Yiddish

Motke Chabad’s Best Joke

Motke Chabad’s Best Joke

Motke Chabad and His Best Joke* (Jewish humor)

by Pinchos Fridberg,
[an old Jew who was born and raised in Vilnius]

<Rebe>, will there ever come a time when the words <Vilne un Yidish> [Vilne and Yiddish] will be inseparable again?”
“<Saydn nor mit Meshiekh’n in eynem> [Not unless it comes with the Messiah].”

§§§

Would you like to know what an old Jew does after a delicious and satisfying lunch?
I’ll tell you: he lies <af a sofke> [<a sofke> – diminutive of sofa] <un khapt a dreml> [and grabs a nap].

And then what?

And then he dreams that …

A few days ago I received an e-mail from motke.chabad@xxxxx.com containing an incredible proposal: the author asked me to prove to him that I really am an old Vilna Jew <an alter vilner Yid>. I wouldn’t tell you these <bobe-maise> [old wives’ tales] if not for the way he suggested proving this.

Rudashevski Diary Book Design Wins Place in Tokyo Competition

Rudashevski Diary Book Design Wins Place in Tokyo Competition

Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary published in Lithuanian by the Lithuanian Jewish Community was compiled and translated by Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas. The unusual design of the book itself was the creation of Sigutė Chlebinskaitė. The Tokyo Type Directors Club has recognized the book design as worthy to be nominated along with another 2,860 books for their annual award in 2019, in the design category.

From the organizers of the Tokyo TDC Annual Awards 2019:

Dear Sigute Chlebinskaite,

Thank you very much for your entry to the Tokyo TDC Annual Awards 2019. We received 2,860 works from around the world. Among the entries, we are pleased to inform you that your entry below has been selected for our annual book. We hope the year 2019 will be a fruitful year for you.

Tokyo Type Directors Club

Congratulations to Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Lithuania’s New Minister of Culture

Congratulations to Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Lithuania’s New Minister of Culture

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely congratulates Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas on his selection as Lithuania’s new minister of culture.

Dr. Kvietkauskas will be the first member of the Lithuanian Government to speak Yiddish in many years. Likely the last was Jewish affairs minister Jokūbas Vygodskis who left the post when the interwar Republic of Lithuania annulled official Jewish autonomy in the country.

Kvietkauskas has translated a number of Yiddish works into Lithuanian. After completing Lithuanian literature and language studies at Vilnius University, he studied at Oxford’s Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He also acquired skills in Yiddish from Fania Brancovskaja, the Jewish partisan and Vilnius ghetto inmate.

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Our 30th birthday Hanukkah celebration was just as fun as it was 30 years ago, and almost the same number of people attended, around 400. Although times have changed, there’s a new generation and we have lost many of those who attended in 1988, we remember them, say a good word about them and take joy in the present, in the fact that Community members of all ages came to celebrate, including children and young families from the regional communities.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky welcomed celebrants. Social programs department director Žana Skudovičienė spoke about the first post-war communal Hanukkah celebration on December 4, 1988, held at the Dainava restaurant in central Vilnius. Then as now, Yiddish was spoken and sung, and the Fayerlakh ensemble performed, while 30 years ago the event was organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association.

This year we celebrated at the Radisson Blu Lietuva hotel in Vilnius. The Israeli klezmer band Gefilte Drive and saxophonist Juozas Kuraitis performed and delighted the audience with their concerts.

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Maša Grodnikienė recalled for us the first Hanukkah celebration by the constituent Lithuanian Jewish Community back in 1988.

Lithuanian Jews who survived World War II celebrated Hanukkah quietly at home. In 1987 the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association formed and Emanuelis Zingeris became chairman.

On December 4, 1988, Lithuanian Jews came together and collected funds for a shared Hanukkah celebration. This was a memorable holiday in Vilnius, a big event with a beautiful group of people at the Dainava restaurant. Yiddish was spoken and sung. The cultural events group of the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association drafted the program and organized the event. The Fayerlakh Jewish ensemble with directors Griša Kravecas and Ana Kravec performed, as did the ethnographic ensemble conducted by Amos Traub and the Kaunas Jewish stage ensemble. Chaimas Gurvičius directed the concert. About 370 people attended. Chairman of the board of the Lithuanian Cultural Fund Česlovas Kudaba greeted the audience, and deputy chairman Tarvydas also took part. This was a grand Hanukkah evening celebration with a concert and speeches.

Remember what that time was like in Lithuania–the independence movement Sąjūdis had formed and Lithuanian Jews from different cities and towns came together and were part of Sąjūdis. Everyone was exhilarated, excited, happy that finally with the national rebirth of Lithuania the Jews of Lithuania could celebrate together that great holiday of the triumph of the spirit, Hanukkah. The majority sought to attend, there weren’t enough places and it was impossible to get in. At that time there were 17,000 Jews living in Lithuania.

