership of Vilnius Jewish Community Shows Consistent Moral Clarity on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery’s Fate

Vilnius Jewish Community Calls for New Democratic Elections



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  DEMOCRACY  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

VILNIUS—The elected leadership of the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) today published on its website, and on its Facebook page, an English version of the Lithuanian original that appeared on 10 October on the website as well as, on the same date, in the form of a Baltic News Service (BNS) press release, providing the contact name of Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), chair of the community and one of its twenty-one member elected council. The VJC, representing the more than 2,000 Jews of Vilnius in affiliation with groups in Šiauliai, Klaipeda and others, represents the vast majority of today’s living Jewish citizens in Lithuania. In fact, its electoral conference of May 2017 was the largest electoral conference of Jewish citizens in Lithuania this century.

“And most importantly […], to provide new elections for the chairpersonship of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in accordance with the honest rules that have been in place for many years, taking into account the votes of all the Jews of Lithuania, and not the ‘associations’  of ‘close friends’ who are themselves dependent for funding on the grace of the chairperson.”

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Posted in Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius Jewish Community Calls for New Democratic Elections

Jacob Piliansky, 72, Soft-Spoken Spokesperson for Historic Truth and a Late-in-Life Artist, Dies in Vilnius



OBITUARIES  |  JACOB PILIANSKY  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE 

by Dovid Katz

Jacob Piliansky (1946-2018)

Several dozen Vilnius Jews turned up today for the funeral of Jacob Piliansky at the city’s current Jewish cemetery at Sudervės 28. Decades ago, Piliansky, an engineer by trade, relocated to Washington DC (and for a time to the Netherlands) where he built a new life and career. But when his mother back in Vilnius, the legendary Dobke Jonis, turned ninety, he decided to return to his native Lithuania and live with her for the remainder of their years. Dobke (Dora Piliansky, 1912–2014), who passed away at age 102, was a cultural icon of her shtetl Zézmer (today’s Žiežmariai), whose prolific writings and drawings remain a testament, as does her testimony on the bestial brutality of the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) fascists in June 1941 who turned back Jewish escapees on the roads to ensure they would be trapped in the Nazi choke-hold. She brought up her children — Jacob (Yasha, Yankl) and his older sister Fréydke (Frida  Piliansky Zavalkovsky, 1942–2016) — to stand proudly for historic truth and to fear nothing and nobody when it comes to telling the story of Lithuanian Jewry in its homeland. Or plain and simple, to stand up for what is right. Such folks do not often enjoy lifetimes of unbroken popularity or the easiest of times.

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Posted in Jacob Piliansky, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Obituaries, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jacob Piliansky, 72, Soft-Spoken Spokesperson for Historic Truth and a Late-in-Life Artist, Dies in Vilnius

Sept. 23rd Ponár Memorial and Pope Francis’s Visit to Vilna Ghetto Memorial



OPINION  |  EVENTS  |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  HOLOCAUST MEMORIALS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE

IMAGE OF THE DAY: Elected chairperson of the Vilnius Jewish Community, Simon Gurevich, was not allowed past the security barrier, barring him from the Pope’s event to commemorate the Vilna Ghetto. At the earlier event at Ponár, he was not allowed to deliver his prepared remarks.

VILNIUS—The two major “September 23rd” events today in Vilnius were the annual commemoration ceremony at the mass murder site Ponár in the forest outside the city, and, later in the afternoon, Pope Francis’s visit to the small monument, its 1990s Yiddish letters faded beyond legibility, commemorating the Vilna Ghetto in an Old Town square opposite the city’s beloved Jewish Cultural and Information Center (JCIC). [See also Andrius Kulikauskas’s appeal to the Pope on the eve of his visit in connection with his visit to Lukiškės Square in central Vilnius.]

