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May 2, 2016 / 24 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Lithuania’

Lithuanian Jews Dump Chief Rabbi for ‘Lies’ as Lengthy War over Fate of Ancient Cemetery Rages On

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

(JNi.media) The Jewish Community of Lithuania has dismissed its spiritual leader, Rabbi Chaim Burstein, after the community’s chairwoman had accused him of spreading lies about the Šnipiškių cemetery in Vilnius, the Baltic News Service reported Monday.

Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS that Rabbi Burstein “spread entirely misleading information about the Šnipiškių cemetery.”

Apparently, Rabbi Burstein said that a planned reconstruction of a sports palace nearby was an “unacceptable desecration” of the Jewish cemetery. Writing on his Facebook page a week ago, the Russian-born Israeli Burstein argued that the great Jews buried in Šnipiškių cemetery would have been shocked to discover that the “fate of their bones… would one day depend on the cognitive processes of the head of a Vilna Jewish community whose heart would be filled with the desire to serve the authorities and find honor in their eyes.”

Last Thursday, Burstein wrote on Facebook that he had been told he would not be allowed to re-enter Lithuania.

“The only reason for this attempt to deport me that I can discern is the rabbinic opposition, and that of many of the Jews in the country, to the destruction of the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius for the construction of a congress and convention center complex,” Burstein wrote.

Rabbi Burstein also accused Kukliansky of imposing an authoritarian rule. And so, Kukliansky responded in a statement, “The Religious Council of the Vilnius Jewish Community decided that the contract with Chaim Burstein will not be extended, and Shmuel Yatom will be appointed as acting rabbi until a new rabbi takes office.”

According to Kukliansky, “no one has deported Rabbi Chaim Burstein from Lithuania. He lives in Israel, not Lithuania. After purchasing a ticket Chaim Burstein left Lithuania for Israel for his own reasons. We have no information that his departure was connected in any way with the Congress Center project which the Government plans to implement to both refurbish and commemorate the territory of the Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškių.”

“The focus of concern at the old Vilnius cemetery is the sports center in its midst,” notes Sol Rieger, writing for JPUpdates. “At present, after a number of developments, the cemetery is the property of the government of Lithuania. Certain proposals to expand the sports center, even minor redevelopment work, would be in violation of the boundaries specified in the formal agreement between the Government of Lithuania and relevant Jewish organizations.”

At the heart of that concern is the gravesite of Rabbi Eliahu ben Shlomo Zalman, aka the Vilna Gaon, one of the most influential Jewish leader in modern history, whose greatest contribution to Jewish scholarship was his corrective notes on the Talmud and other texts, which have accumulated errors due to scribal mistakes over the centuries.

“The intention of transferring the cemetery property to the government was to ensure its protection,” Rieger concludes.

The case has been followed closely by an opposition website called “Defending History,” run by “Holocaust survivor and scholar” Dr. Yitzhak Arad, with the mission of being a bulwark against “the New Far Right’s East European campaign to downgrade and obfuscate the Holocaust into one of two supposedly equal Holocausts (one Jewish, one not – JNi.media).”

In an August 7 article, Arad suggested angrily that Admas Kodesh (Heb: Holy Soil), a committee for the preservation of Jewish cemeteries in Europe, and the CPJCE (the London based Committee for the Protection of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe), which last April gave their blessings to erecting a $25,000,000 convention center in the heart of the ancient Piramónt (Šnipiškes) Jewish cemetery, were nothing more than “a hasidic group with zero connections to Lithuania,” which “turned up in Vilnius, allegedly negotiating payments for allowing and digging and building on a cemetery (formally for ‘supervision’ of such projects), without so much as informing any of Vilnius’s three rabbis that the meetings were taking place.”

JNi.Media

Lithuania Restores Military Draft, Eyes Ukraine’s Fight for Life

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

As the situation in Ukraine provides an object lesson in what to avoid in national defense strategies, Lithuania has decided to restore mandatory army service to its list of “to do”s for young men entering adulthood.

