Our annual series of events to mark the European Days of Jewish Culture saw a good turnout all day Sunday, which turned out to be sunny but framed by clouds. There was cantorial song at synagogue, a tour of Jewish Vilna, a panel discussion on echoes of Jewish culture in modern Lithuania’s cultural scene, we baked challa and slowly cooked the legendary floimen tsimes and there was singing, playing and dancing for all. For some snapshots from different events, concerts, workshops and lectures, see below.
On the last weekend of summer we participated in the Blue Family Picnic which has been held in the Šeduva city park for seven years now. The Blue Family Picnic is intended to strengthen community, reduce social inequality and carry on family traditions.
We came up with all sorts of activities for attendees, including recognizing Jewish religious regalia, teaching them to write their names in Hebrew, a puzzle made up of period photographs of the town/shtetl, how to make traditional Sabbath challa and how to set the Sabbath table. Younger attendees made models of the shtetl, learned how to arrange food items on the plate for Passover seder and spun and taught other children to spin the dreidl. We treated everyone to traditional Litvak dishes as well.
So many friendly and eager to learn families came to the picnic. We wanted to share with them in a fun way the culture and traditions of the Jewish community of Šeduva and to remind them of the town’s not-so-distant past, the shtetl of Šeduva where Jews and Lithuanians lived peacefully together. Two special guests attended, two women from Šeduva for whom the shtetl isn’t lost in the mists of time. They spent their childhoods in the shtetl and have shared their memories with us numerous times.
This year will be the seventh the Lithuanian Jewish Community is holding events for the European Days of Jewish Culture. This year’s theme is renewal.
Renewal is woven into almost all aspects of Jewish life. Jewish life is continually building on the past in new ways, bringing a sense of constant change along with a reassuring sense of continuity. The Jewish New Year opens with the festivals of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. These holy days through their traditions and prayers present an opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge our past actions while looking ahead with new resolutions, optimism and determination. During this period we reconcile personal and communal differences within ourselves and with others as we actively strive to renew our aspirations for the coming year, and beyond.
We invite you to attend the events, all of which are free and open to the public.
Register here, space is limited.
The web-based Vilnius city guide 1323.lt (1323 is the nominal year of the founding of Vilnius) has reviewed the Cvi in the Park Israeli street food kiosk organized this year and last in the park across the street from the Lithuanian Jewish Community headquarters in Vilnius.
Their review is titled “In Petras Cvirka’s Place, Falafel,” a reference to the name of the park still used by almost all Vilnius residents despite the municipality’s decision a few months back to remove its trademark statue to Soviet-era Lithuanian poet Petras Cvirka.
“For the second season now the Cvi Parkas Jewish street food kiosk had been luring passers-by to have a snack (and not only that). It debuted last year when the statue to Petras Cvirka, which caused so much discussion, still stood by.
The Cvi in the Park Israeli street food kiosk is hosting free tango dancing lessons open to everyone at the park across the street from the Lithuanian Jewish Community at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius at 7:00 P.M. on July 5. The vocalist Eudardo will perform tango music from Latin America and the Argentine.
7:00 P.M. – 7:45 P.M. Public tango lesson
8:00 P.M. First portion of concert (Argentine and Latin American tango music)
8:30 P.M. Milonga (tango dances)
9:00 P.M. Second portion of concert
10:00 P.M. Finale.
by Grant Gochin
When your grandmother’s last words make it clear that she’s not who you thought she was, you are willing to move all the mountains in Europe to get to the truth
Dinner between cousins was scheduled for Shabbat on Friday, May 14, 1915. How was I to know that the Shabbos meal never took place? Without warning, Russian forces launched a genocidal mass deportation of Baltic Jews deep into Russia. Families were torn apart, lives were destroyed and communities of Jews devastated.
The first inkling I had was on my grandmother’s deathbed. Her final lucid words to me were: “I wish I knew my name. I wish I knew who my family was.” We thought we knew her name–Bertha Lee Arenson. We were wrong.
Back in the time of King David, 3,000 years ago, the king was considered the best singer, and under his reign the professional musicians dynasty of the Levites from the tribe of Levi began. Music schools were established for singers of hymns and players of instruments. Hymns and instrumental music accompanied rituals for the offering of sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem built by Solomon in 959 BCE. During sacred rituals the priests blew 120 trumpets at the same time.
Of course we won’t go that deep into history. We’ll just discuss the period of Jewish music from Smetona’s Lithuania till today, discussion club #ŽydiškiPašnekesiai initiator Arkadijus Vinokuras promises.
The next discussion is called “Jewish Music: What Is It, and Why Doesn’t It Ever Grow Old?” on June 14, 2022.
The club will meet outside this time at the site of the former statue to Petras Cvirka where the Cvi in the Park Israeli street food kiosk is operating for the summer. The meeting will take place inside the Bagel Shop Café due to rain at 5:00 P.M. It’s open to everyone and will be live-streamed on the LJC facebook page.
Participants are to include Leonidas Melnikas, Boris Traub, Boris Kizner and Masha Dushkina, moderated by Arkadijus Vinokuras. The discussion will likely take place in Lithuanian.
