Tag Archives: Anti-semitism
I just finished reading “Crossing the River” by Shalom Eilati. It was recommended to me by a Temple Chai Member who is related to the author and thought I would be interested as I had just spoke at Yiskor about our trip to Lithuania. He said he wanted to go with his cousin who had an incredible escape from the Kaunas Ghetto, lived in hiding with Lithuanians, traveled to Germany then finally to Israel. I feel like I now have names and stories to the places I visited. The IX fort which was the mass murder site for more than 30,000 Jews has names attached. When we were there; we walked the grounds, traced the path of the escapees, saw the areas of execution, but…it didn’t feel personal until now. The pictures I took in the museum (oops I wasn’t supposed to, sorry Chaim!) now have new meaning. Anyway, Bennett has now taken the book and is likely going to read it in 2 days being the speed reader that he is. I am sure that he will write about it in his “bennettsbookblog” when he finishes it. I will be curious to see his reaction as a child the same age as the author while under Nazi captivity. What would he have done? Would he have been so brave?
One thing we kept hearing from all of our guides is that “everything is complicated”. Some people on our trip felt that we were in a Jew hating country others felt the opposite and saw progress in modern Lithuanian Jewry. Meeting Rita who restores the Jewish cemetery stones in Jurbarkas gave me hope but not everyone respects her like we do for what she is doing. We met the gentile man who takes care of the wooden synagogue in Ziezmariai who is not respected for caring for the holy structure. We went to Slobatka across the river in Kaunas and saw that the memorial plaque noting the ghetto and the murder of 30,000 Jews had acid splashed on it. When we were in Vilnius we saw some weird march with some idiots dressed with CIA on their backs with holding a chain someone wearing a concentration camp uniform in shackles. A few minutes later some local drunks were dancing around singing “Havana Gila” for money. But not in a cute or funny way. It was rather icky. Didn’t want to confront either of them as we weren’t sure what would happen.
Everyone we met in Lithuania was very nice, courteous, and helpful. I think the Soviet years severely held them back in embracing diversity. We met and had dinner with American Attaché Jonathan Berger. The US embassy is working with educators to bring them up to speed with teaching about crimes against former “Jewish soviet citizens”. Time will tell. I would highly encourage everyone with Lithuanian roots to visit. It is a beautiful country with a lovely educated culture that is finally coming back.