LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH
March – June 2006 (35)
- The project "Documentary film on Latvian Jews" to be completed in June
- Restored synagogue re-consecrated in Daugavpils
- The President of Latvia becomes patroness of the Mark Rothko Centre for Art and Education
- A Jewish museum to be established in the Liepaja Jewish Community House
- Exhibition on the Latvian Jewish Community presented in Prague
- Representatives of national minorities are presented with books on the Holocaust
- Latvian officials meet with representatives from the American Jewish Committee
The project "Documentary film on Latvian Jews" to be completed in June
Work on a documentary film on Latvian Jews by director and producer Andris Gauja is coming to a close. At the beginning of May the creative team of the filming group will go to Israel to record on film also those Jews who – for their own reasons - have moved to live in Israel.
Although the largest wave of repatriation to Israel has ended, each year quite a large number of Jewish families move from Latvia to Israel.
The makers of the documentary film wish to follow the steps of these people in order to understand what it is that makes people change their lives so fundamentally, and how Latvian Jews have found their place in society in Israel. The creative team of the film group - Andris Gauja, operator Raits Valters and editor Gundega Gauja – will visit Latvian Jews in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other locations throughout Israel. Among the people to be interviewed there are a number of interesting personalities whose life stories tell of two completely different realities – that of Latvia and of Israel.
One of the basic questions the hour-long film asks is, how great a significance in the life of Latvian Jews is played by traditions and national awareness. It will be interesting, therefore, to show the audience not only the life of local Jews in Latvia, but also how Latvian Jews find their place in society in Israel where religion and traditions play a much larger role.
The film is intended for the widest audience, but the authors of the film consider that it is especially important to address young people – the students of secondary schools and universities. At the conclusion of the project – end of June – all secondary schools and universities in Latvia will be presented with copies of the film which they will be able to show according to the view of their instructors. It is planned to also show the film on television.
After completion of the project five seminars will be organised in regions of Latvia in order to directly address young people in schools and universities who will not only have the opportunity to view the film but also to become involved in mutual dialogue which in turn will promote public understanding of the Jewish people.
The film is being made under a project of the PHARE grant programme "Promoting social integration in Latvia" which was announced by the Social Integration Fund.
The project "Documentary film on Latvian Jews. The role of traditions and differences in present day Latvia" is being implemented by the organisation "Media projects of historic places" in co-operation with the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies and in consultation with affiliated partners – the Latvian Centre for Judaic Studies and the Latvian Jewish Community and Congregation Council.
Restored synagogue is re-consecrated in Daugavpils
On 11 April in the centre of Daugavpils, the more than 150 years-old synagogue was re-consecrated. Funds for the restoration of the synagogue were donated by the family of the world famous artist Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970) (Kate and Christopher Rothko, the children of Mark Rothko in the USA,), and the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. The Daugavpils synagogue, which is the second largest Jewish prayer house after the Riga synagogue, was restored in honour of the artist's hundredth birthday.
In her address, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga noted that: "today is a historic moment not only for Daugavpils but for all of Latvia because for the first time after the Second World War a synagogue has been restored in Latvia. It is symbolic that this restored synagogue is opened in the Spring, which proves to us that there is rebirth after death and destruction, and I wish that this prayer house would serve families and their children who will come here to pray for years to come, and will also serve as a cultural centre where members of the Jewish community may learn not only their own traditions but also the common history and traditions of Latvia."
The President also wished that the prayers which will be held in this synagogue may help shape a better and more beautiful Daugavpils, Latvia and the world.
According to the representative of the Daugavpils Jewish community, Anatoliy Fishel, this synagogue, built in 1850, is one of the oldest buildings in Daugavpils remaining untouched after World War II. Before 1940 there were 140 synagogues in Latvia, 40 of these were in Daugavpils.
President's Chancery (11.04.2006)
Anna Rancane, Diena (11.04.2006)
The President of Latvia becomes the Patroness of the Mark Rothko Centre for Art and Education
The President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, became the patroness of the project for the world famous artist Mark Rothko Centre for Art and Education. The President emphasised to members of the Rothko family, the Daugavpils City Council, and representatives of the U.S. Embassy and media present, that the Mark Rothko Centre for Art and Education makes an important contribution to the general growth and prosperity of Daugavpils, "Daugavpils is not only a potential centre for commerce and business, it has every opportunity to become an object of interest for Latvia, Europe and the world, also in the field of art and culture."
The President thanked the Rothko family for its support for the international Mark Rothko Centre for Art and Education in the historic Daugavpils fortress.
At the Daugavpils City Council, the President was told of Daugavpils' long-term development plans for increase in production, development of infrastructure and in the fields of culture, sports and education.
President's Chancery (11.04.2006)
A Jewish museum to be established in the Liepaja Jewish Community House
A Liepaja Jewish museum is now being established in two rooms of the Liepaja Jewish Community building planned to be opened this year. Until now, the Riga Jewish Community museum "Jews in Latvia" was the only one in Latvia dedicated to the history of Jews.
Before the Second World War, some 7,000 Jews lived in Liepaja and the surrounding area. The community has learned of 6,321 names of Liepaja Jews killed in the Holocaust. Only a few hundred Jews survived the Holocaust. A large part of the exposition will be dedicated to events of the war. The names of all known victims of the Holocaust in Liepaja will be listed in three albums. There will also be a memorial for those 40 residents of Liepaja who are known to have saved Jews from annihilation.
Nora Drike, Diena (10.04.2006)
Exhibition of the Latvian Jewish Community presented in Prague
On 3 May 2006, the exhibitions Latvian Jewish Community: Its History, Tragedy and Rebirth and Latvian Children Draw the Old Synagogues were opened at the Jewish Museum in Prague.
