Bagel shop

Family Recipe for Hamantaschen

Family Recipe for Hamantaschen

Photo: Tarbut Gymnasium students in Pabradė prepared for the Purimspiel, March 3, 1939. Courtesy YIVO.

Purim starts February 25 this year. Purim is the happiest of Jewish holidays dedicated to remembering the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people from destruction. Traditionally the triangular pastry Hamatasch are eaten on this day and the Lithuanian Jewish Community will share them with the leaders of the state this year as well.

“The essence of Purim is to celebrate life in all its fullness. This is a happy holiday, on this day you need to eat deliciously and much, especially the traditional hamantaschen pastry. This traditional treat reminds us that the plans of evildoers often turns back upon them, while wise rulers always receive the help to make the right decisions. We will also be sending hamantaschen pastry to the leaders of the country, wishing them to make wise decisions beneficial to the people,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said.

Vilnius Jewish Religious Community director Simas Levinas recalls the Purim story which reaches back into biblical times when the Jewish people were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. Although the king married the Jewish beauty Esther, the magnates and bureaucrats of Babylon really hated the Jews in their country, who weren’t there by their own choice. The vizier Haman came up with a plan to exterminate all Jews and cast lots (פור) to discover an auspicious time for this.

Hamantash

Hamantash

The Bagel Shop Café will make hamantash available for Purim from February 23 to 25, made in the traditional manner with poppy seeds and raspberry jam. The cost will be 12 euros per kilogram (about 30 to 35 individual hamantashen) and smaller orders are also possible. Please reserve your pastry now or at least by February 23 so we’ll know how many to make. The Bagel Shop Café itself is closed for repairs so customers will be able to pick up their orders in the foyer at the main entrance to the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Pick-up will begin on February 23 and run till February 25, from 12 noon to 4:00 P.M. Payment may only be made by bank card.

Reservations: https://forms.gle/YhmP2nt82uoUALbc8

Bringing Bagels Back to Vilnius

Bringing Bagels Back to Vilnius

by Wailana Kalama

After a long absence, the Jewish staple has returned to the Lithuanian capital

Most food historians place the origin of the bagel somewhere vaguely in the Jewish alleys of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In those days in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius–also known as Vilna, the city once dubbed the “Jerusalem of the North”–bagels were ubiquitous, sold on the streets, and in the bakeries and markets. In modern times, however, the bagel had all but been erased from popular memory. Until now.

For centuries, the city’s Old Town was home to a thriving community of Litvaks, as local Jews referred to themselves. The district was lauded for its cultured elite and a Great Synagogue that attracted scholars from all over Europe. All that changed with the Holocaust, during which 95% of Lithuanian Jews were deported and murdered. Now, all that remains in the Old Town are monuments to what once was: street signs in Yiddish, inscriptions educating about the ghetto, a bust of the famed intellectual Vilna Gaon.

With One Hand the State Comforts Jews, With the Other It Points Them to the Street

With One Hand the State Comforts Jews, With the Other It Points Them to the Street

by Vytautas Bruveris, lrytas.lt

The country is marking the end of the ceremoniously declared Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History, while the Lithuanian Jewish Community is looking at its front door and thinking it might have to leave its home. Because disagreements with state institutions are driving the Community from its longtime building in the center of the Lithuanian capital, located near the remains of Jewish Vilna and the city’s working synagogue.

Bailiffs and bricklayers in broad daylight have walled off one of the corridors in the building housing the LJC. This is the grotesque turn of events these days resulting from continuing disagreements between the LJC and the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum along with the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. And even before this there were also episodes which seem rather odd, for example, letters from the museum to the members of the executive board of the LJC with accusations against the latter’s leadership, attempting to put political pressure directly upon the ethnic community/

With the new wall built, the LJC is now deciding on its future course: whether to dive headlong into legal battles, or simply pack its bags and hit the street. So why is all this happening? Because of disputes on how to share the courtyard which both the museum and the LJC, housed in the same building, claim. Instead of trying to act as moderator and as a moderating force, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture has done the opposite. The neighbors are there next to each other, but separate.

International Day for Tolerance Event Darna on Facebook

International Day for Tolerance Event Darna on Facebook

The International Day for Tolerance will be marked around the world on Monday, November 16. The Lithuanian Jewish Community has prepared a virtual celebration called Darna which will run from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. that day, including well-known performers Jurgis Didžiulis, Erca Jennings, Afrodelic and Paulius Kibauskas. It will also include yoga and meditation activities, a discussion on the topic of tolerance and other activities.

The first Darna festival for celebrating the International Day for Tolerance invites the public to celebrate tolerance, harmony and concord, and to do so through the creation of art and community. The LJC had planned to hold the celebration as a real event, but decided to make it virtual because of concerns about the corona virus and to make an entire day’s worth of events available to those homebound.

Event organizer Rafael Gimelstein said: “We are trying to encourage the celebration of human ties and a harmonious and tolerant life through this event. We wanted to bring together all people who think the same way and to commemorate these values through creative work. To show we have very diverse and talented people who are united by a shared idea, and that tolerance is a very topical idea to them.”

