Jewish song and dance ensemble Fajerlech

Thank You

A week has passed during which Lithuanian remembered her shtetlakh. The fourteenth celebration of the annual European Day of Jewish Culture has taken place in Lithuania, this year with the theme “Diaspora and Heritage: The Shtetlakh.” Lithuanian towns which used to be called shtetlakh hosted events, tours of surviving old towns and Jewish residential sections, interesting talks on the former life of Litvaks there. The word shtetl was heard much in Lithuania after the Holocaust, with the loss of the former Litvak world and the Yiddish language.

This year the European Day of Jewish Culture was observed in more than 20 towns and cities, including Alytus, Jurbarkas, from Kaunas to Žasliai and Žiežmariai, Kelmė, Klaipėda, Kretinga, Molėtai, Palanga, Pakruojis, Pandėlys, Pasvalys, Pikeliai, Šiauliai, Šilalė, Jonava, Joniškis, Kupiškis, Darbėnai, Šeduva, Švėkšna, Ukmergė, Zarasai and Želva.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community thanks all the participating cities and towns for remembering the shtetlakh and the Jews who lived, traded, created and built there. They deserve to be remembered. Many cities and towns held lectures, conferences, exhibits, concerts and film screenings this year.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky also thanks the organizers of the events at the Jewish Community for their interesting program, and thanks the participants and speakers who spoke about the remaining traces of the shtetlakh in Lithuania. We thank Fania Brancovskaja, Vytautas Toleikis, Sandra Petrukonytė, Ilona Šedienė, Rimantas Vanagas and Antanas Žilinskas not just for their interesting presentations, but also for their own work, books and research on Jewish history, contributing to making the shtetlakh part of the heart of our country, without which Lithuania is impossible to imagine.

Thank you also to the Bagel Shop Café for the tasty Jewish dishes, the Sabbath ceramics exhibit and the holiday atmosphere, and to the Fayerlakh ensemble for the wonderful concert!

Our sincere thanks to everyone.

Lithuanian Shtetlakh: European Day of Jewish Culture Celebration September 3 at LJC

Press release

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites the public to attend an event dedicated to the Jewish shtetls of Lithuania to commemorate and remember together this period of Lithuanian history, interesting and dear to us but cut short by the Holocaust and which has become a subject of academic interest and heritage protection.

The theme of this year’s European Day of Jewish Culture on September 3 as confirmed by the Cultural Heritage Department to the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture is “The Diaspora and Heritage: The Shtetl.” This is an intentional, mature and topical choice for a country where the life of the largest ethnic and confessional minority, of the Jews, thrived namely in the Lithuanian shtetlakh until 1941.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community will host an event called “Shtetlakh of Lithuania” on the third floor of the community building at Pylimo street no. 4 on September 3 to celebrate the European Day of Jewish Culture in 2017.

The event will kick off with a bagel breakfast and a presentation and tasting of authentic Jewish recipes at the Bagel Shop Café on the first floor at 9:00 A.M. Following that everyone is invited to attend a short Yiddish language lesson. A brunch awaits the graduates at the Bagel Shop Café. At 2:00 P.M. guest speakers will begin delivering free public lectures on the shtetlakh of Aniksht (Anykščiai), Eishishyok (Eišiškės), Sheduva (Šeduva) and Vilkovishk (Vilkaviškis) and what remains of them. A challa-baking lesson and presentation of the Bagel Shop Café’s new ceramics collection begins at 4:00 P.M. The Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh will perform a concert at 6:00 P.M.

The Rakija Klezmer Orkestar will also perform a concert at 3:00 P.M. in the Šnipiškės neighborhood of Vilnius.

More information available here.

“The reality in Lithuania is that If you want to learn more about the material and immaterial cultural heritage of a given town in Lithuanian (including the architectural features and aura of buildings, demographic changes and consequent changes in the structure of the town, changes in political structure and the ensuing canonization of ideologized development patterns), you will, unavoidably, run into the word ‘shtetl.’ You will find no better opportunity to understand what this is and to discover the shtetl in the features of buildings still standing in the towns than the events for the European Day of Jewish Culture on September 3,” director of the Cultural Heritage Department Diana Varnaitė said.

