“Good Will Foundation” (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania)

Deputy Foreign Minister heads ‘Fake Litvak’ working group to entice ‘Rich Litvaks’


An opposition party member of the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) has leaked this memo (English translation here), dated 20 July 2010, which purports to be a circular letter from the deputy foreign minister, Sarunas Adomavicius, to the working group (names blocked out) of the ‘Fake Litvak’ Forum (the official name is the ‘Litvak Heritage Forum’). The Forum is viewed as a ploy to hijack Litvak identity and put it to use for government PR purposes.

The day it was announced, 15 July 2010, the prime minister’s chancellor boasted of ‘rich Litvaks’ having been found to finance it. Protests followed immediately from Holocaust Survivors of the ALJ, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Litvak Studies Institute and this website (see here). There is particular fear that it is to serve as cover  to deflect attention from the ongoing  Continue reading

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Text of the Restitution Law Passed by the Lithuanian Parliament



D O C U M E N T S

According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the following is the mutually accepted English text of the property restitution/compensation law passed by the Lithuanian Parliament on 21 June 2011, subsequently signed by the president, and coming into effect today, 1 December 2011. It is also available on the website of the Lithuanian parliament, in Lithuanian and in English (a Word doc version is also provided). [Update of 2012:Nina Bruskina’s paper in Lithuanian; in the event of future URL changes, the law can be searched via “Lietuvos Respublikos geros valios kompensacijos už žydų religinių bendruomenių nekilnojamąjį turtą įstatymas. Valstybės žinios, 2011, nr. 803897”.


LAW TEXT (translation)

Draft -XIP -968(4)

LAW OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

ON THE GOOD WILL COMPENSATION FOR THE IMMOVABLE PROPERTY OF JEWISH RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES

2011 Vilnius

The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania,

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The Fate of an Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery that is Part of Now



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

This comment first appeared in The Times of Israel on 22 May 2013.


One of the predictable consequences of genocide is the spectacle of old cemeteries without relatives or descendants of the buried to care for the gravestones or the site. Some stones will fall, some will sink, and then some will just be taken as usable components for the foundations of houses, the ballast of roads or the walls of a basketball court.

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N.Y. Yivo Announces Campaign for Five and a Quarter Million Dollars for new “Vilna Project”



O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

 

In a widely disseminated press release today, the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research announced the launch of a fundraising campaign for US $5,250,000 for the “Yivo Vilna Project.” We are told that it is for “a seven-year international project to preserve, digitize and reunite virtually Yivo’s prewar archives located in New York City and Vilnius, Lithuania, through a dedicated web portal” that will create “the largest collection of Yiddish language materials in the world.”

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What Does the 27 May 2009 Cable from the US Embassy in Vilnius Tell Us About the CPJCE, Money and Secrecy?



D O C U M E N T S   /   C E M E T E R I E S    /   P I R A M Ó N T

VILNIUS—The following is the text of a cable sent by the United States ambassador in Vilnius to Washington, on 27 May 2015, concerning the old Jewish cemetery at Piramont (Snipiskes). Though initially confidential, it enetered the public domain via publication by Wikileaks where the document is available at: http://cables.mrkva.eu/cable.php?id=208864.

SEE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT

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Asra Kadisha on Vilna Cemetery: From Proud Powerhouse of Historic Truth to Silent Mouse?



PAPER TRAIL  |  REGISTRY OF OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER  |  DH SECTION

O P I N I O N

VILNIUS—Between October 2014 and October 2015, the international Jewish-cemetery group Asra Kadisha, coordinated by haredim largely affiliated with the “Zalmen” branch of the split Hasidic Satmar group (today the world’s largest Hasidic group) made a number of contributions that will remain permanent. Thanks in whole or in part to Asra Kadisha, eighteen important documents were published opposing the antisemitic decision of some Lithuanian government officials to allow a convention center to rise, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of skeletons on all four sides, skeletons of Jewish citizens of Vilnius buried there between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. As a Protestant minister and Catholic philosopher have pointed out, such would not have been the decision were it a Christian cemetery or one housing heroes of Lithuanian culture between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of course the millions in store for property developers and their many “beneficiaries” (for decades to come) play a prime role; antisemitism enters the picture when the state fails to put in play the same brakes which it applies for majority culture and majority religion sacred sites.

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Defending History’s 2017 People of the Year



three-winners-1

As 2017 gets underway, Defending History is proud to honor three Vilnius personalities, this year all from its Orthodox Jewish community, who have stood up for cherished principles against powerful forces. In all cases, the principles defended pertain also to human rights more generally. Their courage and determination can serve as an example to all who defend human rights and history even when it is inconvenient and draws the ire of power-invested institutions that are often associated with state-supported entities.

The three honorees are, in alphabetical order, Ruta Bloshtein, Rabbi Kalev Krelin, and Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky. On Facebook. See from previous years the Prophet Amos Human Rights Awards and the 2014 Person of the Year.

