Milan Chersonski (Chersonskij), was for a dozen years (1999-2011) editor of Jerusalem of Lithuania, the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s world famous (former) quadrilingual (English-Lithuanian-Russian-Yiddish) newspaper (with each issue produced in four separate hard-copy editions, each with its own worldwide constituency, appropriate to the role the community has played for the large and variegated Litvak Jewish diaspora since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of independent democratic Lithuania). Before that he was for twenty years director the Vilnius Yiddish Folk Theater, which in Soviet times was the USSR’s only Yiddish folk theater company.
He is a Holocaust flight survivor born in Kiev who arrived in Vilnius as a little boy in 1945 with his family. He has lived in the same apartment, in the quiet Žvėrynas section of Vilnius, for the last 73 years, and it is a known salon for free and open discussions of Jewish and general issues of the day where people of many views are warmly welcomed by Milan and his wife Sveta. In recent years, he has been a beloved writer at DefendingHistory.com. He is a widely known and deeply appreciated champion of Yiddish culture, Jewish heritage, teaching the truth about the Holocaust, human rights and equality, honesty in journalism and intellectual discourse, freedom of speech, and a more just and fair society for all. In short, a stalwart of the Jewish community of Lithuania and of Lithuania’s authors and intellectual leaders more generally.
See more on Jerusalem of Lithuania, which symbolized a highpoint of Jewish community creativity (in four languages), freedom of expression, dignified and respectful debate, and the courage to stand up for Jewish history, values and causes.
Question: Which institution can scan and permanently preserve the invaluable cultural, historical and community archive of Jerusalem of Lithuania?
When this principal defender of history turned 80 last September 2nd, Defending History naturally marked the occasion. Since then, various overtures were made to various parties at the current “official Lithuanian Jewish Community” about a possible event to honor his life’s work on his 80th, notwithstanding his disagreements with various aspects of today’s official community leadership. Not only was there no mention of his birthday, let alone an event, but the community’s official website even attacked his life’s work in a passage in one of its “hit-man” personal attack pieces against community members whose views are not those of the current chairwoman or the Lithuanian government-related operatives nowadays in charge of the place. As a wise man once said: “Woe unto the community that forgets the people who built it.”
It was therefore decided, all these months later (“but within the year”) to hold a private event to honor Milan’s 80th. Held in a Vilnius apartment this evening, several dozen people of all ages dropped by to say Happy Birthday, Milan! The following are a few mementos of the evening which included Milan speaking for an hour about his amazing life to date to a roomful of spellbound listeners.