Last July, I blogged about Wyman Brent’s efforts to start a Jewish library in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Vilnius, known as Vilna in Yiddish, was a center of Jewish life. Many Jewish families who live in the US are descendants of Jews from Lithuania. As Brent explains,
The purpose of the Vilnius Jewish Library is to help strengthen Jewish culture in the Jerusalem of Lithuania. There were more than 100 synagogues and prayerhouses in Vilnius before the war. There was also the YIVO Institute which did so much to promote knowledge and education. Now there is one functioning synagogue here and, YIVO has moved its operations to the USA. Since the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto, there has not been a proper center of Jewish culture.
Another focus of the library is to promote tolerance and understanding. There remains lingering anti-Semitism which is visible in the national media and within the Lithuanian government. The idea is to create a center which puts the spotlight not just on Jewish religion and culture but also upon the amazing accomplishments of Jews throughout history.
Brent, who is not Jewish, believes in libraries and the power of books and culture in general to overthrow bias. Now, people in the rest of the world have an opportunity to support his vision:
I was able to see the space which will hopefully house the library. This is not the permanent location but it will be more than suitable for two or three years. The place is directly across the street from the Parliament and the National Library buildings. Both can be seen from the front windows of the proposed library. There is room for concerts, lectures, and offices. I say not permanent because eventually the collection will outgrow those rooms. However, it is a beautiful and fitting location in which to begin.
After years of work, I feel like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is one thing which still needs to be done. The Prime Minister is the one which will have the final decision in this matter. I was told the best way to influence things in a positive manner is to receive letters of support for the Vilnius Jewish Library. The letters need to be actually mailed as opposed to being sent by email. I am reaching out to you and to anyone you know in getting out those letters. The letters can be printed out or hand written but all must be signed and there must be somewhere their name printed so it can actually be read. If a person is uncomfortable in providing a home address, they are very welcome to use a P.O. Box or business address. This is NOT a call for donations of money or materials.
Here’s my letter–it’s really short:
Ruth Abrams, Managing Editor
90 Oak Street
Newton, MA 02464
Ausros Vartu 20-15A
February 25, 2010
Dear Mr. Brent,
I am writing in support of the creation of a Jewish library in Vilnius. As Jewish tourists seek their roots in Eastern Europe, the library could provide them with a space to explore Jewish culture. The library would also be a resource to Lithuanians and a source of pride for them and of connection between the people who share this history.
Please share this letter, among many others from interested parties around the world, with the Prime Minister of Lithuania.
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