Community Democratization: Four Leadership Jobs? Four People!


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.

But even flawed campaigns lacking in fairness bring out inner, deep community wells of strength that have been repressed for years. Symbolically, as noted previously on these pages, a defiant letter by a clear majority of the members of the Board of the Vilnius Jewish Community on the simple, procedural aspects of a democratic process will go down in the city’s rich Jewish history as a treasured document.

Today we want to report a thought we have been hearing from younger and older, more engaged and less engaged members of the Jewish community in Lithuania in the wake of this election, from supporters of both candidates and of none. That idea is starkly simple, and has been explained to us so many times in near-identical formulations in a number of our local languages that it might be most useful to just cite it as we hear it:

“Look, there are four important national Jewish Community of Lithuania leadership posts, with no disrespect to the tiny provincial communities. These are the Chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Chairperson of the Vilnius Jewish Community, the Chairperson of the Religious Community, and, maybe the most important in our current circumstances, the chairperson of the Good Will Foundation. The moment there will be four people, each a real leader and not someone’s marionette, for the four positions (all of which should be periodically elected posts with fair campaigns), there will be a real chance for democracy, and everything it means for the future of our Jewish life,  to take some hold here.”

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