by Ruta Bloshtein
The author is a native of Vilnius hailing from centuries of Litvaks, who has worked for years in the Judaica department of Lithuania’s Martynas Mažvydas National Library. She is a prominent member of Vilnius’s small Orthodox Jewish community. She is the author of the international petition to save the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. English translations of some of her writings are available online. For more on the 10 euro “Gaon coin” referred to, see its DH section. The views reflected in this article are strictly Ms. Bloshtein’s. The Lithuanian original of this article appeared in 7md (PDF of print version).
How does one hurt and humiliate a person (or a people)?
2020 has been declared “The Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Jewish Heritage.” Sounds solemn? It only sounds so. Empty pots make the most noise. What are these words based on? On plans to build a convention center on Jewish graves? On the remains of the Vilna Gaon’s family members and tens of thousands of other Jews. How does that sound? Like a mockery of the close to 50,000 Jews and Non-Jews from around the world who signed the protest petition. How does that sound? Like laughing at the sorrow of the venerable rabbis, of the great leaders of Lithuanian-tradition yeshivas. How does that sound? Like a rape of the very spirit, of the religious and moral norms of the entire nation.
By Written Words.
The “Litvak Symbol” coin, being produced by the state for this “occasion” is nothing but yet another disgrace. The “official” (state-sponsored) Lithuanian Jewish Community, while not having much to do with religion, is juggling the sacred names and symbols like a circus performer. Using the name of the Vilna Gaon, this is what is in play. The defilement of the Gaon’s father’s and mother’s remains has already been approved. Now there is the aggressive mutilation of the menorah.
“The menorah is an important Jewish religious symbol that must (obviously!) retain its historical shape if it is to be a menorah. It has managed to do so over millennia up to this new mutilation: brutally squeezing it into the symbol favored and used by groups of people nowadays infamous for their intolerance towards Jews and other ethnic minorities. That is a blasphemy if there ever was one.”
The menorah is an important Jewish religious symbol derived from the golden candelabrum of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem that must (obviously!) retain its historical shape if it is to be a menorah. It has managed to do so over millennia up to this new mutilation: brutally squeezing it into the symbol favored and used by groups of people nowadays infamous for their intolerance towards Jews and other ethnic minorities. That is a blasphemy if there ever was one.
By the way, would Litvaks from Belarus and Latvia, and the Litvak parts of Poland and Ukraine, agree with this jumble? Is anybody paying any attention to the opinion of local or foreign Litvaks? Has anybody even asked for opinions?
By Spoken Words.
According to the old legend about Vilnius, a druid by the name of Lizdeika explained Grand Duke Gediminas’s dream about a howling wolf: “My Great Duke, the iron wolf means that there will be a capital city here, and the howling of the wolf—that the fame of the city will travel all around the world.”
What is the fame that this country chooses to let go into the world as we approach the seven hundredth anniversary of the capital city’s founding? Is it the fame of honor and nobility? Or is it the infamy of meaninglessness and empty words, covered over with solemn slogans and painfully mangled holy symbols?