The Lithuanian Radio and Television television program Misija: Vilnija [Mission: Vilnius Region] about ethnic communities and minority cultures in Lithuania featured Litvaks as the program entered its fourth season at the beginning of October.
In the interview with Miša Jakobas, the principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius, he remarked how much freer children have become in Lithuania, which he said has its plusses as well as minuses. He said he never sees students carrying books during breaks between classes anymore and that the current student body was born into a technological society they know better than his generation does. Hostess and interviewer Katažina Zvonkuvienė and Jakobas discussed the sense of loss and sadness in which the post-war generation of Lithuanian Jews lives and which is sometimes unperceived as such. They also talked about the role of the state in guaranteeing the rights of all ethnic communities in Lithuania and the multiethnic and interfaith composition of the Sholem Aleichem school’s student body.
Interviewed at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas spoke about the glorious reputation for scholarship Jewish Vilna once had, and the slow path to drawing back more Jewish families to tradition and to restoring what existed before.
Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Hebrew teacher Ruth Reches spoke about the durability of Jewish tradition in the face of assimilation. She said rather than grandparents passing on tradition to children, the reverse process seems to be at work now: children are learning Jewish traditions at school and teaching their parents.
Riva Portnaja, the chief chef and baker at the Bagel Shop Café, recalled her childhood in Žemaitija when keeping a kosher kitchen was the customary thing, and spoke about the great demand in Vilnius for Jewish cuisine among Lithuanians.
This year the Panevėžys Jewish Community and the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community celebrated Sukkot together. According to tradition, during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (or more simply “tents”), everyone sets up a sukka, a booth or tent, together in which the ancient holiday associated with the annual harvest is celebrated. It recalls the sojourn of the Jews in Sinai when the people lived in tents. The usual practice is to make a sukka according to one’s means. This year in Panevėžys a buffet table stood next to the sukka featuring fruit and vegetables grown by community members. The main feature of the Sukkot table is the four species, the lulav, hadas, aravah and etrog, bound in palm fronds.
Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman said Sukkot is a continuation of the Jewish high holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Many of the older participants spoke about how their families used to celebrate Sukkot when they were children. They used to make the sukka out of green wicker and put the table next to the sukka, where the whole family sat. The children received gifts rare at the time: bananas, oranges and tangerines. They also recalled the times of difficulty for the Jewish people when they wandered in the deserts of Sinai.
You and your family are invited to celebrate Sukkot together in the tent beginning at 6:30 P.M. on September 23 at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. The prayer service will be followed by a holiday dinner at Bokšto street no. 19 in Vilnius at 7:30 P.M. Additionally, holiday lunch will be served in the sukka at 12:30 P.M. on both September 24 and 25.
The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year 5779. Cilė Gleizer reminded the audience of the meaning and traditions of the holiday. Frida Šteinienė lit the candles and said a prayer to kick off the celebration. Community chairman Naum Gleizer greeted members and wished everyone a good, healthy and sweet new year. He delivered greetings from the Panevėžys Jewish Community and from former residents of Šiauliai now resident in Israel.
The holiday table contained the tradition dishes–challa, apples and honey, pomegranates and gefilte fish, the latter prepared by Maja Burštein. The traditional treats of teiglakh, imberlakh, apple pie and other sweets were made by Frida Šteinienė, Irina Pres and Cilė Gleizer.
Vadim Kamrazer and his daughter Sofija performed live Jewish music and song. The celebration was much enjoyed by young and old alike. Everyone received the new calendar for 5779.
Members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, on September 9 at the Parko street restaurant. The event began with the lighting of candles, the blessing was read and good wishes were made to friends and relatives. Michailas Grafmanas blew the shofar horn to usher in the new year 5779. Community chairman Gennady Kofman read the prayer of repentance and hope and Community members greeted one another with the wish God would author them a good coming year.
Guests included city council member A. Petrauskas and the history teacher V. Jakonis from Biržai, Lithuania.
The holiday table included challa, pomegranates, apples and honey. Fish was also served along with other traditional Jewish dishes. The celebration included songs and poetry by children who were rewarded for their work. There was also dancing and different games.
Program for Rosh Hashanah at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius
Sunday, September 9
7:00 P.M. Mincha/Maariv, holiday prayers, kiddush, buffet
Monday, September 10
9:30 A.M. Shacharit (morning prayer)
12:00 noon blowing of the shofar
12:30 P.M. Musaf (prayer)
6:00 P.M. Tashlich (prayer by the river at Bokšto street no. 9, Vilnius)
6:30 Rosh Hashanah celebration: blowing of the shofar, presentation of new calendar for 5779, holiday meal
8:43 P.M. Maariv prayer
Tuesday, September 11
9:30 A.M. Shacharit
12 noon blowing of shofar
7:00 P.M. blowing of shofar
Everyone who’s interested is invited to attend European Days of Jewish Culture. For several years now European Days of Jewish Culture are held beginning on the first Sunday in September. The theme for the next year is chosen as soon as the Days have concluded so that organizers have time to prepare. This year the theme is “Jewish Stories” allowing for broad interpretation and broad public education on Jewish heritage with a special emphasis on true stories, jokes and visual work.
