Jewish Cuisine

And the Winners Are…

And the Winners Are…

We invited readers to participate in the traditional Purim carnival mask and costume contest by dressing up and sending in photographs, as well as drawings and photographs of home-made hamentaschen and recipes for such. We are pleased to announce that after long consideration of many more entries than anticipated we have finally narrowed the field down to a list of winning entries.

And the winners are…

Lilia Dulkė, in the category of best costume among grown-ups;

Mark Svešnikov, best costume for children;

Viljamas and Aleksandra Žitkauskai, best family costumes;

Marija Jurkevičiūtė, best mask;

Consolation prize for youngest contestant goes to…. Adam Segal!

And prizes go to Ronas, Lara and Glorija Rozovskiai for sending in the most photographs with different costumes!

We would like to thank all who participated and wish those who didn’t win this year greater success next Purim.

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Opens Virtual Doors

Choral Synagogue in Vilnius Opens Virtual Doors

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is inviting the public to take a virtual tour of the only synagogue operating in Vilnius according to all Jewish laws, the Choral Synagogue. The virtual guided tour will demonstrate the synagogue itself and also offers tourists the chance to learn about Jewish cultural and culinary traditions and the High Holy Days.

The virtual tour covers the synagogue’s interior, the mikva, the kosher kitchen and the only surviving matzo-making machine in Lithuania, as well as Jewish religion, philosophy, traditional holidays, lifestyles and Jewish sacred songs. Virtual lessons are available in the kosher kitchen for those wanting to learn about the Jewish culinary tradition. Over six millennia strict traditions have developed for religious and secular holidays for making certain foods for specific holidays, for example, only round loaves of challa are baked and fish heads prepared for the Rosh Hashanah table, doughnuts and potato pancakes are fried for Hanukkah and hamantaschen, pastries filled with poppy seeds, are made for Purim.

Around 10,000 tourists visit the Choral Synagogue annually, many of them the Litvak descendants of Holocaust survivors living in diaspora around the world, and also local residents, students, and social partners in the field of culture and tourism in Lithuania and abroad. Visiting the synagogue is being restricted because of the corona virus, so a virtual tour has been set up for Lithuanians and for Litvaks living abroad who are able to visit at least virtually the synagogue of their parents’ youth or adolescence.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said the virtual introduction to Jewish culture and tradition strengthens the multicultural expression of the city community and popularizes Jewish cultural heritage.

The Lithuanian Cultural Council is financing the project called “Choral Synagogue of Vilnius: Prayer, Kitchen, Mikva.”

Regional Jewish Communities Celebrate Passover and Send Greetings

Regional Jewish Communities Celebrate Passover and Send Greetings

Gennady Kofman, chairman, Panevėžys Jewish Community:

Happy Passover, one of the most important holidays on the Jewish religious calendar.

Passover holiday greetings to all. We wish you a happy time talking with your families.

This is the evening of sacrifice which took place before God led the Israelites out of Egypt. During Passover we eat unleavened bread, matzo. The first, second and last evening are marked with a large dinner with strict traditions: the head of family reads a passage from the Book of Exodus, prayers and a collection of liturgical hymns. A hand-washing ceremony is performed before eating. Before the end of the holiday meal a beautiful cup with grape juice is placed and the door is left open, and this is called “Elijah’s cup.”

The Seder Table: A Jewish Tradition Unchanged for Millennia

The Seder Table: A Jewish Tradition Unchanged for Millennia

Passover, the most important Jewish holiday which lasts for eight days, begins on March 27 this year. The date for celebrating Passover is set by the lunar calendar: the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The name of the holy day comes from “pesakh,” meaning passed over, recalling the story of the Angel of Death which passed over the Israelites before Moses led the slaves out of Egypt.

“The symbolic meaning of this holiday is that it wasn’t separate Jewish families which came out of Egypt, but a single, united Jewish people. The Jewish people throw off the yoke of slavery and leave in order to reach the Promised Land, and there create their nation,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky explained.

