Irish Litvaks Celebrate Sabbath at Choral Synagogue

A delegation of 26 Jews from the Republic of Ireland visited Lithuania last week and attended a special Sabbath celebration held Friday for them at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

The tour was organized by the Irish Jewish Community with help from Irish ambassador to Lithuania David Noonan and his Lithuanian counterpart in Dublin, ambassador Egidijus Meilūnas. Most Irish Jews are descended from Litvaks with the major wave of immigration before World War I. Since then there has been little contact between Litvaks and Ireland and Litvaks in Lithuania. The Irish delegation is re-establishing contact while exploring their own roots, visiting their ancestral shtetls. Not all members of the delegation belong to the Irish Jewish Community, but all do share a connection with it.

Ambassador Noonan said: “I am very happy to see the visit taking place–the connection between the Jewish communities is one of the earliest connections between Ireland and Lithuania and deserves greater exploration. I was honoured to join the group on Friday for dinner and the Sabbath service; it was not my first time in the Synagogue but it was the first time I attended a service there. To attend with my fellow Irishmen and women made it a very special occasion indeed.”

Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas said the Irish party had Sabbath dinner on the second floor of the synagogue and everyone was very satisfied with the event. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said the Irish Jewish delegation were very religiously devout and did all the proper things to mark Sabbath. Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon also attended the Sabbath celebration.