Jewish Cuisine

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

The Švenčionys region of Lithuania is a multicultural place where Lithuanians live alongside Poles, Russians, Belarussians, Jews and people of other ethnicities.

The Švenčionys Jewish Community was reconstituted in 2013. It is now headed by the energetic Švenčionys native Moshe Shapiro (aka Moisiejus Šapiro).

There was a large Jewish community living in the Švenčionys region in the period between the two world wars. In fact there were five synagogues operating there.

Jews there set up an herbal pharmaceuticals factory and different workshops in the center of the town of Švenčionys. Jewish effort, initiative and expertise were involved in all fields of production and business.

This Country Would Never Have Become the Jerusalem of Lithuania Had It Not Been a Safe and Tolerant Place

This Country Would Never Have Become the Jerusalem of Lithuania Had It Not Been a Safe and Tolerant Place

Just before quarantine was announced the Bagel Shop received an important visitor. The interview done several months ago remains just as important and perhaps even more so now. We spoke about the importance of ethnic food to Jews living in Lithuania and about a people’s right to have ethnic foods. We await the re-opening of the Bagel Shop Café with bated breath and hope to continue this conversation in front of an audience.

Bagel Shop Interview with Meghan Luckett, Cultural Attaché at the US embassy in Vilnius

Interview by Dovile Rūkaitė, LJC project manager.

Do you like bagels? What’s your favorite kind?

Yes, of course we love bagels. My favorite are everything bagels, we buy them at your bagel shop and in the market and eat them almost every week. We make bagel sandwiches with baked egg, spices and all kinds of stuff. One of our colleagues is a great cook, she makes us homemade bagels. Once we brought her some from Trader Joe’s and she made us excellent everything bagels. My wife is a great cook, she bakes sometimes, but we usually buy them because they are very good.

Lithuanian Web Site: Let’s Learn about Lite, the Great Synagogue and the Vilna Gaon

Lithuanian Web Site: Let’s Learn about Lite, the Great Synagogue and the Vilna Gaon

by Karolina Aleknavičė, 15min.lt

This year, 2020, has been declared the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History, and it’s a good opportunity to learn about the authentic culture which thrived for whole centuries in our neighborhood.

We spoke with Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum Jewish culture and identity exhibit coordinator Saulė Valiūnaitė, Vilnius University historian Dr. Akvilė Naudžiūnienė and Kėdainiai Multicultural Center director Audronė Pečiulytė about Lite, the Litvaks who lived here, Vilnius as the Jerusalem of the North and the Gaon, Eliyahu, who lived there.

Lithuanian Jewish History an Integral Part of Lithuanian History

Valiūnaitė told 15min.lt Lithuanians’ attitude towards Jewish history has changed over the last 15 years. “It’s inspiring that in Vilnius and other Lithuanian cities there are ever more initiatives appearing, and most importantly, a desire to commemorate the history and heritage of the Jews who lived there. Some do this by setting up commemorative markers, others by organizing events or writing books about the Jewish history of their cities and towns,” she said.

In the Spotlight: William Stern

Mr. William Stern was born in Budapest in 1935; after the Nazi occupation of Hungary in March 1944, he and his family were taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They survived the War and emigrated to New York in 1952 where Mr Stern pursued studies first at Yeshiva University and subsequently at Harvard Law School.

It was during his stint at Harvard Law School that Mr Stern discovered the many risks and temptations which face a student when he leaves his home environment and suddenly becomes enmeshed in a totally new and different culture. He was shocked at seeing some of his friends shed their tradition and previous way of life in just a matter of months. Having married a young lady resident in London, Mr Stern moved to England in 1960. Early in his career, he established in London in 1971 a kosher canteen which welcomed students of Imperial College, located opposite his offices at Albert Court. This canteen has been going strong for the past 45 years and is presently catering to 30-35 Imperial College students every day of the academic year.

