by Ben Cohen
This article appeared today in the Algemeiner Journal in New York City.
A Jewish heritage commemorative coin issued by the Lithuanian government to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of eastern Europe’s greatest rabbis continued to attract controversy on Thursday, as a group of US-based rabbis accused the government in Vilnius of showing “contempt and derision” toward Jewish history with its nationalistic branding of the coin.
The government of the Baltic state announced on Nov. 22 that the ten-euro coin had been minted to mark 2020 as the “Year of the Gaon of Vilna and Jewish Heritage.” The coin ostensibly pays tribute to arguably Lithuania’s best-known Jew, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman — revered as the Gaon of Vilna. But several commentators have pointed out that the coin features a menorah atop a local symbol known as the Columns of Gediminas — the seal of an illustrious 14th-century grand duke that has now been adopted by elements of the Lithuanian far-right.