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Posted in Christian-Jewish Issues, Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Events, Foreign Ministries: Holocaust Politics Abuse?, Israel, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Politics of Memory, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sept. 23rd Ponár Memorial and Pope Francis’s Visit to Vilna Ghetto Memorial

100 Jews from Across Lithuania Peacefully Protest Undemocratic Hijack of Official Jewish Community



VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION

VILNIUS—As covered sequentially by DH over the past year, the official “Lithuanian Jewish Community” (LJC) saw its democracy abruptly dismantled in the spring of 2017 with the mid-campaign rule-change whereby the three thousand or so surviving Jews of Lithuania were disenfranchised and their voting rights replaced by a roomful of “Jewish oligarchs,” most of whom are beneficiaries of funds allocated by the government’s Good Will Foundation. Some have two or three votes, some represent defunct organizations, and one, who has two votes actually lives in Brussels. Western observers have compared it with some irony to the original Zero Mostel version of the Hollywood film The Producers. In any case, the “election” was ruled illegal by the Lithuanian courts in a case that brought their judicial independence to the fore, to the nation’s great credit.

UPDATES: JTA REPORT

Observers have pointed to the dangers of restitution settlements with East European governments that end up destroying communities’ democracy and independence in the direction of becoming “Jewish PR” units for the state with massive glories falling upon one or a handful of “court Jews” who serve to showcase state policies to the outside world.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), Views of Mr. Ronaldas Račinskas | Comments Off on 100 Jews from Across Lithuania Peacefully Protest Undemocratic Hijack of Official Jewish Community

“Pylimo Jewish Commissariat” Ensures Readers Won’t Ever Hear About the New York Times



HUMOR (OF SORTS)  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  OPINION  |  MEDIA WATCH

by Motke Chabad

Our national Ministry for Jewish Control’s website editors were recently faced with a daunting quagmire. An article in the New York Times (one written, to make matters worse, by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist), had featured, right on top, a large beautiful photo of a handsome young Lithuanian Jewish man, Simon Gurevich, who was elected head of the Vilnius Jewish Community by an overwhelming majority, one year ago. Even worse, he is of pure Litvak heritage going back seven hundred years on all sides of his family. Shockingly, the article quoted him as saying that the government might find a better place for its new national convention center than on top of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. (Obviously he was misled by those 42,500 people who signed some petition or other.  By the way, a few years ago I helped the Commissariat in its search at the time for a suitable new rabbi with that question in mind.)

Who’s afraid of Simon Gurevich and The New York Times?

Naturally, all those local Jews who voted for Mr. Gurevich are Russians who claim to be Jewish, as the Commissariat demonstrated brilliantly last May beyond any shadow of a doubt. The challenge became to ensure that readers from the lands of the capitalist leaches, those who speak English, never find out about this article. Easy enough, who will ever hear about a New York Times article about our distant country? Mum’s the word.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Humor (Of Sorts), Identity Theft of Litvak Heritage, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, Motke Chabad, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Comments Off on “Pylimo Jewish Commissariat” Ensures Readers Won’t Ever Hear About the New York Times

Vilnius and Three Other Lithuanian Jewish Communities Call for New Democratic Elections



DOCUMENTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Baltic News Service (BNS) carried today the text of a public statement issued by the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC), joined by the Jewish communities of Klaipėda, Šiauliai, and Ukmergė (known in Jewish history as Meml, Shavl and Vilkomir, respectively). For its readers’ information, Defending History is providing a translation below. Please note that in the event of any query arising, the Lithuanian text alone is authoritative; items in square brackets [] have been added in the translation for clarity.

Readers wishing to look at the background are invited to our tracking section, Lithuania’s Jewish Community Issues. As our readers know, the Defending History community tends to see in the sad events of recent years the ominous hand of manipulation of a small but creative and proud Jewish community, by way of restitution monies that, some believe, are being channeled in ways that are not according to the democratic wishes of the members of the nation’s Jewish community. During last year’s election campaign, the rules were changed mid-campaign to disenfranchise the Jewish community’s living members via a new system based on a handful of organization chiefs, one of whom lives in Brussels. In one of the saga’s lowpoints, picking up on local antisemitic tropes, the official, government-sponsored community, where various ex-government or political officials and/or their children occupy some of the major positions, accused the actual Vilnius Jewish Community of being Russian speakers who pretend to be Jews, leading to international media coverage.


Translation of Text from BNS, 23 March 2017:

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Posted in Documents, Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Comments Off on Vilnius and Three Other Lithuanian Jewish Communities Call for New Democratic Elections

Vilnius District Court’s 29 May 2017 Ruling on LJC’s Mid-Campaign Election Rule Change



DOCUMENTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

Vilnius District Court Judge Rima Bražinskienė’s 29 May 2017 ruling, concerning the “official” Lithuanian Jewish Community’s mid-campaign rule change during last spring’s leadership contest, effectively disenfranchising 2,200 Jewish people of Vilnius (the vast majority of Lithuania’s Jews today) in favor of a new voting system granting effective power over the election to a roomful of “oligarchs” (some of whom have two or three votes each, i.e. two or three times as much weight as the 2,200 Jews disenfranchised) is now publicly available.