Lithuanian males from ages 19 to 27 will be called to serve their country for a period of nine months beginning in September 2015. The draft will be in force for the next five years.

Some 3,000 eligible males will be drafted, government officials told international media on Tuesday. President Dalia Grybauskaite said after a meeting of top government officials and military leaders the measure was necessary due to the “growing aggression in Ukraine. Lithuania has no tanks or military aircraft, however. Its entire military force totals some 15,000 troops.

The move comes amid tensions that continue to widen concern around the region — as well as around the world — as Ukraine fights for its life with pro-Russia separatists seizing control over an increasingly wide area.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday, according to the DW website.

Speaking to a meeting of U.S. senators, an irritated Kerry said Tuesday that officials in Moscow had been “lying” about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.

“Russia has engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I’ve seen since the height of the Cold War,” Kerry told the Senate subcommittee meeting. “And they have been persisting in their misinterpretations — lies — whatever you want to call them — about their activities to my face, to the face of others, on many different occasions,” he added.

On Saturday, he and the Russian foreign minister would meet to discuss “Syria and other things” before leaving for Iran to continue negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear development program.

Hana Levi Julian

Wiesenthal Center: Lithuanian Government Emboldens Neo-Nazis

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

The Simon Wiesenthal Center accused the Lithuanian government of facilitating the glorification of Holocaust-era war criminals.

The accusation followed a march earlier this month by nationalists in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, also known as Kovno. The marchers carried portraits of the pro-Nazi former ruler Juozas Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis. His government helped German troops send 30,000 Jews to their deaths. The marchers on Feb. 16 also carried signs reading: “Lithuania for Lithuanians.”

Efraim Zuroff of the center’s Israel office told JTA that attendance at the annual Feb. 16 ultra-nationalist march increased dramatically after Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis’ reburial in Kaunas in 2012, which was financed by the Lithuanian government. His remains were previously interred in Putnam, Conn., in the United States.

“Last year there were 600 participants in this march. This year there were 1,000,” Zuroff said. “This is a direct consequence of the government’s complicity in his glorification.”

Zuroff was in Kaunas to protest the rally with Dovid Katz, a Vilnius-based American Jewish academic who is part of the Lithuanian Holocaust remembrance Defending History group. Several dozen anti-fascist demonstrators also came to protest the march.

Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis moved to the United States after the war and died there in 1974. He won recognition in Lithuania in 2009 when then-President Valdas Adamkus awarded him with the highest state award, the Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great, for his government’s efforts to restore Lithuanian statehood after Soviet occupation.

Between 1941 and 1944, up to 95 percent of Lithuania’s 200,000-strong Jewish community died at the hands of the Nazis and local collaborators.

JTA

Lithuania’s Support of Ritual Slaughter May Turn the Tide

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

The Lithuanian parliament has taken the first steps to legal ritual slaughter in what could be move that turns the tide against the wave of initiatives in Europe to defend the “rights of animals” as a higher priority that freedom of religious practices.

“The fact that Lithuania currently holds the Presidency of the European Union means that this law will have an extremely strong symbolic significance for the rest of Europe,” said Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor.

The bill passed its first reading in the parliament by a lopsided margin of 51-2.

Religious slaughter was banned in Poland on January 1 after its Constitutional Court deemed it incompatible with animal rights legislation, and there have been other attempts in Europe to ban religious traditions like circumcision.

“We face significant opposition to our traditions in Europe, but we are glad to be winning some significant victories for freedom of religion on our continent,” Kantor said. “Freedom of religion is one of the EU’s founding pillars and those who fight against it are compromising the principles of tolerance and mutual respect which the new Europe is supposed to be built upon.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Peres Flying to Lithuania, Will Thank Blacklisting Hezbollah

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

President Shimon Peres is flying  on Sunday to Latvia and Lithuania, temporary president of the European Union whom he will thank the European Union for blacklisting the Hezbollah military wing as a terrorist organization. The EU decision does not affect the Hezbollah political party, which gives orders to the branch.

