Jewish song and dance ensemble Fajerlech

Snapshots from European Days of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

Snapshots from European Days of Jewish Culture Events in Vilnius

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.

Happy Birthday to Larisa Vyšniauskienė

Happy Birthday to Larisa Vyšniauskienė

We wish a very happy birthday to Larisa Vyšniauskienė, guardian of the eternal creative flame of the Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance ensemble. We wish you even greater success, health and artistic achievement! Mazl tov. Bis 120!

Fayerlakh Jewish Song and Dance Ensemble Celebrates 50th Birthday

Fayerlakh Jewish Song and Dance Ensemble Celebrates 50th Birthday

The Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh celebrated their 50th birthday on Sunday, June 19, at the Polish House of Culture in Vilnius with performances by musicians, singers and dancers.

The group formed back in the early 70s within the general milieu of Jewish, Lithuanian, Russian and Polish volunteer collectives, including the Yiddish-language People’s Theater. Many of the Jewish volunteer cultural groups–a choir, vocalists, a dance troupe, actors and personnel from the People’s Theater and a popular stage band–later immigrated to Israel and formed the Anakhnu Kan ensemble there. 1971 was also the year Jewish musician Yasha Magid founded a vocal and instrumental group. By 1972 this group had formed its core of enthusiastic musicians and the dance troupe, and held their first concert. That’s the story of how Fayerlakh, at the time the only Jewish song and dance ensemble throughout the Soviet Union, formed in Vilnius.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Opens Saul Kagan Welfare Center

Lithuanian Jewish Community Opens Saul Kagan Welfare Center

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has just opened the long-awaited Saul Kagan Welfare Center, paying tribute to the long-serving director of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany by renaming the Community’s social care and welfare center after him. Staff and clients attended the ceremony where LJC executive director Michail Segal and the Center’s first director Simas Levinas spoke. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky unveiled the new plaque commemorating Saul Kagan. Arie Buchesiter from the Claims Conference, Saul Kagan’s daughter Julia Kagan-Baumann and Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yossef Avni-Levy also attended the event. The Fayerlakh group performed a concert at the event.

Bagel Shop Café Produces Seventy-Five Loaves of Challa Bread

Bagel Shop Café Produces Seventy-Five Loaves of Challa Bread

The Bagel Shop Café baked 75 small and large loaves of challa bread Friday evening as part of the world Shabbos Project. The Sabbath on October 22 was special. The Lithuanian Jewish Community invited everyone young and old to bake challa together with the world Jewish community. Members, friends and a ton of children gathered at the Bagel Shop Café, had fun making and baking challa, and were treated to a performance by the Fayerlakh ensemble. We counted around 75 loaves. Snapshots below.

Challa Bake-Off around the World and at Bagel Shop Café

Challa Bake-Off around the World and at Bagel Shop Café

As the weather turns colder out, it’s almost natural for us to retire to our kitchens and engage in baking bread. For most of us this is a solitary vocation, perhaps a weekly one, with few around us to enjoy the pleasing aroma of baking bread. This year as in past, the Shabbos Project is inviting people around the world to bake Sabbath challa bread together, if only in spirit. The Bagel Shop Café will host a challa-bread-making event at 5:00 P.M. on Friday, October 22, as part of this world-wide project connecting millions of people in over 1,600. At 6:00 P.M. the Fayerlakh ensemble will perform for participants at that event.

More information here.

Some Snapshots from Events This Fall

Some Snapshots from Events This Fall

It’s encouraging to see parents and children returning to spend time at the Community. At one recent meeting at the Bagel Shop Café the children presented their works in clay, held the premiere of a film they made and starred in and performed music, while the mothers made challa bread.

Larisa Vyšniauskienė, the director of the Fayerlakh ensemble, chimed in during the musical part of the program and spoke about the ensemble’s musical career which has spanned a half century now.

Avital Libman, coordinator of children’s and youth programs, passed on the happy news that the Ilan and Knafaim Clubs will now be open every day to young people for fun and productive after-school activities.

Meanwhile, weekly art activities continue led by Raimondas Savickas, and the seniors’ club Abi Men Zet Zich carries on as usual.

Fayerlakh Performs in Belovezha Forest

Fayerlakh Performs in Belovezha Forest

The Lithuanian Jewish Community’s song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh recently performed at the Peretocze festival held annually in the vast Belovezha forest which was once part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and now spans large parts of eastern Poland and western Belarus.

Photographs from the event can be found here.

Common Language of the Peoples Amateur Music Festival

Common Language of the Peoples Amateur Music Festival

The second “Common Language of the Peoples” festival of ethnic minority amateur song and dance groups has taken place in the city of Švenčionėliai, Lithuania, and the Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance collective directed by Larisa Vyšniauskienė participated.

The second annual festival took place June 23, supported by Lithuania’s Ethnic Minorities Department.

The Culture Center of the City of Švenčionėliai presented cakes and wreaths of wild flowers to all groups participating in the festival.

The representatives of different ethnic groups from Lithuania presented folk costumes and spoke about the characteristics of their ethnic group and their special foods.

The audience applauded every group heavily and the festival again demonstrated the need for more such ethnic community events.

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

Photo: Pinchos Fridberg, the only Jew left in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius who was born there before the Nazis invaded in 1941. By Brendan Hoffman for the New York Times.

by professor Pinchos Fridberg, an alter vilner id [an old Jew born and raised in Vilnius]

Rebe, will there ever come a time when the words Vilne and Yidish will be inseparable again?”
Saydn nor mit Meshiakh’n ineinem.” [Not unless it comes with the Messiah.]

