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.
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.
A lesson on how to bake traditional challa bread will be held at 3:00 P.M. on September 15 at the Šeduva Crafts and Culture Center located at Vilniaus street no. 1 in Šeduva. Chefs from the Bagel Shop Café will share the secrets of traditional Litvak holiday customs and cuisine.
VILNIUS, September 1, BNS–Events were held to celebrate European Day of Jewish Culture in Vilnius on the first Sunday in September. Tours of the Lithuanian capital, lectures and authentic Jewish cuisine were offered to the public.
The events program included Jewish music in the Vilnius Old Town–the old Jewish Quarter–and restaurants offering authentic Jewish foods.
“Jewish cuisine is an inalienable part of Jewish culture, Jewish tradition and Jewish heritage. Jewish cuisine is a prerequisite part of any Jewish holiday,” Lithuanian Jewish Community projects director Dovilė Rūkaitė told BNS.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated the 20th European Day of Jewish Culture in the traditional Jewish Quarter of Vilnius September 1 with song, dance and food. The weather was beautiful. Restaurants in the Vilnius Old Town feature Jewish foods with traditional breakfast served at the Bagel Shop Café, restaurants and cafés on Žydų and Stiklių streets and other locations. DJs RafRaf, Akvilina and Marius Šmitas provided dance music with a 10-hour musical program at the Amadeus Bar.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky greeted celebrants and Vidmantas Bezaras, director of the Cultural Heritage Deparment, and Vida Montvydaitė, director of the Department of Ethnic Minorities, also spoke, noting there is no town or village in Lithuania without some sign of a Jewish presence. Vida Montvydaitė said this isn’t just Jewish heritage, it’s Lithuania’s legacy, and protecting it is becoming ever more important.
The writer Kristina Sabaliauskaitė spoke about her childhood memories of the Jews who still lived in central Vilnius then and with whom she made lasting friendships. She says interpersonal relationships are still one of the most important things in life to her.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to come celebrate the 20th annual European Day of Jewish Culture, “Sabbath in the Jewish Quarter,” in the Vilnius Old Town on September 1.
World-renowned writer Chaim Grade called the Vilnius Old Town the Jewish Quarter ca. 1930, and wrote: “Long Fridays of Summer. The housewives go to the bakery to shop for Saturday: they buy dry bagels, dark cookies and pastries with poppy seeds, small little cakes with powdered sugar…” (from his Der shtumer minyen, or Silent Minyan).
On Sunday, September 1, restaurants and cafés located in the Vilnius Jewish Quarter will present a menu of Jewish dishes, Jewish music will play and there will be lectures and tours. LJC chairman Faina Kukliansky will open ceremonies with a welcome speech at 12 noon. Saulius Pilinkus will MC and new Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yossi Avni Levy, Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department head Vidmantas Bezaras and Lithuanian Ethnic Minorities Department director Vida Montvydaitė will also welcome participants.
Sabbath in the Jewish Quarter, a lost tradition where every Friday evening the Jewish family sat down at the dinner table together, lit the candles, prayed and broke bread, followed by a day of rest on Saturday, and the beginning of the new week on Sunday.
Let’s rediscover the ferment, history, tastes, smells and melodies of the Jewish Quarter on the European Day of Jewish Culture.
We send our sincerest condolences to the Bagel Shop café’s Valentina Kot-Osipian on the death of her beloved mother. We wish the family strength in this time of difficulty.
Lithuanian Jewish Community
ON THE CLOSURE OF THE LJC BUILDING AND SYNAGOGUE FOR AN INDETERMINATE PERIOD
The continual, escalating publicly-expressed desire by one political party for recognizing perpetrators of the mass murder of the Jews of Lithuania as national heroes and the demand these people be honored with commemorative plaques and by other means, as well as the public call to attend protests to defend this shameful position on August 7 not only divide Lithuanian society, but actively set factions against one another.
Anti-Semitic comments and inscriptions which are posted to social media pages of political parties and their leaders are being tolerated and go unpunished (even calling the Christian Mary “Jew-girl”), which makes us wonder even more whether we are safe or not.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community has received threatening telephone calls and letters in recent days. In this atmosphere of rising tension and incitement to more tension, neither the LJC nor the synagogue in Vilnius have the means to insure the safety of visitors, including Holocaust survivors and their families.
We underline the fact that up to the present time we have not seen any reaction by any institution to the escalating discord. We would like to hear the opinion of the leaders of Lithuania and to hear a firm position on whether public propaganda in favor of honoring Holocaust perpetrators will continue to be tolerated in Lithuania.
In order to insure the safety of members of the community and worshipers and without any indication that the proponents of this escalating provocation will be called to disciple or account publicly, in cases where the law provides for this, the LJC has been forced to make the painful but unavoidable decision to close the LJC building and the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius for an indeterminate period.
We are also requesting additional security be provided at the Jewish cemetery on Sudervė road in Vilnius to prevent vandalism.
The LJC will adopt future decisions based on the general atmosphere and the positions adopted and expressed by Lithuanian political leaders regarding these issues.
Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community
Vilnius, August 6, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!