Bagel shop

Shlisl Challa

Schlissel challah

There is an interesting tradition still followed in some Ashkenaz Jewish communities of baking challa in the shape of a key for the first Sabbath after Passover. The challa may be shaped as a key, the dough be impressed by actual keys or it may contain a real key inside. It is called shlisl challa, from the Yiddish word for key. The tradition is still followed in Lithuania, Poland and Germany.

According to one version, shlisl challa is connected with a Passover prayer. The key recalls the door to Heaven or Paradise. It is said the upper gates of Heaven open during Passover, and after they close again. To open them, Jews place a key inside the challa loaf. Other Jews object to the entire practice as misguided, superstitious or even idolatrous.

Vilnius Seniors Visit Panevėžys

A group of members of the Vilnius Jewish Community’s Seniors Club, directed by Žana Skudovičienė, visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman spoke about the history and life of the Panevėžys Jewish Community in a pleasant setting, sipping tea around a table with fresh bagels brought from the Bagel Shop Café in Vilnius. Several of the Vilnius members’ parents had lived and worked in Panevėžys and were greatly interested in the Panevėžys Jewish Community’s Museum of History. Mutual interest led some of the seniors to tell about the life and fate of their parents in greater detail.

Guests visited the site of the Panevėžys Jewish cemetery and heard about its tragic destruction in 1966, and how headstones were used as decoration for the wall of the Juozas Miltinis Theater.

Žana Skudovičienė in the name of all club members expresses their gratitude for the warm reception.

Equality and Diversity Prizes Awarded to Leonidas Donskis, Baltic Pride Organizers, Crisis Center Director

Vilnius, March 30, BNS–The fourth National Equality and Diversity Awards recognized the contributions of Lithuanian philosopher Leonidas Donskis who died last year.

The gender equality award was presented to Vilnius Crisis Center director Nijolė Dirsienė for her many years of caring for women suffering domestic violence and active work over 20 years in preventing violence. In the break-through category the Baltic Pride gay march organizers got the award, according to event spokespeople.

The ceremony held at the Royal Palace in Vilnius Wednesday handed out ten awards for achievements and initiatives over the last year.

The award for dialogue between peoples went to Vilnius Ukrainian Association chairwoman Natalija Šertvytienė for active work in expanding ethnic dialogue in Lithuania, preserving the Ukrainian ethnic identity and aid in integrating Ukraine in Europe.

LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky Speaks at National Equality and Diversity Awards Ceremony

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and other ethnic communities and public organizations appreciate the National Equality and Diversity Awards includes a nomination for “Dialogue between Peoples.”

As a member of an ethnic minority, I feel a more enlightened view in society on topics such as the Holocaust and xenophobia. People are slowly coming around to asking questions, engaging in discussions and thinking about the issues. Four years ago the Lithuanian Jewish Community began the Bagel Shop tolerance campaign which opened the Community’s doors to the public and made Jewish culture and history more accessible and, of course, more attractive. When the Community opened its doors, the public opened their hearts to the Community. I would like to thank everyone who took an interest and participated in this tolerance initiative which I believe marked the beginning of a small “dialogue between peoples” revolution. I present the highly esteemed candidates for the “Dialogue between Peoples” award:

Marius Ivaškevičius, the force behind the March of Memory dedicated to the murdered Jewish community of Molėtai. A record number of people turned out to remember and honor those killed, up to 3,000 participants marched along the last route taken by the victims of genocide perpetrated by Lithuanian hands.

New LJC Project to Make Recommendations on Anti-Semitism at EU Level

Remembrance. Responsibility. The Future. These are the sequential steps leading to real changes in society. The future of democracy and tolerance depends on memory and responsibility assumed, allowing for moving forward. A step towards the future–after surveying, judging and adopting expertise from the best initiatives aimed at fighting discrimination–this is the goal of this new start-up project.

The new project is called Development and Publication of Recommendations for Actions to Fight Anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania.