Passover Traditions over the Millennia

Keeper of Jewish cultural and religious traditions Natalija Cheifec said although the exodus from Egypt occurred more than 3,300 years ago, Passover traditions have remained almost unchanged over the many centuries. The main feature of the eight-day holiday is the seder dinner when the Hagada is read out, prayers are made and people sit at the seder table and eat from the seder plate, or ke’are.

Bagel Shop Café Offering Passover Matzo

Bagel Shop Café Offering Passover Matzo

The Bagel Shop Café at the Lithuanian Jewish Community at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius is offering Passover matzo for sale from March 15 to March 26. The café will operate from 10 A.M. till 3:00 P.M. from Monday to Friday. A one-kilogram box of matzo costs 5 euros and payment may only be made using a bank card.

Order Matzo by Internet

Order Matzo by Internet

This year again the Lithuanian Jewish Community is asking members to order matzo via internet with home delivery. The cost for one one-kilogram box of matzo is six euros. The LJC is partially subsidizing delivery costs. This is only being offered in Vilnius for the time being and orders will be taken till March 25.

How to Order and Pay

1. Fill out the form at https://forms.gle/wRSoZ1Sf4kvVPxFj7
2. Open your internet banking profile.
3. Transfer funds to the Lithuanian Jewish Community at account number LT09 7044 0600 0090 7953 to the amount of matzo you wish to purchase.

You must indicate in the payment field the information we need to deliver the matzo to you, namely, your name and surname, exact postal address, telephone number, email address and the exact number of boxes you are ordering.

MP Responsible for Recent Holocaust Scandal Dogged by Earlier Remarks about Humane Gas Chambers

MP Responsible for Recent Holocaust Scandal Dogged by Earlier Remarks about Humane Gas Chambers

Photo: Valdas Rakutis

Lrytas.lt

The gas chamber was a “very humane” method for exterminating Jews in the Holocaust. Conservative member of the Lithuanian parliament Valdas Rakutis issued this and similar statements in writing in academic discussions two decades ago, the Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos rytas reports.

Does the MP, who just recently resigned his chairmanship of a parliamentary commission because of controversial and scandalous statements about the Holocaust, think differently now? Even though he resigned, he said he hadn’t said anything wrong and hadn’t wanted to, and was forced to remove himself by the party leadership.

Rakutis, a qualified historian who actually still is at least formally the chairman of the parliament’s Commission on Battles for Freedom and State Historical Memory, hasn’t renounced these opinions expressed earlier. He said Jews were murdered in the gas chambers with less physical suffering than when they were tortured and shot to death, so his statement was correct. He qualifies this by saying this is true if you could compare things “in whole.”

Special Lesson for Soldiers

Rakutis made this shocking statement in his own writing when he was a teacher at the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy teaching young Lithuanian soldiers. That was back in 2000 and 2001 when the academy and society beyond was involved in heated and impassioned discussions on whether to include a lesson about the Holocaust in its educational curriculum for soldiers.

Family Recipe for Hamantaschen

Family Recipe for Hamantaschen

Photo: Tarbut Gymnasium students in Pabradė prepared for the Purimspiel, March 3, 1939. Courtesy YIVO.

Purim starts February 25 this year. Purim is the happiest of Jewish holidays dedicated to remembering the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people from destruction. Traditionally the triangular pastry Hamatasch are eaten on this day and the Lithuanian Jewish Community will share them with the leaders of the state this year as well.

“The essence of Purim is to celebrate life in all its fullness. This is a happy holiday, on this day you need to eat deliciously and much, especially the traditional hamantaschen pastry. This traditional treat reminds us that the plans of evildoers often turns back upon them, while wise rulers always receive the help to make the right decisions. We will also be sending hamantaschen pastry to the leaders of the country, wishing them to make wise decisions beneficial to the people,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said.

Vilnius Jewish Religious Community director Simas Levinas recalls the Purim story which reaches back into biblical times when the Jewish people were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. Although the king married the Jewish beauty Esther, the magnates and bureaucrats of Babylon really hated the Jews in their country, who weren’t there by their own choice. The vizier Haman came up with a plan to exterminate all Jews and cast lots (פור) to discover an auspicious time for this.

