Bagel shop

Enchanting Pflaumen-Tzimmes

Enchanting Pflaumen-Tzimmes

Bagel Shop Café cooks have been sharing some of the secrets of Litvak cooking this summer with the managers of a small restaurant in Merkinė, Lithuania, called Šilo kopa. They’ve been making bagels, herring and pflaumen-tzimmes together.

Pflaumen-tzimmes is a stew made of plums and beef often made for the Sabbath table and Rosh Hashanah.

Bagel Shop Café cook Riva remembers this dish well and still makes it according to a simple recipe: about 1.5 kilograms of beef (from the forequarter), bone, about 15 to 20 plums, about 1.5 kg of potatoes and 1 onion, which is later removed. Laurel leaves aren’t required, only salt. The flavor is enhanced by several tablespoons of caramelized sugar added at the end.

The beef is boiled with the onion for about 2 hours, the onion is removed, the plums are added for about an hour and later the potatoes. When everything has been boiled sufficiently, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of liquefied caramelized sugar.

Milk and Cheese Treats on Shavuot

Milk and Cheese Treats on Shavuot

We celebrate the holiday of Shavuot on June 9 and 10. June 8 is the eve before the holiday, and the entire night is dedicated to studying the Oral and Written Torah. The Torah is read out on this night.

Shavuot is an old holiday of pilgrimage and its rituals add cohesion to the community. During the holiday, a series of milk and cheese dishes are prepared and sampled. The king among them is the classic cheese pie. In Lithuania as in other European Jewish communities pancakes with cheese are popular. During the holiday in Israel, smaller cheese makers open their doors to visitors. Shavuot tourists are also invited to attend the Northern Cheese Pie Festival held now for its third year and children are taught how to milk cows and how to make butter from fresh milk.

This Sunday the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius will celebrate with treats made by Shoshana, a mashgiach who came especially from Israel to cook for the Bagel Shop Café this year.

The Bagel Shop Café recommends making Shavuot breakfast from the best challa with cream cheese and berries.

Eurovision Viewing Party

Eurovision Viewing Party

For the first time ever the Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a party to watch the Eurovision song contest on beanbags in the auditorium on the third floor. Attendees included LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Goodwill Foundation director Indrė Rutkauskaitė, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon, veteran Lithuanian gay-rights activist Vladimiras Simonko, LJC projects director Dovilė Rūkaitė, Bagel Shop Café top chef Riva Portnaya and others.

Ambassador Maimon spoke, recalling earlier Eurovision events, and lamented he wouldn’t be able to vote for Israel or Lithuania this time. He relayed he had just spoken by telephone with Lithuanian contestant Jurijus Veklenko in Tel Aviv and said the Lithuanian singer was very positive about his upcoming performance.

Faina Kukliansky said it would be a sad world if we were all the same and praised the mixed crowd at the viewing party, which included senior citizens, young Lithuanians and guests from abroad.

Eurovision at the Bagel Shop Café

Eurovision at the Bagel Shop Café

Come watch the semifinals in the Eurovision song contest at the Bagel Shop Café in the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We’re rooting for Jurijus Veklenko. This year the contest is being held in Israel and we’ll be watching live, with a bar and Israeli snacks.

The fun starts at 8:30 P.M. on May 16 at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius.

Bagel Shop Café Celebrates Purim with Hamentashen

Bagel Shop Café Celebrates Purim with Hamentashen

The Bagel Shop Café has made a tradition out of offering Litvak-style hamentashen pastries on Purim and this year is no different. Purim, the 14th and 15th days of the month of Adar on the Jewish calendar, falls on March 20 and 21 this year. The Bagel Shop Café is located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius inside the Lithuanian Jewish Community but with its own street-level entrance.

Success Story: Bakery Making Forgotten Treats Has Special Aura

Success Story: Bakery Making Forgotten Treats Has Special Aura

by S.Viltrakytė-Varkalienė, Lietuvos rytas

“The cult of food is very useful for us, but that doesn’t mean that when we opened everyone came to buy bagels,” Bagel Shop projects director Dovilė Rūkaitė said at the café’s third birthday party.

Although the café depends on support from the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Rūkaitė said she has no doubts that the kosher food outlet is very much a success story. Interest in traditional Jewish cuisine has raised the idea of a restaurant as well. Although no opening date has been announced, preparations are taking place behind the scenes.