Bake Challa at Home and Join Millions in the #ShabesatHome Project

Bake Challa at Home and Join Millions in the #ShabesatHome Project

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to join millions of other Jews around the world and join the #ShabesatHome initiative. The Lithuanian side of the initiative known as #Šabasnamuose will include the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium and the Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys, Šiauliai, Ukmergė and Švenčionys communities are invited as well to join up by internet right now, Friday, November 6. Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and her granddaughter Esther will also be on hand.

Social media announcements: #ManoŽydiškaKelionė #ŽydųKultūrosMetai #ShabesatHome #ŽyduKultūrosDiena #Šabasnamuose #KeepingItTogether #GeroŠabato

For more information, contact Dovilė Rūkaitė at projects@lzb.lt (before the sun goes down).

Dr. Ruth Reches to Present Her Book on Identity among Holocaust Survivors

Dr. Ruth Reches to Present Her Book on Identity among Holocaust Survivors

Psychologist Dr. Ruth Reches will present her book called “Holokaustą patyrusių asmenų tapatumo išgyvenimas” [The Experience of Identity by People Who Survived the Holocaust] at a special event at 6:00 P.M. on Monday, October 19, 2020, at the Bagel Shop Café at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. The event in Lithuanian will include a panel moderated by Vytautas Magnus University lecturer and philosopher Algirdas Davidavičius. Guests will be asked to wear masks. Please report your intention to attend by sending an email to info@lzb.lt

You Are Invited to the European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

You Are Invited to the European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is continuing the tradition of marking the annual event European Days of Jewish Culture, this time for the fifth year, with a program of events in Vilnius scheduled for Sunday, September 6, 2020.

All parts of the event program are free and open to the public. The number of participants has been limited this year due to health concerns so please register as soon as possible.

For cooking lessons, register by sending an email to kavine@lzb.lt
For the Jerulita tour, register by sending an email to travel@jerulita.lt

To register by internet, click here.

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

The Švenčionys region of Lithuania is a multicultural place where Lithuanians live alongside Poles, Russians, Belarussians, Jews and people of other ethnicities.

The Švenčionys Jewish Community was reconstituted in 2013. It is now headed by the energetic Švenčionys native Moshe Shapiro (aka Moisiejus Šapiro).

There was a large Jewish community living in the Švenčionys region in the period between the two world wars. In fact there were five synagogues operating there.

Jews there set up an herbal pharmaceuticals factory and different workshops in the center of the town of Švenčionys. Jewish effort, initiative and expertise were involved in all fields of production and business.

This Country Would Never Have Become the Jerusalem of Lithuania Had It Not Been a Safe and Tolerant Place

This Country Would Never Have Become the Jerusalem of Lithuania Had It Not Been a Safe and Tolerant Place

Just before quarantine was announced the Bagel Shop received an important visitor. The interview done several months ago remains just as important and perhaps even more so now. We spoke about the importance of ethnic food to Jews living in Lithuania and about a people’s right to have ethnic foods. We await the re-opening of the Bagel Shop Café with bated breath and hope to continue this conversation in front of an audience.

Bagel Shop Interview with Meghan Luckett, Cultural Attaché at the US embassy in Vilnius

Interview by Dovile Rūkaitė, LJC project manager.

Do you like bagels? What’s your favorite kind?

Yes, of course we love bagels. My favorite are everything bagels, we buy them at your bagel shop and in the market and eat them almost every week. We make bagel sandwiches with baked egg, spices and all kinds of stuff. One of our colleagues is a great cook, she makes us homemade bagels. Once we brought her some from Trader Joe’s and she made us excellent everything bagels. My wife is a great cook, she bakes sometimes, but we usually buy them because they are very good.

Thank You for Helping LJC Seniors

Thank You for Helping LJC Seniors

Lithuanian Jewish Community administrative secretary Liuba Šerienė would like to send a big thank-you to Social Department director Michailas Segalas and staff members Ema Jakobienė, Ninel Skudovičiūtė, Rokas Dobrovolskis and Neringa Stankevičienė and colleagues, and to Michailas Tarasovas, Aušra, Snieguolė, Danutė Lena, Žana and Sonia for their great work helping our Social Department clients and senior citizens. Thank you so very much.

We Can’t Give Up Hope Now

We Can’t Give Up Hope Now

Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Photo: Blanka Weber

by Blanka Weber

The country’s Jewish community is watching the time of pandemic with alarm

Faina Kukliansky is currently managing her life and that of her members from her home office in Vilnius. “This is a time that demands everything from us,” the 65-year-old chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community says.

This is a time when preparations for Passover would be underway normally. The Bagel Shop next to the Community building on Pylimo street is now only open for a few hours and only accepts cards for payment. Cash is forbidden. There are strict rules here, too. Matzo will be distributed to Community members here and should be delivered in the next few days.