Purim Greetings from the Panevėžys Jewish Community

Purim Greetings from the Panevėžys Jewish Community

The entire Jewish people celebrate the happy spring Purim holiday. Although the times are not amenable to personal meetings and celebrations together, Jews do not give up to despair. As Esther revealed evil schemes and save the Jewish people from destruction and slavery, so will the Purim holiday lighten the mood and bring joy to every home.

The Panevėžys Jewish Community has prepared holiday Purim food parcels for our members and gifts for the children which will be distributed as will the holiday spirit.

Purim at the Ilan Club

Purim at the Ilan Club

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Ilan Club invite parents and children to spend Sunday morning with culinary chef Andžejus Žukovskis. We’ll bake hamentashen, the traditional Purim treat, together. It all begins at 12 noon on Sunday, February 21, via Zoom. To register send an email to sofja@lzb.lt and together with the Zoom code we’ll send you a list of ingredients needed. For more information you may also call Sofja at +370 601 46656.

Hamantash

Hamantash

The Bagel Shop Café will make hamantash available for Purim from February 23 to 25, made in the traditional manner with poppy seeds and raspberry jam. The cost will be 12 euros per kilogram (about 30 to 35 individual hamantashen) and smaller orders are also possible. Please reserve your pastry now or at least by February 23 so we’ll know how many to make. The Bagel Shop Café itself is closed for repairs so customers will be able to pick up their orders in the foyer at the main entrance to the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. Pick-up will begin on February 23 and run till February 25, from 12 noon to 4:00 P.M. Payment may only be made by bank card.

Reservations: https://forms.gle/YhmP2nt82uoUALbc8

Bringing Bagels Back to Vilnius

Bringing Bagels Back to Vilnius

by Wailana Kalama

After a long absence, the Jewish staple has returned to the Lithuanian capital

Most food historians place the origin of the bagel somewhere vaguely in the Jewish alleys of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In those days in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius–also known as Vilna, the city once dubbed the “Jerusalem of the North”–bagels were ubiquitous, sold on the streets, and in the bakeries and markets. In modern times, however, the bagel had all but been erased from popular memory. Until now.

For centuries, the city’s Old Town was home to a thriving community of Litvaks, as local Jews referred to themselves. The district was lauded for its cultured elite and a Great Synagogue that attracted scholars from all over Europe. All that changed with the Holocaust, during which 95% of Lithuanian Jews were deported and murdered. Now, all that remains in the Old Town are monuments to what once was: street signs in Yiddish, inscriptions educating about the ghetto, a bust of the famed intellectual Vilna Gaon.

EJC President calls EU Court of Justice Ruling “Heavy Blow to Jewish Life in Europe”

EJC President calls EU Court of Justice Ruling “Heavy Blow to Jewish Life in Europe”

Thursday, December 17, 2020–European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor has slammed a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which allows member states to require stunning before religious slaughter of animals for meat as a fundamental attack on the basic rights of Jewish religious expression and practice.

The Court was responding to the question on a preliminary ruling by the Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia (and, by extension, other European authorities) to make an EU-law based religious slaughter exception meaningless by banning religious slaughter.

“The right to practice our faith and customs, one which we have been assured over many years was granted under European law, has been severely undermined by this decision,” president Kantor said.

Lighting the First Light of Hanukkah

Lighting the First Light of Hanukkah

Press release
December 4, 2020
Vilnius

The Jewish Community Announces the Beginning of Hanukkah

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is preparing to celebrate one of the most important holidays of the year, Hanukkah, which will begin this year on Thursday, December 10, and will end December 18. The beginning of the holiday is set for 4:00 P.M. when the first Hanukkah light is lit at the Choral Synagogue, Pylimo street no. 39, then at 5:00 P.M. the first light will be lit at the Lithuanian Jewish Community building in Vilnius. Hanukkah, which was mainly traditionally a family holiday, is celebrated at home by lighting a candle daily on the traditional nine-branched hanukiya candelabrum, more commonly known as the menorah..

Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights and the Jewish community as we light the candles sends out light and community to all the ethnic minority communities in Lithuania and to Jewish communities around the world. Light and music will accompany the ceremonial lighting of the first candle, with a laser-generated light show on the LJC building at Pylimo street no. 4 in Vilnius, hopefully adding a new perspective on the building which housed the Tarbut Jewish gymnasium before the Holocaust. Because of virus fears, the lighting ceremony can also be observed via our website www.lzb.lt and on our facebook profile.