The following, for the convenience of our readers, is an English translation. Note that in the case of any query arising, the Lithuanian original is alone authoritative.

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Posted in Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius District Court’s 29 May 2017 Ruling on LJC’s Mid-Campaign Election Rule Change

Whom Does the “Lithuanian Jewish Community” Board Really Represent?



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION

by Josifas Parasonis

Professor Josifas Parasonis (Vilnius Gediminas Technical University) contributed this opinion piece in Lithuanian earlier today. This translation is provided by Defending History, with Prof. Parasonis’s consent, for our readers’ information (with hyperlinks provided by DH). In the event of any query arising, the Lithuanian version alone is authoritative. Prof. Parasonis is one of the twenty-one Vilnius Jewish Community council members elected on 24 May 2017. See also the letter signed by him and nineteen others, addressed to the Good Will Foundation last July, and, in reverse chronological order, Defending History’s section on Vilnius Jewish life. DH opinion pieces represent the views of the author.

Methods of authoritarian and obtuse governance, evident for many years in the management of the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC), have recently reached the public sphere. Despite the fierce resistance and brutal interference of the chairwoman of the LJC (and, until recently, of the Vilnius Jewish Community, too) Faina Kukliansky, the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) [on 24 May 2017] organized a general conference of Vilnius Jews according to all legal procedures — with, incidentally, record-high attendance — and elected its new council [of 21 members] democratically. But the notion that Jewish people solve their problems in a wise manner, although prevalent in society, demonstrably did not take root in this case. As a former deputy chairman of the LJC (2000–2005), I feel an obligation to share my thoughts on why this has happened. It seems to me that I have a moral right to share these thoughts.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Josifas Parasonis, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Comments Off on Whom Does the “Lithuanian Jewish Community” Board Really Represent?

Honest Error at German Embassy in Vilnius?



OPINION  |  USE AND ABUSE OF PONÁR  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

VILNIUS—“There is nothing new under the sun,” as the Good Book says (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Sure, on occasion, Irish communities will feud in Boston, Italians in New York, Chinese in LA and Lithuanians in Chicago. It is part of the professional training, posture, and policy of diplomats to negotiate such inevitabilities by way of common sense, wisdom, and fairness. For years now, the widely admired German ambassador to Lithuania, HE Jutta Schmitz has kept her embassy’s diplomatic table open to people and organizations, governmental and non-governmental, from across the colorfully diverse spectrum of opinion in Lithuania. It is not known whether the recent completion of her Vilnius ambassadorship and departure from Lithuania,  and the temporary vacancy,  had anything to do with the embassy’s recent, and quite innocent, faux-pas.

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Posted in Commemorations for Destroyed Communities, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Ponár (Ponary, Paneriai), Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Honest Error at German Embassy in Vilnius?

Vilnius TV & Radio Debates on Future of Piramónt — the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



DOCUMENTS  |  THE OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY  |  OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT  |  INTERNATIONAL PETITION   |  CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS  |  CEMETERIES  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Following Defending History’s publication last weekend of the 28 July 2017 letter to the president of Lithuania signed by twelve United States congressmen, pleading for the new national convention center project to be moved away from the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (Piramónt, in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius), the news was reported by The Weekly of Vilnius, an elite diplomatic publication on Lithuanian affairs, and then by BNS (Baltic News Service, and in English via the Lithuania Tribune), which put it into the wider Baltic domain. Last Monday, 14 August, there were at least four panel discussions broadcast on Lithuanian TV and radio. The following are full English translations of each of these broadcasts, provided by DefendingHistory.com.

