Open the library

  • 2009-09-17
Dear TBT,Having attended the recently concluded Litvak Congress, I was present when the President gave her very welcome speech regarding Jews in Lithuania, and [her] plans to finally make restitution to the Jewish community. My concern is that the Lithuanian government has been making similar speeches ever since it boldly broke away from the Soviet Union.  At some point words become just words, and true action is necessary.  There is a very easy way for the President and Parliament to prove the sincerity of the speeches given, both during and prior to the Litvak Congress. There sits in the heart of Vilnius, a short walk from the Choral Synagogue, the Vilna Ghetto Library. It is a place where, during the darkest times known to Lithuania, that the Jewish community celebrated reading and education. On December 13, 1942, the staff and patrons of the library held an event to honor that the 100,000th title had been loaned out. All Lithuanians, under incredibly adverse conditions, never gave up on keeping the flame of culture and education alive. During the time of the czars, the Nazis, and Soviet occupation, learning and studies were at the forefront of keeping Lithuanian culture alive. The Ghetto Library has sat empty for years. Many windows are broken and the facade slowly falls off. What benefit does anyone receive from another empty building in the heart of the capital? I propose that the government allow immediately the use once again of the Ghetto Library. Let an eyesore again become a place of culture and education. Yes, the government plans to return the library in three years' time. However, which makes more sense? One, is to wait as more windows are broken and more of the facade falls away. Two, is to allow today (not tomorrow) the library to become a place which will benefit everyone in Lithuania. It will become much more than just a Jewish library. With over 100,000 books in English, along with 20,000 dictionaries and encyclopedias, this will become the best English as a Second Language collection in the country. The great part is that the government does not need to buy the books or other materials to open the library. I am offering a low cost way for the President and Parliament to both keep its word to the Jewish community, and to improve life for every student in Lithuania. This has been a great year for this country. Vilnius is the cultural capital of the EU, and 2009 marks the 1,000th anniversary of the mention of Lithuania. Since bravely taking the steps to regain freedom, Lithuanians can take pride in what has been accomplished. With membership in NATO and the EU, Lithuania has taken its place firmly on the world stage. The country has made the transition from Soviet state to free nation. While the country looks to the future, it cannot ignore the past. To do so would make a mockery of what all in Lithuania worked so hard for, not just the past 20 years but the last thousand. If the government wants to both place its sights on the future, while honoring its grand past, it can do no better than to allow the immediate opening of a new center of culture and education in the heart of this great city. Wyman Brent,Vilnius*Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.Horace Mann*

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