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The Year of the Vilna Gaon and of the History of the Jews of Lithuania

As we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Vilna Gaon Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, we turn back to this extraordinary personality as a historical figure representing both the vitality and singularity of the Litvak Judaism tradition. The legacy of Lithuania’s great rabbi epitomises the meaningful preservation of tradition based on its rethinking; this remains equally as relevant in today’s ever-changing world, as it was back then in the 18th century.

The multicultural heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and of the interwar independent Republic of Lithuania stands out as an inspiration for the country’s current dedication to foster its relations with all the Lithuanian diasporas.

Learning from the communal Jewish tradition of living in a society that both preserves individual thought and encourages active contemplation on positive changes in society is particularly relevant for a young democratic state such as Lithuania.

The year of the Vilna Gaon and of the history of the Jews of Lithuania is yet another step on our long road together. It exemplifies Lithuania’s efforts not only to bring back the element of the Litvak history into the accepted narrative of Lithuania’s historical memory but also to build a continuous dialogue between the Litvak communities around the world by welcoming them to visit the birthplace of their ancestry and experience first-hand what Lithuania is today.