The exhibit Reflections in a Broken Mirror detailing Litvak life in the period between the two world wars opened at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library November 12. Judaica Research Center director Dr. Lara Lempert presented the exhibit, talking about Jewish social life, modern art, literature, books, reading culture, publishing and medicine in the interwar period. The rich collection of multimedia exhibits presents Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish life including the social welfare and medical system, education, art, learning and literature. It also demonstrates the importance of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the context of world Jewry.
The Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library is to host a conference called “Together towards the Modern State: Litvaks in the History of Lithuanian and Israeli Statehood” on November 13 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lithuanian and 70th anniversary of Israeli statehood.
Speakers are to include Lithuanian and Israeli academics who will present the contribution Lithuanian Jews made in the creation of the Lithuanian state in 1918 and the contribution Litvaks also made to foundation of the state of Israel. Lithuanian students will also present their research on the life of local Jewish communities.
Please register before November 12 by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The conference will begin at 10:00 A.M. on November 13 at the national library.
The library’s Judaica Research Center will also present an exhibit during the conference called “Reflections in a Broken Mirror” presenting the life of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the period between the two world wars.
Information available in Lithuanian here.
The Kaunas Jewish Community celebrated the 30th anniversary of its restoration with the concert “From Mendelssohn to Latėnas” October 22. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, city society and cultural figures attended the elegant event reminiscent of Kaunas in the period between the two world wars.
Speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis greeted the audience and the Community.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proud of the achievements by the Kaunas Jewish Community and thanks chairman Gercas Žakas for his efforts in rallying and uniting the Jews of Lithuania’s provisional capital, for his sincere and ceaseless concern for the needs of members and Righteous Gentiles, for popularizing athletics and reviving Yiddish culture.
We are so proud of you and wish you many more such anniversaries! Mazl tov!
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.
Maria Krupoves performed Vilnius ghetto songs in Yiddish accompanied on piano by Artūras Anusauskas at the Jascha Heifetz Hall at the Lithuanian Jewish Community September 27. Krupoves holds a PhD and is a scholar and folklorist as well as an outstanding musician. A polyglot, her repertoire include songs from across Central and Eastern Europe sung in Yiddish, Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Romani, Karaïte, Tartar and a number of other languages. Her performance this time included the songs Es is geven a sumer-tog; Vilne, Vilne, undzer heymshtot; Unter dayne vayse shtern; Zog nit keynmol and others.
The Panevėžys Jewish Community held an event to commemorate Holocaust victims with long-term community partners the Saulėtekis gymnasium, the J. Balčikonis school, the V. Žemkalnis school, the J. Miltinis gymnasium and the M. Rimkevičaitė school of business and services.
In the first part of the event teachers and students from the schools participated in a quiz about history, Jewish culture and the Holocaust. Many displayed a deep knowledge while others heard for the first time about the ghettos in Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai, Panevėžys and other towns.
Next, participants presented posters they had made on the theme of “never again.” Teachers who head tolerance centers at their schools judged the pictures full of pain and suffering.
Every school was awarded prizes, trophies, thank-you letters and souvenirs for the knowledge, initiative, creativity, tolerance, bravery and artistry they displayed. Students from the Balčikonis school won the quiz.
The Nechama Lifshitz Ensemble from Israel presents a creative evening to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust called “Heroism in the Face of Destruction. Testimonies,” directed by Regina Driker. The evening is dedicated to the heroes of the Vilnius ghetto. Passages from books, photographic documentation and songs of the ghetto in Yiddish (with Lithuanian translations). Performers: Gintaras Mikalauskas (actor, Lithuania), Gali Ben-Ari (vocalist, Israel), Roza Klein-Gofanovich (vocalist, Israel), Maksim Levinski (vocalist, Israel), Ada Pashaev (vocalist, Israel), Jana Yankovski (vocalist, Israel), Gregoriy Stolovich (multi-media), Regina Driker (pianist, director, playwright).
Time: 6:30 P.M., October 4, 2018
Location: Theater Hall, Vilnius University, Universiteto street no. 3, Vilnius.
Duration: ~one hour and thirty minutes
A concert to commemorate Holocaust victims will be performed on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto. Tenor Rafail Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and poet Sergejus Kanovičius present Embrace the Past Tense.
Can Yiddish and Lithuanian meet under one roof?
Do you know it’s a lullaby if it’s in a language you don’t understand?
Is dialogue possible between spoken Lithuanian and sung Yiddish?
Can love, longing and regret meet in memory?
6:00 P.M., September 26
Applied Art and Design Hall,
Arsenalo street no. 3A, Vilnius
For more information write email@example.com or call +370 672 40942
Event sponsors: Lithuanian Jewish Community, Government of the Republic of Lithuania
The American Virtuosi are back in Lithuania for another series of concerts. They are to play a concert to celebrate the 120th birthday of Righteous Gentile Jonas Paulavičius in the Great Hall at the Catholic Theology Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University, Gimnazijos street no. 7, Kaunas, at 5:30 P.M. on September 10, 2018. Admission is free and the event is being supported by the US embassy in Vilnius, the Goodwill Foundation, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and others.