The project is supported by the Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft foundation or EVZ in Germany. This foundation supports systematic and long-term studies of discrimination against and marginalization of Jews and Roma in Europe.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has brought together a group of leading experts from among Lithuanian human rights organizations, community activists, academics and specialists from abroad. This group is undertaking to come up with effective and valuable recommendations on actions for fighting anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania.

Matzo Brei with Spinach

The Bagel Shop Café has started selling matzo and matzo flour, so we’d like to present some traditional Jewish dishes made from these items.

Matzo brei also known as matzo metugenet is a simple Ashkenazi dish whose name refers to matzo being fried. The dish is often made for breakfast during Passover.

You will need:

2 cups boiling water
5 eggs
6 matzo bread wafers

Matzo Is Here!

LŽB logo paveiksliukas1Macai

Members of the Vilnius Jewish Community are invited to pick up a box of matzo bread in room 201 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius on workdays between 8:30 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. from March 22 to March 28. On Sunday, May 26, please come between 11:00 A.M and 5:00 P.M. Try to remember to bring you membership card!

Please note: Matzo will be distributed to social program clients separately. They are invited to pick up a box of matzo bread in the computer classroom on the first floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius on workdays between 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. from March 21 to April 4.

Every member will receive a full box of matzo without charge, but due to financial constraints we are unable to provide more than one box per member. Additional boxes may be purchased at the Bagel Shop Café for €3.50 per 1 kg box.

Bagel Shop Café Wishes You a Happy Purim and Offers Traditional Holiday Foods

Hag Purim sameakh!

The Bagel Shop this week offers vegetarian bebelakh. During the Purim holiday period we are also making a variety of delicious treats including hamentashen and serving wine. We are making vegetarian dishes in honor of Queen Esther, who was a vegetarian. The Bagel Shop is located at Pylimo street no. 4 at street level in Vilnius.

Bean bebelakh, a recipe from Riva Portnaja’s mother Sara Berienė

Sara always made this dish for the Purim holiday where all dishes were vegetarian in honor of Queen Esther.

Soak a liter of large beans overnight, boil in salted water for a long time until they go soft. Served cold sprinkled with salt. Simple and delicious!

Free Hamentashen for Kids!


Children who come into the Bagel Shop Café in Purim masks or who say the secret code phrase–Hag Purim sameakh!–will receive a small gift.

This week Jews in Vilnius and around the world are baking the pastry called hamentashen, aka Haman’s ears, engage in an exchange of gift bags or Purim baskets of food and drink called mishloakh manot and put on the best parties of the year. Purim is the one holiday where adult Jews are allowed to get drunk and it considered customary to do so.

Our Litvak hamentashen are made with yeast according to recipes from families of Lithuanian Jewish Community members. Head baker Riva Portnaja tells how in her family they called hamantashen “ormentashen,” and her mother always added yeast to the dough. Classical Litvak hamantashen only used poppy seeds for filling and the triangles forming the base and top of the pastry are almost sealed close.

For more, see this facebook page.

A Big Thank-You for Making Kaziukas Fair Such a Success

17098700_1437182829647139_7414218332616588683_nRiva ir Estera

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky thanks everyone who helped make the Bagel Shop stand such a success at the annual Vilnius event this year, the Kaziukas Fair which began way back in the 17th century.

For their help, a big thank-you goes to Dovilė Rūkaitė, Rokas Dobrovolskisi, Riva Portnaja, Valentina Kot-Osipian, Gražina Pečkuvienė, Michailas Tarasovas and all the volunteers, including Simona Glazkova, Neta and Naomi Alon, Estera Reches, Vincentas Dobrovolskis, Asta Rainytė and her daughter, Elzė Rasimavičiūtė, Justė Čeičytė, Elena Grašytė, Daniela Mendelevič, Akvilė Ferguson and Geoff.

Bagel Shop Offers Fairgoers Matzo Kneydlakh

Maca kneidelach – kultinis žydiškas sultinys Vilniaus Rotušės aikštėje

The Bagel Shop Café will be on site again this year for the annual Kaziukas (St. Casimir) Fair in Vilnius March 3-5 with a new menu item rarely seen in Lithuania but an old Jewish favorite: matzo ball soup!

