Yiddish

Gita-Enta Broidi Sings in Šiauliai

Gita-Enta Broidi performed at an evening of Yiddish song at the Šiauliai Jewish Community February 4. Chaim Bergman of Kaunas attended and said he was pleasantly surprised to learn almost all members of the Šiauliai Jewish Community speak Yiddish well. Many lingered after the concert for coffee and conversation and the vocalist spoke of her work in Israel. She studied under the famous Nekhama Lifshits and has her own reputation and record of accomplishment around the world. She is a past winner of the International Yiddish Song Festival prize.

What Happened to Poland?

The Jews of Poland were once the largest Ashkenazi Jewish community in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but those of them who remain today, it seems, will not be able to understand the decision made by the Polish Sejm on January 26, 2018. Historically Lithuanian and Polish Jewish communities are connected by ties of friendship in all spheres, we maintain exemplary relations with the secular and religious community, we know of the efforts made by Lithuanian MPs in solving disputes over the use of Polish orthography and we remember the efforts made by the Polish presidents Aleksandr Kwaszniewski, Lech Kaczynski and Bronislaw Komorowski to improve relations with Lithuania.

What could have happened so that the current members of the Polish parliament adopted a law imposing three years’ imprisonment to anyone who openly says the Polish state or nation is guilty of Nazi crimes, or who uses the formula “Polish death camps?” The law reflects the official position of the Polish Government that the great majority of Poles acted heroically during the Nazi occupation. Nonetheless there were many in the country who did collaborate with the Nazis and committed horrific crimes.

Another question arises for me: isn’t it from such irresponsible steps, from these sorts of anti-Semitic laws and assessments as well as statements that everything began during World War II?

We also remember Chiune Sugihara who provided the Jews of Poland condemned to the Holocaust in Kaunas his “visas for life.”

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Emmanuel Levinas and His Connection with Lithuania

The Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted the launch of “Laikas and kitas,” a Lithuanian translation of Litvak philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’s book “Time and the Other,” on January 25. Translator Viktoras Bachmetjevas, an advisor to the Lithuanian minister of culture, was there, as were Dr. Aušra Pažėraitė of the Religious Studies Center of Vilnius University, philosopher Dr. Danutė Bacevičiūtė of the same center and Vytautas Magnus University Public Communications Cathedral teacher Algirdas Davidavičius. The four held a panel talk and talked about the book based on a series of lectures by Levinas.

The Jonas ir Jokūbas publishing house published the book with support from the Goodwill Foundation.

Dr. Aušra Pažėraitė agreed to talk more about the Litvak philosopher for www.lzb.lt.

§§§

We can speak of two aspects of the connection between one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), and Lithuania. First, it is known he was born and grew up in Kaunas and his parents were also from Lithuania. He was born in Kaunas January 12, 1906, old style, which is December 30, 1905, on the Julian calendar, or the 15th of Tevet on the Hebrew calendar. Kaunas then was the seat of the Kovna guberniya in the Russian Empire. According to the entry in the vital records of the Kaunas Jewish community, his father was Kaunas resident Yekhiel Levin and his mother was named Dvoira. There’s also a date for his circumcision in the entry, January 6 according to the Julian calendar.

His father was also a native resident of Kaunas, born there to Abraham Levin and Feige in 1878, and his mother came from Ylakai, where she was born in 1881 to Moshe Yitzak and Eta Gurvich. He attended a Jewish primary school in Kaunas until World War I. The family was forced to evacuate as many Lithuanian Jews were during World War I. The Levin family ended up in Ukraine, where Emmanuel was accepted at a gymnasium in Kharkov, where at the same time a Kaunas boys gymnasium had been relocated. The story goes the entire family was overjoyed because this represented an opportunity for Emmanuel to pursue a higher education somewhere in the Russian Empire, but the war ended and the chaos and changes of the revolution began and Lithuania achieved independence, the family returned to Lithuania.

Lithuanian State Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Užsienio reikalų ministerijoje surengtasTarptautinės Holokausto aukų atminimo dienos minėjimas

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry in conjunction with the Lithuanian Jewish Community commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the ministry Friday, January 26.

The event was humble, tasteful and without much fanfare, but was attended over 100 people, including survivors, children of survivors, grandchildren, foreign ambassadors, staff and members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the foreign minister and the father of Lithuanian independence, professor Vytautas Landsbergis, along with many ministry employees.