Introduction

The article “Как это делалось ин Вилнэ…” [This Is How It Was Done in Vilne] became the main feature for issue no. 505 of the international magazine “Мы Здесь” [We Are Here] in 2015. More than 7,000 people read it, and I began receiving letters from people whom I didn’t know.

The largest Russian-language weekly newspaper in Lithuania “Обзор” [Review] reprinted this article on its website on March 8, 2021.

The article concerns the history of Jewish Vilnius.

I think it might be interesting to non-Russian-language readers as well. *

“This is How It Was Done in Vilne…”

As I was putting my archive in order, I came across a small program for a concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Jewish volunteer collectives. This program is more than half a calendrical century old. I think the reader might be interested to see “how it was done in Vilne.” The program contains over 30 photographs. I will present a few of them. I believe it has long been time for them to be revived on the wider internet.

Condolences

Fayerlakh ensemble musician Igoris Dolgopolovas has died. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and members of the Fayerlakh Jewish song and dance ensemble extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman on Importance of January 13 to Nation’s Jews

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman on Importance of January 13 to Nation’s Jews

Photo: Faina Kukliansky, by Vidmantas Balkūnas, courtesy 15min.lt

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky remembers January 13. Lithuanian Jews, who restored their community finally 30 years ago after decades of restrictions, took part in events in those days [in 1991] Nowadays when they talk about the struggle for freedom, members of the community emphasize the greatest gift: the opportunity to speak freely.

What do you remember personally about that fateful night at the TV tower, the Lithuanian Radio and Television building and the parliament? What does the Jewish community remember about these events?

Jews did the same thing as everyone else in Lithuania. We have collected the recollections of our community members of that fateful night. They watched the television broadcast until it was cut off and they went to the barricades, in Vilnius but also in Kaunas and other cities.

We were there where the majority of Lithuania was. I remember when I travelled from Varėna during that time and saw the road full of tanks. At that time I had an elderly guest from America who said he was seeing tanks for the first time in his life.

On that particular night my friends and I–all of us were together with our young children–followed events, held vigil, waiting for our husbands who were there in the crowd by the barricades or who were doing their job as doctors.

My children are now grown up and always remember that night and the tension. It wasn’t clear what would happen and the tanks were already in place in the city. We didn’t have any information, we had seen the final frame when E. Bučelytė had to quit the [television] studio. We learned that night from medics that there were dead and wounded people.

With One Hand the State Comforts Jews, With the Other It Points Them to the Street

With One Hand the State Comforts Jews, With the Other It Points Them to the Street

by Vytautas Bruveris, lrytas.lt

The country is marking the end of the ceremoniously declared Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History, while the Lithuanian Jewish Community is looking at its front door and thinking it might have to leave its home. Because disagreements with state institutions are driving the Community from its longtime building in the center of the Lithuanian capital, located near the remains of Jewish Vilna and the city’s working synagogue.

Bailiffs and bricklayers in broad daylight have walled off one of the corridors in the building housing the LJC. This is the grotesque turn of events these days resulting from continuing disagreements between the LJC and the Vilna Gaon Jewish History Museum along with the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. And even before this there were also episodes which seem rather odd, for example, letters from the museum to the members of the executive board of the LJC with accusations against the latter’s leadership, attempting to put political pressure directly upon the ethnic community/

With the new wall built, the LJC is now deciding on its future course: whether to dive headlong into legal battles, or simply pack its bags and hit the street. So why is all this happening? Because of disputes on how to share the courtyard which both the museum and the LJC, housed in the same building, claim. Instead of trying to act as moderator and as a moderating force, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture has done the opposite. The neighbors are there next to each other, but separate.

Fun Celebration of European Day of Jewish Culture for 2020

Fun Celebration of European Day of Jewish Culture for 2020

On Sunday, September 6, 2020, the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a fun celebration of the European Day of Jewish Culture. Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and Community members, the Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yosi Levy, Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department director Vidmantas Bezaras and guests had a good time and attended the Hebrew language lesson provided by Vilnius Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymansium principal Ruth Reches. The public, invited by the LJC, came to celebrate the first Sunday in September by sampling Jewish treats made at the Bagel Shop Café, located on the first floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community building in Vilnius, a center of Litvak bagel culture.

The Bagel Shop Café presented paintings from Mark Kaplan’s collection during the event.

Participants also attended the lecture “Deification and Demonization of Jews: Anti-Semitic Superstitions in Society.”

You Are Invited to the European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

You Are Invited to the European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is continuing the tradition of marking the annual event European Days of Jewish Culture, this time for the fifth year, with a program of events in Vilnius scheduled for Sunday, September 6, 2020.

All parts of the event program are free and open to the public. The number of participants has been limited this year due to health concerns so please register as soon as possible.

For cooking lessons, register by sending an email to kavine@lzb.lt
For the Jerulita tour, register by sending an email to travel@jerulita.lt

To register by internet, click here.

Happy 100th Birthday to Eta Gurvčiūtė

Happy 100th Birthday to Eta Gurvčiūtė

Happy birthday to Eta Gurvčiūtė as she turns 100. Lithuanian Jewish Community member Eta Gurvčiūtė turned 100 April 27. Clear of mind, with no health complaints and her beautiful smile, she is busy receiving greetings and congratulations today. She was graduated from the Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium before World War II.

Many of our other seniors remember Eta because she volunteered at the medical center of the LJC for so many years, later becoming a client herself. She spends her time these days at the Social Care House for Seniors in Vilnius now.

To celebrate her milestone, the LJC is planning a Fayerlakh concert for everyone at her senior citizens’ home. ALthough she’s celebrating her birthday under strict quarantine at the senior center, the Lithuanian Jewish Center tried to send her a present anyway. We managed to have a vase of flowers and a card delivered.