Greetings

Moments in the Life of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

Moments in the Life of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

A “creative afternoon” was held February 22 where Community member Garold Vaisbrod and Ukrainian Association member Alla Baniulienė read their poetry.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, our senior women were greeted by men in a comfortable and warm event.

Community members Daniel Šer and Josifas Buršteinas participated in the 25th annual Lithuanian Parliament Chess Tournament on March 9. For the second year in a row Daniel came back from the tournament bearing medals. He took third place overall and second place in the group of people under the age of 10.

Celebrating Lithuanian Freedom

Celebrating Lithuanian Freedom

On March 11, 1990, many Lithuanian Jews became witnesses to an important and unforgettable event when the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic almost unanimously (of 130 delegates 6 abstained, none voted against) the act for the restoration of Lithuanian independence. The Republic of Lithuania submerged by foreign powers in 1940 had resurfaced. This allowed for the restoration and work of the Lithuanian Jewish Community as well. Happy Independence Day!

Ąžuoliukas Anniversary Concert at LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Ąžuoliukas Music School will hold a chamber ensemble concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the school and the 60th anniversary of the Ąžuoliukas Boys and Young Men’s Choir.

The concert begins at 5:00 P.M. on Thursday, February 28, at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius.

Director Gintaras Varnas Tolerant Person of Year for 2018

Director Gintaras Varnas Tolerant Person of Year for 2018

kaunas.kasvyksta.lt

The Sugihara Foundation/Diplomats for Life awarded director Gintaras Varnas Tolerant Person of the Year for 2018 and presented their Leonidas Donskis prize to publicist Pranas Morkus at the Catholic Theology Cathedral of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas February 24, 2019.

Varnas was selected for the prize for his search for alternative language for theater and plays, especially in his latest works, Nathan the Wise and Ghetto, performed at the Kaunas State Drama Theater.

Varnas said his first reaction was complete surprise. “When I’m working I never think about these kind of things,” he said, adding he experiences a conflict in contemporary theater which often becomes nothing more than a way to make an audience laugh. “I am glad real theater is still needed, theater which discusses uncomfortable things, which speaks the truth,” Varnas said as he accepted the prize.

Litvak Literature: Grigoriy Kanovich at 90

Litvak Literature: Grigoriy Kanovich at 90

by Sergejus Kanovičius

My father wrote “Shtetl Love Song” at the age of 84. And he promised himself he wouldn’t write more: “it’s better I not write, and I don’t want to write more poorly.” Over the last six years his books have been translated to and published in English, German and Macedonian. They are being translated now as well, and soon more will appear. No matter how my brother and I have tried to provoke Father to write more, he firmly keeps to the promise he made to himself. Not a month goes by that he doesn’t get a letter from publishers or journalists asking for interviews, to attend a book launch or to travel to deliver a lecture. Very rarely he agrees to answer questions in writing: “I have said everything already, I have written everything, let them read my books.”

It’s not the first time when his name is heard at the bustle of the book fair, when his selected writings are presented, Rūta Oginskaitė’s memoir biography “Gib a Kuk” [Take a Look] and now “Linksmos Akys” [Happy Eyes]. But the author is not at the book fair. And he won’t be at the next one, although there might be a different book. If not at the Lithuanian book fair, then maybe the German, Polish or English. As I recall Father never liked answering questions about his work. It seemed incomprehensible to him how an author could also interpret that which he has created, and he didn’t understand either how one could explain what one has experienced and given birth to. Just take me and read. Father doesn’t like questions about his work. Unless those questions are broader, about a worldview. But this is in the books, too.

Rudashevski Ghetto Diary Wins Main Prizes at Vilnius Book Fair

Rudashevski Ghetto Diary Wins Main Prizes at Vilnius Book Fair

The Vilnius ghetto diary of Yitzhak Rudashevski, translated and published by the Lithuanian Jewish Community, has won the Book of the Year distinction at the annual Vilnius Book Fair currently being held in the Lithuanian capital.

Deputy minister for culture Gintautė Žemaitytė congratulated the designers and publishers, presenting them prizes and diplomas. The book was recognized as the best book in terms of design, taste and art for 2018. The Lithuanian Cultural Ministry has presented the prize annually 26 years now. Over 130 publications competed for the title this time.

Book designer Sigutė Chlebinskaitė won the main prize for sensitive aesthetics and holistic concept. Congratulations to Sigutė for her talent and for dedicating it to the boy from the Vilnius ghetto.

The LJC won in the category of publisher. We are so glad we were able to present this monument to the children of the Holocaust to the Lithuanian reader.

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.

Lithuanian High School Students Win Holocaust Contest

Anastasija Narbutaitė and Olga Podvorskytė won a contest put on by the Russian Academic and Educational Holocaust Center called “Memory of the Holocaust: The Road to Tolerance” and Narbutaitė received the award presented them from Russian journalist Alla Gerber at a ceremony the Russian Jewish Congress held in Moscow January 28. The two Lithuanian high school students at the Santara Gymnasium in Vilnius surveyed the Lithuanian press from 2016 to 2018 for articles and accompanying internet comments about the Holocaust. Tatjana Bruskina, who teaches high school seniors English at the gymnasium, accompanied Narbutaitė and both took part in a We Remember event at the Lithuanian embassy in Moscow.

Tu BiSh’vat is Arbor Day

Tu BiSh’vat is Arbor Day

Tu BiShv’at is the 15th day of the Jewish month of Sh’vat. It usually falls in the month of January or February on the Julian calendar. It is “the New Year of trees” or the “birthday” of fruit-bearing trees, a Jewish Arbor Day which coincides with modern notions of ecological conservation. According to the Midrash, G_d lead Adam around the Garden of Eden and told him to look at His works and to see how wonderful they were. G_d told the first man He had created all of it for him. The Most High also warned Adam not to defile the Garden, saying if he did, no one would come after him to repair the damage.

Tu BiSh’vat was an agricultural holiday in olden times, helping Jewish farmers to plan the harvest more accurately. In the late 19th century Zionists began to return to the Land of Israel and Tu BiSh’vat became a celebration of tree-planting in an effort to make the ancient land bloom again.

Happy Birthday to Geršonas Taicas

Happy Birthday to Geršonas Taicas

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wishes you, one of our most active members, a great birthday on your milestone 70th.

Many members know and love Geršonas, a man of intellect who shares his conversation and smile with everyone. Always full of unexpected questions and suggestions, and always keeping his word. Geršonas is the organizer of the LJC’s lecture series and has a deep knowledge of Jewish history. We are so pleased by all the work and projects Geršonas performs for the Community completely voluntarily.

On this milestone birthday, we wish you happiness, success and may you live to 120. That your dreams would never fade and the years would not pass by too quickly. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and good counsel, and we wish you many more interesting activities, beautiful moments with your loved ones, warmth and endless love.

Mazl tov!

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.