When he expanded his business to Lithuania, Mr Stern discovered the presence in Kaunas of approximately 100 Israeli medical students. He felt that during the 6-year period which medical studies require, many of these students might lose not only their Israeli but also their Jewish identity. In 2010, he established the Jewish Club which grew and developed over the years into the Jewish Centre Kaunas. Its aim is to provide the Jewish students in Kaunas a home away from home and prevent the loss of Jewish identity which otherwise might occur.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community: Life under Quarantine

It’s no secret the quarantine has altered the rhythms and habits of our lives. It had been customary in the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community to celebrate all sorts of holidays and birthdays and to attend different events, educational activities and tours we organized, and simply to gather and talk at the Community building… Today that building stands quiet and empty…

Jews around the world were celebrating Passover when the quarantine began here in Lithuania. The Jews of Šiauliai were not able as we were in past years to come together and celebrate happily to the sound of Jewish melodies this beautiful spring holiday. This year each of celebrated separately at home. The Lithuanian Jewish Community provided home deliveries of matzo to all the regional Communities, so as the quarantine got under way the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community had to insure every member had the requisite matzo for the Passover seder table. Every member of the Community did receive safe delivery of boxes of matzo before the holiday began.

Despite disruption to the rhythm and conventions of daily life, we continue to provide crucial care to our seniors who were victims of the Nazis. Home-care workers continue to visit them and help them with their daily needs, insuring the safety of our elderly during these days so difficult for all of us.

Kaunas Jewish Community Distributing Sabbath Care Baskets

Kaunas Jewish Community Distributing Sabbath Care Baskets

The Kaunas Jewish Community has redirected efforts under quarantine and is using the telephone and internet to make sure members, especially the elderly, don’t feel cut off from the world.

Many Community members celebrate Sabbath together and miss face-to-face interaction at the Sabbath table. While conditions aren’t allowing that to resume yet, the Kaunas Jewish Community, in the spirit of fellowship and keeping with tradition, is offering a free Sabbath care basket to members so that everyone can celebrate the Sabbath at home. Now members can break challa bread alone but at the same time together. The care baskets contain more than just challa, though, and include other traditional Sabbath dinner dishes.

KJC chairman Gercas Žakas is pleased this initiative has received the approval of the Goodwill Foundation and the interest and support of so many KJC members. One member said: “It really does feel as if you aren’t alone, but are celebrating Sabbath together with the entire community.” Look for the Jewish communities in other cities and towns to do the same thing, Žakas predicted.

Jewish Holiday of Freedom Celebrated without Foods Recalling Slavery

Jewish Holiday of Freedom Celebrated without Foods Recalling Slavery

Judita Gliauberzonaitė, 42, chairwoman of the Vilnius Lithuanian Jerusalem Jewish community, recalls how her grandmother Cilė Žiburkienė every spring before Passover would cleanse the entire house so that, God forbid, not even a grain of flour would remain, which would mean leavened bread remained in the house, a sign recalling the enslavement of the Jews in the land of Egypt.

Jews around the world who count their history in millennia begin celebrating their Passover holiday on the 15th day in the month of Nisan (March or April), lasting for seven days in Israel and eight elsewhere in the world. Secular Jews who keep to tradition usually celebrate the first and last days of Passover, gathering as families for dinner.

Judita Gliauberzonaitė says more religious Jews attend synagogue every day of Passover.

Passover often coincides with Catholic Easter. This year it began on April 8 and continues till April 15.

We Did It, We Got Matzo to Our Seniors

We Did It, We Got Matzo to Our Seniors

Two weeks ago the Community accepted the challenge to distribute and home-deliver more matzo to more than 900 seniors living in Vilnius. Today we can truly say, mission accomplished.

It would have been mission impossible without the help of our volunteers who heeded the Community’s call for help. We had from 3 to 4 teams of Community staff and volunteers on the street daily.

The distribution of matzo took place so very smoothly because we were able to harness so many who offered to help.

A mitzvah should be done quietly and without fanfare, but the Community has a right to know who its heroes are.

Panevėžys Jewish Community Sends Passover Greetings

Panevėžys Jewish Community Sends Passover Greetings

Despite the complicated time in the world, the dates assigned by the Torah to the holidays don’t change and they are part of the history and story of the Jewish people. Passover is one of the main Jewish holy days. Over the days of Passover Jews remember their historic liberation from slavery.

During these difficult days I wish you patience, the love of those around you and endurance. Maintain hygienic requirements and adhere to the safety measures as we fight the corona virus.

Gennady Kofman, chairman
Panevėžys Jewish Community

Thank You for Helping LJC Seniors

Thank You for Helping LJC Seniors

Lithuanian Jewish Community administrative secretary Liuba Šerienė would like to send a big thank-you to Social Department director Michailas Segalas and staff members Ema Jakobienė, Ninel Skudovičiūtė, Rokas Dobrovolskis and Neringa Stankevičienė and colleagues, and to Michailas Tarasovas, Aušra, Snieguolė, Danutė Lena, Žana and Sonia for their great work helping our Social Department clients and senior citizens. Thank you so very much.