Besides matzo kneydlakh (matzo-ball dumpling) soup, visitors to the Bagel Shop Café stand will also be served fresh bagels with a variety of spreads. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and support the team!

Matzo-ball soup recipe from Nina Sondakaitė-Mandelshtam, originally from Vilnius now living in Israel:

½ cup matzo flour (or ground matzo bread crumbs)
½ cup boiled water
1 egg
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil or chicken fat
salt, pepper to taste

Mix the matzo flour or crumbs with the water. Pour in beaten egg, mix, add oil or fat. Boil chicken broth. With moistened hands form matzo balls about 5 cm in diameter, boil in the broth. If you want the broth to be clear, boil the balls in water and then place in a bowl and cover with broth. If there are left-over matzo balls, cut them in half the next day and cook, eat with sour cream.

Shrovetide Pancakes at the Bagel Shop!

Everyone welcome on Shrovetide, Tuesday, February 28.

To celebrate the Lithuanian holiday known as Užgavėnės, also known as Shrovetide and Carnival, stop by the Bagel Shop at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius for some blintzes and a cup of the best coffee in the Lithuanian capital.


Our deepest condolences to Bagel Shop employee Valentina Kot-Osipian on the loss of her beloved father.

Bagel Shop’s First Customer Still Loves It


The Bagel Shop Café is celebrating its first birthday and asked its most loyal customer who came in the very first day and still visits often for her thoughts. Violeta Palčinskaitė is a poet, playwright, scene designer and translator, but is perhaps best known as a writer of children’s books. Several generations have grown up loving her poems and stories.

“Of course I have been visiting the Bagel Shop from the first day. It’s comfortable and feels like home, and the bagels really remind me of the baronkos of my childhood, which mother used to coat in half and spread with butter. Memories gently returned when I tasted that first bagel. The important thing is that you will something here which you will nowhere else! I like spending time here because all other cafés are more or less the same, but here you make real Jewish treats thanks to the creative women in charge who have inherited the food-making methods and can pass it on from generation to generation, and without whom that legacy would perish. I remember how I searched for the treat of my childhood, unsweetened baronkos, but it was never the same. Traveling in foreign countries, I once discovered the bagel in America, then in Israel, and I was overjoyed. That’s why I find it a very happy thing to come to the Bagel Shop in the center of Vilnius, besides which, it has the very best coffee which I have ever had in the city.

“I like the atmosphere, the café is cozy, it feels like being at home. I come often, whenever I can, and it doesn’t matter if beigalakh were supposed to be for breakfast or lunch. I can eat bagels day and night. My favorite is the bagel and lox, and with sprat, another smoked fish. I like the teiglakh the most, and I bring friends from Vilnius and foreign visitors in. They are very satisfied. I told my friend about the best coffee just last night. So let them all come and sample, and not just the coffee,” Palčinskaitė said, asked what draws her to the Bagel Shop.


Currently she has many meetings with her readers. Her book “Atminties babilonai, arba aš vejuos vasarą” is one of the selections for Book of the Year. It’s a collection of memories from her happy childhood home in Kalvarija. It’s a complex testimony of the Soviet era and self-deprecating look at her own daily life as a writer, and stories about important Lithuanian cultural figures.

Palčinskaitė says it’s difficult to find time for all the meetings with readers. “Readers who would vote for my book are waiting for me. And the Book Fair is coming soon, the meetings are increasing, and there isn’t enough time to go to the Bagel Shop today,” she told us.

Looking Forward to the Bagel Shop Café’s First Birthday

photo: Vidmantas Balkūnas /

The Bagel Shop Café is gradually becoming an unofficial Lithuanian Jewish Community tourism center. Although there is an official tourism center in Vilnius, it’s not as successful. So if you want to get the newest information about what to see, what to taste and with whom to speak, you’ll likely find it at the shop at Pylimo street no. 4. It should be noted it wasn’t supposed to serve this function. In 2014 the project, still in draft form, was born as a tolerance campaign against public expressions of anti-Semitism and hate. But in the end it became a real, cozy place.


Full story in Lithuanian here.

