Litvaks are a large and prominent Jewish community with a longer than 600-year-old history. Many of them work to bring Lithuania closer to other countries with Jewish diasporas. Such public diplomacy serves to promote Lithuania across the world and to help establish contacts with foreign investors.
“Lithuanian Jews and their descendants – known as Litvaks across the world – have played a very special role in the creation of two states, Lithuania and Israel. Litvaks were, are and will continue to be among the leading social, business, cultural and political figures of Israel. They have always been actively involved in the parliamentary work of democratic Lithuania: between the two world wars and after the reestablishment of our independence. Many continue working in Lithuania in the arts, sciences and business, or promote the name of Lithuania around the world. The future depends on our goodwill and joint efforts. Therefore, I invite you to foster the bonds that connect us,” the president said in her opening address.
Grybauskaite underlined that Litvaks definitely contributed to enhancing the promising potential of economic cooperation – as clearly evidenced by the Global Lithuanian Economic Forum held in Tel Aviv to advance close economic ties between Lithuania and Israel.
The President invited all – Litvaks in Israel and around the world – to continue fostering bonds with Lithuania where they were always welcome and where they would find thousands of friendly people ready to turn common ideas into reality.
Israel is home to about 200,000 Litvaks. Among them are the former Israeli President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shimon Peres, as well as the former President of the Supreme Court of Israel, Aharon Barak. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also a Litvak while President Reuven Rivlin is a descendant of the students of the Vilna Gaon. The first three Israeli presidents were also Litvaks.
Earlier in the day, President Grybauskaitė met with members of the Word Jewish Congress.