Foreign minister Linas Linkevičius spoke briefly and fully “owned” the Holocaust for Lithuania, saying while it was sad to begin the year celebrating the 100th birthday of the modern state with the Holocaust, it was necessary so that people would never forget. He called the Holocaust a scar across the face of the nation and the darkest page in Lithuania’s and humanity’s history, but also pointed out Lithuania now boasts 891 Righteous Gentiles.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke and said the fact the Foreign Ministry was hosting the event meant the Lithuanian state was recognizing the importance of remembering what happened. She also announced the upcoming release of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary in Lithuanian.

A representative from the Israeli embassy praised Lithuania for adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Rafailas Karpis performed songs in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky’s Appeal Regarding Legal Disputes within the Jewish Community

I would like to address our Community again:

• As you know, a group of people calling themselves “the Vilnius Jewish Community” initiated legal proceedings.

• We received no reply to our proposals, made directly and in written form, to give up these legal disputes. A decision was handed down in the Vilnius Jewish Community’s petition which will be appealed in the usual appeals process and we have complete confidence the decision will be annulled.

• In other legal proceedings, the court found the rules and regulations of the LJC were not legal, and the point allowing the formation of a representational quorum during elections was voided. The court again emphasized the rules and regulations must conform to the law: one member, one vote. This affects the regional communities, but moreover all of the associated members, and means that the LJC elections in 2017 were held in keeping with the law. This decision by the court is final and is not subject to appeal.

Again, every Lithuanian Jew may decide for him or herself what sort of community they want, but first, everyone must know the truth. Leaders and community members who await the end of the disputes so they can decide which side to support must wait a little longer. I feel this decision is a matter of conscience for each person to make on their own.

I ask those who are sowing division between Jews, engaging in provocations, filing complaints and spreading rumors and gossip to stop it, without regard to whatever posts they occupy. You are doing harm to the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community.

I invite all members of the community to come together and join forces for things that are important rather than engage in fruitless internal struggles. Our priority tasks are celebrating and passing on the distinct Litvak culture and historical memory of the history of Jews in Lithuania, and making life better for Jews here and now. We can only accomplish this by coming together.

Al Jaffee Cartoon Exhibit “Childhood Adventures in Zarasai”

The exhibit at the Zarasai Regional History Museum contains illustrations by Al Jaffee included in Mary-Lou Weisman’s book “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life: A Biography.” In an interview with his biographer Al Jaffee called himself a reverse immigrant: when most people were leaving Lithuania for the USA, he went in the opposite direction. Savannah in the 1920s had electricity, inside toilets, asphalt streets, movie theaters and newspapers with daily comic strips. Zarasai, however, hadn’t changed much since the end of the 19th century. Al was the odd man out among the local children in Zarasai, where multilingualism was the rule and people spoke Lithuanian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish. He did manage to adapt to live there, though. The children invented games as children do and the entire town was their playground. The small town became the petri dish where Al and his brother Harry developed their creative talents. Even now Al says the years of his childhood he spent in Zarasai are some of the happiest years of his life.

Al’s popularity has grown continuously. In 1955 he began drawing for Mad magazine in New York City. He’s still drawing now. He lives with his wife Joyce in Manhattan.

You’re invited to visit the exhibit weekdays from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. (other times are available as well if prior notice is given).

Learn to Embrace the Simple Past Tense: A Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust

You are invited an event to commemorate victims of the Holocaust with a presentation by tenor Rafailas Karpis, pianist Darius Mažintas and Sergejus Kanovičius called “Embrace the Simple Past Tense.”

Is it possible for the Yiddish and the Lithuanian language to meet under one roof?
Is it possible to feel a lullaby even if you can’t understand the words?
Is dialogue possible between sung Yiddish and Lithuanian work read out loud?
Can love, longing and remorse meet in memory?

Come, feel it and find out the answers on the last Sunday in January:

PLACE: Third floor, Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius
TIME: 5:00 P.M., January 28.

One Century out of Seven Exhibit a Hit with Jews in Chicago

The cultural center of the Lithuanian consulate in Chicago is hosting an exceptional exhibition starting at the end of November called “One Century out of Seven: Lithuania, Lite, Lita.” The exhibit covers the history of Litvaks from the first arrivals and settlement of Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the present day. The exhibit is now circulating in Chicago and suburbs. On January 12 it was presented to the Jewish community of Highland Park.

