Bank of Lithuania
2020-10-20
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On 20 October, the Bank of Lithuania issues into circulation the €10 silver collector coin dedicated to the 300th birth anniversary of the Vilna Gaon (Elijah ben Solomon Zalman). The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania has declared 2020 as the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the History of the Jews in Lithuania.

“By issuing the silver collector coin dedicated to the 300th birth anniversary of the Vilna Gaon, we want to pay tribute to one of the most famous figures in Lithuanian and global Jewish history as well as to show appreciation for the contribution and legacy of the Jewish culture to our country. Thanks to the Vilna Gaon’s authority and fame, the name of Vilnius gained recognition all over the world,” said Vitas Vasiliauskas, Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania.

According to Albinas Šimanauskas, the author of the coin brochure, the activities of the Vilna Gaon, his intellectual heritage and the weight of his authority greatly influenced the development of the religious and cultural identity of the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) community. “For the past 300 years, the Vilna Gaon has been and still is one of the most acclaimed religious authorities of the global Jewish community,” the brochure reads.

The main part of the creative legacy of the 18th-century Genius Elijah ben Solomon Zalman consists of commentary on the Torah, Talmud, Midrash and mystic texts of Kabbalah. However, he also wrote many valuable treatises on geometry, astronomy, medicine and natural sciences.

Although Rabbi Elijah was a very humble man, he was an especially popular figure amongst Lithuania’s Jews. Almost every Jewish family in the country had a portrait of the Vilna Gaon, while Jewish mothers would motivate their children to aim higher by showing them the Gaon’s portrait and quoting: Vil nor Goen (if you will it, you too can be a genius). This phrase, both in Lithuanian and Yiddish, is also inscribed on the edge of the coin.

The reverse of the coin dedicated to the Vilna Gaon depicts ש – the Hebrew crown-shaped letter Shin which represents the number 300, as well as גר"א – an acronym for “Ha Gaon Rabbi Elyahu” (Gaon (Genius) Rabbi Elijah). The bottom of the coin features a symbolic Torah scroll with the engraved number 300. The obverse of the silver coin depicts the sign of Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) – a community identity symbol representing the identification of Lithuanian Jews, as citizens, with the state of Lithuania since the reign of Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania. The sign of Lithuanian Jews is surrounded by the inscription “The Year of the Vilna Gaon and the History of the Jews in Lithuania” in the Lithuanian and Hebrew languages as well as the number 5780 which stands for the year 2020 in the Jewish calendar.

The coin dedicated to the 300th birth anniversary of the Vilna Gaon was designed by artists Viktorija Sideraitė-Alon, Jūratė Juozėnienė and Albinas Šimanauskas, and minted at the Lithuanian Mint. The mintage of the coin is 2,500. Coins are available for purchase via the official distributors of numismatic items of the Bank of Lithuania.

The coin dedicated to the Vilna Gaon will be presented by Vitas Vasiliauskas, Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania, today at 17:30 (EEST) during the opening of the documentary exhibition “Shenot Eliyahu: Vilna Gaon’s Influence on the Culture of the Jews of Lithuania” organised by Martynas Mažvydas National Library.