Culture enthusiasts are invited to the first Litvak Cultural Forum on September 29 and 30 at the Great Hall at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. The “Office of Memory” event within the Kaunas Capital of European Culture 2022 program includes a diverse events program at locations around the city.
Academics, historians, museum and education specialists, people from the world of art and members of different communities–the forum will bring them all together. Many of the visitors will be travelling to the land of their parents, grandparents and ancestors for the first time in their lives to attend the forum asking the vital question of what it means to be a Litvak. The forum’s other axis addresses culture and art as the key to history and commemoration as a path to a better future fostering openness and dialogue.
Office of Memory curator Daiva Price says the forum summarizes efforts and projects under the Kaunas 2022 program which have been going on since 2017.
“For five years we have been trying to remind people Kaunas has always been a multiethnic city and that the Jewish and Lithuanian segments of its history constitute an important part of the city’s identity. We have spoken about the complex pages of the city’s history, the history of World War II and the tragedy of the Holocaust, using different art projects. So during the forum we will try to summarize what Litvak culture and Litvak identity are. How art helps us make sense of history, how art helps us remember,” she said.
She said it was important to include Litvak artists and academics along with Lithuanian artists in the dialogue of healing historical wounds. One such is Yale University president Peter Salovey from the renowned Soloveitchik family from Kaunas.
“The forum is a wonderful opportunity for us to talk again about our common history, to meet and think about the future, to discuss what kind of future we want for this city and whether art can help us better understand history and learn from our mistakes,” Daiva Price said.
On the artistic side, the forum will include Paulina Pukytė, Lina Šlipavičiūtė-Černiauskienė, Jyll Bradley from the UK, writer and publisher Daiva Čepauskaitė and graphic artist Sigutė Chlebinskaitė, among many others.
Historian and sociologist Violeta Davoliūtė and a host of academics from around the world engaged in the study of Litvak history and identity will represent the academic side, including Brandeis professor emeritus of Holocaust studies Antony Polonsky from South Africa and the UK, Yale president and socio-psychologist Peter Salovey, psycholinguist Tsvia Walden from Israel and others.
Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė is the official sponsor of the Litvak Cultural Forum. Honorary sponsors are Liudas Mažylis and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. The forum is a joint project between Vytautas Magnus University and the Lithuanian Jewish Community.
Full program available here.