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.
The rare books department of the Kaunas Public Library hosted the launch of the book “Vilkijos getas. 1941 metai” by Aleksandras Vitkus and Chaim Bargman. Vilkija deputy alderman Algimantas Smolenskas led the event.
Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas spoke about Lithuanian Jewish community activities before 1940 and the active participation of Jews in the country’s cultural, economic and social life.
Participants discussed current commemoration policies, Lithuanian and Jewish relations, what goes into determining Nazi collaboration, education and other topics.
The Jewish community formed in the village of Vilkija, just 30 kilometers from Kaunas, in the late 18th century. According to the censuses, there were 652 Jews in Vilkija in 1766, 789 in 1847 and 1,431 out of a total population of 2,012 in 1897.
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.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Ilan and Dubi Clubs invite children to a fun gathering at 1:00 P.M. on October 13 called “From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot.” We’ll “dwell” in the Sukkot booth and have traditional Jewish snacks and treats. Lego engineering teachers will be on hand for building and playing. Come to the Ilan Club at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Registration is required, so call 8 601 46656 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nerijus Brazauskas, PhD, has written a history of the destruction of the old Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai up to 2016. The newspaper Šiaulių kraštas has published the study in Lithuanian on their website. He attempts to determine whether the former cemetery, which is state-protected heritage site, should be protected by the Šiauliai Jewish Community or whether it is a matter for the local municipal administration. He details the partial destruction of the cemetery, along with the complete destruction of the Lutheran cemetery, in the 1964-1965 period by the Soviet authorities and calls it an attempt to erase Jews from public memory. He concludes it should be restored and maintained as a sacred site of memory and says both institutional and civic efforts could be harnessed to that purpose.
Full paper in Lithuanian here.
Note: On October 3 Irena Gečienė passed away. The Lithuanian Jewish Community expresses its condolences to her daughter Jurgita and brother Eduardas.
Before the tragic losses of World War II, Joniškis in northern Lithuania was a very Jewish town known as the shtetl of Yanishok with a vibrant Jewish community. Nothing was left after the Holocaust which only a few Jews survived here, as was the case throughout Lithuania. Now only the two restored synagogues and the only living Jew recall that Yanishok.
They Donned White Armbands and Went to Shoot Jews
Irena Gečienė remembers November 27, 1944, when the war hadn’t ended yet, in the town of Žagarė.
For years now the Kaunas Jewish Community has been giving thanks to our active members who take part in activities and help make them possible.
In earlier years this has mainly taken the form of a dinner party with live music, but this year we decided to take the volunteers on a tour in and around Kaunas.
Members learned about the town of Kačerginė, its history and cultural legacy, listening to the enthusiastic narrative of Lina Sinkevičienė while taking in the rural beauty of the place. Members were received warmly at the headquarters of the Kačerginė aldermanship. The beautiful landscape conceals a bloody history and Kaunas Jewish Community members paid their respects to the Holocaust victims in Šakiai, Lukšiai, Zapyškis and surrounding areas.
Early in the morning on September 14 we went to the Pakruojis synagogue, where we were met by a cultural worker who received us warmly and spoke about the wooden synagogue built by the local Jewish community in 1801. Its function changed and it became a primary school as well as a house of prayer. After the Holocaust the synagogue was nationalized. During the Soviet period it was a theater, then an athletics gymnasium. The unique building fell into disrepair and ruin. In 2017 the synagogue was restored with its authentic interior, according to period photographs, which show playful drawings on the ceiling. Currently the synagogue serves as a space for cultural and other events. The second floor–the women’s gallery–houses an exhibit on the Jewish past, along with examples of the original walls.
Pakruojis was just the first part of the tour and we travelled on to the land of wind, Liepāja [Libave] on the Latvian coast. It is also a land of amber, a port and a holiday destination. The rustling and smell of the lime trees [liepos in Lithuanian, a folk etymology–trans.] give the city its name. But we weren’t there just to look at the pretty town, we were there to visit the largest Holocaust memorial in Latvia. About 7,060 Jews including about 3,000 Jews from Liepāja were murdered in the dunes around the town of Šķēde on the Baltic Sea. In total about 19,000 people of different ethnic backgrounds were murdered here. The site recalls one of the worst breakdowns in humanity in the preceding century. The memorial occupies a territory of 4,120 m² and is arranged in a menorah shape with contours formed of natural rocks and granite slabs, with the “lights” of the menorah represented by granite steles resembling gravestones with inscriptions in Hebrew, English, Latvian and Russia from the prophet Jeremiah. Members of the Panevėžys delegation honored the dead and left a wreath there.
by archbishop Gintaras Grušas, bernardinai.lt
A shared legacy and joint work intimately united the Jews and Christians living in Lithuania over many long centuries. Then as now the Ten Commandments have united Christians and Jews, demanding we worship one God and to honor the individual human and his life, to protect the family and not to bow to unfairness.
