The Archives of Vilnius:
Friday began with a visit to the State Historical Archives in
Vilnius. Howard Margol, the trip's organiser, is well known
here; he was able to get a special reception for our tour
group. We were given a lecture on what records were available in
the archive, the history of the records, and how the genealogy research
was done. We were shown a sampling of some of the older
records, including a 19th century book of police photos of
revolutionaries from the 1831 Polish Revolt (against
Russian rule), you never saw criminals who looked so good.
Handwritten, handdrawn book of the Christian Armaggedon.
We were also given a tour of the library. Some of the records
date back the fifteenth, sixteenth century; some of the record
books a foot thick.
In the Archives, I met with Vilius Botryius, who I have hired to
research for me. That morning, he had a minor success: he
found a 1903 birth record for a possible nephew of Barnet
Lieberman. Here is a quick translation he wrote down for me:
#5 Movsha Fishel LEIZEROVICH, born February 10, 1903.
His father: Leizer Leiba Leizerovich, at this time living in
Balbieriskis, 26 years old, permanent residence of Vilijampole (Kovno
His mother: Liba maiden name LIBERMAN.
A niece we definitely know about is Hinde Leiserowitch Schwartz, who
married her cousin Faivel. Her mother, who had to be a Lieberman,
was unknown -- could it be Liba? The story as I remember it was
that before Hinde immigrated in 1921, there was a debate in the family
about who should come over, Hinde or her brother. Great-grandpa
Barney wanted to bring the brother over, so that he could escape
military service. Hinde's proponents won day, and her brother was
eventually drafted by the Lithuanian (?) army, where he died.
Could Movsha be the brother? I think it was Movsha.
The Museum of Tolerance:
The next stop was a bit of a misstep, the Museum of Tolerance is closed
due to the construction of a new exhibit; we were told we could
get a special preview of the exhibit, a series of artifacts from the
Holocaust. Unfortunately, two other tours also were told to visit
at this time, and our tour got lost in the confusion. Instead we
were led into an auditoreum that had been a Jewish musical theater
before WWII, where all tour groups were seated and where we were given
a speech by Emanuelis Zingeris.
In a previous term, Mr. Zingeris had been a member of Parliament,
the only Jew so far to
hold office; now he is running for office in the European
Union. He is good friends with the Margols, and it is due to his
efforts that there is a Holocaust Museum, a Museum of Tolerance, and
many other fine Jewish institutions.
The only Jewish (former)
One interesting question that Mr. Zingeris asked was "How do you
Jewish life with so few Jews?" I'm not sure what the current
population statistics are, but through word of mouth the numbers seem
to be on the order of 5000 Jews to 4 million Lithuanians in
general. Tourism of American and Israeli Jews is big business, so
there is some interest in creating and restoring museums and memorials,
but a true revival of the famous Litvak Jewery seems impossible.
The Jewish Synagogue:
I was worried about contacting a man in Drohiczyn, whom I hope will be
my guide there, so I walked back to the hotel to make a phone
call. Along the way I passed by the Jewish Synagogue, where the
Gaon of Vilna had ... lived? practiced?
the Synagogue is now closed due to sectarian in-fighting
current "Head" Rabbi of Lithuanian is a Hassid; an Othodox rabbi
also claims the right to be Head Rabbi. Both claim authority over
the Synagogue; one has claimed that minions of the other roughed him
up. So the Synagogue is closed, the Litvak-Hassid rivalry begins
to reassert itself.