(1) LNK TV: News. With Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), Faina Kukliansky,   Rūta Leitanaitė, Daniel Lupschitz (Danielius Lupšicas),  Deividas Matulionis, Romas Pakalnis, Donatas Stundis

(2) LRT TV: Panorama. With Simon Gurevich, Skirmantas Malinauskas, Valdonė Rundenkienė

(3) LRT Radio: Lithuanian Day. With Simon Gurevich, Agnė Kairiūnaitė, Deividas Matulionis

(4) LRT Radio: 60 Minutes. With Simon Gurevich, Agnė Kairiūnaitė, Faina Kukliansky, Deividas Matulionis, passers-by and a taxi driver

LITE-Vulovak-on-national-convention-center-opening

Vulovak for DefendingHistory.com

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, CPJCE (London), Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius TV & Radio Debates on Future of Piramónt — the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

Vilnius Jewish Community Releases Letter Signed by 20 Elected Board Members Addressed to “Good Will Foundation”



DOCUMENTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—One month ago, on 7 July 2017, twenty of the twenty-one elected board members of the Vilnius Jewish Community (the 21st was abroad) signed a full-hearted letter addressed to the Good Will Foundation, the Lithuanian government restitution fund for Jewish community survival deriving from part of the value of the communal properties owned by the annihilated religious Jewish communities of prewar Lithuania. To this date, there has been no reply from the Good Will Foundation, nor any statement from its esteemed foreign board members who represent the World Jewish Restitution Organization. The board’s co-chair is Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee, who is a recipient of a number of Lithuanian government medals over the years.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius Jewish Community Releases Letter Signed by 20 Elected Board Members Addressed to “Good Will Foundation”

Neo-Nazis Pick Up Hate Materials from… (Hijacked?) Official “Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community” Website



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Lithuania’s top neo-Nazi blogger “Zeppelinus” has republished with some noticeable relish, in a post dated 27 May 2017, parts of the 19 May official “Lithuanian Jewish Community website” attack (as PDF) on this journal’s editor, Dovid Katz. The attack was, some would say shamefully, signed “LJC staff” though sources rapidly revealed its prime author (see our rapid response on the day). It is not the first time that the antisemitic far-right has found its material on the website of the official Jewish Community under its current leadership (that is under legal challenge after the recent allegedly rigged election), at a time when the website is, disturbingly, allegedly under control of elements very far from the interests of Lithuania’s Jews. Last autumn’s website attacks on Rabbi Sholom-Ber Krinsky were picked up and elaborated by another key antisemitic blogger who went so far as to  dig up the 1790s antisemitic attacks on a prime founder of Lithuanian Hasidism.

You know something is wrong when the neo-Nazis are finding their material on the “website of an official Jewish community”. It’s a website funded in fact by the state via restitution funds deriving from the communal religious properties of the annihilated Jewish communities of Lithuania, administered by a (this one’s for you, George Orwell) “Good Will Foundation”.

Then there was the most recent fiasco, a comparison of the democratic electoral congress of the Vilnius Jewish Community on 24 May to Russia’s “Zapad 2017” military exercises, and the charge that the assembled 300 or so Vilnius Jews were “mainly Russian speakers calling themselves Jews, with only a minority of people with Litvak blood” (see our report which led to JTA’s coverage, and the essays by Professor Pinchos Fridberg and by Leonas Kaplanas). This was a proverbial gift of the gods to the local antisemitic establishment here that revels in delegitimizing the country’s living Jews while embracing a de-Judaized ersatz “Litvak heritage” for PR, with some help from a tiny elite of privileged “court Jews” who themselves at times, it seems, become conduits for antisemitic invective against the local Jewish community. Prof. Fridberg has pointed out that a subsequent vague and unclear “apology” posted failed to disclose the author(s) of the offending text, and never even appeared in the Russian-language section of the website. Is the author of the offending text still employed by the official “Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community”? Why is his or her identity a secret?

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, Human Rights, Identity Theft of Litvak Heritage, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Neo-Nazis Pick Up Hate Materials from… (Hijacked?) Official “Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community” Website

Young Vilnius Jews Converge on Jewish Community Center to Protest Rigged Election



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

by Defending History Staff

VILNIUS—In one of the most remarkable events in post-Soviet Jewish Lithuania, around a hundred Jewish residents of this city, most of them from younger generations, came today to the Pylimo 4 headquarters of the “official” Jewish community to monitor the quadrennial elections for chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania which they believed to be rigged. First, the rules had been changed right in the middle of the campaign, on 19 April, disenfranchising the small Jewish population of Lithuania by reducing to one vote each Jewish community and abandoning the long-standing formula of 1 vote for 100 persons which gave a voice to actual Jewish people (while retaining one, two or even three votes for various oligarchs from NGOs and other organizations, associations, and entities, including a not-yet built museum in a town with no Jews). That meant that the 2,200 or so Jews of Vilnius would have one vote rather than around 22.