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Official Community’s Private Security Force Again Bars Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky from Sabbath Services


IS THIS AN APPROPRIATE USE OF RESTITUTION FUNDS DERIVING FROM THE RELIGIOUS JEWISH PROPERTIES OF LITHUANIA’S ANNIHILATED JEWRY?

fireshot-capture-52-mausa-bairakas_-https___www-facebook-com_profile-phpWhen Rabbi Krinsky arrived on Sunday morning, 8 January 2017, for services, his entry was again blocked by a team of burly security guards. Photo is a still from the video taken by Kaunas religious community head Moyshe Beirak whose voice is heard, pleading with the guard, at the start of the video, which Mr. Beirak posted on his Facebook page. He was visiting in Vilnius for the weekend and also witnessed the initial barring of the rabbi at the Sabbath morning service on 7 January. See also additional video posted by Elchanan Prus.

This past week’s Vilnius Sabbath, 7 January 2017, was “shamelessly disrupted,” as one worshipper put it, by security guards, supported by two vehicles, who prevented the entry to Shabbos morning services by Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, for over twenty-two years Chabad rabbi in Vilnius who has provided the vast majority of religious services to Lithuanian Jews over this period. Rabbi Krinsky, who stood outside in the -20 degrees celsius frost for over half an hour asking to be admitted, was last week named one of Defending History’s three People of the Year for 2017.

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When the Picture and the Headline Tell Opposite Stories



OPINION  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE   |   LITVAK AFFAIRS

by Dovid Katz (Vilnius)

Full credit to the Forward’s Paul Berger, who has, as ever, sought to be meticulously fair in his new article on some aspects of contemporary Lithuanian Jewish life. This “addendum” goes in a sense more to the wider issues encountered when Western journalists cover stories in the “slightly exotic east,” here in Eastern Europe, on ground zero of the Holocaust, where Jewish communities are ipso facto remnant communities, and where certain larger trends can at times be in play.

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A Year & One Month Since US Commission on Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA) “Reported to Satmar Rebba” in Monroe, N.Y.



“US COMMISSION FOR AMERICAN HERITAGE ABROAD”  |  PIRAMÓNT  |  PAPER  TRAIL  |  OPPOSITION  |  CEMETERIES

VILNIUS—Today marks one calendar year-and-a-month since “Admas Kodesh,” the American affiliate of the London “grave trading unit” called CPJCE (Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe) boasted on Twitter that Herbert Block, a prominent member of the State Department linked Commission for Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad (USCPAHA), came to Monroe, New York to “report to the Satmar Rebba”… Thirteen months later, there has still not been a single public word from the taxpayer-funded commission urging the Lithuanian government to move its convention center project away from the old Jewish cemetery, as now called for by a petition signed by 38,000 people including, in its first moments online in December, the official chief rabbi of Lithuania. The “Admas Kodesh” group had previously, in August 2015, posted triumphant photo-ops with the commission’s chairperson, Ms. Lesley Weiss. Earlier that month, they posted photos of USCPAHA’s Jules Fleischer thanking (!) the Lithuanian Consul General in New York for preserving the cemetery. The same “Admas Kodesh” group so dear to the US taxpayer-funded USPACAHA regularly attacks major Jewish scholars with whom it disagrees, particularly on the Vilna cemetery. One infamous July 2016 tweet refers to the esteemed Professor Bernard Fryshman, who played a major role in the US Congress’s passing of a 2014 law on preservation of cemeteries of minorities, as “Lying Professor Bernard Fryshman” for holding a different point of view on CPJCE / Admas Kodesh role in the Vilnius scandal.

See earlier summary of USCPAHA’s Vilnius cemetery record and DH’s USCPAHA section (best to scroll to bottom and peruse chronologically)

TWEET FROM 20 JAN. 2016: “STATE DEPT COMMISSION’S MR. HERBERT BLOCK REPORTING TO SATMAR REBBA” Mr. Block brought his sons along for the photo-op. One of those pictured is Mr. Gary Schlesinger, author of defamatory tweets (see sample, bottom of page) against Professor Bernard Fryshman and others who have opposed desecrating the old Vilna Jewish cemetery.

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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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Vilna or Chelm? After 22 Years of Service to Community, Rabbi is Driven from Synagogue Gates by Hired Armed Guards for Having “Called out Page Numbers”



HUMAN RIGHTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

VILNIUS—Security guards paid by the Jewish Community of Lithuania and financed by the “Good Will Foundation” via its allocations from the Restitution monies deriving from the religious Jewish properties of the annihilated pre-Holocaust Lithuanian Jewry, this morning physically prevented Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky from entering the prayer house, on Pylimo Street 39 for the shákhris (Israeli: shakharít) morning service. Defending History has confirmed via reliable sources that at least three foreign members of the Good Will Foundation’s Board, Herbert Block (New York), Nachliel Dison (Jerusalem), and Michael Hasenrath (London) do not agree that the campaign of destruction against Rabbi Krinsky and his many local students is appropriate use of the restitution funds. None of the three, however, has yet issued a public statement. Mr. Block, moreover, is deeply involved in the related scandal of the planned siting of a new national convention center in the heart of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery. “The Good Will” Foundation, which usually sticks by charter to its stated business and purposes, has now published news of Mr. Block’s reappointment, in the last days of the Obama Administration, to the scandal-ridden Washington agency, USCPAHA, which has yet to issue a public word concerning the old Vilna cemetery’s planned desecration. The agency exists to preserve foreign cemeteries.

