Good Wishes Pour In for Rachel Kostanian’s 91st Birthday on 31 Jan. 2021

[last update]

A selection from tributes received. More on Facebook

See also: Defending History’s Rachel Kostanian section

Sepp Brudermann (Austrian film maker, former  volunteer at the Green House):

“Dear Rachel, 20 years have passed, but believe it or not, I often think of you and the Green House, I tell people about you, and all the wonderful people I met – and I hope to be able to see you again my dear Rachel. Today, celebrate your birthday, celebrate LIFE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY my dear! Rachel! Lots of love and a big hug Sepp.”  See also Sepp Brudermann’s video tribute.

Ambassador Simon Butt (Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Lithuania,  2008-2011):

“Dear Rachel: on your 91st birthday I would like to congratulate you on a life well lived and for the huge contribution you have made to the cause of maintaining the history of Lithuanian Jewry. The Green House, in its intimacy, scope and historical erudition celebrates a vibrant pre-war culture as well as commemorating its tragic eradication. Its modest appearance disguises the riches it contains — a portrait of an entire civilisation. Through your dedication and scholarship, you have shared those riches with many visitors, including the descendants of the community immortalised in the museum’s displays. That their memory lives on is thanks in no small part to the work you have done; and all who have enjoyed your company honour you for it. With all good wishes, Simon Butt, UK Ambassador, 2008-11.”

Ambassador Dónal Denham (Ambassador of Ireland to Lithuania, 2006-2010):

“My very best and most respectful wishes to Rachel on her 91st birthday this Sunday, a wonderful and, I hope, wonder-filled occasion!  As I sit here in Dublin, Ireland, I am reminded of the many visits I paid to the Green House as Ambassador of Ireland to Lithuania over the years 2006-2010, always welcomed warmly even when I arrived in without any notice and with foreign visitors in tow.  Rachel’s encyclopedic knowledge was conveyed without any hesitation or inflation, always with great modesty and courtesy yet, above all, certain in her aim of promoting Holocaust awareness.It is, therefore, a delight for me to send this tribute to rachel, to acknowledge her life-long contribution to the cause of Holocaust education and the fight against antisemitism.  She might be pleased, I hope, to hear that this Wednesday, 27th January, International Holocaust Memorial Day, I will play a small part in the launch of a new local organization,  Holocaust Awareness Ireland, which I hope will both promote a better understanding of the relentless fight against Holocaust Revisionism and of contemporary manifestations of antisemitism and as it will be a reflection of the learning I absorbed from my conversations with Rachel (and with Dovid).”

Ambassador Steinar Gil (Ambassador of Norway to Lithuania, 2006–2011):

“Dear Rachel, please receive my best wishes on your 91st birthday. We are many who are grateful for your courageous and tireless work to collect and secure documents and facts about the Holocaust in Lithuania.  You have contributed greatly to our knowledge of this heinous crime against humanity and strengthened our resolve to combat antisemitism, racism, discrimination and intolerance. My meetings with you and my visits to your Green House in Vilnius are among my lasting memories.”

Professor Amelia M.  Glaser (University of California at San Diego), author of Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine (2020).

“I first visited Vilnius as a recent college graduate in the fall of 1997. I was on a short trip from St. Petersburg, where I was living that year. Taken with the ‘Green House’ I worked with Rachel to set up an internship the following summer. Rachel struck me immediately as smart, genuine, and tireless. And her committed to reviving Jewish memory in Vilnius is inspiring. It was Rachel who encouraged me to begin studying Yiddish as part of the Vilna Summer Program. Rachel taught me to give tours of the Green House, and shared her own stories with me, as she did with so many people who came to visit the museum. We spent hours that summer working together on English language biographies of for her Spiritual Resistance project, sometimes at the museum, and sometimes at Rachel’s dacha outside the city. I will always be grateful to Rachel for sharing her world with me, for trusting me with her aspirations and memories, and for encouraging me, a California-born student, to study East European Jewish culture. Her efforts have mattered far beyond Lithuania. I wish her a very happy birthday, and honor the important work she has done.”