UPDATES OF 29 MAY:

Vilnius District Court today nullified the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s decision to eliminate proportional representation and reduce the electoral weight of Vilnius Jewry to one vote. It offered temporary relief with a right to appeal within seven days. Net moral effect of the decision is to delegitimize the “re-coronation” of the incumbent chairperson.

Also: The “Good Will Foundation” released its latest allocation figures of funds deriving from the communal religious properties of the annihilated Jewish communities. Incredibly, it contains money for the state-sponsored “Red-Brown Commission” that is dedicated to the 2008 Prague Declaration

Second, the fifteen representatives which the newly elected Vilnius Jewish Community Board designated to attend the election conference were not admitted to the conference. Last Wednesday evening, the VJC elected Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) its chairperson. He is the challenger candidate for the national chairpersonship position.

Third, a massive multi-layered security presence (guards in the building wore at least three kinds of fancy uniforms, police and security cars graced the sidewalk outside) added both bad will and farce to a day that will invariably go down in Vilna Jewish history on a number of counts. The Vilnius Jewish Community’s report on the day’s events (in Lithuanian) is available on its Facebook page.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Chabad in Vilnius, Free Speech & Democracy, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Young Vilnius Jews Converge on Jewish Community Center to Protest Rigged Election

Adopting Antisemitic Trope, “Official Jewish Community Website” Blasts 300 Vilnius Jews as “Mainly Russian Speakers Calling Themselves Jews”



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Over 300 members of the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC), representing all adult age groups, and constituting the numerically largest such conference this century, this evening elected a new VJC chairman at the Karolina Hotel in Vilnius. Professionally organized, members with voting rights had to present their membership cards and separate ID at conference tables organized by initial letters of surnames. The proceedings, started with a few sentences of Yiddish by Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevicius), were meticulously conducted bilingually, with all proceedings in both Lithuanian (first) and (then) Russian in an atmosphere of democratic catharsis of an East European Jewish community, many of whose members have felt sidelined by the interests of a handful of elites close to government circles in recent years. The assembly included virtually all of the known personalities of Vilnius Jewry who do not happen to have employment at Pylimo Street 4, the official community’s headquarters (but there were a few of those too, as well as some from the official synagogue minyan).

ORIGINAL POST ON WEBSITE OF STATE-SPONSORED “JEWISH COMMUNITY”

After the election of the new chairperson came elections for twenty-one members of the Vilnius Board. Also, a resolution was adopted cancelling the recent attempt to disenfranchise some two thousand Vilnius Jews by recounting their votes as a single vote (while the heads of various NGOs, including the not-yet-built Sheduva Lost Shtetl Museum, have two or more votes each).

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Russian Speakers' Personal Status, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Comments Off on Adopting Antisemitic Trope, “Official Jewish Community Website” Blasts 300 Vilnius Jews as “Mainly Russian Speakers Calling Themselves Jews”

Gurevich Explains How Kukliansky, Levin, Žakas, and Kanovich Control 40% of Votes in “Kangaroo Election”



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), candidate for the leadership of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, today issued a statement on his public Facebook page inviting members of the community to participate in the electoral conference for chairperson of the Vilnius Jewish Community, to be held this Wednesday evening 24 May 2014 6 PM (18:00) at the Karolina Hotel in Vilnius. His statement, in Lithuanian, reminds readers that the recent attempts to cancel the conference (whose date was democratically voted on by a clear majority of Vilnius Jewish Community Board members) would result in the application of the “new rules” decided on in the middle of the current campaign that would effectively disenfranchise 2,200 Vilnius Jews by recounting their votes from the present 22 or so (via the longstanding formula of 100 people = one vote) to one vote, while each of the elite power brokers in the chairperson’s circle (not all of whom live in Lithuania) would in effect have the votes to decide the entire future of the Jewish community, resulting in a tragic undermining of the future of the actual living Jewish people in Lithuania. To make matters worse, various of these “machers” have two or three votes each.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Shádov (Šeduva), Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gurevich Explains How Kukliansky, Levin, Žakas, and Kanovich Control 40% of Votes in “Kangaroo Election”

Arkadijus Vinokuras: Chairperson’s Henchman-Spoiler or Independent Candidate?



