Euroasian Jewish News
David Baazov Museum of History of the Jews of Georgia
Exhibition of Lithuanian Jews at Tbilisi Museum of Georgian-Jewish Relations
03.12.2018, Jewish Communities
On November 27, the David Baazov Museum of History of the Jews of Georgia and Georgian-Jewish Relations in Tbilisi opened exhibition named Fragments from the History of Lithuanian Jews. The event was organized on the initiative of the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to Georgia as part of the events marking the 100th Anniversary of gaining back independence. The exhibition was opened by Giedrius Puodžiunas, Ambassador of Lithuania, Givi Gambashidze, Director of the Georgian-Jewish Museum and Markas Zingeris, Director of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, which provided photographs for the exhibition. The exhibition presents around 46 photos unveiling important moments from the history of Lithuanian Jews from cultural, economic, architectural and religious perspectives. The display will remain in Tbilisi until mid-December.
The David Baazov Museum of History of Jews of Georgia is the principal museum of Jewish history and culture in Tbilisi, established on November 30, 1932 as a departmental organization within the framework of the cultural base of Jewish workers.
“We wanted to share part of the Lithuanian history that is very important to us,” Ambassador of Lithuania to Georgia Giedrius Puodžiunas said. “Vilnius is a very important city in Jewish history, yet almost all cities in Lithuania have a Jewish community. Our nations coexisted peacefully until the Second World War. The Second World War changed the situation dramatically and, unfortunately, some Lithuanians took part in shameful activities, yet we also saw many examples of heroism, when a number of Lithuanians sacrificed their lives to help Jewish people. We cannot change the past, but we can make a future and now we are rediscovering many things in our history. After 50 years of Soviet rule, we are discovering and analyzing the richness of our historical past and the richness of the history of the Jews in Lithuania,” he noted.
The opening was attended by the ambassadors of Japan, Greece, Germany, Brazil, the EU and a representative of the US Embassy to Georgia, as well as high officials and local Georgian Jews. All the ambassadors delivered speeches, expressing their respect to Jewish people around the world. The EU Ambassador to Georgia, Carl Hartzell, together with his colleagues, expressed his happiness at being invited to the exhibition and went on to emphasize the importance of such exhibitions in helping us to remember the past and have a clearer view of the future.
“I recalled how active Georgian Jews were during soviet times and how they protested and acted together with Lithuanian and Latvian Jews shoulder-to-shoulder to win the right to travel and emigrate, part of universal human rights,” Zingeris told GEORGIA TODAY. “Our museum suggested the Lithuanian Embassy in Tbilisi make an exhibition featuring moments from history of Lithuanian Jews composed from unique photographs depicting various periods of their lives. The exhibition proceeded in two stages, the first exhibition held under the patronage of the Lithuanian Embassy was ‘Jews Behind the Iron Curtain,’ about the Jewish struggle for identity under the soviet regime. Now we present 46 photos brought from our museum. It’s a random collection, but randomness also shows uniqueness. We have many more such photographs in different cities of Lithuania and also in the Lithuanian state archive. We do travelling exhibitions because we consider education and dialogue with present day students and the new generation a very important part of our work,” he added.
GEORGIA TODAY also talked to Prof. Givi Gambashidze.
“On the initiative of Embassy of Lithuania, we hosted an exhibition dedicated to the Lithuanian Jews for the second time already. Last year the exhibition focused on the World War two Holocaust in Lithuania. Around nine of every ten of the Jewish population were massacred during that period. So the first exhibition was very dramatic and emotional,” he told us. “This time, the Embassy and Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum presented an interesting exhibition featuring the history and lives of Jewish Lithuanians from the 1910 to present, showcasing their cultural and architectural heritage as well as aspects of human life in religious, social and economic spheres. Lithuania stands out for its history of Jews. From the late 19th century, Vilnius represented one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe. Its Jewish influence has led to it being described as the ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania.’ It is also known as the ‘Jerusalem of the North.’ As a Georgian, I’m happy we also have the expression the ‘Jerusalem of Mtkheta, but in a different context: the city of Mtskheta is special since it is the burial site of Christ's mantle,” he noted.
“Each of the attending ambassadors recalled the mistakes that were made by humanity in the past and emphasized the importance of learning from our mistakes. Remembering such moments in history is always important in order to avoid future mistakes. Although the 20th century saw the biggest cruelty against Jewish people, in other epochs in many countries anti-Semitism movements were also widespread. Not only were six million Jews sacrificed, but their offspring as well, since they could not give birth to future generations. It was a really huge loss for the entire world, since the Jewish nation has always been known for its talented and intelligent personalities. As a Georgian man, I’m happy that in my country we have never supported anti-Semitism, and have always respected other nations and their values. Even today it is so,” the museum director remarked.
The David Baazov Museum of History of the Jews of Georgia was first restored in 1992 and later in 2013, giving birth to new life at the venue. Since then, besides hosting a variety of exhibitions, the museum has served as a hub for cultural exchange and friendship in Georgia. In this regard, in 2018, the Georgian government granted the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage to the Georgian-Jewish friendship history, which counts over 26 centuries. According Gambashidze, the museum is working to present a document about the history of Georgian-Jewish relations to UNESCO in 2019, hoping this fact will receive recognition from UNESCO at the international level.
By Lika Chigladze