Latkes: Traditional Hanukkah Food

Latkes: Traditional Hanukkah Food

Latkes are potato pancakes which Jews consider a national dish, as do Lithuanians, Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Germans, Czechs and the Swiss. The first mention of the potato dish seems to come from 1830 and seems to have been German cuisine. although the word itself comes into Yiddish probably from Russian. Whatever the case, Jews made latkes global and it is a required part of the Hanukkah table now.

Some sources say latkes were originally made of buckwheat. Others put their origins in Italy where pancakes were served with ricotta cheese. Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (1286-1328) seems to be the first person to associate pancakes with Hanukkah, in a poem about the holiday.

When Spain expelled the Jews of Sicily in 1492, they took their ricotta cheese pancakes with them and introduced them to the Jews in the northern Italian lands. These pancakes reportedly were called cassola in Rome.

Irene Pletka Donates Million Dollars for YIVO Bund Collection Digitization

Irene Pletka Donates Million Dollars for YIVO Bund Collection Digitization

YIVO in New York has had a separate collection for the Jewish Bund since 1992. Recently they announced a project to digitize that collection to make it accessible to scholars and the public around the world. Vice-chairwoman of the YIVO board Irene Pletka initiated the project and announced she is donating one million dollars to the effort.

More than 150 people came to the YIVO gallery in New York to honor Pletka for her exemplary donation, inspirational generosity and extraordinary sense of duty in preserving Jewish history and culture. After the Bund project receives donations totaling from 2.5 to 3 million dollars the first phase of digitization will begin.

The Bund Jewish political party began in Vilnius in 1897 with a socialist democrat platform and pledge to fight pogroms. YIVO describes the part as a Jewish political party adhering to a social democrat ideology in the context of Jewish culture and seeking Jewish political autonomy. Political science professor Jack Jacobs at Cambridge University in New York says the Bund was the first Jewish political party in Eastern Europe. Bund ideology was aimed at the Jewish working class.

From the Vilnius Ghetto: Sutzkever’s Memoirs in Lithuanian

From the Vilnius Ghetto: Sutzkever’s Memoirs in Lithuanian

by Danielė Ūselytė

Abraham Sutzkever (1913-2010) was one of the most remarkable Yiddish poets in the 20th century, a Holocaust survivor, one of the leaders of the cultural resistance and in his memoirs “From the Vilnius Ghetto” provides a testimony of his authentic experience.

These texts were written immediately following the tragic events of World War II and were published in Moscow in 1946. These memoirs contain the living memories in the author’s mind and thus are a testimony of history. Feelings and states of mind are presented, indirectly, through specific situations, sometimes with irony, feelings of hopelessness, fear, debasement, but always the infinite desire to survive, to fight to the last breath. Resistance is supported by intense creativity in an extreme situation, in the belief its power will fortify human existence, and the historical narrative is based on this, demonstrating the possibility to write poetry in the tragic moment.

Full text in Lithuanian here.

Kaunas Jewish Community News for October

Kaunas Jewish Community News for October

In October the Kaunas Jewish Community experienced moments of celebration and painful losses, and commemorated the past.

The most momentous event in October was the celebration of the Community’s 30th birthday with a concert. The Kaunas State Philharmonic hosted the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra accompanied by harpist Gabrielė Ašmontaitė, baritone Stein Skjervold and VilhelmasČepinskis on violin. Orchestra art director Mindaugas Bačkus presented a rich program of well-known and lesser-known works by Jewish and Litvak composers of different times and in different genres. He both played cello and presented the event.

The historian Linas Venclauskas told the audience about the history of the Jewish community and current events. He spoke about the Litvak contribution to Lithuania and together with KJC chairman Gercas Žakas presented thank-you letters from the Kaunas mayor and municipal culture department to long-standing and outstanding members of the Community, including Fruma Kučinskienė, Judita Mackevičienė, Motelius Rozenbergas, Basia Šragiene, Julijana Zarchi, Simonas Dovidavičius and Gercas Žakas himself.

Reflections in a Broken Mirror Exhibit Opens

Reflections in a Broken Mirror Exhibit Opens

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.

Litvaks in the Creation of Modern Lithuania and Israel

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 gustas.siauciulis@praktika.urm.lt

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.

Condolences

Feiga Koganskienė passed away October 23, 2018. She was born in 1926. For many years she served as deputy chairwoman for the Kaunas Jewish Community and was responsible for social needs of the community. She was also the director of the Community’s Yiddish Club and spoke the language fluently. Our deepest condolences to her many friends and relatives.

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Birthday

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!

Lithuanian Public Television Features Program about Litvaks

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.

Sukkot Celebration in Panevėžys

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 Performs Holocaust Commemoration Concert at LJC

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.

Remembering and Teaching the Holocaust in Panevėžys

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.

Nechama Lifshitz Ensemble Commemorate Holocaust Victims in Vilnius

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

Embrace the Past Tense

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
Admission free

For more information write info@lzb.lt or call +370 672 40942

Event sponsors: Lithuanian Jewish Community, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

American Virtuosi Return for Concert Tour

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.