Commemorative Medal

The commemorative medal to mark the year of the Vilna Gaon and of the history of the Jews of Lithuania has been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) community. The authors of the commemorative medal are the members of the creative group JUDVI&AŠ: Viktorija Sideraitė Alon, Jūratė Juozėnienė and Albinas Šimanauskas. The medal is expected to be released in Quarter 2, 2020.

One side of the medal – features the LOGO marking the year of the Vilna Gaon and of the history of the Jews of Lithuania, framed on both sides by the birth and death dates of the Vilna Gaon. The logo contains the following symbols: Open books in the arrangement of the Star of David (due to its special relation with the Holy Scripture, the Jewish nation is also called the Nation of the Book). The open book symbol consists of two cut circles. The semi-circular shape resembles the curved part of the apex of the silhouette of a traditional Jewish tombstone (maceva) and the Jewish religious head cover kipah.

The structure of the two triangles resembles the hexagonal star of David (Heb. Magen David) and the Lord Lily’s hexagram, which is often found in synagogues’ ornamentation. The marking of the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon is expressed by a special symbol, the Hebrew letter ש (shin), the character, which means 300 in Hebrew by Gematria. The same ש character is on the tefillin, a black cube-shaped box worn by praying Jews on their foreheads. In the portraits of Vilnius Gaon, which have surviving to the present day, the Gaon is seen sitting in the background of bookshelves, with the ש -marked tefilin on his forehead. The graphical expression of the letter/figure ש/’shin’ is reminiscent of the Crown (Heb. Keter). This Crown is for the esteemed Vilnius sage, whose wisdom is remembered 300 years on! The intertwining elements in the structure of the sign embody the philosophical conviction that everything is intertwined and closely connected in this world. It also confirms that the historical heritage and traditions of the Jewish Litvaks are inseparable from the entirety of Lithuania’s culture and history.

The other side of the medal – features the facade of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, which is the most recognisable symbol of the Lithuanian Jerusalem in the world. A broken sky looms above the Great Synagogue. It symbolizes the tragic times for the Lithuanian Jewish community during the Holocaust. At the bottom, there is a synagogue square––a typical central part of any town/shtetl in Lithuania––embracing the shadow of a synagogue with an imprinted Litvak sign connecting the two key symbols identifying the Lithuanian Jews, i.e. the Menorah and the State of Lithuania. The central part of the medal draws a line separating the sky and the earth containing a quotation from the famous poem Vilne (by Moishe Kulbak, translated by Alfonsas Bukontas): ‘You are a dark talisman embedded in this country...’ (free translation). The hexagonal talisman in the centre of the medal is made up of the contour lines of the synagogue and of its shadow. The symbolic entirety is the reflection on the plasticity, poetry and the history of the Jews in Lithuania.

Last updated: 28-04-2020