Shavuot celebrations at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius:
Shavuot eve at 8:15 P.M. on June 4
Shavuot at 10:00 A.M. on June 5
Shavuot at 10:00 A.M. on June 6
Greetings on this special holiday and try not to work on June 6. We wish you a happy holiday and delicious dishes made with milk products!
The Cvi in the Park Israeli street food kiosk in Cvirka Park in central Vilnius is also offering live music to customers and passers-by. The most recent daytime performance was by the Baltic Balkan group of musicians, see youtube video below.
by Birutė Vyšniauskaitė, lrytas.lt
Jews in Lithuania: a still undiscovered or an already-lost shared history? Human rights, modern anti-Semitism. Recording Lithuanian Jewish culture for posterity. These and many other topics touching on Lithuanian Jewish culture, the Holocaust and culture were discussed the current Fifth World Litvak Congress.
The Congress was supposed to have been held two years ago on the 300th anniversary of the birth of Eliyahu ben Solomon Zalman, the Vilna Gaon, the renowned rabbi, kabbalist and student of the Torah and Talmud. …
[I asked] Faina Kukliansky, the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community who was born and grew up in Lithuania, what it means to be a Litvak.
“My dad used to say his grandchildren were born in Lithuania and therefore bore the seal of quality, and were fit for export,” Kukliansky joked.
“Cvi in the Park” is once again welcoming the citizens of Vilnius and city’s guests! The project was set up during the corona virus pandemic in order to continue the operation of the famous Bagel Shop Café under strict government-imposed restrictions. This is how the new open-air café “Cvi in the Park” was born, which is now reopening for the summer season.
The word “cvi” or “tzvi” itself means “doe” in Hebrew and given the divisive history of the square and the surrounding atmosphere of the park, it was decided to accommodate this “doe” in Cvirka Square, for the sake of dialogue and tolerance. We hope that this revived summer tradition will give a fresh face to this old square in front of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We are ready to be a reliable partner to the Vilnius city municipality in the creation and development of a distinctive, sustainable identity for Cvirka Square.
At “Cvi in the Park” we offer healthy Israeli street food such as falafels, hummus, pita, etc., together with fresh vegetables grown locally and a unique blend of Middle Eastern spices and chickpeas. The menu is vegan-friendly and all organic ingredients are carefully selected based on seasonality. We hope our visitors will also enjoy the new and unique flavors of plant-based food. We are very happy to be cooperating with the craft beer experts Genys Brewing and true wine lovers New Skanu.
The Fifth World Litvak Congress will be held on May 23-26, organized by the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We invite you to join the events and enjoy Litvak culture, heritage, history and music. Share the news with your relatives, friends and colleagues.
Pre-registration is required by filling out the following form:
The program may be found here:
The following is the program of events for the Fifth World Litvak Congress to be held in Vilnius from May 23 to May 26, 2022.
A PDF file of the program can be downloaded here.
Events Program for the Fifth World Litvak Congress in Vilnius
Opening ceremony for the Fifth World Litvak Congress
The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites Litvaks living around the world to return to Vilnius May 23 to May 26, to visit the land of our ancestors and to attend the Fifth World Litvak Congress.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community is inviting Litvaks from around the world to come to Vilnius from May 23 to May 26, to visit the land of their ancestors and to take part in the Fifth World Litvak Congress. The four-day congress has a program which includes discussions, tours of historical sites and different cultural activities dedicated to Jewish heritage in Lithuania and achievements by Litvaks on the world stage.
Events include the opening at the Lithuanian parliament and a concert by American cantor and professor Joseph Malovany at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius in an evening of concerts called “A Date with Vilne” which will include Lithuanian musicians and actors paying homage to the memory of the Jews who lived and worked in Lithuania.
Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen is the official patron of the Fifth World Litvak Congress. She said: “This Litvak Congress is happening while aggression is running wild in the Ukraine, when war fever has infected the entire region, which is significant to Lithuania historically and today, and to the entire world of Yiddish culture. In the face of blind brutality and violence it is always important to emphasize humanitarianism, empathy, the highest spiritual values from which the long Litvak tradition has always taken strength. This is especially urgent today when in the east of Europe an aggressive and imperialistic anti-Semitism has again raised its head, distorting historical facts and manipulating peoples’ emotions. We must oppose this.”
A #KinderTiš culinary workshop was held at the Lithuanian Jewish Community on Passover eve. The topic was Passover foods, of course, incorporating matzo bread. Many parents and children had the opportunity for the first time to try matzo kugel with raisins, curds and forest berry-jam, with butter on top, made by Riva Portnaja.
To make Passover breakfasts more interesting, Riva also showed participants how to make Mexican matzo brei with avocado, red beans, corn and fresh-squeezed lime juice.
The Sabbath begins at 8:04 P.M. on Friday, April 15, and concludes at 9:23 P.M. on Saturday in the Vilnius region.
Matzo is now available for Passover in the foyer on the first floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community located at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius. A half-kilogram box costs 5 euros, 1 kg costs 10. Purchases may be made between 10:00 A.M and 6:00 P.M. on weekdays until April 15.
The long-awaited shipment of matzo has reached the Lithuanian Jewish Community. We will begin distributing it to every Jewish household in Lithuania very soon in the run-up to Passover which begins April 15.