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


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.

The year 2017, which for Lithuania’s Jews has become “The Year of Fighting for Justice”, is coming to a close.

On December 21st, the Vilnius District Court handed down a decision, anticipation of which had kept anyone concerned about the future of Lithuanian Jewry on the edge of their seats. The following is the decision in the case, which the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) brought before the court, expressing its discontent with the manner in which the election of the chairperson and the board of the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) had been conducted, and asking the Court to annul the results of said election:

To uphold the claim in its entirety.

To make void the decision ruled by the Board of the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community at the meeting held on April 19th, 2017 which established that each regional Jewish community has one vote (delegate) at the 2017 conference of the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community.

To make void the decisions made by the Lithuanian Jewish Community at the conference held on May 28th, 2017 in connection with: the approval of financial statements as well as activity and auditors’ reports; the election of the Chairperson; the determination of the number of Board members, and the election of new Board members.

To order the defendant, the Lithuanian Jewish Community, to reimburse the Vilnius Jewish Community for losses incurred amounting to 189 euros for registration costs and 2,500 euros for legal representation fees.

It is also worth citing the motivations behind the Court’s decision:

Pursuant to the contested decision, regional communities with the largest number of members have the same quantity of votes as other members of the association, which represent smaller numbers of members. From a legal standpoint, such an equivalence cannot be tolerated, as it violates the democratic principle of governance of the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

Pursuant to the assessment of the Court, the votes of the claimant as well as of third parties would have affected the results of the contested decisions, and there are thus grounds to determine such decisions as null and void.

The Court was able to address the matter in depth: it understood the way in which the community’s life is structured and why the decisions of the management were unjust.

We are sincerely grateful to the Jewish communities of Klaipėda, Šiauliai and Ukmergė for supporting our position. It is important to us that we share the same values.

Unfortunately, the positions of the chairpersons of the Jewish communities of Kaunas, Panevėžys and Švenčionys clearly go against the interests of their members. Despite our countless pleas, these chairpersons did not grant us an opportunity to meet with the communities’ members and discuss the issues at large.

We are also glad to inform you that on November 22nd, 2017, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania approved a proposed amendment to the Law on Associations, pursuant to which the community is entitled to determine the number of its representatives at the conference. As it happens, the bylaws of the community were adopted on the basis of this principle.

So, justice has prevailed!

Why then did so much effort and money have to be expended to prove something so obviously true? Even the decision of the court states that “[…] the case is complicated, there are many parties and legal documents involved in the case, […] there were many hearings in the case […]”.

Why couldn’t those resources be spent for the community’s needs rather than for Ms. Kukliansky’s and her companions’ attempts to hang on to power at all costs? Especially in view of the fact that the legal expenses are paid by the community itself, i.e. by all of us! And while legal proceedings are taking place, funds can be disposed of freely by the “leadership”, which “honorably represents” the Jewish community in governmental institutions and on trips abroad.

We request that Ms. Kukliansky, Mr. Todesas, Mr. Finkelšteinas and other initiators of this shameful conflict withdraw their lawsuits and admit their mistakes. The community is not a place for self-promotion and realization of personal ambitions. The community is a home for Lithuanian Jews, where they spend time together, share their knowledge and spiritual warmth, celebrate, cherish traditions, and can get help and support.

We also call for:

1. The resignation of Ms. Kukliansky and the Board of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, since they took their positions by grievously breaching the bylaws of the community, a state of affairs that is now confirmed by the Court. Lodging new appeals against the decision of the Court does not give them the right to present themselves as representatives of the community and to make administrative and financial decisions. The decision of the Court is public and known to Lithuanian and foreign organizations.

2. To hold new elections for the community’s leadership. The present leadership should refrain from running in these elections, since its actions caused the community a substantial amount of material and non-material damage.

3. Members of the Board of the Community, who enabled the adoption of an unfair voting principle, according to which regional communities that have hundreds or thousands of members should have the same number of votes as one-person organizations, should now take financial responsibility and reimburse the community for all legal expenses from personal resources.

The decision of the Court proves that we live in a democratic 21st century Lithuania, where there is no place for leaders who resort to the repressive governing methods of yesteryear, such as manipulation of the legal system, offering of financial incentives to promote loyalty, physical force, and the establishment of a dichotomy between “friends” and “enemies”. That is all in the past: there are no “enemies” among us, we are all friends.

We hope that “The Year of Fighting for Justice” will be replaced by the new year 2018, which will become “The Year of Peace, Unity and the Creation of a New, Modern Lithuanian Jewish Community”.

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