For now you can try kosher find in the humble café inside the Lithuanian Jewish Community. You won’t find a filling lunch here, the kitchen is too small for the five-person collective to make such things. But you can sample shakshuka, soup, salads, bagels and cakes.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Launch of Book about Jews of Švėkšna

Launch of Book about Jews of Švėkšna

Monika Žąsytienė, a Bagel Shop project volunteer and museum specialist, has written a book called “Švėkšnos žydų bendruomenė XVII–XX a.” [The Jewish Community of Švėkšna from the 17th to the 20th Century].

The Bagel Shop Café will host the launch of the new book at 6:00 P.M. on February 19. Register here.

According to the author, the book makes no pretense of being an historical work. Instead, Monika Žąsytienė sought to bring together local lore and regional history for future work on the subject. She made use of material from Lithuanian archives, Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D. C. Some of the information–testimonies, memoirs, correspondence in Yiddish, Hebrew, German and English–appears for the first time in Lithuanian in her book.

Bagel Shop Celebrates Third Birthday

Bagel Shop Celebrates Third Birthday

The Bagel Shop Café is the café the Lithuanian Jewish Community opened three years ago on the first floor. Celebrating Litvak culinary heritage and traditions, the Bagel Shop makes bagels according to a family recipe and makes Sabbath challa every Friday, as well as many other items, and special foods on holidays. It began as an idea in 2014, as part of a tolerance campaign of the same name sponsored in part by a grant from Norway and aimed at fighting discrimination and anti-Semitism. Eventually the Bagel Shop became a real bagel shop.

Three years later, we’ve decided to surprise our customers and visitors with a presentation of Israeli street food and culture. Throughout February we’ll be baking pita, making falafel and talking about food.

Everyone’s invited at 10:00 A.M. on Sunday, February 17, to an educational celebration at the LJC where you’ll have the opportunity to sample falafel and sabih made the Israeli way, with musical accompaniment. Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon will talk about Israeli street food and Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky will teach on the topic of kosher food. Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas is to take part in the event and synagogue cantor Shmuel Yatom will perform. Visitors will also have the chance to speak personally with Bagel Shop chef Riva Portnaja and others about Jewish cuisine.

Falafel, Cabbage, Gentrification and a Sense of Community

Falafel, Cabbage, Gentrification and a Sense of Community

You might have noticed recent items about the Bagel Shop Café and Israeli street food during the snowy month of February. We asked Community members and friends about the joy of life and sense of community to be discovered in eating and food.

Our chef Riva makes the best shakshuka in Vilnius although she prefers burek. We recommend you visit the site of the shakshuka cult in Tel Aviv. Our version comes from there, so what is burek? These are flaky layered pastry with all sorts of filling, including spinach, mushrooms and potatoes. We make it with scrambled egg as well. Riva buys these at bakeries on the street in Israel which overflow with baked goods Friday mornings and where it is difficult to even take it all in. Riva’s discovery this culinary season is cabbage from Jaffa. Expect a surprise!

Israeli Street Food at the Bagel Shop

Have you noticed street food is replacing fast food? Or maybe fast food is going to the streets? Groups of friends meet and sample incredible tastes at picnic tables with chairs tossed around chaotically in undefined spaces. Vilnius has a number of such street-food outlets now, open to the air even in winter or hiding between booths in a covered market serving simple meals. The ferment and throng of humanity are almost more important than the food itself, jostling in line to be served. Come experience the balagan (chaos) at the Bagel Shop Café’s third birthday in the first two-and-a-half weeks of February. We’ll be serving Israeli street food with a special menu including falafel, sabih and other pita sandwiches and dishes. You can vote for your favorite and the winner will become an item on our permanent menu. The main birthday party will be all day on February 17, starting at 10:00 A.M. and culminating in a concert in the early afternoon.

Complete balagan program available in Lithuanian here.

Bagel Shop Café Turns 3

Bagel Shop Café Turns 3

Three years ago Jewish bagels reappeared in Vilnius. For three years the Bagel Shop Café has been providing a Litvak bagel which customers enjoy with lox, cheese and other spreads. Thank you to all our customers who have helped bring back culture back on our tables and into our hearts.

Latkes: Traditional Hanukkah Food

Latkes: Traditional Hanukkah Food

Latkes are potato pancakes which Jews consider a national dish, as do Lithuanians, Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Germans, Czechs and the Swiss. The first mention of the potato dish seems to come from 1830 and seems to have been German cuisine. although the word itself comes into Yiddish probably from Russian. Whatever the case, Jews made latkes global and it is a required part of the Hanukkah table now.

