Greetings

Golden Globe Winner Grateful to Litvak Ancestors

Golden Globe Winner Grateful to Litvak Ancestors

Patricia Clarkson, winner of the Golden Globe award for best supporting actress in a series, miniseries or television film in 2019 for her role as Adora Crellin in the HBO series Sharp Objects, says Lithuania is part of her, and she grew up with stories of her baba, the great-grandmother who came from Lithuania and died before she was born, according to the Lietuvos Rytas newspaper.

Born in New Orleans in 1959, Clarkson was graduated from the Yale School of Drama with an MFA.

Clarkson’s great-grandmother Sophie Bass-Berengher was born in the Kaunas guberniya in 1886. Her daughter Sophie (née Berengher) and Johnny Brechtel had daughter Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson. born in New Orleans on January 17, 1936. She served as a councilwoman on the New Orleans city council and has been the honorary counsel of the Republic of Lithuania in New Orleans since late 2014. She is also Patrica Clarkson’s mother.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Rudashevski Diary Book Design Wins Place in Tokyo Competition

Rudashevski Diary Book Design Wins Place in Tokyo Competition

Yitzhak Rudashevski’s ghetto diary published in Lithuanian by the Lithuanian Jewish Community was compiled and translated by Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas. The unusual design of the book itself was the creation of Sigutė Chlebinskaitė. The Tokyo Type Directors Club has recognized the book design as worthy to be nominated along with another 2,860 books for their annual award in 2019, in the design category.

From the organizers of the Tokyo TDC Annual Awards 2019:

Dear Sigute Chlebinskaite,

Thank you very much for your entry to the Tokyo TDC Annual Awards 2019. We received 2,860 works from around the world. Among the entries, we are pleased to inform you that your entry below has been selected for our annual book. We hope the year 2019 will be a fruitful year for you.

Tokyo Type Directors Club

Holiday Greetings from the Kaunas Jewish Community

Holiday Greetings from the Kaunas Jewish Community

Dear friends,

We sincerely thank you for your warm communication and cooperation and greet you on the occasion of the beautiful winter holidays, hoping their special mood will awake the child within you, the child’s ability to take joy and find wonder in simple things, to have fun, to believe in miracles and to put every cell of the body into the task at hand. We wish you wonder, color and many pleasant surprises in the daily routine! We wish you a white Christmas and a successful new year!

Kaunas Jewish Community

Congratulations to Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Lithuania’s New Minister of Culture

Congratulations to Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Lithuania’s New Minister of Culture

The Lithuanian Jewish Community sincerely congratulates Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas on his selection as Lithuania’s new minister of culture.

Dr. Kvietkauskas will be the first member of the Lithuanian Government to speak Yiddish in many years. Likely the last was Jewish affairs minister Jokūbas Vygodskis who left the post when the interwar Republic of Lithuania annulled official Jewish autonomy in the country.

Kvietkauskas has translated a number of Yiddish works into Lithuanian. After completing Lithuanian literature and language studies at Vilnius University, he studied at Oxford’s Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He also acquired skills in Yiddish from Fania Brancovskaja, the Jewish partisan and Vilnius ghetto inmate.

Kaunas Jewish Community Chairman Gercas Žakas Recognized

Kaunas Jewish Community Chairman Gercas Žakas Recognized

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas received the Lithuanian state’s award “For Merit” on International Tolerance Day. Dainius Babilas, the director of Kaunas’s Ethnic Cultures Center, called Žakas one of the most active members of the city working in the cultural and social activities of the ethnic communities, both as head of the Kaunas Jewish Community and as the leader of various projects.

Since taking the post as Kaunas Jewish Community chairman in 2000, Žakas has rallied many Jewish people, initiated dozens of cultural projects and educated people on the history of Lithuanian Jews and the Jewish legacy during public events. Thanks to his resolution and consistency, the city of Kaunas remembers so many of its famous citizens who have made major contributions to Lithuania and humanity.

The newspaper Kauno diena has published an article in Lithuanian about Gercas Žakas and his work, available here.

Hanukkah Celebration for Children

Around 70 children attended the Hanukkah celebration the Lithuanian Jewish Community held at the Future Live hall in Vilnius. The candles were lit and songs were performed in Hebrew and Yiddish. Children spun the dreidl and took part in quizzes and competitions. Traditional doughnuts were eaten and Hanukkah gelt was passed out. Children also received dreidls to take home.

Birthday Party Invitation

You are invited to come celebrate the 115th anniversary of the opening of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 2:00 P.M. on December 16 at the synagogue, located at Pylimo street no. 39. The celebration is to include a concert by the Vilnius Chamber Orchestra conducted by Donatas Katkus, birthday greetings and a buffet.

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Thirtieth Birthday Hanukkah Celebration

Our 30th birthday Hanukkah celebration was just as fun as it was 30 years ago, and almost the same number of people attended, around 400. Although times have changed, there’s a new generation and we have lost many of those who attended in 1988, we remember them, say a good word about them and take joy in the present, in the fact that Community members of all ages came to celebrate, including children and young families from the regional communities.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky welcomed celebrants. Social programs department director Žana Skudovičienė spoke about the first post-war communal Hanukkah celebration on December 4, 1988, held at the Dainava restaurant in central Vilnius. Then as now, Yiddish was spoken and sung, and the Fayerlakh ensemble performed, while 30 years ago the event was organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association.

This year we celebrated at the Radisson Blu Lietuva hotel in Vilnius. The Israeli klezmer band Gefilte Drive and saxophonist Juozas Kuraitis performed and delighted the audience with their concerts.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The Polifonija music auditorium hosted a concert December 3 held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community.

