Tag Archives: Vilnius Jewish community

Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) Issues Historic Statement Calling for Free Democratic Elections for Lithuania’s Jews



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

VILNIUS—The Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) today issued the following authoritative English language text of its statement following the Vilnius District Court’s decision of 21 December 2017 (earlier versions appeared in Lithuanian and Russian). The following is the text as it appeared today on the VJC’s Facebook page. Since the court ruling there have been media reports in Defending History, JTA, Times of Israel, Forward, and various other outlets.

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Posted in Documents, Free Speech & Democracy, Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) Issues Historic Statement Calling for Free Democratic Elections for Lithuania’s Jews

US Government Commission’s Herbert Block Visits Defending History Team in Vilnius, Pledges Support for Moving Convention Center Project Away from Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



THE PETITION  |  THE OLD VILNA CEMETERY  |  INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER ON THE CEMETERY  |  IN LITHUANIAN  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

VILNIUS—Herbert Block, a veteran member of the American government’s Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and chair of its committee on the old Vilnius Jewish cemetery, visited yesterday and today for two sessions with staff of the Defending History team here in the Lithuanian capital. Mr. Block is a well-known and beloved figure for the Lithuanian Jewish community, with whom he worked closely for many years (1999 to 2015), during his tenure as Assistant Executive Vice President of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or “Joint”), where his work included coordinating successful efforts to achieve restitution that could enable the Jewish community’s survival for generations to come. At present, he is executive director of the American Zionist Movement (AZM). Previously Mr. Block served as Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for the New York City Independent Budget Office (1996-1999) and was Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Relations at the federal Corporation for National and Community Service in  1994-1995.  He was Assistant to the Mayor of the City of New York from 1990 to 1993 and Special Assistant to the Manhattan Borough President from 1986 to 1989. For years he has been a member of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) with specialization in the Baltic region and Poland.

Herb Block explained how hard he has been working behind the scenes to ensure the cemetery’s preservation, and pledged his firm personal commitment to work resolutely for the convention center project to be moved to another venue in town — away from Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery. 

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Posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Lithuania, Lithuanian Adventures of the Hon. Herbert Block (AK, AZM, (LG)CJH, CPJCE, GWF, USCPAHA, SATMAR/“AARON BRANCH", WJRO), Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), US Commission for Preservation of the American Heritage Abroad | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Government Commission’s Herbert Block Visits Defending History Team in Vilnius, Pledges Support for Moving Convention Center Project Away from 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, 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 , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius Jewish Community Releases Letter Signed by 20 Elected Board Members Addressed to “Good Will Foundation”

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), Free Speech & Democracy, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Opinion, Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016) | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Young Vilnius Jews Converge on Jewish Community Center to Protest Rigged Election

Vilnius Jews “Shocked” by Maneuver to “Rig the Community’s Elections”



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  DEMOCRACY  |  HUMAN RIGHTS

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.

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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 , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vilnius Jews “Shocked” by Maneuver to “Rig the Community’s Elections”

After “Blissful United Congregation” on Sabbath, Some Leaders of “Official” Community Again Take Aim at Rabbi Krinsky



 HUMAN RIGHTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

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).

UPDATES: JTA REPORT OF 27 FEB; DEFENDING HISTORY REPORT AND NEW VIDEO OF 28 FEB

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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 , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on After “Blissful United Congregation” on Sabbath, Some Leaders of “Official” Community Again Take Aim at Rabbi Krinsky

Meilach Stalevich (1923 — 2014)



O B I T U A R I E S

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.

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Posted in "Red-Brown Commission", Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Obituaries, Yiddish Affairs | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Meilach Stalevich (1923 — 2014)