Exhibit author Pranas Morkus was able to present remarkable details of the relationships between Jews and locals and included a number of notable Litvaks, the most notable and best known being the Vilna Gaon, who is credited with making Vilnius the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

On January 15 the exhibit opened at the North Suburban Beth El Synagogue. Visitors sent photos to facebook and they may be viewed on the LJC webpage.

A large number of Jews with roots in Lithuania live in America and are proud to call themselves Litvaks.

The exhibit was the result of work by Pranas Morkus, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the designers Victoria Sideraitė-Alon and Jūratė Juozėnienė from the JUDVI design studio.

Lithuanian consul in Chicago Mantvydas Bekešius said the exhibit demonstrates Jews were, are and will always be an important part of the story of Lithuania.

Little Jewish Streets


Little Jewish Streets
by Leyb Stotsky (Leib Stocki) [לייב סטאָצקי]

(Vilna, 1902-Vilnius, 1967)

[ יידישע געסלעך / Yidishe geslakh]

 

Read by Pinchos Fridberg

Raya Shapiro and Howard Jarvis translated the poem for those who don’t know Yiddish from a translation into Russian by Polina Pailis and Pinchos Fridberg.

Hanukkah Menorah Lit for First Time Ever at Lithuanian Presidential Palace

The candle marking the sixth day of Hanukkah was lit for the first time ever Sunday in the Hall of Columns of the Lithuanian Presidential Palace in Vilnius. Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon, Choral Synagogue Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, Lithuanian Bishops Conference chairman archbishop Gintaras Grušas, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis, Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, chairmen of the regional Jewish communities, ministers and politicians attended.

The Hanukkah story was told at the event and tenor Rafailas Karpis and pianist Darius Mažintas delivered a performance of Yiddish song. Composer Anatolijus Šenderovas’s work “From a Forgotten Book…” was also performed.

The Israeli embassy to Lithuania organized the event.

Lithuanian Students Experience Hanukkah in Perth for Second Time in Two Years

For the second year in a row students from Atžalynas High School in Kėdainiai, Lithuania, experienced Hanukkah in Perth, Australia, via skype on a large screen in their classroom.

Last year they heard Dylan Kotkis, Carmel School captain for 2018, sing Maoz Tzur while Western Australia’s Chabad Rabbi Shalom White explained the festival and the message of Hanukkah to the 15-year-olds.

This was probably the first time in 75 years this Hanukkah song had been heard in this town in central Lithuania once so important to Jews. No Jews live in Kėdainiai today.

This year teacher Laima Ardavičienė and her class attended the candle-lighting ceremony at Ben-Gurion Park in Perth with members of the Western Australian Jewish Community via skype. The ceremony performed by Rabbi Shalom White of Chabad Lubavitch House was preceded by an enjoyable performance by the entertainer Mickey Shaked. The Lithuanian students also had the opportunity to meet some of the locals via skype.

One of these was Heiny Ellert, a 95-year-old Lithuanian Holocaust survivor from Neishtot-Tavrig, today known as Žemaičių Naumiestis. I filmed his testimony for the Western Australian Holocaust Institute in 2014. It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/118HN2_NYHs

You can read more about this and last year’s Hanukkah activities and about Heiny and his shtetl at http://elirab.me/chanukah-in-the-park/

Eli Rabinowitz
Perth, Western Australia
December 13, 2017

Dmitrijus Kanovičius Donates 250 Grigorijus Kanovičius Books to LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely thanks Dmitrijus Kanovičius for the wonderful gift of 250 books of the selected writings of Grigorijus Kanovičius.

Everyone, not just Jews, read Grigorijus Kanovičius’s books written with his great talent and profound emotional notes because they give the true story of the life of Lithuania made more charming with a sincere sense of nostalgia. These books are like living portraits with images of the past, of our forefathers, memories with color, words, laughter and pain. Today they stand as a monument and testament to all the murdered Jews… Grigorijus Kanovičius’s works for us are important as a treasury of memories, of those we have lost who shall live on forever in their shtetlakh, now mostly abandoned towns. It is said truly that Jews will live on even when there is no one left to remember them. We are so glad that thanks to the creative work of Grigorijus Kanovičius Lithuania has a rich saga of Jewish life featuring our ancestors from the 18th century to today.

Thank you, Dmitrijus.