Dr. Alex J. Kay (University of Potsdam):

“Dear Rachel, Congratulations on your 91st birthday and on the extraordinary and unforgettable contribution you have made to documenting the history of Lithuanian Jewry and to keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust in Lithuania! I remember fondly my visit to the Green House in Vilnius in 2012. On that occasion, I was also fortunate enough to be able to conduct an interview with your colleague Fania Brantsovsky and to visit the memorial at Ponar. With all good wishes from Berlin, Alex Kay”

Jeremy Leigh (Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion):

“Thanks and good wishes on behalf of myself and all my students from the Hebrew Union College in the United States. Our meetings with you in the museum were always so memorable, thoughtful and emotional, and were spoken about long afterwards. We wish you good health and happiness on your birthday. Of course, there is no reason why amongst the thousands of people you met, greeted, taught and discussed with, you should recall every one, but you should know there are so many people out there who are grateful to you for your dedication and integrity.”

Professor Sid Leiman (Touro Graduate School and Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies):

“Starting in 1996, I regularly led Jewish Heritage tours to Vilnius. Back then, there were few public memorials to almost anything Jewish in Vilnius. But there was one beacon of light, a modest Green House, where Rachel Kostanian presided, and where Vilna’s Jewish past was celebrated in all its glory and in all its shades, whether  Rabbinic, Maskilic, Yiddishist, Zionist, or diaspora nationalist. Rachel also made sure that the tragic history of the Holocaust, in its East European context, would be properly commemorated, with no holds barred. She educated the thousands who passed through the Green House, and advised them about the treasures they could take home from its book shop. We salute you, Rachel, on your 91st birthday! Look at what you have accomplished! And we wish you only the best in the years ahead: good health, happiness, and continued nákhes from all your dear ones, and from the many who were educated by the museum you created.” 

Myra Sklarew (author of The Witness Trees and Survivor Named Trauma: Holocaust Memory in Lithuania):

“Shortly after the end of the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, during my first visit to Lithuania, I met Rachel Kostanian, director of a small wooden museum called the Green House on Pamenkalnio Street, the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum.  This was the first museum  in Lithuania dedicated to the lost lives and centuries-long culture of the Jewish people. That she did so under great pressure, in a time when the  Holocaust was not acknowledged, is testament to her courage and her desire to educate. It is a privilege to know Rachel Kostanian. I send love on Rachel’s 91st birthday. Myra Sklarew (family from Keidan, Dotnuva, Krok, Kovno and others).”

Dr. Shivaun Woolfson (author of Holocaust Legacy in Post-Soviet Lithuania [with Rachel Kostanian chapter]; also, documentary films on Lithuania):

“Dearest Rachel: In your 91st year, we wish you all the love, blessings and prosperity that you so deserve. We recall fondly the time we spent with you in Vilnius and in London and express our deepest gratitude to you for all the work you have done and for participating so generously in our films, exhibition and book projects. Your story and your commitment to telling it touches all you hear or read it. Your light shines ever brightly. With love Shivaun, Fran and the family. UK.”

Markas Zingeris (major Lithuanian author; former director of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania):

“Former deputy director of our museum  and Head of the Holocaust Exhibition, she now resides abroad, but whenever I visit the museum, I can still hear Rachel’s voice in the corridors: ‘Markas, we must establish an exhibition of the ghetto theater posters’ or ‘And how about the heroes of the Vilna Ghetto Markas, its cultural workers? They were the spiritual resistance, after all!’; and when I visit, as Rachel named it, the little’ Green House’ — the Museum’s Holocaust Exhibition — I still expect to find her in her corner office, leaning over rare books, of which she had a full closet; or guiding Lithuanian schoolchildren around the exhibition.  Rachel, Your contribution will never be forgotten. Together with our museum, you managed to kindle many sparks in the collective memory of Lithuania. Happy Birthday, Rachel Kostanian!”

(excerpted from Markas Zingeris’s tribute to Rachel Kostanian on her 91st birthday)

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