We Can’t Give Up Hope Now

We Can’t Give Up Hope Now

Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Photo: Blanka Weber

by Blanka Weber

The country’s Jewish community is watching the time of pandemic with alarm

Faina Kukliansky is currently managing her life and that of her members from her home office in Vilnius. “This is a time that demands everything from us,” the 65-year-old chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community says.

This is a time when preparations for Passover would be underway normally. The Bagel Shop next to the Community building on Pylimo street is now only open for a few hours and only accepts cards for payment. Cash is forbidden. There are strict rules here, too. Matzo will be distributed to Community members here and should be delivered in the next few days.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Prepares for Passover Despite Quarantine, Slander

Lithuanian Jewish Community Prepares for Passover Despite Quarantine, Slander

Three teams of volunteers have been busy daily delivering kosher matzo to LJC senior citizens and Social Center clients for several days now, but today the LJC received reports unnamed characters have been calling Community members telling them not to accept the matzo deliveries because the matzo bread is allegedly old. This isn’t true and it seems aimed at creating additional difficulties during an already difficult time for our seniors.

There are consequences for slander.

We would like to warn all Community members that during this health emergency there are scam artists and con men who might call your telephone spreading misinformation and seeking money from you. Please be careful and vigilant.

The LJC is not asking for any money or fees at this time from Social Center clients and seniors. The matzo boxes we are delivering bear the date of manufacture so you can check the freshness for yourself. We have made available an internet ordering scheme on this web page for those wishing to purchase matzo for home delivery with details for making prior payment exclusively by bank card.

Please note we received shipments of matzo in March and that we stored these boxes under strict quarantine. Your health and safety is our primary concern and we find it extremely regretful unnamed people are spreading disinformation about us and our activities.

Passover 5780

Passover 5780

This year we are recommending you spend Passover at home with family. We have prepared kits with everything needed for the traditional kosher seder which can be ordered by internet. Orders must be received before April 5.

The order form in Russian and Lithuanian is available here:
https://www.torah4lithuania.com/seder-to-go

Matzo Deliveries to LJC Seniors

Matzo Deliveries to LJC Seniors

Dear Community members,

The Social Programs Department of the Lithuanian Jewish Community has traditionally distributed matzo free of charge to our clients throughout Lithuania, usually coming to about 1,200 one-kilogram boxes of matzo. Our seniors are in the main risk group for corona virus infect, including about 300 are Holocaust survivors. The LJC has made deliveries of matzo to all the regional communities. These organizations are deciding on the method for distribution in their regions. We are doing all we can to insure this important symbol of Passover reach every seder table even in the most remote parts of Lithuania.

In Vilnius we have accepted the challenge of delivering a box of matzo to every Social Center client. That’s more than 900 boxes.

You might be able to help. If you’ve been in self-quarantine for 14 days with no symptoms, if you haven’t come in contact with large groups of people and haven’t recently travelled abroad, and want to help deliver matzo to seniors, fill out the volunteer form at https://forms.gle/ByKBXckyRZFhVzbCA

For more information contact Sofja by telephone at 8 672 57 540 or write sofja@lzb.lt

How to Get Matzo

How to Get Matzo

Dear Community members,

The Lithuanian Jewish Community wants to insure safe methods for acquiring matzo this year and suggests members order by internet for home delivery.

The cost is 6 euros for a one-kilogram box of matzo bread wafers and 4 euros for a 454-gram bag of matzo flour.

Delivery is being set up in Vilnius and orders will be accepted until April 2.

To order you need to have internet banking. Open your banking page and transfer money to the LJC bank account LT097044060000907953 for the number of boxes and bags you want. You must indicate on the money transfer form your name, surname, exact delivery address, a contact telephone number, an e-mail address and exactly which items you want in what amount.

Here’s an example of what to include:
John Smith, Obuolių g. 1-11, Vilnius, 8 123 45678, john@john.com, 3 packages of matzo, two packages of flour

A coordinator will contact you with delivery details for orders made and paid before April 2 and delivery is to take place by April 7. No cash will be accepted upon delivery. The LJC isn’t responsible if supplies run out, quarantine measures become stricter or purchasers fail to provide the information required.