Discover, Recognize, Accept

One beautiful December afternoon director Vida Pulkauninkienė and members of the Dukstyna Tolerance Education Center travelled to Vilnius to meet with Jewish Community member Geršonas Taicas. The knowledgeable Taicas took them on a tour of the Vilnius Old Town and told them about famous Jewish personalities.

During the walking tour Taicas took them to the remnants of the old city wall where in the early 17th century the Bastillion was built at the Subocz Gate. This is a defensive fortification consisting of a tower, an artillery section and a tunnel connecting them. From there they walked to a location where the city and its surrounding areas are clearly visible and took in the view.

On Strazdelio street they saw the building where the Romm publishing house operated.

They also saw the building where Jascha Heifetz, the famous 20th century violinist, studied.

Greetings from Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky


Dear members of the Jewish community, greetings to all on this holiday of Hanukkah!

I hope good feelings and warm and pleasant moments with loved ones will accompany you as you light the first Hanukkah candle. I wish you health and concord in your family, and that our children would grow up safe, dignified and happy and be proud of their parents and their roots.

It is a happy thing that there is ever-growing interest in the rich history of the Jews, and I probably won’t be making a mistake to say that there was never so much interest in the Jewish community as there is now, although so few Jews are left in Lithuania. The Jewish Community works actively to insure the rights and freedoms of our members and to promote Jewish interests. Unfortunately we weren’t able to achieve all our goals in 2016, but we will continue to strive after them in the coming year: monuments to those who shot Jews need to be removed, and Vilnius needs to have a monument commemorating those who rescued Jews from the Holocaust. We will continue to work on the issue of restitution of private property.

The Jewish Community is investing in the future, issuing scholarships and stipends for Jewish students and accomplished athletes. Plans for a new kindergarten have been completed, a kindergarten which will insure Jewish values are passed down to the youngest members of our community and prepare them for further education at the Jewish school.

One of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s top priorities is to improve the living conditions of clients in our Social Programs Department. We help when emergencies and misfortune occur. This will remain our priority in 2017. We also help rescuers of Jews, whose humility and sincere gratitude encourage us to grow and improve. I would like to thank Jewish rescuer Regina for the gloves and socks she knitted.

The Community building itself has become lighter and cozier. We have new audio-visual equipment in the Community concert hall and there are always new and different exhibitions on display. It’s a great joy that there is cultural life, ferment and creativity in the community, and that performers from Lithuania, Israel, the USA, the Netherlands, Romania and other countries perform concerts here. It is also a happy occasion that we have deepened our contacts with the foreign embassies, other countries, municipal institutions and NGOs. Thanks to this cooperation legal amendments were finally adopted to make it easier for Litvaks to restore Lithuanian citizenship. We signed an agreement on cooperation with the American Jewish Committee, we are enjoying wonderful relations with other world Jewish organizations and we are expanding contacts in the West as well as in the East, with the Jewish communities in India and Japan.

Interest in religion is reviving as well. We have two rabbis working at the Community who give lessons educating young and old on various topics in Judaism.

In cooperation with international Jewish organizations and based on their recommendations, we have increased security at the Community and synagogue buildings, and are approaching western standards of security.

We have the only kosher café in Vilnius. The Bagel Shop has attracted significant attention and television crews from Canada, Germany and of course Lithuania, too, have featured the café. It has become a place where not only Jews gather, but also aficionados of Jewish cuisine and culture. Our challa-baking event was a good time for all, and US ambassador Anne Hall was enchanted by the experience. The Jewish languages project carried out with the Cultural Heritage Department attracted much attention by many residents of the Lithuanian capital and visitors from elsewhere. In greeting you all, I invite Community members to show even greater initiative and self-confidence in proposing ways to make their hopes and dreams come true, because the Community exists to benefit its members.

My holiday greetings go out as well to Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon and the chairmen of the regional communities: Gennady Kofman, Gercas Žakas, Artūras Taicas, Feliksas Puzemskis, Moisej Šapiro and Josifas Buršteinas. Thank you all for the active roles you play and for working together.

Khag Khanuka Sameakh!