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London Beth Din (Rabbinical Court) Issues Summons to Two Leaders of Lithuania’s Official Jewish Community



HUMAN RIGHTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS

LONDONDefending History has learned from reliable sources that The Judicial Division of the London Beth Din (Court of the Chief Rabbi) issued a summons on 27 February 2017 (1 Adar 5777 by the Hebrew calendar) calling upon Simas Levinas, chairperson of the Vilna Jewish Religious Community, and Faina Kukliansky, chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, to “agree to attend a hearing and sign a binding Arbitration Agreement, on receipt of which we will fix a hearing date for the mutual convenience of all parties.”

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Simóntshik Launches Campaign for Leadership of Lithuanian Jewish Community



VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  LITHUANIA

Simóntshik (Shimen Gurevich) addressing a Vilnius conference

VILNIUS—Thirty-something Simonas Gurevičius (Yiddish — Shímen Gurévitsh, English — Simon Gurevich), who was from his earliest teens a Jewish camp counselor, head of the Jewish Students Union in his college years, and then, for years until spring 2015 executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, this morning effectively announced his candidacy for the Community’s chairpersonship in a brief Lithuanian-language Facebook post (reproduced below). Universally known, with love and warmth, to Lithuanian Jews and to many non-Jewish friends who follow Jewish affairs as just Simóntshik, he is a native speaker of Yiddish (very rare for young people here outside the family of Chabad Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky), as well as Lithuanian and Russian, with practiced command of English and growing sophistication in Hebrew, both ancient and modern.

Is the mantle of Litvak leadership passing on to a new generation?

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“List of Allocations” of the “Good Will Foundation” in Vilnius



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

VILNIUS—The following “List of Project Allocations” is a screenshot taken today of the page of that name on the website of the Lithuanian government’s Good Will Foundation. It is also available in the alternative interactive Tableau format (below the screenshot).

It bears the date 1 July 2016 and includes the following introductory text: “We thank all the applicants who submitted project applications to the Good Will Foundation (Geros valios fondas). You may find a list of all projects, including the ones that received funding allocation from the Foundation. All applicants will be contacted individually and informed about the results and decisions taken.”

See also the “Statistics” page that covers several recent years.

The decisions on these allocations are taken by the Foundation’s Board.

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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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“Statistics” Posted by the “Good Will Foundation” in Vilnius



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

VILNIUS—The following list of “Statistics: Project Funding Allocations” is a screenshot taken today of the page of that name on the website of the Lithuanian government’s Good Will Foundation (GWF). It is also available (with some browsers) in the alternative interactive Tableau format (below the screenshot).

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Posted in "Admas Kodesh", "Good Will Foundation" (Jewish Restitution in Lithuania), Documents, Herbert Block and Issues of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery Preservation, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Statistics” Posted by the “Good Will Foundation” in Vilnius

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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Hon. Herbert Block’s Lithuanian Engagements and the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery



OPINION  |  PIRAMÓNT  | OPPOSITION  |   USCPAHA (US COMMISSION FOR AMERICAN HERITAGE ABROAD)  |  CPJCE  |  ADMAS KODESH  |  PAPER  TRAIL  |  CEMETERIES

VILNIUS—The Hon. Herbert Block, a prominent and popular personality known to New Yorkers from his days as the highly successful Jewish affairs liaison for the campaign and administration of New York City mayor David Dinkins years ago has emerged as a major force at the confluence of Jewish-Hasidic, American and Lithuanian-government politics on issues in Lithuanian-Jewish affairs. There are conflicting views about his myriad, and some would say conflict-of-interest laden, entanglements that include a Satmar group in Monroe, New York intent on fulfilling the wishes of Vilnius builders for a convention center and annex in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery of Vilnius (allegedly for the financial benefit of their London followers in the CPJCE), a US taxpayer funded agency that exists to preserve  Jewish cemeteries (but has yet to issue a word of protest at the “convention center in the Jewish cemetery” project) and the Lithuanian government’s “Good Will Foundation” that allocates monies deriving from the religious properties of the annihilated Jewish communities of Lithuania.

NEW SECTION ON MR. BLOCK’S LITHUANIAN INVOLVEMENTS

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Community Democratization: Four Leadership Jobs? Four People!



OPINION  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE  |  LITVAK AFFAIRS  |  MEDIA WATCH

VILNIUS—The disappointing failure of the official website of the Jewish Community of Lithuania to give Equal Space to each candidate, and to each campaign, in the current leadership contest is a scar in the modern community’s history that can still be repaired as the campaign turns to its final stages. Let us hope it will be, and that this minimal democratic standard will be respected by the site’s editor and by the Good Will Foundation that allocates lavish finance for the website, which was never intended to be a Soviet-style paean to a single never-to-be-questioned Leader. Perhaps the Board’s foreign members, in particular, will rise to the occasion, at long last, at next week’s scheduled meeting here in Vilnius, especially in light of the recent series of unsettling reports.

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