At the opening of the exhibition, Professor Ina Druviete spoke of the significance of Holocaust education in Latvia in the building of a democratic and integrated community and how important it was "-for us to remember what happened; to know and to respect the past and to be able to value the present." The Executive Director of the Shamir Jewish Community in Riga, Ilana Lisagora, expressed the hope that these exhibitions would help to form a tolerant community, extend knowledge and raise interest about Jewish history and culture which constitutes a significant part of the history of Latvia's multinational culture.
The exhibition has been prepared by the Latvian Foreign Ministry and the Jewish Museum of Riga and relates the history of the Jewish community between the 16th and early 20th centuries, about the tragic fate of the Jewish people during World War II, the Jewish saviours in Latvia and on Latvia's current political attitude to research and remembrance of the Holocaust. The exhibition of children's drawings has been prepared by the Jewish religious community Shamir in co-operation with UNESCO, with participants from 40 schools from all over Latvia. On 2 May, a representative of the Latvian State Historical Archive, Rita Bogdanova, delivered a lecture on the history of the Jews in Latvia.
The opening of the exhibition also hosted a performance by the clarinet quartet of the Headquarters of the National Armed Forces of Latvia which presented works by Czech and Latvian composers.
In early May, Prague will host a broad cultural programme from Latvia. This year Latvia will be an honorary guest at the international book fair Svet Knihy, which will also be attended by 18 writers from Latvia. Altogether, forty events dedicated to Latvian literature and culture will be held in Prague.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (05.05.2006)
Representatives of national minorities presented with books on the Holocaust
On 16 May the writer Leonid Kovals and the Minister for Special Assignments for Social Integration, Karina Petersone, presented the books "Kniga spasenija" ("The Rescue Book", I un II) and "Kniga spasitelej" ("The Saviours' Book", III) to representatives of national minority organisations throughout Latvia.
Leonid Kovals is President of the Jurmala Jewish Community and the Organisation of history of the Jewish ghetto and genocide. His work is a trilogy of the history of victims of the Holocaust and the people who protected the Jewish nation.
"This book is like a record which has preserved the voice of history", said the writer Mikhail Zorin. "Kniga spasenija" un "Kniga spasitelej" are very important historically, informative and educational, but at the same time also a very personal and communicating resource", indicated Petersone.
Delivery and distribution of the book is ensured by the Department of National Minorities of the Secretariat. A number of national minority organisations have applied for copies of the book.
Latvian officials meet with representatives from American Jewish Committee
On 21 June 2006, the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, met the representatives of the American Jewish Committee, headed by Executive Director David Harris. The Committee highly appreciated and expressed its recognition of the President's state visit to Israel in February as well as evaluated the President's address to the joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. on 7 June as principal and impressive. The President in her turn appreciated the significant and sincere state visit of the President of Israel to Latvia last September. David Harris admitted that however a small country, Latvia has a strong voice and to a large extent this is due to the President of Latvia who has not only facilitated the recognizability of Latvia in the world map, but also drawn global attention to Latvia.
During the meeting the parties discussed the progress of the UN reform issues as well as current developments in Europe. Regarding the forms of radicalism in Europe and the world the President pointed out that in Latvia pupils are taught tolerance issues at school.
On the same day, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, also had a meeting with the delegation of the American Jewish Committee. Mr David Harris acknowledged the relations of Latvia and the United States, Latvia's support to the United States in protecting such values as democracy and human rights, as well as participation in the military mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. The guests informed their host that the American Jewish Committee had urged the United States to establish diplomatic relations with the Baltic States as early as 1990, and it also advocated a more favourable U.S. visa regime for Latvia's citizens.
Mr Kalvitis expressed Latvia's gratitude for support of the United States in restoring Latvia's independence and emphasised that the United States of America is the main partner of Latvia. The Prime Minister also underlined support of the Baltic States to co-operation between the United States and the European Union.
The Latvian Prime Minister pointed to the active political dialogue and growing economic co-operation between Latvia and the United States, and invited an increase in U.S. investments in the manufacturing and information technologies and to promote business contacts.
The parties discussed the life and activities of the Jewish community in Latvia. The delegation of the American Jewish Committee thanked the Latvian Government for its initiatives in the draft law on restitutions.
The parties also exchanged views on the democratic processes in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the situation in Belarus. Aigars Kalvitis stressed Latvia's readiness to co-operate with its neighbours and to share its reform experience.
The Prime Minister emphasised that the Latvian Government is endeavouring to form pragmatic relations with Russia and informed his guests about the recent meeting with senior Russian officials, as well as about the successful visit of His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, to Latvia.
Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks also met with a delegation of the American Jewish Committee, headed by its Executive Director, Rabbi David A. Harris. During the meeting, Mr Pabriks emphasised Latvia's interest in establishing a visa-free regime with the United States as soon as possible to strengthen relations between both countries.
The delegation representatives noted that they are aware of the situation and expressed their continued support for a positive settlement of the issue.
During the meeting, Committee representatives expressed their gratitude to Minister Pabriks for his contribution to the development of positive relations with the United States and with Israel. The Committee delegation highly rated the organisational arrangements for the conference on the Holocaust to be held in Riga on 5-6 July, and invited participants to pay special attention to the educational issues of the Holocaust.
The parties also considered a number of regional and global issues which are currently important at the international level as well as discussed domestic policy in Latvia and in the United States.
The meeting with the American Jewish Committee was also attended by the Chairman of the Latvian Council of Jewish Parishes and Communities, Arkadijs Suharenko, and the State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Culture, Solvita Zvidrina.
President's Chancery (21.06.2006)
The Cabinet of Ministers (21.06.2006)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (21.06.2006)
Newsletter "Latvia's History: Education, Remembrance, Research" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the media and official sources.