The word shtetl is an old Yiddish diminutive for shtot, city, meaning town. The towns of Lithuania where Jews comprised half or the majority of the population, characterized by Litvak energy and the bustle of commercial activity, are often called shtetlakh, the plural of shtetl. It’s thought shtetls evolved into their modern form in the 18th century. Malat, Kupeshok, Zosle, Olkenik, Svintsyan, Vilkomir, Gruzd, Eishyshok, Utyan–these are just a few of the surviving Lithuanian towns.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky recalls her parents’ shtetl:

“We didn’t travel to my grandparents’ village in the summer. We didn’t have any ebcause they were murdered in the Holocaust, or had moved from their shtetlakh to Vilnius or Kaunas because they could no longer live there without their loved ones and friends lying in the pits together with the bodies and souls of the other unfortunates.

“The Kuklianskys who survived, however, my father, my uncle who hid in trenches from the Nazis near the shtetl of Sventiyansk, were rescued by local village people, but for their entire lives longed for their home on the banks of the Ančia River in Veisiejai, Lithuania. There was no place happier or more beautiful than their native shtetl. Perhaps because their mother hadn’t been murdered yet.

“The eyes of my mother, who was born in Keydan (Kėdainiai) and spent her childhood in Shavl (Šiauliai), her eyes used to just shine when she remembered how they used to go to the ‘spa town’ of Pagelava near Shavl in horse-drawn cart.

“The shtetls… are no more. Now there are cities and towns, but they have no rabbis, no yeshivas, synagogues or Jews… all that remains is love for the place of one’s birth, but love is stronger than hate. The memories remain, too, and without them we wouldn’t be commemorating the shtetls and their inhabitants.”

Those who seek to find the traces of the lost and concealed presence of the Jews only have to find their way to the center of a Lithuanian town, to the old town, where the red-brick buildings still stand. All of the old towns of the small towns were built by Jews. The same goes for the former synagogues, schools, pharmacies and hospitals.

Cultural heritage experts tell us market day and the Sabbath were the main events of the week in the Lithuanian towns. Both were observed. After the Holocaust the shtetlakh were empty, the Jewish homes stood empty even if they still contained family heirlooms and the items acquired over lifetimes. Non-Jewish neighbors often moved into these houses and took over the property. Now no one uses the word štetlas in Lithuanian, it sounds exotic and needs to be translated to miestelis.

Happy Birthday to Larisa Vyšniauskienė

Happy birthday to the tireless director of and creative force behind the Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance ensemble, Larisa Vyšniauskienė. The Lithuanian Jewish Community hopes your wonderful smile never leaves you, that you continue to enjoy creative victories and inspiration, and that your life be filled with love and harmony.

Happy birthday, Larisa!

Shtetlakh of Lithuania: European Day of Jewish Culture 2017

This year the theme is Lithuanian shtetlakh.

September 3, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius

Program

9:00 – 12:00 Boker Tov bagel breakfast
location: Bagel Shop Café, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius
Presentation and sampling of authentic Jewish recipes

12:00 – 12:45 Yiddish language lesson with Fania Brancovskaja
location: Heifetz Hall
Mama-loshn

1:00 – 4:00 Ze Taim bagel brunch and presentation of fall menu
location: Bagel Shop Café, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius
Presentation of fall menu

1:00 – 1:45 Hebrew language lesson with Ruth Reches
location: Ilan Hall
Registration here.

2:00 Presentation of European Day of Jewish Culture
location: Heifetz Hall
Welcome speech
Faina Kukliansky and honored guests to speak.

4:00 Challa making lesson with Riva and Amit
location: Bagel Shop Café and White Hall
Registration here.

2:.30 – 4:00 “Shtetlakh of Lithuania” presentation
location: Heifetz Hall
Participants: Vytautas Toleikis, Fania Brancovskaja, Sandra Pertukonytė, Antanas Žilinskis, Rimantas Vanagas, Indrė Anskaitytė, Vita Ličytė and others.