Simas Levinas Remembers Hanukkah in Šiauliai

Vilniaus žydų religinės bendruomenės vadovas Simas Levinas prisimena savo paauglystės Chanuką Šiauliuose

Šiauliai was a strange town in 1960. It was the Soviet time, there were still some “synagogues” illegally operating in apartments. Almost all of the local Jews used to go there to pray. It wasn’t entirely clear whether this was to satisfy a religious need, or the need to spend time with people of the same ethnicity. Or to speak Yiddish. Or to remember the horrible experiences of the Holocaust.

Or perhaps it was the instinctual psychological need to heal one’s wounds. Everyone wanted to enjoy the life which the miraculous lottery of fate had given them.

The town’s Jews stuck together and were ready to support anyone who needed it. This really wasn’t any kind of official community. Its leader was… a family with a larger apartment. We held all traditional and Sabbath evenings of Saturday talks and meetings there. This took place at the home of Josif Burshtein (the chairman of the Šiauliai Jewish Community until last summer) where Jews congregated right up until the restoration of independence.

Hanukkah was the holiday to which the town kids (they called us little Jewies) really looked forward. We were treated to hanukkahgelt, ponchikes and latkes. The parents carved dreidls out of wood. Some had managed to preserve their family heirlooms, a really miracle!, and we lit candles on pre-war menorahs.

Now I realize our parents did everything they could so that we wouldn’t know what they experienced. Everyone chipped in and used to hold the holiday, the miracles of Hanukkah, for us.

And even today most of the Jews who come from Šiauliai know and speak Yiddish. Those us “fun Shavl” [from Šiauliai] scattered around the world by fate maintain our ties.

This year on the eve of Hanukkah another miracle has taken place! We are witnesses to history. The world has begun to remember that King David’s city, whose age goes back more than 3,000 years, is the capital of the state of Israel!

The victory of the Macabbees has again lit the oil lamps of the Hanukkah miracle.

Vilnius Ghetto Chronicler Yitzhak Rudashevski: The Teenager Whose Thoughts Were Beyond His Years

Yitzhak Rudashevski, the young chronicler of the Vilnius ghetto, would have turned 90 today (December 10). Imprisoned in the ghetto with his mature values and a gift for writing, he wrote down in his school notebook the reality around him, images of the ghetto, struggle and faith in the future.

Trapped in the ghetto and seeing the suffering, Yitzhak didn’t stop taking pride in his Jewishness and he wasn’t overcome by hopelessness and self-pity. On the contrary, his thirst for life propelled him forward.

“I am ashamed to be seen on the street, not because I’m a Jew but because I am ashamed of my powerlessness. The yellow patches are sewn to our clothes, but not to our minds. We are not ashamed of the patches! Let those who put them on us be ashamed,” he wrote in his diary.

The young man’s thoughts about the dignity of man and freedom might seem obvious today, but the entries from 75 years ago paint a much different picture of that period. They speak of a world where the concept of human rights didn’t exist. Taken in context, we marvel at the maturity, courage and talent it took for a teenager to write about what he did.

Forgetfulness Is an Incurable and Dangerous Disease

An interview with Litvak writer Grigory Kanovich by Stephan Collishaw

SC – To what extent is the novel Shtetl Love Song autobiographical?

GK – True, Shtetl Love Song is an autobiographical novel.

Your character in the novel seems very close to his grandmother and goes with her regularly to the synagogue. Is the synagogue still a part of your life?

My grandmother Rokha was a very religious person. When I was a child the synagogue played a big role in my life. There was not a single Saturday, nor a Jewish holiday when my grandmother wouldn’t take me to synagogue. My grandfather was religious, but didn’t go to synagogue so often. He joked, ‘If you hear something interesting from Him, you won’t be able to keep it from me long, you’ll tell me.’ I, myself, am not religious; the synagogue doesn’t play such a strong role in my life now as in my childhood.

Hanukkah Greetings

The Abi Men Zet Zich Club greets all our clients and friends on the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah!

At 1:00 P.M. on December 6 students and teachers from the Saulėtekis will perform in a concert called “Let’s Light the Hanukkah Light” on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius.

At 3:00 P.M. on December 12 you’re invited to the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at the same location.

For more information contact  Žana Skudovičienė, zanas@sc.lzb.lt, +370 678 81514

The Woman Who Rescued Jewish Books from the Vilna Ghetto


by Erika Dreifus

Some 75 years ago a group of Jews under German occupation in Vilna was assigned to assist Nazi authorities in curating books and other cultural items destined for shipment to Germany. There, the selection of Judaica materials was to be conserved as a collection of artifacts from an extinct people.