At 5:30 P.M. on September 11, 2018, the virtuosi are set to play the Panevėžys Art Gallery in Panevėžys, Lithuania. Price of admission is 2 euros.
The Judaic Studies Center of the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library celebrated European Days of Jewish Culture with an exhibit called “Žaibo prisiminimas,” or “Memory of Lightning,” dedicated to the poet Abraham Sutzkever. The poet was a partisan and one of the first authors of memoirs of the Vilnius ghetto. Before the war he contributed to the flourishing of Yiddish literature in Jewish Vilnius; after he chronicled the death of Jewish Vilnius.
Sutzkever’s granddaughter Hadas Calderon, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon participated at the event.
Traditionally the Kaunas Jewish Community on the last weekend in August by visiting the Petrašiūnai mass murder site and the Fourth Fort where the Jewish intellectuals were murdered in Kaunas. This year we included mass murder sites in Prienai and the surrounding towns of Birštonas, Stakliškiai, Jieznas and Balbieriškis.
Prienai Regional History Museum director Lolita Batutienė and advisor to the head of the Prienai regional administration Jūratė Zailskienė spoke about remembering and the importance of commemorations for Lithuanians as well as Jews. They said Lithuanians need to understand the Holocaust wasn’t “someone else’s” tragedy but that of all Lithuanian citizens, a horrible loss to the nation which destroyed the life of the towns and deprived everyone of diversity.
Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas said a few words in Yiddish, a language which hasn’t been heard in Prienai and surrounding towns for many years, and thanked the organizers, the young musicians who performed and all who turned out for the commemoration. Afterwards participants went to the Prienai Regional History Museum and viewed an exhibit on loan from Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum called “A Rescued Jewish Child Talks about the Holocaust.” Curator of the exhibit Viktorija Bielievičienė was pleasantly surprised to discover Kaunas ghetto inmate and KJC member Fruma Kučinskienė among the viewers, who spoke about herself, her rescuers and some of the people contained in the exhibit.
A long queue of Lithuanian Jews and friends of Israel eager to hear Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu crowded the sidewalk outside the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Sunday. Scheduled to start at 11:00 A.M., Netanyahu arrived about an hour and a half late, which only seemed to increase the audience’s anticipation, with applause when he and his wife entered. The main hall and the balcony were full to capacity as Israeli and Lithuanian security scanned the crowd during the first visit ever by an Israeli prime minister to Lithuania.
Netanyahu appeared very natural at the podium, thanked everyone for coming and singled out Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius, MP Emanuelis Zingeris, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon and his wife and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky for special recognition.
In his brief address Netanyahu said he was a Litvak on both sides of his family, that he was returning to Lithuania as the prime minister of a powerful and innovative state and that he took two lessons from the Holocaust: that brutality and extremism need to be stopped as soon as they appear, and that Jews need to be able to defend themselves. He said the state of Israel was that defense. He also said Israel has many friends in the world, none greater than the United States, but that Israel has many more friends than people know, including in the Arab world. He mourned the passing of US Republican senator John McCain of Arizona. Lithuanian Jewish Community executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas introduced the prime minister and provided an accurate synchronous translation of his words in Lithuanian.
Rafaelas Karpis performed the Partisan Hymn in Yiddish and several other songs, after which Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yaatov sang a biblical passage about the loss of Israel. Rabbi Ber Krinsky thanked the prime minister for coming and expressed special support for Israel, for the prime minister and for his family. The event ended with the Israeli national anthem.
2:00 P.M. Reading of the names of prisoners of the Šiauliai ghetto, library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, Žygimantų street no. 1 (time subject to change)
3.00 P.M. Ceremony to unveil memory stones commemorating Lithuania’s Righteous Gentiles, Garden of the Missionaries, Mairono street.
