OPINION | VILNIUS JEWISH LIFE | DEMOCRACY | LITVAK AFFAIRS
VILNIUS—The elected leadership of the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC) today published on its website, and on its Facebook page, an English version of the Lithuanian original that appeared on 10 October on the website as well as, on the same date, in the form of a Baltic News Service (BNS) press release, providing the contact name of Simon Gurevich (Simonas Gurevičius), chair of the community and one of its twenty-one member elected council. The VJC, representing the more than 2,000 Jews of Vilnius in affiliation with groups in Šiauliai, Klaipeda and others, represents the vast majority of today’s living Jewish citizens in Lithuania. In fact, its electoral conference of May 2017 was the largest electoral conference of Jewish citizens in Lithuania this century.
“And most importantly […], to provide new elections for the chairpersonship of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in accordance with the honest rules that have been in place for many years, taking into account the votes of all the Jews of Lithuania, and not the ‘associations’ of ‘close friends’ who are themselves dependent for funding on the grace of the chairperson.”
Under the title “How many court cases are required to return peace and justice to the Jewish community of Lithuania?” the statement reads as follows. (For stylistic reasons, a translation of the Lithuanian text is provided rather than reproducing verbatim the English version; in the case of any query arising, the original Lithuanian text is authoritative):
For more than a year now, since Faina Kukliansky scandalously extended her chairmanship of the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community she has lost in all the court proceedings in which her opponent was the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC).
None of the legal ruses have thwarted the process. These have included appeals for the removal of judges, the replacement of a personal lawyer one day before the hearing, and permanent requests for postponement of court proceedings.
Three different judges, dealing with three different cases, at three different points in time, have arrived at the same conclusion, that Ms. Kukliansky is not in the right.
1. On December 21, 2017, Vilnius City District Court ruled to confirm the claim of the Vilnius Jewish Community to nullify in its entirety the decision of the Board of the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community made on April 19, 2017 which had determined that all regional Jewish communities should have one vote (delegate). It also ruled to cancel all the decisions adopted by the Conference of the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community in July 2017, regarding the election of the chairman and board members. The Court decided moreover that the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) community should reimburse to the Vilnius Jewish Community the expenses of attorneys and other legal costs.
2. On September 18, 2018, the Court of Vilnius City District ruled to reject the claim of Faina Kukliansky and six other people, in which the applicants requested that all decisions made by the Conference of Vilnius Jewish Community on May 24, 2017, would be nullified and that the conference would be found unlawful. The court also ordered the applicants to reimburse the costs of the litigation and proceedings.
3. On October 3, 2018, the Vilnius City District Court ruled to oblige defendant Faina Kukliansky to transfer and return the documents and property of the Vilnius Jewish Community to the applicant — the Vilnius Jewish Community. The court levied a fine on Ms. Kukliansky for each day of non-execution if she fails to comply with the decision of the Court within the prescribed time frame. The Court has also ordered her to reimburse the expenses of the representation of the lawyer and other legal expenses to the Vilnius Jewish Community.
Nevertheless, Faina Kukliansky is taking every opportunity to remain in power for as long as possible, using the title “Chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community” to appear at public events and in the headlines of mass media; to distribute funds of the Good Will Foundation; as well as arranging to be photographed with the Israeli prime minister (in the synagogue) or the Pope (at the Old Town monument for the Vilna Ghetto), and even to decide on the division of grave plots at the Vilnius Jewish Cemetery.
Nevertheless, the day draws near when the court bailiff will be knocking to the door of Ms. F. Kukliansky’s office, with demands for execution of the decisions of the Court, to provide the suppressed documents to the Vilnius Jewish Community, to stop shamefully ignoring the largest Jewish community in Lithuania, the Vilnius Jewish Community, just because she may not like the democratically elected new chairman of the community.
And most importantly, what Faina Kukliansky seems mostly afraid of, to provide new elections for the chairpersonship of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in accordance with the honest rules that have been in place for many years, taking into account the votes of all the Jews of Lithuania, and not the “associations” of “close friends” who are themselves dependent for funding on the grace of the chairperson.
We shall undoubtedly witness the victory of justice, for which we have the requisite determination and patience.
However, several questions arise:
Is it not shameful that things obvious and clear to everyone need to be proven in various court cases by such efforts and resources that could really be used for better purposes? Should the issue of legitimacy of the Lithuanian Jewish Community be solved by the Lithuanian courts? Why do judges need to spend their time studying the nuances of Jewish community management? Is it not clear to ourselves what is true and what is a lie or an abuse of authority? Based on the court decisions, as well as the petition regarding No Confidence of the leadership of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, signed by the board members of regional Jewish communities and 500 members of the communities, we call for:
• termination of all legal disputes;
• implementation of all court decisions rendered to this day;
• restoration of the fair and time-honored system of voting in the Lithuanian Jewish Community, according to which new elections in the Lithuanian Jewish Community would be held, so that Jewish community life can return to normal.
No power and no benefits are worth the shame that now falls on our community.