Some items were indeed shipped away as ordered. Some the authorities destroyed and diverted to be used for scrap.

Others were smuggled and hidden by the same Jewish scholars, teachers and writers who had been designated to sift through and catalog them. The heroism of this Paper Brigade has recently received new attention, thanks largely to two developments: the discovery of another trove of materials that the squad managed to squirrel away, and the publication of historian David E. Fishman’s fascinating new study, “The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race To Save Jewish Treasures From the Nazis” (ForeEdge).

Grigory Kanovich: A Good Book is a Life Teacher

G. Kanovičius: gera knyga visada yra gyvenimo mokytoja
by Donatas Puslys, www.bernardinai.lt

Rūta Oginskaitė’s book “Gib a Kuk: Žvilgtelėk” recently hit the book shops, in which the author, Grigory Kanovich and his wife Olia paint a portrait of the Lithuanian writer and an entire era. On November 29 London’s Central Synagogue will host the launch of the English translation of Kanovich’s book “Shtetl Love Song.” We spoke with Grigory Kanovich about his relationship with his readership, love of homeland and the painful moments in our history.

There’s a proverb that a prophet is not recognized in his homeland. Your work is an important monument to the history of the Jews of Lithuania and their memory. The book requires, however, a reader who is able to enter into a dialogue with the text. Do you sense the presence of such readers in Lithuania, do you think there is a dialogue and discussion going on with your texts? Should we conclude from your recent works published abroad that your work is more interested to foreign than Lithuanian readers?

I hold to the view that prophets are rare in their homeland, and one more frequently encounters only clairvoyants and the righteous. I think “prophet” is hyperbole. I won’t deny that my novels are an attempt to create a monument to pre-war Jewish history and to commemorate my compatriots.

I wouldn’t dare claim some wide-ranging discussion is taking place between me and my readers in Lithuania, but I do receive a lot of good-willed responses from different locations from readers reading my work in Lithuanian and Russian. I can’t complain about that. I am happy foreign publishers are interested in my work. For instance, the recent publication of my Shtetl Love Song by a leading London publisher.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.

The Litvaks: 900 Years of History

You are invited to a multimedia presentation called “Litvaks: 900 Years of History” by the students of the Saulėtekis school in Vilnius. The Saulėtekis school has presented a number of plays on Litvak culture and the Holocaust. The school has a strong Holocaust education component. In addition, student choirs often perform songs in Yiddish and Hebrew, most recently at the Holocaust commemoration at Ponar at the end of September where they performed the Vilnius ghetto anthem, Zog Nit Keynmol.

The presentation will take place at the Russian Drama Theater at Basanavičiaus street no. 13 in Vilnius at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, November 29.

Admission is free.

Tens of Thousands of Jewish Documents Lost during Holocaust Discovered in Vilnius


YIVO announces the discovery of 170,000 Jewish documents thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis. Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images for YIVO

NEW YORK (JTA)–A trove of 170,000 Jewish documents thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis during World War II has been found.

On Tuesday the New York-based YIVO Institute for Jewish Research announced the find which contains unpublished manuscripts by famous Yiddish writers as well as religious and community documents. Among the finds are letters written by Sholem Aleichem, a postcard by Marc Chagall and poems and manuscripts by Chaim Grade.

YIVO, founded in Vilnius in what is now Lithuania, hid the documents, but the organization moved its headquarters to New York during World War II. The documents were later preserved by Lithuanian librarian Antanas Ulpis who kept them in the basement of the church where he worked.

Most of the documents are currently in Lithuania but 10 items are being displayed through January at YIVO, which is working with Lithuania to archive and digitize the collection.

“These newly discovered documents will allow that memory of Eastern European Jews to live on, while enabling us to have a true accounting of the past that breaks through stereotypes and clichéd ways of thinking,” YIVO executive director Jonathan Brent said Tuesday in a statement.

United States Senate minority leader Charles Schumer, democrat from New York state, praised the discovery.

“Displaying this collection will teach our children what happened to the Jews of the Holocaust so that we are never witnesses to such darkness in the world again,” Schumer, who is Jewish, said in a statement.

Israeli consul general in New York Dani Dayan compared the documents to “priceless family heirlooms.”

“The most valuable treasures of the Jewish people are the traditions, experiences and culture that have shaped our history. So to us, the documents uncovered in this discovery are nothing less than priceless family heirlooms, concealed like precious gems from Nazi storm troopers and Soviet grave robbers,” he said.

Full story here.