Some sources say latkes were originally made of buckwheat. Others put their origins in Italy where pancakes were served with ricotta cheese. Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (1286-1328) seems to be the first person to associate pancakes with Hanukkah, in a poem about the holiday.

When Spain expelled the Jews of Sicily in 1492, they took their ricotta cheese pancakes with them and introduced them to the Jews in the northern Italian lands. These pancakes reportedly were called cassola in Rome.

Lithuanian Public Television Features Program about Litvaks

The Lithuanian Radio and Television television program Misija: Vilnija [Mission: Vilnius Region] about ethnic communities and minority cultures in Lithuania featured Litvaks as the program entered its fourth season at the beginning of October.

In the interview with Miša Jakobas, the principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius, he remarked how much freer children have become in Lithuania, which he said has its plusses as well as minuses. He said he never sees students carrying books during breaks between classes anymore and that the current student body was born into a technological society they know better than his generation does. Hostess and interviewer Katažina Zvonkuvienė and Jakobas discussed the sense of loss and sadness in which the post-war generation of Lithuanian Jews lives and which is sometimes unperceived as such. They also talked about the role of the state in guaranteeing the rights of all ethnic communities in Lithuania and the multiethnic and interfaith composition of the Sholem Aleichem school’s student body.

Interviewed at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas spoke about the glorious reputation for scholarship Jewish Vilna once had, and the slow path to drawing back more Jewish families to tradition and to restoring what existed before.

Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Hebrew teacher Ruth Reches spoke about the durability of Jewish tradition in the face of assimilation. She said rather than grandparents passing on tradition to children, the reverse process seems to be at work now: children are learning Jewish traditions at school and teaching their parents.

Riva Portnaja, the chief chef and baker at the Bagel Shop Café, recalled her childhood in Žemaitija when keeping a kosher kitchen was the customary thing, and spoke about the great demand in Vilnius for Jewish cuisine among Lithuanians.

Rosh Hashanah Celebration at Choral Synagogue

On Sunday the Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year, 5779, at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

Rosh Hashanah symbolizes the sixth day of the creation of the world: on this day the Most High created the forefather of mankind, Adam.

Rosh Hashanah is first mentioned in the Mishnah (the oral Torah) where it is called Yom Troy (Pipe Festival), which is connected with the commandment to blow a horn on this day. In synagogues the shofar horn is blown on Rosh Hashanah, whose sound is supposed to confound the enemy and bring clear thought and repentance to believers. The shofar tradition goes back centuries and the ram’s horn is associated with the ram which Abraham substituted for his son in making a sacrifice to G_d. The word “shofar” comes from the words for improvement and correction.

European Days of Jewish Culture 2018

Everyone who’s interested is invited to attend European Days of Jewish Culture. For several years now European Days of Jewish Culture are held beginning on the first Sunday in September. The theme for the next year is chosen as soon as the Days have concluded so that organizers have time to prepare. This year the theme is “Jewish Stories” allowing for broad interpretation and broad public education on Jewish heritage with a special emphasis on true stories, jokes and visual work.

The story-telling tradition remains current in the Jewish collective memory. Stories come from the Torah, and there is a rich oral tradition from the shtetlakh. Stories is an inclusive theme which offers a number of opportunities. All European Days of Jewish Culture coordinators are free to choose and propose their own topics and organize this interesting event. This is what the Lithuanian Jewish Community is offering this year:

September 2

2:00 P.M. Richard “Sco” Schofield’s installation “Back to Shul” at the Zavel and Levinson synagogue, Gėlių street no. 6, Vilnius

September 6, LJC

3:00-5:00 P.M. The Bagel Shop Café invites you to come learn how to make challa. Registration: goo.gl/bstFEC

6:00 P.M. Presentation of the 5779 LJC calendar

September 7

4:00-5:30 P.M. Concert by Vitalijus Neugasimovas, Gėlių street no. 6, Vilnius

September 9, Leipalingis, Lithuania

11:00 A.M.-2:00 P.M. The Bagel Shop Café presents Jewish dishes on the eve of the Great Autumn Holidays, Leipalingis manor square, Leipalingis, Lithuania

Amehaye Summer Camp 2018

In July the Lithuanian Jewish Community sponsored a day camp for members’ children aged 5 to 12. As every year, this year’s camp was held at a beautiful natural location, the Karvys manor in Paežeriai village in the Vilnius region.

