Assistance to Maceva’s Tombstone Information “Digitizing” Program

Maceva is a non-profit organization in Lithuania that has photographed many of the surviving gravestones in Jewish cemeteries and hopes to preserve the information on those stones by “digitizing” it and adding it to a searchable database. In late 2020, RLI and Arie Katz of the Orange County [California] Community Scholars Program raised the funds needed by Maceva to complete the “digitizing” of the information on the gravestones in the old Jewish cemetery in Rokiškis. The RLI board then offered to assist Maceva by attempting to ask Jewish genealogists whose ancestors lived in specific towns to donate the funds needed to digitize the information on the gravestones in the towns’ respective Jewish cemeteries. Maceva is currently developing a list of cemeteries for which digitizing work is still needed and the estimated cemetery-specific costs of digitizing the gravestone information.

Šiauliai County Jewish Community’s Memorial For Rabbi Israel Lipkin “Salanter”

In 2020 the Šiauliai County Jewish Community (“SAŽB”) announced that a memorial dedicated to Rabbi Israel “Salanter” would be created by Prof. Vaidotas Janulis of the Arts Department of Šiauliai University and placed in the market square of Žagarė.

Rabbi Israel Lipkin (1809-1883) was a native of Žagarė who received most of his education from Rabbi Yosef Zundel in Salantai / Salant. For this reason, Rabbi Israel came to be known as “Salanter” – the one from Salantai. Rabbi Yosef Zundel stressed the importance of religious self-improvement – mussar. Rabbi Israel “Salanter” developed a method of instruction that became the basis of the Mussar Movement, which influences Jewish education and ethnical thought to the present time. Rabbi Israel was so well respected that he personally appointed Rabbi Eliezer Gordon to be the rosh (head of the) yeshiva in Telšiai / Telshe, which became the center of Eastern European Jewish education by the end of the 19th Century.

RLI contributed one-fifth of the funds needed for the memorial, which was dedicated on June 6, 2021.

Sania Kerbelis (left), the chairman of the Šiauliai County Jewish Community, with Mauša Bairakas, the chairman of the Kaunas Religious Jewish Community.

Co-Sponsorship of Matilda Olkinaitė: Atrakintas dienoraštis (Matilda Olkinaitė: The Unlocked Diary)

RLI co-sponsored the publication of Matilda Olkinaitė: Atrakintas dienoraštis (Matilda Olkinaitė: The Unlocked Diary), which is a compilation of the long-hidden poetry notebook and diary of the Jewish Lithuanian Poet, Matilda Olkinaitė The book was released in February 2020 at the annual Vilnius Book Fair. However, a special event was hosted by the Rokiškis Regional Museum at the Tyzenhaus Manor on July 12, 2020, to honor the many Lithuanians who have helped in various ways to raise public awareness of the life and legacy of this gifted poet. Among those who spoke were Prof. Irena Veisaitė, who had safeguarded the notebook and diary for many years.

From left, author Lithuanian-American author and poet Prof. Laima Vincė, Prof. Irena Veisaitė, and [then Minister of Culture] Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas autographing copies of Matilda Olkinaitė: Atrakintas dienoraštis (Matilda Olkinaitė:  The Unlocked Diary).  Prof. Vincė translated all of Matilda’s writings into English, which appeared in the English version of the book in 2021.

Prof. Veisaitė speaking at the Tyzenhaus Manor.

Following the ceremony at the Tyzenhaus Manor, the participants visited the remote area in Kavoliškis where Matilda Olkinaitė and her extended family were murdered and buried in the summer of 1941.

A view of the front of the renovated building that had been the home of the Telshe Yeshiva, September 2020.

The renovated main study hall of the Telshe Yeshiva building.