Bake Challa at Home and Join Millions in the #ShabesatHome Project

Bake Challa at Home and Join Millions in the #ShabesatHome Project

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to join millions of other Jews around the world and join the #ShabesatHome initiative. The Lithuanian side of the initiative known as #Šabasnamuose will include the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium and the Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys, Šiauliai, Ukmergė and Švenčionys communities are invited as well to join up by internet right now, Friday, November 6. Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and her granddaughter Esther will also be on hand.

Social media announcements: #ManoŽydiškaKelionė #ŽydųKultūrosMetai #ShabesatHome #ŽyduKultūrosDiena #Šabasnamuose #KeepingItTogether #GeroŠabato

For more information, contact Dovilė Rūkaitė at projects@lzb.lt (before the sun goes down).

Conference for Historians Researching Jewish Heritage in NE Lithuania

Conference for Historians Researching Jewish Heritage in NE Lithuania

The Rokiškis Regional Museum hosted a conference called “The Jewish Community’s Contribution to the Cultural, Political and Economic Development of the North-Eastern Region of Lithuania during the Period of the First Republic of Lithuania” to mark the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History on Friday, September 4, 2020.

Kupiškis Ethnographic Museum specialist and historian Aušra Jonušytė in her presentation “The Jewish Community of Kupiškis” spoke about the former Jewish community in Kupiškis and their contribution to economic, social and political life in the Lithuanian town. She presented examples of friendship and fellowship between Jewish and Lithuanian families is safeguarding the town from fires.

Two books were presented at the conference: “Kupiškio žydų bendruomenė. Praeities ir dabarties sąsajos” [The Kupiškis Jewish Community: Connections between Past and Present] (2016) and “Kupiškio krašto žydų bendruomenės pastatai ir paminklai” [Buildings and Monuments of the Jewish Community of the Kupiškis Region] (2017). The audience appeared very interested in these books. Former Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon wrote the forewords to both books. Museum specialist and historian Aušra Jonušytė compiled these publications. She also talked about a new publication planned provisionally called “Žydų virtuvės valgiai, gaminti Kupiškyje” [Jewish Cuisine Made in Kupiškis] which will include input from LJC projects coordinator and Litvak cook Dovilė Rūkaitė, Natalja Cheifec and members of the Kaunas Jewish Community. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman has also offered his help with the new book project, as has philanthropist Philip Shapiro.

Who Is That Gaon?

Who Is That Gaon?

by Sergejus Kanovičius. Photo by Evgenia Levin/Bernardinai.lt

Soon the Year of the Vilna Gaon will end: the news websites will stop carrying out the internet education plans dedicated to Jewish history and the school curricula will remain as they always were: impoverished, and with the suppression of history. Everything will depend on the teacher’s initiative, again. The statues to the Gaon and Tsemakh Shabad will stare out, with acid poured over them. Plaques will hang commemorating the “desk murderer” in Vilnius and the statue to a murderer of Jews will continue to stand in the center of Ukmergė, and schools will continue to be named in their honor. The center tasked with researching genocide will offer jobs to people who think the “Lithuanian Activist Front would have found it easy to agree with Zionists.” Only suppressing the fact the LAF helped those Zionists travel into the bosom of Abraham.

Virtual internet reality will never coincide with true reality, and the proposition of living in two worlds will continue to be proposed. The official one will soon mourn at Paneriai and on Rūdninkai square because that’s what’s required. Actually, the pandemic in the true sense of the word helped save a pile of money which would have been used for those pompous but failed events. I would ask, couldn’t the money saved be used to change the school curricula so that a student who reads a headline or title “The Vilna Gaon…” doesn’t have to search the internet to find out who he was and why he’s important?

The best surrogate education–sampling Jewish foods–takes place via the stomach, and via internet. In both cases the effect of learning is equal to the time spent by the learner chewing a bagel or reading about some shtetl lost to oblivion, sipping coffee while reading the screen. There’s no need to even raise the question of enduring value or the long-term effect…