6:00 Rakija Klezmer Orkestar performance
location: Šnipiškės

6:00 Faykerlakh concert Shtetlas
location: Heifetz Hall
Celebrating 45 years of the Jewish song and dance collective

Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club Leaves for 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel


Lithuanian Makabi team at 13th Maccabiah Games opening ceremony, Israel, 1989

The Lithuanian Makabi Athletics Club delegation is leaving for the 20th Maccabiah Games, held once every four years, in Israel, where more than 10,000 athletes from 80 countries will compete.

This will be the 8th Maccabiah Games attended by the Lithuanian team. In 1989 the team was the first to carry the Lithuanian national flag at the opening ceremonies as the country sought independence from the Soviet Union. Club president Semionas Finkelšteinas and club athletes remember well the event.

Semionas Finkelšteinas:

“The Lithuanian Makabi delegation will have 28 athletes in 8 sports: badminton, swimming, mini-soccer, judo, table tennis, tennis, chess and riding. A Canadian rider who has Litvak roots was accepted on the Lithuanian team since Canada didn’t send a team of riders this year. The Lithuanian team includes three former Maccabiah medal-winners: chess player Eduardas Rozentalis who took bronze in 1989, badminton player Alanas Plavinas who won silver in 2013 and Aleksas Molodeckis who took bronze in judo in 2013.

“It’s important to us to participate in the Maccabiah and we never miss a single Jewish Olympics. Whether our team is stronger or weaker, we have always participated and won medals. This time we have five young people, three of whom expect to win medals. We have three badminton players, and the swimmer and strong table tennis player Neta Alon who could be a medal winner. Markas Šamesas and Vitalija Movšovič are our badminton players who could come home with medals. Among the adult athletes the chess player E. Rozentalis, badminton player A. Plavinas, and judo martial artist A. Molodeckij have a good chance of winning medals. Salomėja Zaksaitė, an accomplished chess player, will be competing at the Maccabiah for the first time. Our soccer team is traveling there with their new trainer Arūnas Šteinas. Three of our strong soccer players are unable to attend for various reasons. Artūras Sobolis couldn’t take time off work, Danielius Gunevičius’s trainer won’t allow him to go and Romanas Buršteinas has to attend to family matters.

“All the young people will stay at the best hotel in Haifa. They will compete in the games after which they have a separate program of activities. The swimmers will compete at the Wingate sports complex. Athletes from 80 countries will attend Maccabiah opening ceremonies July 6 and global media always give large coverage to the event, the opening ceremony is covered outside Israel by CNN, BBC and other global televisions channels. The Jewish Olympics takes place once every four years and there is a broad cultural program arranged for all participants. This event is about more than just about sports.

Fayerlakh Group Competes at St. Petersburg International Music and Art Festival-Contest

The Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance ensemble performed at the White Nights music and art festival-contest in St. Petersburg, Russia, from June 8 to 11, 2017.

Fayerlakh competed in the category Folk Ensembles and Folk Songs, along with 65 other contestants. Fifty-nine finalists competed in the final concert, where Fayerlakh took first place. The Lithuanian Jewish group was also presented a gift certificate for high art in celebrating Jewish culture and traditions, which they will be able to use at the next festival-contest.

Their performances at such festivals not only demonstrate the ensemble’s excellence and professionalism, but also stimulates tolerance between peoples and faiths. Besides presenting Jewish culture, Fayerlakh also presents multicultural Lithuania on the international stage. These sorts of tours and performances abroad also build real solidarity among members of the song and dance collective, crucial for further creative work.

The competition also provided members of the collective the opportunity to see one of the world’s most beautiful cities, an important education inspiring and expanding the horizons of younger members of the ensemble. Fayerlakh performed a small concert at the Choral Synagogue in St. Petersburg.

Director Larisa Vyšniauskienė and the entire Fayerlakh collective thank the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Goodwill Foundation and the Joint Distribution Committee for their full support.