Matzo Will Be Available from March 25 to April 3 at Bagel Shop Café

Matzo Will Be Available from March 25 to April 3 at Bagel Shop Café

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has set up a safe way to get matzo for Passover via the Bagel Shop Café. Payment will be by bank card exclusively. The cost for a 1-kilogram box is 5 euros, and for a 454-gram bag of matzo flour the price is 3 euros. Pick-ups can be made between the hours of 10:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. from March 25 to April 4, presumably excluding the Sabbath. Please call 8 685 06 900 for more information.

Changes in LJC Operations after State of Emergency

Changes in LJC Operations after State of Emergency

Dear Community members,

Following the announcement of a state of emergency in Lithuania, the daily operations of the Lithuanian Jewish Community has changed as well. We must postpone all planned events and restrict admission of visitors, and some employees are now working from home.

We thank you for your understanding and patience. We are always ready to help you and to answer any questions, and we hope you will take into consideration this unusual situation and that we will overcome these difficult challenges together.

Please note:

• ALL Community events have been canceled, both at the Community building and elsewhere;
• we strongly request that visits to the Community building at Pylimo street no. 4 only be made if there is a serious need to do so;
• if you want to meet a specific LJC employee, please agree on the meeting with that person by telephone beforehand;
• for permission for burials, please call secretary Liuba Šerienė at +37068506900.

IMPORTANT: prepare copies beforehand of death certificates and documents showing family ties, and digital documents are preferred.

Continue to follow the LJC web page where we will announce all changes in the operations of the LJC administration and LJC Social Center.

Happy Birthday, Riva!

Happy Birthday, Riva!

Happy birthday to our top Bagel Shop chef Riva Portnaja! Thank you for the delicious treats you make and for preserving the Litvak culinary heritage.

We will always think of you as you are, beloved, friendly, with your sweet and comforting smile, exuding youth from the depths of your soul.

New US Ambassador Visits LJC

New US Ambassador Visits LJC

Robert Gilchrist, a career diplomat appointed by president Trump to serve as the United States’ ambassador to Lithuania and confirmed by the Senate in late December, made an informal visit to the Lithuanian Jewish Community February 19.

During the visit he met chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, received a tour of the Community building from her, chatted with senior citizens and learned about their club and met Holocaust survivors, including Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja.

He also visited the Bagel Shop Café and met children engaged in LJC activities during their winter break from school.

Chairwoman Kukliansky also showed the new ambassador an exhibit on display at the Community on the Righteous Gentiles who rescued Jews from the Holocaust in Lithuania.

Appointed by US president Donald Trump in July, Gilchrist was only confirmed by the Senate in late December after heated questioning about his position on Russia. During his confirmation he called Lithuania one of America’s most loyal allies and said becoming the US ambassador to Lithuania was the honor of his life.

Thank You

Thank You

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman wants to thank Bagel Shop Café director Dovilė Rūkaitė and senior cook Riva Portnaja for their wonderful idea to hold a Litvak culinary luncheon with a delegation from the Taube Jewish Heritage Tours with partial support from the Ethnic Minorities Department, and for their tireless enthusiasm in promoting and passing on the Litvak Jewish culinary heritage. Thank you to Taube delegation leader and Ashkenazi cooking expert Jeffrey Yoskowitz and to all the volunteers and guests who made this event so much fun. It was good to sit down together at a shared table and it was very delicious.

Sukkot Celebration with Guests from America and Baked Gefilte Herring

Sukkot Celebration with Guests from America and Baked Gefilte Herring

It’s long been the tradition during SUkkot to set up a booth, invite guests and treat them to various family recipes. While they say there is no traditional Sukkot dish, it does seem to be characteristic to make things which are stuffed and rolled, like the Torah scroll. Stuffed cabbage and filled pancakes are popular.

Ashkenazi cooking expert Jeffrey Yoskowitz visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the first day of Sukkot and made select dishes from the Litvak culinary legacy. Guests–loves of Litvak cooking–joined in and for every dish there were multiple stories and recollections from childhood. There was even a dispute on the correct form cut carrots should take.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz is leading a Taube Jewish Heritage Tours tour currently in Lithuania. He and Dovilė from the Bagel Shop Café had a long discussion on which dishes to include in cooking workshops. In the end they arrived at the solution of Litvak exceptionalism: to select the dishes which Polish Jews don’t make and which are unknown to the American Jewish community.

Children’s Safety Questioned after Swastika Appears at LJC

Children’s Safety Questioned after Swastika Appears at LJC

Children’s events, workshops, clubs and so forth are held often at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, as are Hebrew lessons, chess matches and Jewish holiday events attended by children. The safety of children attending events at the LJC is being called into question by the appearance of a swastika just meters from the front door. Its appearance coincided with the Peoples Fair inside, where children were preparing to give a concert. The goal of the Peoples Fair is to bring together the ethnic minority communities who call Lithuania home.

While the children were getting ready for the concert upstairs, down at the Bagel Shop Café a group of 43 elderly religious Jews from Jerusalem were holding prayers and waiting for breakfast when the swastika appeared, even closer to the front door of the kosher food outlet.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliaksy said there should actually be reverse discrimination for the Lithuanian Jewish Community considering how small it is now following the Holocaust.

No other state in Europe fails to provide protection and security for its Jewish community.