Honest Mistake at the Irish Embassy in Vilnius


Even august embassies of great nations can make mistakes, as this publication pointed out here in Vilnius last summer with reference to the German and Israeli embassies. Although the numbers are very different, Ireland stands with South Africa as rarefied home to a Jewish diaspora with a Litvak heritage majority (Litvaks comprised only around a quarter of East European Jewry on the eve of the Holocaust). When people come to seek out their Litvak roots, and especially when their own embassy is involved in the planning and timetable of their visit, it is a matter of simple integrity that the visitors be exposed to more than just a government-sponsored non-democratic “fake-election” Jewish community leadership (that many local Jews regard as “the Jewish PR department of the government”). What is worse, without ever being told of the existence of the democratically elected Vilnius Jewish Community, which represents the approximately 2,200 Jewish residents of Vilnius, nowadays constituting an overwhelming majority of Jewish citizens in Lithuania.

To be clear, this is not about which community is democratically, spiritually and Jewishly legitimate (there is no doubt about where this publication stands on that question). It is a question of intellectual honesty on two counts.

First, should a group of Irish people descended from Litvaks be deprived of the opportunity to also hear a second point of view on their trip? Or, should they be insulated from even knowing of the existence of such views by a Big Brother triad (vassal state Jewish community, Irish Embassy, Lithuanian Embassy in Ireland) of their trip to their ancestral homeland, a Big Brother that was very quick to triumphantly boast about yet another PR “coup”.

Second, there are deep and substantive issues involved that dwarf any intracommunity squabbles. In a nutshell, the state-sponsored community often assists the government in obfuscating the Holocaust and various other Jewish issues, such as the burning controversy over the fate of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, slated to become a national convention center where folks will clap, cheer, drink and flush toilets surrounded by thousands of extant Jewish graves, including major scholars, of half a millennium (this would not be the fate of a cemetery of similar vintage of the majority nationality/religion here). The official state Jewish community’s leaders have more than once trumpeted the local antisemitic trope that the actual Jewish people here are “Russians who say they are Jews.”

These are serious matters for the consideration, and conscience, of all parties concerned.


Jewish-interest groups visiting Lithuania would do well to hear also from the bona-fide democratic Vilnius Jewish Community


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