Exactly one year ago Pope Francis preparing to visit a monument to Holocaust victims called for in the Prayer to the Angel of the Lord to work together, to celebrate our friendship and to confess together in the face of the challenges of the world: “Let us ask the Lord to provide us the gift of insight so that we may in time recognize those pernicious knots and atmosphere from which the heart of unexperienced generations atrophies, so that they would not give in to the allure of the songs of the sirens.”
On September 23 we mark the destruction of the Vilnius ghetto and of thousands of Jews who lived with our compatriots in Lithuania. Some members of the Church, due to human weakness, fear or even for the sake of personal gain, came to terms with the occupational regimes and even served their slave masters. A significant number of Christians, however, guided by Christian love, saved the persecuted Jews. Today we mark their graves with the signs and symbols of Righteous Gentiles. We believe that the prevailing climate of friendship and dialogue today will help the Christian and Jewish communities to better understand one another and to work more closely together in areas important to both communities such as the defense of human rights and human life, family values, social justice and the fortification of peace in the world, so that God’s love would be seen and seen more explicitly by humanity. This is a common foundation and a common way forward.
Full text in Lithuanian here.
by Jovita Gaižauskaitė, LRT TV
Residents of the town of Darbėnai in the Kretinga region are deciding how to commemorate the former Jewish population of about 550. The proposals so far have stirred up division in the town: no one wants to showcase that Jews were murdered there.
About 550 Jews lived in Darbėnai before World War II. Now the marked mass murder sites witness to their fate.
There is a plaque commemorating the Zionist Dovid Volfson, considered the inventor of the Israeli flag and the man who gave the modern shekel its name, on one of the houses in the Lithuanian town. Local residents keep coming up with more ideas to commemorate other Jews who lived there.
by Gintaras Šiuparys
The city of Telšiai has been putting its Old Town in order and has begun restoration of the former yeshiva there.
The remains of the building standing on Iždinės street doesn’t bring to mind the former glory of the world-famous yeshiva. Rabbis from the US, Great Britain, South Africa, Hungary Uruguay and other countries came to learner here. After a fire early in the 20th century, the rebuilt and expanded was huge. At one time up to 500 rabbis and other students studied here.
One of the most famous Jewish religious schools, it operated until the occupation of Lithuania in 1940. Actually it was recreated and still operates across the Atlantic: since November of 1941 the Telshe yeshiva has been operating in Cleveland, Ohio. It follows the same program of study as the former yeshiva in Lithuania.
Full story in Lithuanian here.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky is visiting Chicago in the United States. She, Lithuanian minister of culture Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas and Tomas Venclova are to participate in a University of Illinois at Chicago seminar “Narratives of Pluralism in Lithuania’s Past and Present” on Tuesday. For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/events/368273490525689/
The Vincas Kudirka Public Library in Kaunas invites the public to a series of tours in a project called Jewish Heritage in Kaunas. The tours will be conducted on September 6, 8 and 10 and will cover modern architecture, the Old Town, Slobodka and major achievements by Litvaks. Registration required. Call (37) 22 23 57 or send an email to email@example.com
The guided tour on September 10 begins at 6:00 P.M. and will be led by local guide Asia Gutermanaitė.
Thursday evening a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika was erected on the outer wall of the Vrublevskiai Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius. A number of police observed the scene.
This is a wanton act by a mob. It demonstrates the attitude of the organizers of this event, of those who hung the plaque, towards the law and obeying the law.
We saw the organizers took the path of force, pushing their belief as the only correct one. We saw that before in Lithuania in 1941.
Despite the LJC’s critical view of Noreika’s actions during the Nazi occupation, it never occured to us over those 22 years the plaque stood there to come and simply take it down. We respect the laws of Lithuania.
I have no doubt that the events of Thursday evening have done harm to the nation’s reputation. High-lvel delegations from the United States are due to arrive in September alone and we will mark the day of remembrance of the genocide of the Jews of Lithuania on September 23. And will this plaque look on from its central perch as we mark the Year of the Vilna Gaon and of Litvak History declared in 2020?
It is crucial that the leaders of the Lithuanian state express their views and a principled position, and that the appropriate Lithuanian institutions take all necessary measures.
The only consolation seems to be that today, Thursday evening, as I watched this so-called action, I saw only a small group of people who truly do not represent the whole of Lithuania. There were no young people, no intellectuals on hand, whose voices have been lacking in this.
What we are demanding is very simple: 1) stop denying the Holocaust, 2) stop portraying Holocaust perpetrators as heroes, 3) honor the victims of the Holocaust and 4) follow the IHRA definition of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism adopted by Lithuania last year. If the IHRA definition isn’t followed it’s meaningless for Lithuania to remain a signatory to it or a member of IHRA.
I would like to remind the public again that my relatives were imprisoned in the Šiauliai ghetto, from which they never returned. I would like to quote the famous writer Sholem Aleichem, in whose honor a school is named in Vilnius. One of his works begins with the words: “How good it is that I am an orphan…” I would also like to say: “How good it is that I am an orphan and that my parents aren’t around to see the man who condemned their entire family to death in the Šiauliai ghetto celebrated and lionized.”
You’re invited to take part in the March of the Living procession in Ponar at 1:00 P.M. on September 23, 2019. The march begins at the Ponar railroad station and concludes at the main memorial in the Ponar Memorial Complex, where a commemoration ceremony to remember the genocide of the Jews of Lithuania will begin at 1:15.
A bus will offer transport from the LJC to the memorial complex leaving at 12 noon. Registration begins September 16. To register, call 8 5 261 3003.
The Aušra Museum in Šiauliai will mark European Day of Jewish Culture on September 8, 2019. At 1:00 P.M. a game will be held on the grounds of the Frankel factory. At 2:00 P.M. the museum will open the exhibit “The Frankel Factory: A Symbol of Šiauliai Industry and Modernization” and screen a series of documentary films about Jews of Šiauliai called “Dingusio pasaulio pėdsakais. Žydiškieji Šiauliai” [Traces of a Lost World: Jewish Šiauliai] directed by Jūratė Sobutienė at the Chaim Frankel villa.
The game will requires teams of from 2 to 4 people with telephones or tablets with internet access. To register your team call 8 41 524 392 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Augustė Labenskytė, acting director,
History Department, Aušra Museum
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.
by Evaldas Labanauskas 15min.lt
When you put “Sergejus Kanovičius” into a search engine, it comes back with “poet, essayist, translation…” There are also references to Grigoriy Kanovich, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday. The latter is a Writer with a capital W, and Sergejus also talks about his Father (also capitalized).
When I read one of your father’s works, “Žydų parkas” [Jewish Park], I got the impression that it was a monument to Litvak culture and civilization, spanning 700 years but now dead. What is the current situation of Litvaks in Lithuania? Do you think this culture/civilization is being reborn?
There are people who express the opinion there are certain parallels between the project which I lead and my father’s work. If one is a material monument to the culture of the Jews of Lithuania, then my father’s work is a literary monument to an extinct ethnos. I think the Jewish community in Lithuania is experiencing a period of transformation. The word “reborn” might be more appropriate if we were talking about what happened 30 years ago, when there were 20,000 Jews in Lithuania, but today there are barely 3,000 Jews in Lithuania. Any sort of activity is encouraging, but claiming there is some kind of very bright future–I, as a revolutionary pessimist, would refrain from that sort of evaluation. Honestly, I am very glad about what is happening, and as much as I’m able I contribute to the activities of the Jewish community, but… while there is a lot of action, there is the question: is there a future?
Members of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community spent the day of August 20 touring the Akmenė visiting sites with once populous Jewish communities. The tour began in Šiauliai and continued on in Papilė, where wood carver, traveller, naturalist and geographer Steponas Adomavičius met the group and gave them a guided tour of Jewish residences from before the Holocaust. Members visited the old Jewish cemetery in Papilė, a cemetery which features a commemorative stone and which Adomavičius himself maintains without remuneration. He cuts the grass and hedges and plants small trees. A grateful Jewish man living in America installed a bench bearing Steponas Adomavičius’s name in the cemetery in order to thank him.
The group was unable to reach the Jewish mass murder site in the woods of the Papilė aldermanship because there was no path through the forest at all. Adomavičius spoke about new projects he’s doing in connection with preserving the memory of the Jewish people.
From Papilė the group went on towards Akmenė, where the teacher Rita Ringienė met them and imparted much important information. Some Jewish structures survive in Akmenė. The teacher and pupils from her higher classes have done a study called “Inscriptions on Headstones in the Akmenė Jewish Cemetery and Their Translation to Lithuanian.” The group visited the old Jewish cemetery in Akmenė.