Most of our current members responded 30 years ago to an invitation published in the newspaper Šiaulių naujienos to attend a meeting of the Sąjūdis initiative group [Lithuanian independence movement] at the Planning Institute. About 100 Jewish residents of Šiauliai attended and the Šiauliai Jewish community was reconstituted, including the Jews of the region and formally called the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community, the successor organization to the formerly large Šiauliai City Jewish Community which ceased functioning in 1941.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community chairman Naumas Gleizeris began the evening by welcoming and greeting the audience on Hanukkah and the 30th birthday of the organization. He thanked all guests for spending the evening with Community members.

Šiauliai Regional and Panevėžys Jewish Communities Celebrate Hanukkah Together

Šiauliai Regional and Panevėžys Jewish Communities Celebrate Hanukkah Together

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community and the Panevėžys Jewish Community gathered December 8 to celebrate Hanukkah together. Chairmen Naum Gleizer and Gennady Kofman welcomed their communities to the holiday celebration and wished everyone happiness, health and familial warmth. Frida Šteinienė read the prayer, lit the candles and retold the history of the holiday.

The holiday table featured traditional dishes such as latkes, doughnuts, gefilte fish, chopped hearing and chicken liver.

Children received the traditional gift of chocolates wrapped in gold foil in the shape of coins, Hanukkah geld. Different members performed songs and delivered musical greetings and there was much dancing.

Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium Provides Best Education and Healthy Atmosphere

Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium Provides Best Education and Healthy Atmosphere

excerpted from an article by Modesta Gaučaitė, LRT.lt

As a teachers’ strike expands across Lithuania with the recent removal of the minister of education, grabbing the headlines, the magazine Reitingai [Ratings] has published their ratings of Lithuanian schools and universities. The gymnasia were categorized according to which subject they specialized in and in which subjects their students did best. The magazine also rated schools for what they called greatest added value and grouped cities and towns according to student achievement.

The authors explained “added value” was being assessed for the first time, meaning that not only does a given school demonstrate high academic achievement, but also is able to provide for its students a good atmosphere, good interpersonal relations and the feeling of success in studies to the individual student.

“As the study shows, there are only 21 such schools out of 1,200. The majority of the schools in the country are able either to achieve good academic results or provide an exceptionally good atmosphere while the students’ achievements are tragic. Only these gymnasia were able to combine both things:

“1. The Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium;
“2. The Gabija Gymnasium in Vilnius;
“3. … [for a total of eight schools listed]”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is so proud of the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium! We know the tremendous achievements there are due to the diligent and sensitive leadership of Miša Jakobas and all the teachers who are so devoted and loving to the students. Great work!

Full text in Lithuanian available here.

Menorah Lighting Ceremony in Central Vilnius

A giant menorah has again appeared in the center of Vilnius in celebration of Hanukkah. City mayor Remigijus Šimašius and the Jewish community together ushered in the eight-day Jewish holiday on December 3. The menorah has appeared in central Vilnius for 25 years in a row now.

The mayor said: “The start of Hanukkah this year has coincided symbolically with the beginning of the magical Christmas of Vilnius, we are lighting the city’s main Christmas tree and the menorah at almost the same time. This holiday of sharing and light makes Vilnius brighter and cozier, and invites the communities of the world to come visit the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Hanukkah inspires us to never be afraid of fighting for what’s right and for the light, and to never give up. I greet the Jewish community on this the greatest of holidays and say thank-you that you are with us. Happy Hanukkah!” For four years now the mayor has been invited to light the first Hanukkah light at the giant menorah on Vincas Kudirka Square in Vilnius.

Panevėžys Celebrates Hanukkah

Panevėžys Celebrates Hanukkah

Sunday evening the Panevėžys Jewish Community celebrated the first day of Hanukkah. Members of the Community, guests and representatives of the city municipality gathered on Freedom Square where the celebration began with Jewish song and dance.

Rabbi Sholom Bar Krinsky and his family arrived to celebrate Hanukkah with the Panevėžys Jewish Community. This is a family holiday and it was delightful to see so many people in such a festive spirit on the square that cold winter evening. It truly was a wonderful mood and it was created by Rabbi Krinsky.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told a correspondent from the newspaper Sekundė about the holiday and its significance for the Jewish people, adding this holiday is popular around the world wherever Jews live. Others celebrate it as well, people who are tolerant and respect Jewish tradition, he noted.

Happy Hanukkah Celebration at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

Happy Hanukkah Celebration at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinksy welcomed everyone at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius and began the celebration in song.

“Hanukkah is the festival of light and freedom. Light means going from darkness into light, light also means we must understand and see the soul in every person. When Jews are united, this is the true light. If we are praised, that does not mean the light. I want to invite all Jews living in Lithuania to celebrate together. We should celebrate our wonderful holy days together. We are one people, and if want not just to talk but to spread light, we ourselves must be the light, we must be united,” Rabbi Krinsky said.

“It’s great so many children are attending the celebration. They are celebrating happily on the second floor of the synagogue, you can hear happy voices from up there. Today a klezmer group will perform,” Rabbi Krinsky said, noting men and women dance separately during Hanukkah. “Hanukkah reminds us of the Jews’ struggle for our traditions, against efforts to assimilate them. Lithuanian Jews maintain Orthodox traditions with their families.”

Hanukkah Greetings from LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

Hanukkah Greetings from LJC Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky

Heart-felt greetings to the Jews of Lithuania on Hanukkah, the hope-filled holiday of lights. I wish you all good health, happiness and concord and warmth at home. For our community, I wish our plans for broad activities are fulfilled, plans which are supported by Lithuanian state institutions and municipalities, and which are therefore an important and ambitious contribution by the Jewish community demonstrating that we are here and we are telling the truth and more about the life, history, culture and activities of the Jewish community. Thank you for your good work, for your support and for your warm smiles. We, together, should solve all those complex questions which come up in our work.

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.