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Jews in Lithuania

  • Profile

    Lithuania has a small Jewish community of 4007 people (0.12 per cent of the population) according to the 2001 census, concentrated mainly in the larger cities.

    Historical context

    Before the Second World War there was a vibrant Jewish life in Lithuania. Before the war Jews accounted for some 7.5 per cent of the population and were known as Litvaks. Vilnius in particular was home to a thriving Jewish community. Some 220,000 Lithuanian Jews were brutally murdered during the war. In September 1994, the Lithuanian Prime Minister publicly deplored these killings, apologized to the Jewish people for the fact that 10,000 Lithuanians had actively assisted the Nazis in carrying out this genocide, and pledged to prosecute suspected war criminals who are deported back to Lithuania.

    Jewish leaders occasionally call on officials to provide better police protection for Jewish cemeteries in Kaunas, Vilnius, and other places, which have been subject to increasing vandalism and pilfering. The city government of Kaunas established an ad hoc committee, including police officials and Jewish community representatives, to look for ways to improve security at Jewish cemeteries. The Jewish community was particularly concerned by a series of anti-Semitic articles that appeared in a daily newspaper Respublika in 2004.

    Current issues

    Despite a revival in Jewish traditions and life following Lithuanian independence, including the publication of a monthly newspaper (in Yiddish, Russian, Lithuanian and English), the revival of synagogues in Vilnius and the opening of a Jewish school, emigration to the United States and Israel has continued.

    Updated June 2015

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