6:00 P.M. Premiere of the play Ghetto, Kaunas National Drama Theater, Laisvės prospect no. 71
10:00 A.M. Reading of the names of Vilnius ghetto prisoners, Choral Synagogue, Pylimo street no. 39
12 noon Readings from the diary of Yitzhak Rudashevski in the former ghetto (location to be announced)
2:00 P.M. Commemoration ceremony at the Ponar mass murder site, Ponar Memorial Complex, Agrastų street
* Pope Francis to honor Holocaust victims in ghetto territory in Vilnius Old Town
6.00 P.M. World Premiere by Giedrius Kuprevičius “Under David’s Star”, Vaidila Theatre, A. Jakšto street no. 9
6:00 P.M. Tenor Rafailas Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and poet Sergejus Kanovičius present “Embrace the Past Tense.” Can Yiddish and Lithuanian meet under one roof? Is it possible to recognize a lullaby if it is sung in unknown words? Is dialogue possible between those singing in Yiddish and those reading their work in Lithuanian? Can love, longing and shared grief meet in memory? The Old Arsenal, Arsenalo street no. 3
6:00 P.M. Evening of Vilna Ghetto songs by Marija Krupoves, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4
Commemorative Sabbath, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4
6:30 P.M. “Heroism against Destruction,” an evening of creativity by Nechama Lifshitz Ensemble (Israel) dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Theater Hall, Vilnius University, Universiteto street no. 3
For more information write firstname.lastname@example.org or call +370 672 40942
Jascha Heifetz Hall on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius was filled Thursday for a concert concluding the summer course of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University.
Vocalist Regina Hopfgartner with Gregor Unterkofler on piano and backup vocals performed a program of old Yiddish favorites to the audience of staff and students from the summer course and staff and members of the LJC as well as interested members of the public.
The duo performed in Yiddish but the introduction to each song was given in English. Both the Yiddish and the English had a hint of German, and in “Bei Mir Bisttu Shane,” the culmination of the concert, there was no separating the accents. The audience gave a long standing ovation and came out to give their personal congratulations to the performers in the foyer.
Friday evening students from the Yiddish and Yiddish Literature program of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University celebrated Sabbath at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke about the importance of these types of courses, saying: “Yiddish is an inseparable part of Jewish culture, Jewish identity. Yiddish isn’t just Jewish songs and a rich folklore. There is an abundance of very interesting literature in Yiddish. I hope Yiddish classes will become just as popular as Hebrew classes are in our community. Yiddish is a living language and it is continuing to develop.”
This year the summer courses are being attended by about 30 students from Poland, Sweden, Germany, Israel, the United States and other countries. Most have Jewish roots and want to learn the language of their forefathers, and to learn more about Litvak culture.
There are also students who say they need to learn Yiddish for work. Philip from Germany said he doesn’t have any Jewish blood but needs Yiddish because he is studying the Holocaust in Byelorussia. Even so, he’s become a Yiddish enthusiast, and said the Yiddish language preserves the philosophy of the Talmud.
Thomas from Stockholm also says he needs Yiddish for his work. He works for Swedish International radio and several years ago they decided to start a broadcast in Yiddish. Thomas was selected to lead the program because he’s Jewish. Although he understands Yiddish, so far he’s been posing questions to guests in English and Swedish. Now he hopes to be able to do this in Yiddish.
Yiddish summer course teachers include professor Anna Verschik from Estonia, professor Abraham Lichtenbaum from Argentina, professor Dov-Ber Kerler, professor Vera Szabó from Israel and this year Canadian stand-up comedian, writer and linguist Michael Wex, author of the best-selling “Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods,” New York, 2005.
The summer course of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University began in 1998.
An unusual Sabbath ceremony was held at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius last Friday evening. About 150 guests and members of the community sat at a common kiddush table following the prayer service.
Israeli soldiers and officers with colonel Avi Motola, students and teachers from the Vilnius University Yiddish Institute’s summer course with director professor Abraham Lichtenbaum from Argentina and others celebrated an authentic Sabbath at the synagogue together. There were speeches and synagogue board member Jakovas Mendelevskis and cantor Shmuel Yatom performed songs in Yiddish and Hebrew.
Colonel Motola presented several commemorative plaques to the synagogue in appreciation for the work the synagogue does and for hosting the beautiful Sabbath ceremony for IDF soldiers and others.
Geršonas Taicas, left, hands mikveh documents to Jon Seligman, right, at the Great Synagogue archaeological dig in Vilnius, July 24, 2018.
Lithuanian Jewish Community member Geršonas Taicas has discovered architectural drawings made in 1904 and approved in 1908 for the mikveh (ritual bath) complex once located next to the Great Synagogue in Vilnius. The mikveh complex has been the subject of archaeological digs since 2011. Taicas personally brought the old architectural plans to Jon Seligman at the dig. Seligman is one of the leaders of the archaeological team from the Israeli Antiquities Authority. He said he hadn’t known of the existence of these drawings and was very pleased and surprised.
Seligman said the drawing might have been drafted when the Vilnius Jewish community received a grant of $50,000 from the Joint Distribution Committee in New York for building a mikveh for impoverished Jews of Vilnius. The drawings from 1904 showed either what the mikveh should look like, or how it should be modified, he reasoned, commenting the architectural plan approved in 1908 showed the mikveh had electricity, a good stone floor, new rafters and supports and a metal roof. Seligmas said there is a good description in Yiddish from 1930 describing the interior of the mikveh.
According to the architectural drawings, the two-storey mikveh building was 70 meters long and 12 meters wide.