Fayerlakh 45th Birthday Concert: No Signs of Old Age Yet

A concert to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance ensemble took place December 18 with an overflow crowd of well-wishers and fans. A large screen projection by the stage relayed images to those in the very back of the hall, and Jews from the regional communities as well as the Lithuanian capital turned out in abundance. The group performed some songs in Yiddish and the birthday coincided with the issuing of a new CD by the collective which includes qualified musicians from across the generations, from children to the elderly.

Of the ensembles 40 or so members, the youngest is just five and the most senior about to turn 70. The little flame which sprang up in 1971 burns on, and the audience on December 18 included more non-Jews than Jews, including a delegation from the Association of Disabled Poles who attended in wheelchairs.

The entire year has been a celebration of the collective’s birthday and in March Lithuanian prime minister Butkevičius sent warm wishes for their continued success. The ensemble was presented with a large cake with small flames at the mid-December celebration, and Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Pranckietis hailed the longest-surviving musical group in Lithuanian history as well.

Fayerlakh Birthday Concert

Celebrating their 45th birthday, the Jewish song and dance group Fayerlakh is inviting everyone to a concert at the Vilnius Polish House of Culture (Naugarduko street no. 76, Vilnius) at 5:00 P.M. on Sunday, December 18. The concert will feature Jewish dance, Yiddish songs and a group of klezmer musicians.

The ensemble is constituted of over 40 members and the youngest Fayerlakh member is just 5 years old. The oldest is now almost 70. Although times change, Fayerlakh stands as an unextinguished flame, formed way back in 1971.

Tickets just 8 euros for Jewish Community members!
Get your tickets by internet here: http://www.tiketa.lt/jubiliejinis_koncertas_fajerlech__45_75662

Jewish Street Gets New Sign in Yiddish, Hebrew

Vilniuje Žydų gatvės pavadinimas užrašytas dar dviem kalbomis – ir יידישע גאס (jidiš klb.), ir רחוב היהודים (hebrajų klb.)

Žydų gatvė (Jewish Street, aka Yidishe Gas, aka ulica Żydowska), where the traditional Jewish quarter and the Great Synagogue of Vilnius was located, got a new sign in Yiddish and Hebrew Tuesday.

This was one in a continuing series of new signs in foreign languages, a controversial effort by Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius to showcase the multicultural identity of the Lithuanian capital. Earlier signs in “minority” languages included ones for Islandijos [Iceland] street, Washington Square, Varšuvos [Warsaw] street, Rusų [Russian] street and Totorių [Tatar] street in Vilnius.

Jewish Street in Vilnius to Get Trilingual Street Sign

Žydų gatvė (Jewish street, aka Yidishe gas, aka ulica Żydowska), where the traditional Jewish quarter and the Great Synagogue of Vilnius was located, is about to get signs in Yiddish and Hebrew.

The special event to unveil the new sign is scheduled for 11:30 A.M., Tuesday, September 20 at Žydų street no. 2.

The program includes a performance of a piece by the Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh, followed by Vytautas Mitalas, chairman of the Vilnius municipal council’s culture, education and sports committee, presenting Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. Šimašius is to present a small speech. Mitalas will then introduce Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, who will also deliver a small speech. The mayor and the chairwoman will then unveil the new street sign. Fayerlakh is then scheduled to perform another song.

The historic street and a neighboring street were cleared of their mainly Jewish residents in 1941 when the Nazis and Nazi collaborators set up the Vilnius ghetto. The residents were murdered and a large population of Jews from other parts of the city were forced into the cramped quarters there. It was part of the so-called Small Ghetto in Vilnius, liquidated in October of 1942. Žydų gatvė was the site of the Shulhof, the collection of buildings built around the location of the residence and study of the Vilna Gaon and the Great Synagogue.