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Arkadijus Vinokuras, the highly talented and successful Lithuanian Jewish author, journalist, and comedian, has today jumped into the fray of the official Jewish Community’s elections for the post of chairperson of the Vilnius Jewish Community. In contrast to Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), who declared his candidacy at the start of the election season and whose candidacy has (as of the time of this posting) not even been reported on the official community website, Mr. Vinokuras’s effort comes one week before the scheduled May 24th Vilnius Jewish Community conference, and has been announced with respect and a fine photograph on the website today (the same moment it came out on his own Facebook page). But that is not the main reason his candidacy is thought by many in the community, on first reaction, to be in the service of chairperson Faina Kukliansky, whose democratic terms as chief of both the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) and the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) ran out last month.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Arkadijus Vinokuras: Chairperson’s Henchman-Spoiler or Independent Candidate?

Is “Good Will Foundation” Enabling a Mockery of Jewish Community Democracy in Lithuania?



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  GOOD WILL FOUNDATION  |  DEMOCRACY  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—The official trilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian) website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, generously financed from the restitution funds (deriving from prewar Jewish religious communal properties) allocated by the state-sponsored Good Will Foundation, is in the nature of things meant to represent that community. Once a community chairperson’s tenure was expired and a democratic election campaign was underway, it was widely expected that the website and its editor, Lithuanian journalist Ilona Rūkienė, would take every care to ensure evenhandedness, giving the various candidates equal space and each campaign the same respect, coverage, and democratic tools for reaching the electorate, thereby enabling voters to make an informed decision.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Comments Off on Is “Good Will Foundation” Enabling a Mockery of Jewish Community Democracy in Lithuania?

Lithuanian Jews Call for Democracy in their Community



OPINION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

VILNIUS—The human rights of even small, weak and demographically struggling minorities to enjoy a free and open website that offers a forum to people and groups of diverse opinions is well established. It is also a test of democracy that members of such groups feel able to speak out when those rights are abrogated. Against that backdrop, it was significant today that a group of older members of Lithuania’s Jewish community (including Holocaust survivors), spoke out on the subject, around a week after a pubic appeal for website democracy by a younger generation on Facebook.  The older group blogs under the name of the semi-legendary 19th century Vilna Jewish “wisecracker and whistleblower” Mótke Chabád in the Russian-language Vilnius-based publication Obzor (not to be confused with Defending History’s “own” Motke Chabad…).

“Bravo to Vilnius’s Jewish community for their pre-Passover 2017 stand for democracy, the younger generation in Facebook, the survivor generation in Obzor.”

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Comments Off on Lithuanian Jews Call for Democracy in their Community

Defending History’s Statement on Need for Announcement of Democratic Elections for Leadership of Lithuanian Jewish Community



OPINION  |  DEMOCRACY  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

Can small East European Jewish communities preserve their independence in the face of powerful state (and non-state) interests? Should the granting of restitution deriving from the value of properties of annihilated Jewish communities be directed to preserving free, democratic, vibrant and diverse Jewish life into the future as opposed to the interests of certain environments of governments and other elites, and their tiny cliques of so-called “Court Jews” — an endeavor that has, at times, here in Lithuania, declined into a race to the PR status of “Ah, but I am the last real Litvak, the rest of them, I don’t know…”

Events are now coming to a head. Simon Gurevich, longtime former executive director of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, has announced his candidacy for the community’s leadership. The country’s chief rabbi, former chief rabbi, and hundreds of younger, everyday community members rapidly signaled their support on Mr. Gurevich’s Facebook page. (Older members of the community, who tend not to use the web, do not yet by and large know of the looming elections.) The incumbent, the eminent attorney Faina Kukliansky, has a significant base of support too. The stage is set for a lively and dignified contest of ideas, plans and dreams for a small but beautiful Jewish future in the country. What with a substantial diaspora of diverse kinds of Litvak identification and rediscovery of roots, the implications are to some degree international. Incidentally, both candidates are scions of centuries-old Litvak families hailing from the depths of Lithuania.

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Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius) | Comments Off on Defending History’s Statement on Need for Announcement of Democratic Elections for Leadership of Lithuanian Jewish Community