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.
Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Lithuania, Lithuanian Adventures of the Hon. Herbert Block (AK, AZM, (LG)CJH, CPJCE, GWF, USCPAHA, SATMAR/“AARON BRANCH", WJRO), Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016)
Tagged Faina Kukliansky, Geros valios fondas, Good Will Foundation (Vilnius), Josif Parasonis, Leonas Kaplanas, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pinchos Fridberg, Vilnius Jewish community
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:
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.
Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016)
Tagged Faina Kukliansky, Ilona Rukiene, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Monika Antanaityte, Pylimo 4, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevicius), Vilnius Jewish community
VILNIUS—Interviews by several Defending History staffers with several dozen members of Vilnius’s Jewish community over the past several days have turned up what seems to be a widespread sense of (citing terms that recurred frequently in the conversations) “disappointment” or “shock” at the “unbelievable changing of the rules of an election in the middle of the campaign.” (Such mini-surveys are not scientific, and a professional survey of today’s Jewish community on a number of issues is a critical desideratum here.)
The change seems to be in the cause of in effect disenfranchising the actual living Jews of Lithuania by suddenly decoupling the numbers of living, resident Jews from votes cast for the leadership of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, for which elections are scheduled, as of today, for May 28th (for recent developments see the DH section on Vilnius Jewish Life). A number of those interviewed mentioned the role of the “Good Will Foundation” that allocates funding for the community’s administration, including elections, from the government finance provided as restitution for prewar communal religious Jewish property. Some of its allocations have been highly controversial.
Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Media Watch, News & Views, Opinion, Shádov (Šeduva), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016)
Tagged Democracy in Eastern Europe, Jewish community structures in Eastern Europe, Jews in Lithuania, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Lost Shtetl Project (Seduva), Maceva, Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund, Seduva Lost Shtetl Museum, Šeduva shtetl museum, Vilnius Jewish community
by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)
VILNIUS—Since the Vilnius Choral Synagogue, the only one to survive the war as an in-use synagogue (there were around 160 in town before the Holocaust), was reopened for “one and all” several weeks ago by the controlling “Religious Jewish Community,” on Monday 13 February, services have been blissful and harmonious. On Friday night and Saturday morning services, more Litvak handshakes accompanied by Gut-Shábes and A gútn Shábes were echoed up on high than in many a moon. And, as a kind of special blessing for a demographically challenged post-Holocaust post-Soviet community, attendance has been growing, reaching the largest number in years last weekend (not counting visits by organized tourist groups). Cantor Shmuel Yusem had everyone transfixed with his magnificent cantorial talents. Both rabbis in town this past weekend, Rabbi Sholem Ber Krinsky, the Chabad rabbi who has lived here 22 years, and the community’s official junior rabbi, Samson Daniel Izakson, who arrived just over one year ago, gave excellent brief sermons at their usual junctures in the service (each has their traditional slot in the service for the Dvar-Tóyre, or Dvar Torah).
Posted in "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuanian Adventures of the Hon. Herbert Block (AK, AZM, (LG)CJH, CPJCE, GWF, USCPAHA, SATMAR/“AARON BRANCH", WJRO), Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016)
Tagged Amit Belaite, Faina Kukliansky, Good Will Foundation, Herbert Block, Jewish Religious Community of Lithuania, Kalev Krelin, Michael Hasenrath, Nachliel Dison, Shimshon Daniel Izakson, Sholom Ber Krinsky, Vilnius Jewish community
by Dovid Katz
Vilnius has just lost one of its most powerful and authentic Litvak personalities, and one of the last Vilna-born prewar Jews still resident in the city. Meilach Stalevich, who was born on June 28th 1923 passed away peacefully during the night of 8 t0 9 November this month, in the middle of his ninety-second year, following a heart attack several days earlier.
For some who didn’t know him personally, he will forever be celebrated for his extraordinary soundbite in Wendy Robbins’ BBC radio documentary in 2010, when he was asked what he thought of the idea that the Nazi and Soviet regimes were similar in nature. In a few seconds, in the rich Yiddish tones of a Vilna native, he was able to debunk the current array of Holocaust revisionists rather more effectively than perhaps all of the academic efforts underway taken together.