On Sunday, September 6, 2020, the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a fun celebration of the European Day of Jewish Culture. Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Community members, the Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yosi Levy, Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department director Vidmantas Bezaras and guests had a good time and attended the Hebrew language lesson provided by Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymansium principal Ruth Reches. The public, invited by the LJC, came to celebrate the first Sunday in September by sampling Jewish treats made at the Bagel Shop Café, located on the first floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community building in Vilnius, a center of Litvak bagel culture.
The Bagel Shop Café presented paintings from Mark Kaplan’s collection during the event.
Participants also attended the lecture “Deification and Demonization of Jews: Anti-Semitic Superstitions in Society.”
“Superstitions about Jews are inseparable from anti-Semitism, but they aren’t the cause of anti-Semitism,” Eva and Viktoras Tombekas, who presented the lecture and discussion, said.
The celebratory mood was guaranteed when the Rajika Klezmer Orkestar and the Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh performed.
The Jerulita group gave an interesting tour of Jewish Vilna which on this sunny Sunday revealed its beautiful legacy even more fully.
Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department director Bezaras said the Jewish inheritance is important not just to Jews but as a component of the Lithuanian legacy, and that the wooden synagogues in Lithuanian towns and cities must eventually be restored. “The contribution made by the Jews in the countries where they lived is very valuable. If it hadn’t been for them, never mind just Lithuania, for example, in the USA and France, life would be so much the poorer,” he said.
Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius provided a tour of the public and secret parts of the synagogue and blew the shofar horn, reminding participants the Jewish new year of 5781 and Rosh Hashanah are near at hand.
Bagel Shop Café chief chef Riva Portnaja taught participants how to make challa bread.
The theme this year of the European Day(s) of Jewish Culture was “Jewish Journeys.” Travelling, journeys and sojourning are deeply embedded in Jewish history. Following expulsion from their traditional lands, the Jews wandered through and settled in different lands, seeking religious tolerance and economic opportunity.