Established by the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.
The Commission was established upon the Lithuanian independence, and has been under the chairmanship of Emmanuel Zingeris, the long-serving Jewish Member of the Seimas.
In 2004 the Tolerance Centre principle was approved. The Tolerance Centre in Plunge was the 8th such centre established. There are now in excess of 100. The co-ordinator of the T C in each school, or museum, has autonomy.
The emphasis on the Tolerance Centre in Plunge is on the Jewish tragedy rather than the Russian brutality. Naturally, we are more concerned with the crimes against the Jews. Programs also include a study of Jewish life before WWll.
There are a number of Jews who are against the “Commission” because they are there also to teach about the Soviet regime.
My interest in family history started in 1992, after my cousin wrote seven ancestors’ names down on a scrap piece of paper.
I have had many genealogical success stories since then. This is due to my often unorthodox, multi focused approach, described by my daughter in law as “tangential”!
In 2011 I visited Eastern Europe for the first time. My heritage travels have taken me back four additional times. I have visited Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic and Turkey.
I started writing KehilaLinks in 2011, the first being for Orla, near Bialystok in Poland in 2011.
JewishGen KehilaLinks (formerly “ShtetLinks”) is a project facilitating web pages commemorating the places where Jews have lived. KehilaLinks provides the opportunity for anyone with an interest in a place to create web pages about that community. These web pages may contain information, pictures, databases, and links to other sources providing data about that place.
Kehilaקהילה [Hebrew] n. (pl. kehilot קהילות): Jewish Community. It is used to refer to a Jewish community, anywhere in the world.
Sites are hosted by JewishGen, the world’s largest Jewish genealogical organisation, an affiliate of the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City. JewishGen provides amateur and professional genealogists with the tools to research their Jewish family history and heritage.
People are invited to send in their own stories, photos and memoirs. There is no cost in participating in a KehilaLink and it is a great way to share one’s family history
My list has grown to 63 websites with 3 more in the pipeline.
Ironically, the one place I have not been to is Shanghai! Yet, I have been drawn to it by its connection to the Jewish people and especially because of the story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kovno, the capital of Lithuania during WWII. Against his government’s wishes, Sugihara issued transit visas to Jews, enabling them to get to Shanghai, and therefore saved many lives. The story only surfaced in the 1970s. See Rabbi Levi Wolff of Sydney Central Synagogue:
We are pleased to welcome the following webpages to JewishGen KehilaLinks
We thank the owners and webmasters of these webpages for creating fitting
memorials to these Kehilot (Jewish Communities) and for providing a
valuable resource for future generations of their descendants:
With the passing of Rabbi Itzele Rabinowitz in 1919, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman was appointed the new rabbi of Ponevezh (Panevėžys), one of the largest centres of Jewish life in Lithuania. There, he built three yeshivas as well as a school and an orphanage. He was elected to the Lithuanian parliament. All of his institutions were destroyed and many of his students and family were killed during World War II.
Rabbi Kahaneman emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1940 and built Kiryat Ha-Yeshiva (“Town of the Yeshiva”) in Bnei Brak and Batei Avotorphanages. Rabbi Kahaneman travelled widely in the diaspora to secure financial support for his yeshiva, which he constantly improved and extended. With the help of long time friend Rav Moshe Okun, Rabbi Kahaneman succeeded in the face of opposition in turning the re-established Ponovezh yeshiva into one of the largest in the world.
He sought to take care of many orphans and tried to rescue them from the clutches of secular Zionist organizations, especially the Yaldei Tehran (“Children of Tehran”) – children who escaped from Nazi Europe by walking across Europe to Tehran (including the famous BialaRebbe – Rabbi Ben Zion Rabinowitz).
In contrast to the prevalent haredi opposition to Zionism, Rabbi Kahaneman showed some signs of support for the State of Israel. For instance, he insisted that the flag of Israel be flown outside of the Ponovezh Yeshiva on Israel’s Independence Day (a practice still continued to this day). He also refrained from saying the Tachanun prayer, a daily prayer of penitence, on that day as a sign of celebration. When asked about the apparent hypocrisy for his not saying the Hallel prayer, a prayer of active celebration, he answered jokingly that he was following the practice of David Ben Gurion who also didn’t say Hallel or Tachanun on that day.
Following Israel’s military successes of the Six Day War, he published an article which included the following:
My dear brothers! Can we allow ourselves to be small minded at this great and awesome hour? Should we not be embarrassed to remain unobservant of this wondrous period, when we are surrounded by obvious miracles, and even a blind person can sense the palpable miracles… the miracles, wonders, salvations, comforts and battles [Ed. a reference to the Al HaNissim prayer recited on Purim and Hannukah], that occurred in the Holy Land and in the Holy City [Ed. of Jerusalem] and the Temple Mount, even those who saw it with their own eyes, even those who experienced it themselves, they cannot manage to express the depths of their emotions. Perhaps one like myself who was wandering during those days among the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, is better capable of recognizing the tremendous miracles and can consider the nature of these wondrous events.
I have set up three basic websites for PE, Pretoria and Oudtshoorn, forerunners of the Kehilalink websites.
These websites celebrate and document the Jews of these cities from its pioneers, through the families who lived and worked in these cities over the decades to those still there today. It will tell the story of the Jewish institutions, the shuls and other Jewish buildings and cemeteries.
The site is hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society. It is managed by Eli Rabinowitz
Please join us on this journey – and if you or your family have connections with these cities then we look forward to hearing from you and receiving your stories, memories, photographs and family biographies. Only by doing so, will the story of Jewish life will be revealed and available for the benefit of current and future generations – wherever they may be. We have made a start in July 2014 and created the possibility – now please will you help to fill in the details by telling us about your family.
Time is of the essence as the number of those that can “tell the story” and the remaining community dwindles. So please contact me to send material and for any queries.
Here are the links:
Please send in your photos and stories and fill in the questionnaires
To see a working kehilalink, visit Kimberley:
Thanks again to Geraldine Auerbach MBE in London, who has been an inspiring partner in the Kimberley kehilalink project.
Those from Kimberley, please send us your photos and stories as well.