Fayerlakh Kindles Spirit of Litvak Culture

Larisa Fajerlech

The Lithuanian song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh has been around for four and a half decades now and for the last 18 years has been led by the energetic Larisa Vyšniauskienė. The group which celebrates Litvak traditions is a frequent guest at different holiday celebrations in Lithuania but also performs abroad. Fayerlakh is one of the oldest ethnic community folklore collectives in Lithuania. It was formed in 1971 as a continuation of the Jewish cultural volunteer movement which was reborn after the war in Lithuania in 1956.

“It’s no accident this revival happened in Lithuania first, since even after the war in which millions of Jewish people were exterminated, there was still strong expressions of anti-Semitism in Russia, the Ukraine and Byelorussia. All sorts of low-lifes rise to the surface during wars, of course,” Vyšniauskienė said.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

World Jewish Congress Israel Delegation Visits LJC

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A delegation from World Jewish Congress Israel visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The delegation included WJC Israel chairman Shai Hermesh (former MK), member of the board of directors J. Moshe Leshem, foreign relations council director Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, Knesset Christian Allies Caucus chairman MK Robert Ilatov, MK Yakov Margi, KCAC director Josh Reinstein and WJC Israel director general Sam Grundwerg. WJC Israel visits national capitals annually to meet with members of national parliaments and Christian community leaders to establish contacts and discuss shared problems, set up Israeli support groups and increase understanding of Jewish problems. This sort of support is especially sought by Israel now, when the Jewish state is increasingly facing isolation in the international arena and especially in the EU. Last year delegations visited Russia, Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

On June 1 the delegation visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community, met LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and were greeted with a musical welcome of Jewish song and dance provided by the Fayerlakh ensemble, which warmed everyone’s hearts and facilitated better communication. Former MK, current vice president of the WJC and leader of WJC Israel Shai Hermesh shared with everyone heartwarming news he received on the trip to Lithuania.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Thanks Fayerlakh Ensemble

To the Vilnius Cultural Center Jewish song and dance ensemble

Fayerlakh

Dear guardians of ethnic tradition,

There is no doubt the identity of a people resides in the depths of their folklore where a unique world of music beckons to us and symbolic meanings cavort. For many a year now the Fayerlakh ensemble in their concerts have brought lovers of folklore together and have popularized Yiddish culture wonderfully.

Inventive musicians, great singers and expressive dancers have come together nicely under the Fayerlakh flag. And so your concerts are dominated by a sense of beauty and cohesion. Your playful appearances are eagerly awaited by many admirers around the world.

You are probably the only ensemble in Europe who so creatively, cleverly and tightly present your own musical sources and roots.

I sincerely congratulate the entire Fayerlakh collective on the beautiful 45th anniversary of your establishment.

Let your music ring out widely across the nations for many centuries. Celebrate and preserve your foundational values. I wish you great success, creative talent and many happy meetings with the real lovers of folklore on all continents.

Algirdas Butkevičius
March 22, 2016
Vilnius

A Letter of Thanks to the Fayerlakh Ensemble from the Lithuanian Jewish Community

Celebrating their 45th anniversary, the Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh provided a real celebration for the people of Vilnius with their performance, and a packed hall of spectators applauded, swayed to the beat and tapped their feet because the musicians enchanted them and warmed everyone’s hearts. The Lithuanian Jewish Community is grateful to and proud of the Vilnius Cultural Center Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayarlakh, whose name is Yiddish for “little flames.”

Let the creative fire of this ensemble led by Larisa Vyšniauskienė continue to burn, reminding everyone of the rich culture of the Litvaks. It is extremely important to our community that the ensemble with Yiddish songs and dances which over many years has achieved a highly professional level has preserved our dear Jewish cultural legacy. Thank you, our thanks to the ensemble and their director, to the wonderful performers, for the program The Shtetl Once Upon a Time, which is now being offered to audiences in Lithuania and abroad. The program is about the small town, or shtetl in Yiddish, where until the Holocaust Jewish people and people of other ethnicities lived together in harmony. The mood of the concert is one of happy songs, dances, music which gives rise to good emotions, nostalgic and exciting, in everyone’s hearts. We appreciate that the ensemble celebrates the Yiddish language and that Jewish works in this language are performed in concert. It fills us with gladness to see all the ensemble’s groups, from children to senior citizens, on stage. Our sincerest gratitude to all of you.