Parents and children alike look forward to the camp and the experience of nature, relaxing by a lake and playing with friends. The day camp includes educational activities, walks and breakfast, lunch and dinner. Buses take the children to the camp in the morning and return them home in the evening. The day camps were held from July 16 to 27 this year. This year 49 children attended, from Lithuania, Israel, Russia, Norway, the USA and Great Britain. Children learned songs and Israeli dance, performed skits and learned to bake challa bread for Sabbath. The educational program included discussions about Jewish traditions, art, swimming, athletics and other activities.

Camp counselors took the campers to visit dog trainers and to meet with scouts in Labanoras Forest. The scouts talked about what it means to be a scout and everyone had a nice picnic by the lake.

Lithuania’s Russian Drama Theater actress Yuliana Volodko created a play with the children called Noah’s Ship which the children performed for parents at the closing ceremony. The play was followed by a Sabbath celebration with children and parents, attended by about 90 people in total. The closing ceremony featured cake and fireworks, and children made wishes and then released helium balloons.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky thanks all the organizers, volunteers and guests who made this year’s Amehaye such a success, and also thanks the company Nikadita, the Bagel Shop Café and the Sluoksniai Café for their support and help.

Recommendations for Fighting Anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania, 2018

Attorney and Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on the project “Preparation and Publication of Recommendations for Fighting Anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania”:

I am truly glad the Lithuanian Jewish Community was given the opportunity to implement the EVZ project “Preparation and Publication of Recommendations for Fighting Anti-Semitism and Romophobia in Lithuania.” Appreciating the great importance and appropriateness of inter-institutional cooperation, the Community carried out the project with experienced and trusted partners: the Roma Social Center, the Lithuanian Human Rights Center, the Women’s Information Center and a specially formed group of experts.

Speaking of expressions of anti-Semitism in Lithuania, the positive changes are obvious. Celebrating 30 years since the restoration of our organization, the Lithuanian Jewish Community is experiencing a real, contemporary cultural renaissance. Our organization is stronger than it was, and interest in Jewish topics in Lithuania is greater than it has been ever. The Community has contributed at least partially, within our powers, to this positive breakthrough. Since 2013 we have been carrying out the Bagel Shop tolerance campaign which to the present has attracted more than 7,000 friends and followers on social media. The year 2017 also saw several important achievements in the field of human rights and the commemoration of historical truth: a jubilee March of the Living at the Ponar Jewish mass murder site, Lithuania’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, and the LJC taking the leadership position in the international memory campaign We Remember, which culminated in a commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry with high state officials, members of the LJC and various public figures. In February of 2018 the Community published our Lithuanian translation of Yitzhak Rudashevski’s Vilnius ghetto diary. This publication, an authentic primary source on the history of the Holocaust, attracted great public interest, and we hope it will be accepted as an aid to teaching the Holocaust in the nation’s public schools and educational institutions.

Despite the evolving discussion by the public and the political class regarding these important issues, the fight against discrimination continues. The history of Lithuanian Jews, spanning 700 years, is still not integrated appropriately in the Lithuanian educational system, the Lithuanian experience of the Soviet occupation is often equated with the Holocaust and the internet is full of expressions of hate directed against Jews as well as Romani.

I am convinced the successful implementation of this project will contribute significantly to the further expansion of human rights and the fight against anti-Semitism and Romophobia, and to encouraging dialogue between distinct communities who share similar problems and institutions in the state and non-governmental sectors.

Recommendations 2018


Young People in Panevėžys Interested in Jewish Heritage

Monika Šinkūnaitė and her colleague appealed for help to the Panevėžys Jewish Community on June 11 regarding a project called Orientational Walking Tour and a discussion called Jewish Culture in Panevėžys. During the meeting both parties discussed scenarios for the event and topics for the discussion.

The point of the project is to get young and older people interested in Jewish heritage.

The educational walking tour happened on June 29 and was called Along Jewish Roads, including important historical Jewish heritage sites in the city. The youth group began the tour at Freedom Alley where there was a thriving Jewish neighborhood before World War II. There were Jewish residences, stores, workshops, dentistry and medical clinics and attorneys’ offices. Some streets were named after Jewish public figures, including Dr. Mer, Rabbi Gertzel, the industrialist Kisinas, Dembas and others.

The discussion was held after the walking tour at the café Kavos Dėžutė. Panevėžys publicist Donatas Puslys, Panevėžys Regional History Museum director Arūnas Astramskas, bishop emeritus Jonas Kauneckas, nun Eleonora Kasiulytė from the Congregation of the Sisters of God’s Love and Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman participated.