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Lithuanian Jewish Leader Sorry For Insulting Russian Speakers

(JTA) — The contested leader of Lithuania’s Jewish community apologized for the publication of an article on the community’s website accusing her opponents of being Russians claiming to be Jews.

The apology Friday by Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the LZB umbrella group of Lithuanian Jewish organizations, followed the publication Wednesday of an article on the LZB website about an election that day for the board of the Jewish community of Vilnius, the capital — LZB’s largest affiliate. Kukliansky declared the election void after a critic of her administration, Simonas Gurevicius, won the vote in Vilnius.

The LZB website referred to people who voted for Gurevicius as “mainly Russian speakers calling themselves Jews, with only a minority of people with Litvak blood.” The statement said the vote took place while “military exercises are currently underway rehearsing the scenario of Lithuania and Poland under attack” — a clear appeal to Lithuanian nationalism amid fear of Russian expansionism. The statement angered many Russian-speaking Lithuanian Jews. Some of them said  it reinforced a recurrent claim popular among anti-Semites who claim Lithuanian Jews are Russian stooges.

Kukliansky on Friday said in a statement: “We apologize for the appearance on the community webpage of a hasty, unedited news item.”

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