The story-telling tradition remains current in the Jewish collective memory. Stories come from the Torah, and there is a rich oral tradition from the shtetlakh. Stories is an inclusive theme which offers a number of opportunities. All European Days of Jewish Culture coordinators are free to choose and propose their own topics and organize this interesting event. This is what the Lithuanian Jewish Community is offering this year:
2:00 P.M. Richard “Sco” Schofield’s installation “Back to Shul” at the Zavel and Levinson synagogue, Gėlių street no. 6, Vilnius
September 6, LJC
3:00-5:00 P.M. The Bagel Shop Café invites you to come learn how to make challa. Registration: goo.gl/bstFEC
6:00 P.M. Presentation of the 5779 LJC calendar
4:00-5:30 P.M. Concert by Vitalijus Neugasimovas, Gėlių street no. 6, Vilnius
September 9, Leipalingis, Lithuania
11:00 A.M.-2:00 P.M. The Bagel Shop Café presents Jewish dishes on the eve of the Great Autumn Holidays, Leipalingis manor square, Leipalingis, Lithuania
Vilnius, August 6, BNS–Israel is looking at importing Lithuanian beef and eggs, Lithuanian agriculture minister Giedrius Surplys said.
“We discussed possibilities to export kosher beef to Israel. Only kosher meat can enter Israel, that’s the law. We also spoke about egg export,” Surplys told BNS by telephone from Tel Aviv after meeting Israeli agriculture minister Uri Ariel Sunday.
The Lithuanian ag minister said five Lithuanian enterprises are ready for exporting beef to Israel but it’s not economical. He said beef export to Israel could work by opening a meat processing factory in Lithuania.
“Israel is changing its import policies and wants to import fewer animals than it has until now and more products,” Surplys said.
He said Lithuanian egg producers are looking for new markets and Israel might be a good place for exports, since eggs don’t have to be kosher.
“When we get back home we’ll talk with Lithuanian producers about exports of these two products,” the minister told BNS.
Monika Šinkūnaitė and her colleague appealed for help to the Panevėžys Jewish Community on June 11 regarding a project called Orientational Walking Tour and a discussion called Jewish Culture in Panevėžys. During the meeting both parties discussed scenarios for the event and topics for the discussion.
The point of the project is to get young and older people interested in Jewish heritage.
The educational walking tour happened on June 29 and was called Along Jewish Roads, including important historical Jewish heritage sites in the city. The youth group began the tour at Freedom Alley where there was a thriving Jewish neighborhood before World War II. There were Jewish residences, stores, workshops, dentistry and medical clinics and attorneys’ offices. Some streets were named after Jewish public figures, including Dr. Mer, Rabbi Gertzel, the industrialist Kisinas, Dembas and others.
The discussion was held after the walking tour at the café Kavos Dėžutė. Panevėžys publicist Donatas Puslys, Panevėžys Regional History Museum director Arūnas Astramskas, bishop emeritus Jonas Kauneckas, nun Eleonora Kasiulytė from the Congregation of the Sisters of God’s Love and Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman participated.
The World Lithuanian Community sponsored an event July 1 at Old Town Hall Square in Vilnius where for the first time since independence Lithuanians in Lithuania had the chance to learn about Lithuanian communities living around the world and Lithuanian ethnic minority communities at the same time. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Nerija Lithuanian Community in the State of Israel participated with stands on the square. Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė visited the LJC’s Bagel Shop stand and tried the imberlakh. The event also featured a concert and art exhibition in and around the Old Town Hall.
For the first time in post-war Lithuania this summer a Hebrew language camp was held from June 22 to 24. Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymansium Hebrew teacher Ruth Reches organized the event. She has been teaching Hebrew to adults for two years now at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.
Ruth says the idea for the camp occurred to her spontaneously. “I was speaking with students and we began to talk about how it wasn’t enough to learn Hebrew in the classroom. We were thinking about immersion in a Hebrew language environment and how good it would be to go to Israel for that reason. But first we decided to attempt to create a Hebrew environment at a camp,” she said.
The camp was held on a rural farm where for three days over 40 people from all over Lithuania gathered. The people ranged in age from students to pensioners.
