Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, also known as the Vilna Gaon, was a great Jewish sage during the middle ages. He was known as the greatest rabbi of his generation, writing noted commentaries on the Torah, Mishnah and Talmud. 2020 will be his 300th birth anniversary, and his homeland Lithuania is commemorating that in a special way. They will be releasing a 10-euro coin, which is the first ever with Jewish inscriptions on it.
The front side of the coin has the inscription “The Year of the Vilna Gaon and the History of the Jews of Lithuania” in Lithuanian and Hebrew, as well as the number 5780 – the year in the Jewish calendar that corresponds to 2020.
The reverse of the coin will bear two inscriptions: the letter Shin, which represents the number 300 in Hebrew numbering, and an acronym for Ha Gaon Rabbi Elyahu, meaning “Gaon (Genius) Rabbi Elijah”.
More than 90% of Lithuania’s Jewish population was exterminated during the holocaust.
“This is a very beautiful tribute on behalf of the Lithuanian government to the glorious Jewish heritage of Vilnius on the 300th anniversary of the Gaon’s birth,” said Israel’s ambassador to Lithuania. But not everyone is pleased with this move. It seems the symbol on the coin is being increasingly used by neo-Nazis and members of the far-right to serve their anti-semitic motives.
Vilna Gaon’s remains still reside in Lithuania. The Israeli government had requested for them to be transferred to the Jewish nation, but their request was denied.