It’s been ten months since we first heard about COVID-19. When planning its events and projects, the Liepājas ebreju mantojums foundation worked on from year to year, no one could even imagine, that the global viral infection would tremendously change our life in 2020. All traditional events have been either postponed or cancelled altogether, and we had to adjust to the new Normal way of life. In a time when it’s more important than ever to stay connected, our work has also changed due to social distancing. Pandemic has destroyed all long-standing traditions, which forced us to rethink how to adjust our work to the social distancing conditions. The pandemic has become a challenge not only for us, but for the whole world. We had to decide how to adjust our work to changes to preserve the priorities that we identified with the Uniting History Foundation and the Liepaja Jewish Community (LERO). They include: preserving the Jewish cultural and historical heritage, supporting the needy and creating new forms of Jewish education via online. We unanimously accepted that today, the transition to communication and work in the online format is the only correct decision. Realising that nothing can replace face-face meetings, especially important for older people, we tried to adapt our joint work to new conditions, guided by a simple consideration: when it comes to the health and life of people, the safety of the whole society is above the interests of its individual members.
- Educational projects are the first to enter the New Normal life in an online format, these are: readings of Saturday chapters of the Torah and Sunday classes for children.
2. Foundations “Liepājas ebreju mantojums” and “Uniting History” organized an online competition of children’s drawings “Hanukkah Festival”. 8-year-old Maria Zaharjina was the winner. Her drawing became the basis for our greeting card, which was received by all community members, partners and sponsors. The Jewish Community Board has prepared special gifts for all members of the Community – traditional Sufganiet beigls.
3. For the Jews of Liepāja, December is a month associated with tragic events during the Holocaust. From December 15-17, 1941, almost the entire Jewish community was destroyed in Šķēde. Every year, on these days, we visit the Memorial to honor the memory of thousands of Liepāja Jews, who were shot in the dunes in Šķēde just because they were Jews. This year traditional commemorative events have been cancelled due to restrictions caused by coronavirus. Nevertheless, on December 15, representatives of the Liepāja Jewish Community board visited the memorial in Šķēde, laid flowers on behalf of Liepaja Jews and their descendants, lit commemorative candles and read a prayer. During these days, a group of Jewish Survivors of Liepāja with children and grandchildren, also meet in at the monument in Holon, in Israel to commemorate the Jewish Community of Liepāja perished during the Holocaust.
4. The month of December became a start of a new online educational project. Weekly lectures have been planned. Every Thursday participants of these lectures have a possibility to listen lectures on various historical topics related to little-known pages of the Jewish heritage of Latvia and Liepāja, in particular.
The first lecture, on December 17, by I. Ivanova, was dedicated to events of the first years of fascism in Europe and the situation when Liepaja was fully occupied by the Nazi troops on 29 June, 1941.
The second Skype lecture consisted of several blocks. In the first part, we finished discussing the alignment of forces in Liepaja on June 29, 1941, when the city was completely occupied by the Germans. On this day, about 5500 Jews were in the hands of the Nazis. Unknown facts of the defence of Liepāja were introduced to Skype meeting group accompanied by rear photographs of those times.. The online meeting ended with a story about the events described in his diary, by Kalman Linkimer, one of 11 Jewish Survivors of the shelter of Johanna and Roberts Seduls. Some parts of this diary were translated and presented to the audience by R. Sukhar.
5. On December 31, the last day of 2020, several members of the Jewish Community joined our Skype meeting to give good wishes to each other and listen to nice greetings of A. Suharenko, the Chairman of the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities. For all of us it was a very moving and unifying moment in this difficult time.
On November 18, 102 years ago, Latvia fought its independence
This year, the celebration of the 102nd anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia took place without traditional commemorative events due to restrictions caused by Covid-19.
