On April 23, 2020, the 300th anniversary of the birth of Vilnius Gaon Elijah ben Solomon Zalman was commemorated at the Sudervė Jewish Cemetery in Lithuania. The ceremony was attended by minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius, Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community president Faina Kuliansky and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yossef Levy.
The Vilnius Gaon was the foremost leader of misnagdic (non-hasidic) Jewry of the past few centuries. Gaon is an honorary title for a Jewish scholar noted for his wisdom and knowledge of the Talmud. Elijah ben Solomon Zalman was born in 1720. From an early age he dedicated his life to religious study. He firmly believed that knowledge of the world assists in understanding the Holy Scriptures. For this reason he also studied grammar, mathematics, and astronomy. Although he did not have official duties, he was a leading religious and moral authority among his peers. He became the Jewish diaspora’s most respected sage, who determined the religious and cultural singularity of the Lithuanian Jews and was a world-famous commentator of the Torah and Talmud. His powerful intellect and erudition caused Vilnius to become a spiritual centre for Jews, known all over the world, and for many years the capital city of Lithuania became known as Jerusalem of the North.
The Lithuanian Parliament has declared 2020 the year of the Vilnius Gaon and Jewish History. The 300th anniversary of his birth has been entered in the 2020-2021 UNESCO list of anniversaries, as a commemoration of the Gaon’s great contribution to religious, cultural, scientific and social heritage. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the events planned for his commemoration have been postponed. The Sudervė Jewish Cemetery was established before World War II and is one of two Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania today.
Source: Lith. Ministry of Foreign Affairs News