For more information call 8 672 16 982 or write an e-mail to pesach2020@lzb.lt

Matzo Will Be Available from March 25 to April 3 at Bagel Shop Café

Matzo Will Be Available from March 25 to April 3 at Bagel Shop Café

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has set up a safe way to get matzo for Passover via the Bagel Shop Café. Payment will be by bank card exclusively. The cost for a 1-kilogram box is 5 euros, and for a 454-gram bag of matzo flour the price is 3 euros. Pick-ups can be made between the hours of 10:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. from March 25 to April 4, presumably excluding the Sabbath. Please call 8 685 06 900 for more information.

Matzo from Jerusalem Reaches LJC

Matzo from Jerusalem Reaches LJC

A shipment of matzo has reached the Lithuanian Jewish Community. This year as the country labors under health quarantine we will be delivering matzo to members in a safe manner, which we will announce soon. Stay tuned for more information.


Waiting for Passover to begin…

Happy Holidays, Žydelkos

Happy Holidays, Žydelkos

by Sergejus Kanovičius

Once, long ago, I attended a Lithuanian school. Back then there were two Jews, or more accurately, a Jewish boy and a Jewish girl. The boy was in the grade next to her. Dark-skinned speaking without an accent, the Jewish boy always got into fights when others reminded him he was different. Different and therefore not as good. No one tried to break it up. There were always observers. Later they called themselves pals because they didn’t get into fights with him. They didn’t defend him, but they didn’t beat him, either. It’s much safer to stand to the side and keep quiet. That’s been proven historically. The Jewish girl didn’t get into fist fights. She was shy and had curly hair. Whenever someone called her žydelka [Jew-girl], which is now for some reason considered an endearing diminutive term, she used to walk away, sometimes wiping a tear. When I used to hear these “terms of endearment,” unlike the majority of the žydelkos, I had to get into a fight again.

There have always been more apologists for epithets such as žydelka, žydo išpera [Jew-spawn] and others and they have always been stronger. But my family taught me one thing: never to retreat from abuse, to oppose it. I would be lying if I said I had ever been the victor in some fist fight. The combatants were always greater in number and I lost. No matter what, though, they got theirs. Of the many wonderful teachers there were only a few who didn’t give out beatings, they found a pseudo-intellectual way of telling the whole class that this one is different and therefore is worthy of less respect. This kind of intellectual pedagogical encouragement to hate. Like the mark for dictation, when because of one comma the dark kid used to get four [out of ten] with a minus. Just because. So I wouldn’t forget I was different.

Many years later as Lithuania counts her fourth decade of independence, no one dare beat me. Fists have become unpopular. They beat through words. Sometimes rather beautiful ones. The world is free. But it is painful the Lithuanian National Defense Ministry’s magazine Karys [Soldier] has published the lie of a pseudo-historian about the local leader of anti-Semitic ideology (who knows whether another NATO member who sometimes guards our airspace, if the French Defense Ministry would try to tell their soldiers what a great diplomat and patriot Pétain was). Or insistently try to prove “Jew-girl” is a term of endearment (happy International Women’s Day, žydelkos!). Frida Vismant of Šeduva recalls that’s what they called her on the streets in 1940. “You just wait, žydelka padalka, Hitler will come and we’ll show you!” (Out of endearment, I guess, they told her she was a žydelka in the Šiauliai ghetto after they took her firstborn Rachmielis and beat him to death along with 600 child žydelkos).

American Purim Party

American Purim Party

An American-style Purim party (American food) with the reading of the Book of Esther and a program for children including mini-golf will be held at the Vilnius Grand Resort Hotel formerly known as the Villon Hotel at 6:00 P.M. on Monday, March 9. There will be a bar for adults. Gifts will be given to everyone and of course there will be an impressive show for all. The cost is 10 euros in advance or 15 at the door. Students, adolescents and seniors get in for 5 euros. Children under 12 attend free. Tickets are available at the Choral Synagogue, Chabad House or by sending payment by bank transfer to “Jewish religious community Chabad” via the account no. LT3570440600013701339 (SEB Bankas). A bus will depart from the synagogue at 5:00 P.M. To register or to find out more, write rabbi@jewishlita.com or call 868508550.

Happy Birthday, Riva!

Happy Birthday, Riva!

Happy birthday to our top Bagel Shop chef Riva Portnaja! Thank you for the delicious treats you make and for preserving the Litvak culinary heritage.

We will always think of you as you are, beloved, friendly, with your sweet and comforting smile, exuding youth from the depths of your soul.