• September 19, 2014
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Vilnius remembers Zemach Shabad

Zemach Shabad (Tsemakh Shabad) is a legendary Vilnius doctor, community and political activist, “Vilnius Janusz Korczak”, the prototype of doctor Ojboli from the story for children of Korney Ivanovich Chukovsky has his own statue in Vilnius. On Sunday, the 21st of September a commemorative plaque will be unveiled.

Zemach Shabad was born in 1864 in Vilnius in a Jewish family. He studied in Moscow, Vienna, Heidelberg and Berlin. During the 1st World War, he served in Russian army as a doctor, saved people from epidemics and hunger. He was a honorary member and Vice-President of Medical Association and Medical Chamber. In his political activity, he was the President of Jewish Community in Vilnius and since 1919, he had been a City Councilor. In 1928 he was elected a senator of the Senate of the 2nd term of office. At the same time, he was a scientist and wrote many books in which he was touching the problem of hygiene, medicine and the migration of people.

Zemach Shabad treated the poorest residents of Vilnius without payment. He established a house for orphans and supported poor families. Thanks to him, 2.5 thousand children got a warm meal at school every day. Russian writer Korney Ivanovich Chukovsky admired the attitude and personality of Zemach Shabad so much that he wrote a book for children about the adventures of a good doctor Ojboli.

Zemach Shabad died in 1935. On the day of his funeral in Vilnius, not only Jewish shops and organisations were closed but also municipal services, banks and institutions. Around 30 thousand people took part in the funeral.

Before the 2nd World War, the statue of Zemach Shabad statue was unveiled in Vilnius. At present, the bronze bust is kept in Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum. In 2007, at the Vilnius Old Town in the area of the former Jewish ghetto, the statue of the legendary Vilnius doctor was unveiled. The sculptor Romualdas Kvintas depicted Zemach Shabad standing on the pavement and talking with a little girl.

There will be the 150th anniversary of the birthday of Zemach Shabad in 2014. The legendary Vilnius doctor will have one his place more in the city. On Sunday on the 21st of September, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled on the building of Mykolas Marcinkevicius Hospital at Kauno Street. The representatives of Jewish community will lay flowers on the grave of Zemach Shabad at the Sołtaniszki cemetery. The celebrations for Zemach Shabad are the part of the Days of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust take take place in Lithuania now.

Translated by Marta Wojtowicz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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