Kaunas: The Eyes of Israel
September 19, 2014
The Eyes Cannot Answer “Why?”
The eyes. The eyes. Always the eyes!
The eyes remember. The eyes see. Do the eyes foretell?
The eyes know. The eyes teach.
The eyes know what happened.
Do the eyes know why?
Seven years ago a Lithuanian artist decided on a project. Using photographs from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century, he painted a series of portraits of Lithuanian Rabbis. He signed his paintings KM. Kęstutis Milkevičius
We look into the eyes. What are the Rabbis thinking? Feeling?
We admire the depth of their wisdom. The warmth of their spirit. The fire of their faith.
The paintings are on exhibit on the second floor of the Choral Synagogue in Kaunas, one of only two remaining synagogues in this large city and one of only a handful of synagogues remaining in Lithuania where, at one time, there were hundreds.
On the walls of the synagogue the memorials tell us what happened. But never “why?”
Just outside Vilnius, at a site called Paneriai, the carvings on the monuments describe what happened there. Not “why?”
Books have been written. Books have been written. Books have been written.
What is the answer to the question?
The Hebrew language provides two “answers.”
In the Old City of Bratislava, a Memorial was erected in 1996. The sculpture stands on the spot of a synagogue that was demolished by the Soviets. The sculpture is dedicated to the memory of the Jews of Bratislava and the 105,000 Jews of Slovakia who perished in the Holocaust. At the base of the sculpture, an “answer” is inscribed in Slovakian and Hebrew:
In the Choral Synagogue in Kaunas, on the wall not far from the list of the liquidated Jewish Communities in Lithuania, another Hebrew “answer” is installed:
עם ישראל חי
And since 1948, from deep within their eyes and from their heart, every Rabbi, every Jew, provides the final answer: