Learning, History, Culture

Linas Adomaitis: Kaunas is Full of Culture, Full of Intelligence


Virginija Vitkienė next to Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas

Culture is a wide open door. It is a journey to one’s self. It is also a person’s relationship with another person. This week the team of “Kaunas, Cultural Capital of Europe 2022” invited residents of the city and region of Kaunas, friends and partners to get to know the city better during an open-door day. “This is not the first but the fourth year of the team. For two years we prepared, and for the other two we acted,” Kaunas 2022 director Virginija Vitkienė said. Several weeks ago Kaunas residents visited Brussels where they met with representatives of the European Commission supervising and assessing the activities of the European cultural capitals. Vitkienė said this was the first check-up on their activities and there will be three in total in the run-up to 2022.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

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.

Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia

Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia

On December 4 the Lithuanian Jewish Community hosted a meeting/lecture/discussion and exhibition opening called “Mission: Lithuanian Jewish Citizens. Siberia” dedicated to discussing the deportations from Lithuania in June of 1941. Usually the official accounts of the deportations seem to suppress the multi-ethnic composition of deportees and the diversity of their positions and beliefs. The only thing uniting all the deportees was the fact they were considered undesirable by the new occupational regime.

The event was organized by the Vilnius Jewish Public Library and the Jakovas Bunka welfare and support fund. The photographic exhibition contained pictures of graves in Siberia, including those of Jewish, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian deportees. The photos came from the collections of the Lithuanian National Library, the Center for the Research of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, the photographer Gintautas Alekna and Dalia Kazlauskienė, the widow of photographer Juozas Kazlauskas. The project received support from the Department of Ethnic Minorities under the Lithuanian Government.

LJC board member Daumantas Levas Todesas, Vilnius Jewish Public Library director Žilvinas Beliauskas and Department of Ethnic Minorities director Dr. Vida Montvydaitė spoke to the topic at the event.

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

New Book about Jewish Street in Vilnius

A new book about Jewish Street in Vilnius by Aelita Ambrulevičiūtė, Gintė Konstantinavičiūtė and Giedrė Polkaitė-Petkevičienė was launched at the Paviljonas Book Weekend in Vilnius. “Prabilę namai. Žydų gatvės kasdienybė XIX-XX a. (iki 1940 m.)” [with the English subtitle/translation “Houses That Talk: Everyday Life in Žydų Street in the 19th-20th Century (up to 1940)” provided below the Lithuanian title on the cover] was published by the Aukso žuvys publishing house and comprises a kind of guide to the street, detailing the Great Synagogue, the Strashun Library, the house of the Vilna Gaon and the market and restaurants which operated there.

Lithuanian historian Aureljus Gieda presented the book and said it contains 166 illustrations of life in 14 buildings, 5 of which survive. He said the book has an index of names and extensive footnotes.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Film: The Called — Judaism in Lithuania

Film: The Called — Judaism in Lithuania

“Pašauktieji” [“The Called”] is a set of six documentaries about religious faiths in Lithuania by the Vilniaus Medija group. The premiere of the third documentary film about Judaism in Lithuania “Juaidzmas Lietuvoje” [“Judaism in Lithuania”] coincides with the 115th anniversary of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius.

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.

Evening of Poetry and Painting

The Raimondas Savickas Picture Gallery invites you to an evening of poetry and painting at the gallery, located at Basanavičiaus street no. 11 in Vilnius, at 6:00 P.M. on Friday, December 7. Rūta Eidukaitytė will sing and play guitar as well.

Condolences

The Lithuanian Jewish Community notes with deep sadness the death of Anatolij Krivulin after a protracted battle with illness on Friday, November 30, 2018. He was born August 4, 1959, and is survived by his wife Maria, daughter Aleksandra and son Konstantin. Krivulin was the manager of the Pitarija Fire Place Israeli restaurant located near the Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės, a neighborhood of Vilnius. Our deepest condolences to his many friends and family members. He was buried at the Jewish cemetery on Sudervės road in Vilnius on Saturday evening.

First Meeting of Parenting Skills Program at LJC Social Programs Department

First Meeting of Parenting Skills Program at LJC Social Programs Department

We are happy to announce that on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah the first meeting of parents took place in the Parenting Skills Program being conducted by the Social Programs Department of the Lithuanian Jewish Community under the program to support Jewish families. Many of the parents of teenagers following the meeting expressed relief that there is advice available for solving their problems in child-rearing.

The group for practicing parenting skills is based on the ideas of the authors of individual psychology. The founder of individual psychology was Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Parents in the LJC program meet and work in a group, share their experience, check that against theoretical advice for raising children and look for common answers to their problems.

Due to the large interest expressed by parents in the program, next year the LJC Social Programs Department is planning to offer a parenting skills program for parents raising children of different ages.

Happy Hanukkah from the Social Programs Department!

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.

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Looking Back at 30 Years of Hanukkah Celebrations

Maša Grodnikienė recalled for us the first Hanukkah celebration by the constituent Lithuanian Jewish Community back in 1988.

Lithuanian Jews who survived World War II celebrated Hanukkah quietly at home. In 1987 the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association formed and Emanuelis Zingeris became chairman.

On December 4, 1988, Lithuanian Jews came together and collected funds for a shared Hanukkah celebration. This was a memorable holiday in Vilnius, a big event with a beautiful group of people at the Dainava restaurant. Yiddish was spoken and sung. The cultural events group of the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Association drafted the program and organized the event. The Fayerlakh Jewish ensemble with directors Griša Kravecas and Ana Kravec performed, as did the ethnographic ensemble conducted by Amos Traub and the Kaunas Jewish stage ensemble. Chaimas Gurvičius directed the concert. About 370 people attended. Chairman of the board of the Lithuanian Cultural Fund Česlovas Kudaba greeted the audience, and deputy chairman Tarvydas also took part. This was a grand Hanukkah evening celebration with a concert and speeches.

Remember what that time was like in Lithuania–the independence movement Sąjūdis had formed and Lithuanian Jews from different cities and towns came together and were part of Sąjūdis. Everyone was exhilarated, excited, happy that finally with the national rebirth of Lithuania the Jews of Lithuania could celebrate together that great holiday of the triumph of the spirit, Hanukkah. The majority sought to attend, there weren’t enough places and it was impossible to get in. At that time there were 17,000 Jews living in Lithuania.

So Close to the Holocaust…but So Innocent

So Close to the Holocaust…but So Innocent

by Grant Arthur Gochin

On November 24, 2018 the German Government announced they will charge a 95 year old man with 36,000 counts of accessory to murder during his “service” as a guard at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Guards at concentration camps participated in murders of Jews, that was part of their job.

German courts convicted Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp, for complicity in mass murder. This month, November 2018, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, Johann Rehbogen, has been placed on trial in Muenster, Germany, accused of complicity in mass murder at the Stutthof concentration camp. Germany is working to punish the last remaining Holocaust perpetrators for their crimes against humanity.

The genocide of Lithuanian Jews had already been largely completed by January 1942, when Germany formally followed the same path as Lithuania at the Wannsee Conference; to now also commit genocide of Jews throughout Europe. Both Lithuania and Germany were intent on murdering Jews.

Full editorial here.

Eleventh Makabi Badminton Grand Prix

Eleventh Makabi Badminton Grand Prix

The eleventh Makabi Grand Prix badminton championship was held at the Delfi Sport Center in Vilnius November 25 with competitors from 12 badminton clubs in Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys and Prienai for a total of 75 participants.

The athletes competed adult and youth categories. Adults had five subcategories: men’s and women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles, while the young people competed in four: boys’ and girls’ singles and doubles.

Vitalija Movšovič, from the Lithuanian youth team and the Makabi team, made the best showing, becoming champion in adult women’s singles, and taking second place in women’s doubles. She and her father Igor Movšovič took third place in mixed doubles.

All participants received diplomas, there were three categories of medals and absolute winners in their category received trophies.

Makabi Shooting Competition Dedicated to Lithuanian Volunteer Soldier Volf Kagan

Makabi Shooting Competition Dedicated to Lithuanian Volunteer Soldier Volf Kagan

The target-shooting competition the Makabi athletics club held in Vilnius this week was dedicated to Lithuanian volunteer soldier and two-time recipient of the Order of the Cross of Vytis Volf Kagan.

Men, women, young people and old hands turned out for the Makabi competition at the GSKA firing range in Vilnius November 25. The assignment was a difficult one: each competitor got 15 pistol shots (five practice shots and ten which counted) to hit a paper target 20 meters away. Shooters from Šiauliai, Trakai and Šalčininkai competed for the first time. Several married couples and father-and-son teams made it a family affair.

The Fish family dominated in three categories. The brothers Fish, Adomas and Nojus, took first and second place in the youth competition with 50 and 43 points, respectively. Nikolas Vasjanovas took third. In the women’s group their mother Kristina scored highest at 81 points, overtaking Valentina Finkelšteinienė at 78 and Greta Sinkevičiūtė with 57 points. The best marksmen in the men’s group was Julius Janavičius (97 points) followed by Julijus Fišas aka Fish (94 points) with Daniel Lupšic in third place with 92 points. In the veterans’ group Julijus Fišas remained undefeated with 94, Arkadijus Goldinas took second with 92 points and Ivanas Miškinis followed closely with 91 points.

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

Opening of Exhibit “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to come to a meeting/lecture/discussion/exhibit opening at 6:00 P.M. on December 4. The LJC is located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. The “Mission: Lithuanian Citizens. Siberia” event is dedicated to discussing the deportations from Lithuania in June of 1941. The official telling of the story of the deportations often seems to exclude the multi-ethnic nature of the deportees and their diversity of views and beliefs. They were only united in the fact the occupational regime which swept into power didn’t approve of them.

Dr. Violeta Davoliūtė will give a presentation based on her research. LJC board member Daumantas Todesas, Vilnius Jewish Public Library director Žilvinas Beliauskas and Lithuanian Department of Ethnic Minorities director Dr. Vida Montvydaitė will also speak on the topic of the event.

An exhibit of photographs will officially open at the same time.

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.

Conference “Remarkable Women of the Panevėžys Region”

Conference “Remarkable Women of the Panevėžys Region”

Acting Panevėžys mayor Petras Luomanas welcomed speakers and audience to the conference, saying: “It is very significant that we are now for the second time holding a conference in which we remember the remarkable women of our region whose contributions to culture, education, health-care, industry and other areas of endeavor in Panevėžys and throughout Lithuania have been gigantic.” Library director Loreta Breskienė spoke her library’s activities and “Lithuania’s Greats,” an exhibit of hand-sewn flags there. The author of the exhibit is Sofija Kanaverskytė, an artist and former resident of Panevėžys who did scenography at the J. Miltinis Drama Theater there.

The main topic of Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman’s presentation was historical information about the activities of notable Jewish women of Panevėžys till 1940. He said many of the Jewish women are little-known, including sculptress Marija Dilon, the businesswomen Ana Kisina and Lėja Chazanienė, social activist and doctor Ana Merienė, Panevėžys Jewish Hospital doctors Mirijam Todesaitė-Blatienė and Zinaida Kukliansky and the dentists Vera Dembienė, Golda Izraelienė, Liuba Gurevičienė and Chasjė Feigelienė. Much more widely known was the Jewish women’s Esperanto organization in the city of Panevėžys, whose members included Ana Grinberg, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Grinberg.

Kofman said the topic of notable Jewish women has been neglected in Panevėžys as it has throughout Lithuania. Many write about men and their contributions, while women remain on the margins. He said this conference was a very good idea and should serve to foster a more tolerant attitude towards life and history.

Conference participants included deputy director of the Panevėžys city administration for educational affairs Sandra Jakštienė, Panevėžys Regional History Museum director Arūnas Astramskis, principals and teachers of the gymnasia in Panevėžys and other professionals working in education in the city. Nine presentations were given, including by Panevėžys College library director Vilija Raubienė, Panevėžys District G. Petkevičaitė-Bitė Public Library librarian Albina Saladūnaitė, regional history expert from Šiauliai Irena Dambrauskaitė-Rudzinskienė, director of the Kalba Knyga Kūryba Communications Center Lionė Lapinskienė, museum specialist Donatas Juzėnas, Paįstrys resident and local history expert Stasė Mikeliūnienė and puppeteer Antanas Markuckis.

A Shadow over Europe: CNN Poll Reveals Depth of Anti-Semitism in Europe

A Shadow over Europe: CNN Poll Reveals Depth of Anti-Semitism in Europe

European Jewish Congress

Dear Presidents,
Dear Friends,

We would like to draw your attention on the findings of the CNN Poll on Antisemitism in Europe.

Please find below some of the most appalling results:

–According to the poll, more than a quarter of Europeans surveyed believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world.

–One in five said they have too much influence in the media and the same number believe they have too much influence in politics.

–A third of Europeans polled said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust.

Irene Pletka Donates Million Dollars for YIVO Bund Collection Digitization

Irene Pletka Donates Million Dollars for YIVO Bund Collection Digitization

YIVO in New York has had a separate collection for the Jewish Bund since 1992. Recently they announced a project to digitize that collection to make it accessible to scholars and the public around the world. Vice-chairwoman of the YIVO board Irene Pletka initiated the project and announced she is donating one million dollars to the effort.

More than 150 people came to the YIVO gallery in New York to honor Pletka for her exemplary donation, inspirational generosity and extraordinary sense of duty in preserving Jewish history and culture. After the Bund project receives donations totaling from 2.5 to 3 million dollars the first phase of digitization will begin.

The Bund Jewish political party began in Vilnius in 1897 with a socialist democrat platform and pledge to fight pogroms. YIVO describes the part as a Jewish political party adhering to a social democrat ideology in the context of Jewish culture and seeking Jewish political autonomy. Political science professor Jack Jacobs at Cambridge University in New York says the Bund was the first Jewish political party in Eastern Europe. Bund ideology was aimed at the Jewish working class.