The Bank of Lithuania minted the first euro piece of currency containing Hebrew letters.
The 10-euro coin was minted on Tuesday and is a limited-edition commemorative collector’s item celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon, the 18th-century rabbinical luminary Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, who lived and died in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
The heads side of the coin features the Hebrew letter shin, whose value according to the gematria alphanumeric code is 300, followed by the acronym in Hebrew of Gaon Rabbi Elijah. The tails’ rim reads in Hebrew: “The year of the Vilna Gaon and the history of the Jews of Lithuania.”
Following the announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement congratulating the decision.
“Yesterday I heard that the Lithuanian government minted a coin in honor of Vilna Gaon, who was one of the biggest Jewish philosophers and Torah specialists and one of the greatest people to have been born into the Jewish nation. It’s very exciting to have a European coin with Hebrew letters on it, commemorating one of our greatest people,” Netanyahu said.
“I say this as Israel’s prime minister and as a son of the Jewish nation, but also because my family is related to Vilna Gaon’s family,” he added.
The commemoration of individual people is very rare on banknotes and coins of the European Union, partly because of the political sensitivity in a political union made up of former foes.
Earlier this month, a mural of the late Israeli poet Leah Goldberg, who grew up in Kaunas, was unveiled there along with other notable individuals connected to the city ahead of its crowning as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2022.
Separately, a monument for Holocaust victims that was smashed and knocked over in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas was restored on October 9, the news site Jewish.ru reported.