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Purim at the Gesher Club

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The Gesher Club of the Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Purim March 25 at the Natali Restaurant in Vilnius. Since carnival costumes are a usual part of Purim, all participants were required to come in costume or at least partially dressed in costumes. LJC program coordinator Žana Skudovičienė took care of those who for one or another reason were unable or did not have time to get ready for the holiday. She let them chose a mask or costume accessory provided by Fayerlakh ensemble director Larisa Vyšniauskienė for the occasion.

LJC Children’s Purim Was the Most Fun

Vaiku Purimas

This isn’t the first time LJC Youth Programs coordinator Pavelas Guliakovas has organized a holiday celebration. This year he decided there should be costume play based on excerpts from the Book of Esther with all the heroes and villains: the Persian king, Haman, Esther and all the others. But there were also samurai, cowboys, doctors and princesses. The entire play was performed in rhyme. During the breaks between acts, the children rushed off to change masks, apply glitter and use it as coloring, then came back to the performance space. Dancers from the Fayerlakh ensemble danced. All of the children and several of the parents as well had grown up attending the small children’s club Dubi, and Dubi, Dubi Mishpakha and Ilan Club children aged 2 to 12 took part in the Purim celebration. Samuel Gar, a professional teacher of Jewish dance, taught dances to the children. Their performance was amazing and the celebration lasted for about two hours.

Purim at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

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There was a celebration of the Purim holiday at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius March 24, which was also proclaimed a day of mourning in Lithuania to pay honors to the dead in the bombings in Brussels. Everyone observed a moment of silence for the victims at the synagogue.

Lithuanian Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas presented holiday greetings to the assembled and spoke about the meaning of Purim: Haman’s attempt to kill all the Jews. “History has seen more than one Haman, who sought to destroy the Jewish people. Stalin, Hitler and now ISIS, but no one has succeeded,” Levinas said.

Rabbi Samson Daniel Isaacson also gave holiday greetings and said Purim is a unique holiday which is about getting drunk, which seems strange, since this is considered a bad thing among Jews. “Only during Purim is it remembered that salvation comes from affliction. After all, getting drunk was suggested so that no one would be able to tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai. And it so happens that way often in life, when you think one thing, but it happens another way. Purim sameach!”

Fayerlakh ensemble musicians Miša Filipov Jablonskis and Leonardas Zinkevič performed a rousing set of Purim songs for young and old.

LJC deputy chairwoman Maša Grodnik said she was glad that things were finally getting back to normal at the synagogue and that the holiday was being celebrated with a rabbi, which for a long time was missing from the community. “Today the tragic events in Brussels remind us that Israel is setting an example for Europe on how to protect society,” Grodnik commented.

Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon recalled how he looked forward to Purim as a child, and that it always began to rain when Purim came around. “Today in Vilnius on Purim the sun was shining, and we are celebrating the liberation of the Jews. The victory of the Jews of Lithuania that they can celebrate in their own synagogue,” the Israeli ambassador remarked.

More snapshots from the event here.

Purim in Panevėžys

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The Panevėžys Jewish Community kicked off their Purim celebrations in the events hall of the Panevėžys Community Center March 20. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman greeted a large party of guests from Vilnius, Ukmergė, Šiauliai and Panevežys and read an excerpt from Magilat Ester.

Artūras Taicas, deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and chairman of the Ukmergė Jewish Community, greeted guests as well and passed on the good wishes of LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Panevėžys city deputy mayor Petras Luomanas and city council member Alfonsas Petrauskas also gave wonderful addresses.

pan6purim

Fayerlakh Concert

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The Jewish song and dance Ensemble celebrate their 45th anniversary with a concert at the Russian Drama Theater in Vilnius. The concert is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. on March 22. Tickets cost 12 euros for the general public, 9 euros for Community members and 2 euros for students and senior citizens. To purchase tickets, see here.