The history of the Jews in Lithuania can be traced back as far as the 8th Century, and of the Lithuanian Jews in my homeland, South Africa, at least as far back as the end of the 19th Century, when tens of thousands fled conflicts and pogroms engulfing the Russian Empire and the anti-Semitism of the Russian czars.
November 14th the committee for culture at the Parliament of Lithuania, led by the Chair of the majority party MP R. Karbauskis had its meeting on the Jewish heritage protection issues at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. The Minister of culture, Mrs. L. Ruokyte Jonsson, Government vice-chancellor Mr. D. Matulionis actively participated at the meeting, as well. Our organization was represented by Anna Avidan.
The first kloyz in Vilnius – the Old Kloyz in the shulhoyf – most probably appeared soon after the construction of the Great Synagogue in 1633. During the 18th-century new kloyzn were established by various religious and professional associations, as well as by private individuals. In 1729 the Vilnius kahal transferred the right of giving permissions for the establishment of private minyanim to the Tsdakah Gdolah (Great Charity) Association, the main communal organization responsible for social welfare.
During the inspiring international conference we had in September 2017, where the issue of the Great Vilna Synagogue site presentation was raised and discussed widely, the idea of creating an intellectual center based on the history of the site for humanistic ideas to be promoted, was born and widely approved.
We were so happy to receive the acknowledgement from the Vilnius city Mayor, addressed to the Litvak World organisation.
But in fact, it goes to all of you, our dear friends, who had contributed to the international conference on the Great Synagogue of Vilna commemoration. Thank you!
The Great Vilna synagogue, built in 1633, was widely known in Europe for centuries as the center of the spiritual, cultural and social life of the Jewish community. It was damaged during the Nazi occupation and totally demolished by the Soviets after World War II. Archeological research proves that authentic remnants of the Great Vilna synagogue still remain buried 2 meters below the ground level.
Together with our friends – “Centre for Studies of the Culture and History of East European Jews” and Jakovas Bunka Charity and Sponsorship fund – we have established a grant award Or be’Lita for the best defended graduate and undergraduate theses on a Jewish history, culture or heritage topic among the students of the Lithuanian high schools and universities.
A map of Vilnius with around 130 synagogues marked on it will be published soon!
Israeli and Lithuanian scholars have identified over 130 locations of the former synagogues of Vilnius. By publishing this map we intend to depict the scope of the lost pre war Jewish life in Vilnius, which can be perceived mostly by means of imagination. This map will serve as a visual cognition tool both for those who live or visit Vilnius, as well as for those who are exploring their family heritage living away from Lithuania.
On November 11, 2016 “Litvak world” project was presented by its member of board Mr Rolandas Valiūnas in the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Later in November our managing director Anna Avidan met Mickey Kantor - the leader of the Association of Jews from Vilna, and Zvika Kezurer - director of the Israeli Lithuanian Technology HUB, discussing possible cooperation.
As a farewell to our friend and supporter, a Lithuanian Jewish philosopher and public intellectual, prof. Leonidas Donskis, and
fulfilling his recently expressed wish to say Kaddish in the memory of more than 2000 Jews who were murdered in his hometown Butrimonys, we organised the Kaddish there, for his memory, as well, now...