Students and teachers from the Dembava Pre-Gymnasium in the Panevėžys region visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community. They have established a Tolerance Center at the pre-gymnasium and wanted to make contact with the Panevėžys Jewish Community to learn about the history of the Lithuanian Jewish community before and during World War II, Jewish traditions and holidays and also to learn about the Holocaust in Lithuania.
The Panevėžys Jewish Community places special emphasis on the education of young people and teaching tolerance to dispel negative myths about the Jewish people, and to teach what happened in Panevėžys and other Lithuanian cities and towns when so many innocent people were murdered. A special game-show like panel was suggested during which students answer questions.
Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told the students about the Jews who lived in common with Lithuanians before World War II, often owning joint businesses and living as neighbors. They celebrated holidays together, shared the good and the bad, and often shared their last morsel of bread as well. During Tsarist times and in independent interwar Lithuania, Russian, Jewish and Lithuanian children attended the same school, Kofman recounted.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community held a picnic/barbecue celebration of Lag baOmer at Didžiulis Lake May 3. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Rabbi Shalom Ber Krinsky and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon attended.
Lag baOmer is the holiday of the unity of the Jewish people and usually includes fun and games, singing and dancing and prayers to the Creator. Bonfires are lit at night. The most important celebration takes place with the lighting of a bonfire above the tomb of Simeon bar Yochai in Meron in Upper Galilee in Israel. The light from the fire is meant to recall the Sefer haZohar, or Book of Splendor, the earliest written work in the Kabbalah tradition whose authorship is ascribed to the tannaitic sage.
The book sheds great light on the wisdom of the Torah, about which King Solomon said: “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is a light.” And according to the prophet Jeremiah, the Creator says: “Is not my word like as a fire?”
Natalja Cheifec presents a new lecture in Lithuanian on the Torah’s attitude towards medicine and human health.
You will hear about:
–Maimonides’s 33 suggestions for remaining healthy into old age;
–the connection between physical and spiritual health;
–does the Jewish worldview have a place for vegetarianism?
and much, much more about how to avoid illness and preserve common sense.
The lecture is to take place at 6:00 P.M. on April 18 on the second floor of the LJC. Admission is free but registration is requested via internet at goo.gl/JbypwU
The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a number of Passover seders Friday for all age groups and tastes. Besides the large hall of the Choral Synagogue, the LJC also put on a seder on the third floor of the Community building for the Gesher Club at the same time. Additionally, the Abi Men Zet Zich Club held a seder, and a seder is planned Thursday for members with children.
Žana Skudovičienė was MC and guided guests to their places at table. All seats except one were filled.
Laurina Todesaitė, a Hebrew teacher and expert in Jewish cuisine and traditions, among her other talents, introduced the Hagadah in Lithuanian and asked Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky to light the candles and to speak. Chairwoman Kukliansky lit the candles, said the blessing in Hebrew and welcomed celebrants briefly:
I would like to thank very much everyone who has come. It would be better if even more came, so many that we wouldn’t fit in the space. Perhaps we will remove this wall someday [indicates wall between hall and foyer] and then we can use the entire floor. Nonetheless I am very grateful to those who have come, and of course you didn’t come to listen to my speech. I want to say that Passover, besides all of its significance as [the holiday of] freedom and liberation, and whatever else, Passover is a family holiday. And if today you have come here, to our Jewish Community, I think the people who have turned out consider themselves a large family. I would like that family to grow, and that as many people as possible would contribute, so that our family would raise more children, gain more friends, more acquaintances, and bring more Jews here, into our Community. So I wish you all a good seder, a great celebration… I have to leave soon, but I do so with joy, because there are seders being held other places at the same time. It’s not easy to get around to all of them, but it’s a good thing when a person can choose whichever venue is more pleasant, and young people can be meet separately. Maybe we’ll hold macro-seder next time, we’ll see. Good evening to everyone.
Boris Traub and other musicians then played a stirring number, after which Laurina Todesaitė read from the Hagadah.
The Kaunas Jewish Community has been honoring its most active members for over two decades now. This year KJC chairman Gercas Žakas invited such members to an evening party to thank them for their sincerity, presence, communication and individual contributions of the most varied sort, including contributing homemade pastry for the Hesed Club, cakes cooked with love for various occasions, furthering traditions and the Yiddish language, honoring Holocaust victims, broadening individual horizons through excursions and cultural events, sharing memories and experience, participating at sporting events and extending a helping hand to other members of the community.
Live musical performances contributed to the fun with performances by the collective including Mihail Javič on saxophone, Arvydas Joffė on percussion, Rolandas Babraitis on keyboard and the young vocalist Viktorija. We all know small gifts can cement friendships and everyone who attended received valuable books.