Šolom, Akmenė! Project a Big Success

Šolom, Akmenė! Project a Big Success

Four-and-a-half-days and the results was, according to the local Akmenė newspaper Vienybė, “a great success.”

Participants and guests from Šiauliai and Vilnius said the same thing about the “Šolom, Akmenė” activities and events last week. There was the same positive reaction towards the Friday evening conference dedicated the remembering the shtetl, lessons on Sabbath traditions with treats and the concert.

There was a creative workshop for youth held before, with visiting and cleaning-up Jewish cemeteries in Vegeriai, Klykoliai, Viekšniai and Tryškiai, in a grand plan to digitize the grave epitaphs there.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community chairman Josifas Buršteinas spoke at the conference as an ambassador to Akmenė, as did Ethnic Communities Council chairman Daumantas Todesas. Frida Šteinienė recalled her childhood, responding the questions by internet, and Kaunas Jewish expert Chaim Bargman provided additional parts of the story.

The Sabbath lesson with treats was followed by the closing concert. They lit candles, passages from the Torah were read and values and traditions were explained with pictures and music. The Sabbath is the day of the spirit which illuminates all the other days of the week. The family gathers at the Sabbath table with candles, white tablecloth, Sabbath songs and the words of the Torah.

Students from local music schools and the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium in Vilnius performed traditional Sabbath hymns and songs.

Diana Lopaitienė, one of the project leaders, said earlier: “This year we’ve expanded the project, we’ve included more children and more activities. Children practice for the concert at a creative workshop. Students from the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium in Vilnius have joined the project.”

The plan was to spend four days touring Jewish cemeteries, photographing headstones and posting the pictures on the internet. This constitutes the first stage in a larger plan. In the second stage the grave inscriptions will be transcribed and translated, with that information added to the internet page. Students and teachers from the Ateitis school in Telšiai, the gymnasium in Venta and the Akmenė gymnasium were to participate in the cemetery visits.

History teacher Aida Jokubauskaitė-Sinkevičienė said: “The Venta gymnasium got involved with the project because it teaches civics.” The student expeditions are to visit Jewish cemeteries in the Šiauliai and Telšiai districts, tend the graves and photograph them. “We hope to learn about the traditions, way of life and cultural heritage of the Jewish people. After that we will hold meetings with young people from the area and talk about the emotions we experienced during the expedition, and look at creating new ways to teach civic-mindedness,” she added.