On November 18, to honor Jewish soldiers, who fought and defended the independence of Latvia and died in the Freedom war, flowers were laid and a prayer was said by representatives of the Liepaja Jewish Community, in co-operation with the foundations “ Liepājas ebreju mantojums” and “Uniting History” on the Jewish cemetery. The short ceremony was organized near the monument to Jewish soldiers, killed near Liepāja during the Independence war in 1919.
Extracts from the monument’s dedication speeches in 2019
I. Lensky, Director of the Museum “Jews in Latvia”: “Today’s ceremony is not an ordinary event, we must remember that this is the first monument to the fallen Jewish soldiers erected in Latvia. Similar monuments were planned in other cities, later two of them appeared in Riga, but in Daugavpils it was never erected. It is surprising that this monument survived all future regimes that were not very friendly towards the independence of Latvia and those who died defending its freedom. The participation of Jews in the struggle for independence is a well-known fact and has been repeatedly approved. Every time when we talk about the participation of Jews in this war, it is not just a political or military story. We are also talking about more local things – about people defending what was dear and important to them – their city, their homeland. The lives of each of these people deserve research, but this work is not yet completed. There is a wonderful book by Professor Erik Jekabson – “Forgotten soldiers – Jews in the Latvian army 1918 – 1940”, just about them. And the restoration of this monument is a good dedication to the centenary of the Republic of Latvia and the War of Independence ”.
“This is a very important time for Latvia,” said Gunars Ansiņš, Deputy Mayor of Liepāja. “We are celebrating the centenary of our country. And the people who helped Latvia become independent, defended their country and died for its freedom are very important. It doesn’t matter if they were teachers or workers, Latvians or Russians, Jews or Estonians. We were together at that terrible time..”
Military historian Juris Raķis:
“When the enemy troops approached Liepaja, it was clear that everyone stood up to defend their city. Native city of Liepaja was defended not only by soldiers, but also by civilians. Everyone was eager to fight, regardless of age and nationality. Latvians, Russians, Jews … Jewish high school students, boys of 14-15 years old, ran away from school, some with the permission of their parents, some without. They went to the Defense headquarters and enrolled in the defenders of their homeland. Of course, these boys were not given weapons. But in those historical days of the battle for the defense of the city, they were providing connections, supplied the soldiers with food, in other words, helped as best as they could. The headmaster of the gymnasium let the boys leave their lessons, but on one condition – so to speak, from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon they were in the war, and then quickly back to school, since the following day there would be a written test.
The War of Independence was a people’s war, indeed. The Western Volunteer detachments of Bermont-Avalov, were defeated in an attempt to occupy Riga on November 11 (now this day is celebrated as the Day of Lāčplēsis), then tried to occupy Liepāja. The battles for Liepāja began on November 14, 1919. “
Every year, on July 4, the Jewish Communities of Latvia organize commemorative events dedicated to the Jewish Genocide Remembrance Day. In addition to members of Jewish communities and their families, the leaders of the country, the diplomatic corps and representatives of local governments participate in the events.
Public events were canceled this year due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Observing all precautions, on July 5, flowers were laid from the Liepaja Jewish Community at the memorial sites associated with the execution of Liepaja Jews during the Holocaust.
During the Nazi occupation in 1941-1945. in Latvia, more than 70,000 local Jews were killed and about 20,000 Jews deported here from other European countries.
In Liepaja, on May 9, 1945, 25 Jews from the once almost 9000 community survived.
- 15 years to the dedication of the Memorial to Liepāja Jews-victims of the Holocaust. 1941-1945 in Šķēde
On June 3, 2020, a meeting organized by the „Liepājas ebreju mantojums ’’ foundation dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Memorial to Liepaja Jews- victims of the Holocaust, took place in Šķēde.
Liepāja Jewish Community gathered in the restaurant of the Liva Hotel, as the community hall could not accommodate everyone who wanted to participate in Purim celebration.
For the 7th time the Liepaja Jewish Heritage Foundation was hosting Eduard Kaplan’s personal art exhibition at the Liepaja Jewish Community hall at No.21Kungu Street.