Antisemitism in Lithuania overwhelms Jewish community activity


Interfax-Religiia, 7 August 2019


The leadership of the Jewish community of Lithuania has made the decision to close its office and synagogue in Vilnius because of fears for the safety of its parishioners.


"In conditions of increasing tension, neither the community nor the synagogue has the possibility of guaranteeing the safety of people coming here, among whom there are people who suffered from the nazis during the Holocaust," a statement of the Jewish community says, which is quoted in Rossiiskaia Gazeta.


A surge in antisemitic sentiment occurred after the removal of a memorial plaque in honor of the "forest brother" Jonas Noreika from the fa├žade of the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. It had been dismantled by order of Vilnius Mayor Remigius Shimashius, who cited evidence of the participation of Noreika in the creation of the Jewish ghetto. The dismantling of the plaque evoked contradictory responses in the country, and the president called for instituting a moratorium on removal of historical memory.


"The fact that antisemitic commentaries and notes published in public accounts by parties and their chairmen remain unpunished, and that even the Christian Holy Mary was called 'the Jewess,' forces me to consider whether we are secure. We would wish to hear the opinion and clear position of the leadership of Lithuania and whether in the future there will be support for public propaganda in support of honoring persons who participated in the destruction of Jews," the Jewish community notes.


Against the backdrop of the tensions being created, the authors of the statement ask also for protection from likely acts of vandalism to the Jewish cemetery of Vilnius.


The publication cites information from archives according to which the destruction of Jews in Lithuania began yet before the arrival of the facists, and in only five months of 1941 more than 200,000 women, old folks, and children, 98% of the Jewish population of the country, were exterminated. After the war, experts acknowledged that the proportion of Jews who perished in Lithuania was the highest among all countries occupied by nazis.


In recent years, the Jewish community of Russia has often expressed protest because of the conducting in Lithuania of marches by nationalists who carried placards with photographs of people who are recognized as war criminals. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 August 2019)



Interfax-Religiia, 7 August 2019


The president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Alexander Boroda, is shocked by news about the closing of the choral synagogue of Vilnius, to which Jews themselves resorted out of fear for their own safety.


"It was painful for us to hear about the closing of the Jewish community in Lithuania. The contemporary world should be free from any kind of manifestations of xenophobia and nationalism. Closing of the community and synagogue is really frightening news, because only systematic negative events and a permanent state of hatred in society can lead to this," Boroda declared to Interfax on Wednesday.


He expressed the hope that this "serious and necessary step" of the Jewish community will evoke widespread resonance at the level both of governmental structures and of rights advocacy organizations of Lithuania. "It seems to me important that this event will also receive attention from other European countries, in which the level of antisemitism is only growing with every year," the president of FEOR added.


The news agency's interlocutor noted that Russian Jews now know very well from the examples of their grandmothers and grandfathers "how destructive and difficult it is to live while renouncing one's own faith and self-identity." "Today we have, praise God, the possibility not to conceal our Jewishness and to preserve our traditions just as representatives of other nations and confessions preserve theirs. This is understood throughout the world," Boroda emphasized.


He pointed out that now, when it is fashionable to speak about human rights and about tolerance for one and all, xenophobic attitudes are only intensifying in European society. "Evidently besides conversations there should be more specific legislative actions that would prevent even the slightest attacks on national or religious grounds, but it is certainly important to recall the lessons of history," the president of FEOR is sure.


In recent years, the Jewish community of Russia has frequently expressed protest because of the conducting in Lithuania of marches of nationalists who carried placards with photographs of people who are recognized as war criminals..


"Witnesses of the Second World War are still alive and the names of collaborators with nazism have long since been rehabilitated and murderers are called heroes. Such actions only strengthen in the minds of many incorrect and confused notions of good and evil," Boroda summed up. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 August 2019)

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