He will return just in time to celebrate the English date for his 90th birthday in Friday. His Hebrew birthday was on Shabbat.

President Peres will attend memorial ceremonies in Ponar, Lithuania, where nearly 100,000 Jews were killed during the  Holocaust, and in Riga, Latvia, where Nazi soldiers slaughtered 25,000 Jews.

 

 

Jewish Press News Briefs

Anti-Semitic Slogans Found near Nazi Work Camp in Lithuania

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Lithuanian police said they discovered Nazi slogans drawn on a former concentration camp after Adolf Hitler’s birth date.

The slogans “Heil Hitler,” “Jews out” in German and a swastika were scrawled on the pavement near the HKP 562 labor camp in Vilnius, Evelina Pagounis of the Vilnius police told the French news agency AFP.

The graffiti was discovered on Tuesday, two days after Hitler’s 124th birthday.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius stated, “It is especially horrific that these anti-Semitic slogans appeared near two historically sensitive sites for the Jewish nation.”

The work camp also is situated near an area where Nazis selected which Jews would be sent to work and which to death.

JTA

Miriam Ben-Porat: A Woman of ‘Firsts’

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Miriam Scheinsohn was born on April 26, 1918, in Vitebsk (Belorussia), the youngest of eight children (she had three sisters and four brothers). Soon after Miriam’s birth the family moved to Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, where her parents owned a textile factory.

After finishing high school in Kovno in 1936, she immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine by herself; siblings Binyamin, Reuven and Bella soon followed her. Her brother Shimon managed to escape to Russia and her sister Rachel, to South Africa. Her parents, Chayah and Eliezer Scheinsohn and her brother Pinchas were murdered by the Germans in Lithuania in 1941.

A year after arriving in Palestine, the determined young girl from Lithuania enrolled at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem – “the first female law student at the university.” By February 1945 Miriam Scheinsohn had completed her internship and received her lawyer’s license becoming “the first woman lawyer in the Eretz Yisrael.”

A year later she met and married a fellow Eatern European immigrant, a Polish-born manufacturer, Yosef Rubinstein. They later changed their name to Ben-Porat.

In 1955 Deputy State Attorney Ben-Porat – “the first woman in this position”- became a mother — to daughter Ronit, now a mother of three.

In 1959 Ben-Porat was appointed as a judge in the Jerusalem District Court – another first. In 1975, she became the President of the Jerusalem District Court. From 1964 through 1978, she was also a professor at the Hebrew University, specializing in contracts and commercial notes. She was the only faculty member without a doctorate.

In 1977, she became “the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court.” In 1988, upon reaching the retirement age for judges, she was elected by the Knesset to be the State Comptroller. She was the first woman to serve in this position as well. After five years, she was reelected.

Upon her retirement from the Supreme Court in 1988, Ben-Porat was appointed State Comptroller and Ombudsman for Public Complaints—a position in which she was again the first woman—and she filled this role in a dynamic and innovative manner. She significantly changed the office’s modus operandi replacing scrutiny of government action after the event with preemptive reports and measures intended to prevent improper governmental behavior before it occurred. One example of such action was her report during the Gulf War (1991) about gas masks not fitting the faces of many inhabitants. As a result, they were replaced.

On July 4, 1998, she retired from her position as State Comptroller, although she stayed involved in public activity and writing. She is the author of a variety of articles published in legal journals, of a book on state comptrol (An Interpretation of the Basic Law: State Comptroller, 1998 [2005]), and a commentary on the law of assignment. She remained active in public causes, such as the battle against the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount. In 1991 Ben-Porat received the Israel Prize, the country’s most distinguished award, for her special contribution to the State.

On July 27, 2012, Miriam Scheinsohn Ben-Porat, a woman who paved the way, a woman of milestones – of firsts — died at the age of 94.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/impact-women-history/miriam-ben-porat-a-woman-of-firsts/2012/09/21/

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