Jewish song and dance ensemble Fajerlech

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.

Children Invited to Purim Carnival

The Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Sababa Jewish youth club and the song and dance group Fayerlakh invite children to the “Party of Ahasuerus” Purim carnival. The program includes Purim plays, a costume parade, traditional foods and shalahmones, or Purim baskets. Queen Esther requests children come dressed in costume or at least wearing a mask. Registration is required before March 6 by calling Sofja at 8 601 46656 or sending an email to sofja@lzb.lt The event will begin at 3:00 P.M. on March 8 on the third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius.

Hanukkah for Children

Hanukkah for Children

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Salvija kindergarten are holding a Hanukkah celebration for the youngest members of the community at 5:00 P.M. on Thursday, December 19 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The Fayerlakh ensemble and children from Salvija will perform and there will be Hanukkah games, doughnuts and gifts. To find out more or to register, call 8 678 81 514.

Photos from the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot Celebration at the LJC

Photos from the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot Celebration at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invited members and members of the Gesher, Kavaret and Rikudey Am Clubs as well as students from the Raimondas Savickas Art Studio and from the Community’s Hebrew classes to come celebrate two holidays–Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot–at once on October 10. Žana Skudovičienė organized and conducted the festivities, delivering a thank-you speech at the beginning to the heads of the clubs, studio and classes. Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky gave holiday greetings to all participants and spoke about the preceding year, 5779, saying the Community had a lot to be proud of but that there is always room for improvement. The performance by the Fayerlakh group enhanced the evening and made it complete.

Dance and Day Camp for Children

On Sunday, October 20, the Dubi, Ilan and Mishpoca Clubs invite children to an evening of dance with Jelizaveta Volynskaja together with tiny dancers from the Fayerlakh song and dance ensemble. From October 28 to October 31 children aged 7 to 12 are invited to the Amehaye Fall Camp at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Registration is required. Please call Sofja at 8 601 46656 or write her at sofja@lzb.lt to register or for more information. An on-line registration form for the camp is posted here:

http://bit.ly/35IanQ4

From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot Celebration

Celebrate “From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot” at 6:00 P.M. on October 10 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community and come meet members of the LJC’s various programs, including the seniors’ Gesher Club, the Kaveret young families’ club, Israeli dance club Rikudei Am, the Students’ Club and students in the Hebrew courses.

Program: song, dance, traditional Jewish fall treats, an exhibit and sale of Jewish-themed work by Olga Kapustina and musicians and dancers of the Fayerlakh collective.

Registration required. Call 8 678 81514 or write zanas@sc.lzb.lt

Fayerlakh Performs at Peoples Fair

Fayerlakh Performs at Peoples Fair

The Peoples Fair took place for the eleventh time in central Vilnius. The goal of this colorful event is to present the crafts, cuisine, traditions, culture and life of Lithuania’s ethnic minority communities.

The fair usually includes music, cooking and crafts workshops. This year the Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh performed as well.

LJC Celebrates 20th European Day of Jewish Culture in Vilnius Old Town

LJC Celebrates 20th European Day of Jewish Culture in Vilnius Old Town

The Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated the 20th European Day of Jewish Culture in the traditional Jewish Quarter of Vilnius September 1 with song, dance and food. The weather was beautiful. Restaurants in the Vilnius Old Town feature Jewish foods with traditional breakfast served at the Bagel Shop Café, restaurants and cafés on Žydų and Stiklių streets and other locations. DJs RafRaf, Akvilina and Marius Šmitas provided dance music with a 10-hour musical program at the Amadeus Bar.

LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky greeted celebrants and Vidmantas Bezaras, director of the Cultural Heritage Deparment, and Vida Montvydaitė, director of the Department of Ethnic Minorities, also spoke, noting there is no town or village in Lithuania without some sign of a Jewish presence. Vida Montvydaitė said this isn’t just Jewish heritage, it’s Lithuania’s legacy, and protecting it is becoming ever more important.

The writer Kristina Sabaliauskaitė spoke about her childhood memories of the Jews who still lived in central Vilnius then and with whom she made lasting friendships. She says interpersonal relationships are still one of the most important things in life to her.

Sabbath in the Jewish Quarter September 1

Sabbath in the Jewish Quarter September 1

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invites you to come celebrate the 20th annual European Day of Jewish Culture, “Sabbath in the Jewish Quarter,” in the Vilnius Old Town on September 1.

World-renowned writer Chaim Grade called the Vilnius Old Town the Jewish Quarter ca. 1930, and wrote: “Long Fridays of Summer. The housewives go to the bakery to shop for Saturday: they buy dry bagels, dark cookies and pastries with poppy seeds, small little cakes with powdered sugar…” (from his Der shtumer minyen, or Silent Minyan).

On Sunday, September 1, restaurants and cafés located in the Vilnius Jewish Quarter will present a menu of Jewish dishes, Jewish music will play and there will be lectures and tours. LJC chairman Faina Kukliansky will open ceremonies with a welcome speech at 12 noon. Saulius Pilinkus will MC and new Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Yossi Avni Levy, Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department head Vidmantas Bezaras and Lithuanian Ethnic Minorities Department director Vida Montvydaitė will also welcome participants.

The Doors Open: An Installation to Remember Jewish Merkinė

The Doors Open: An Installation to Remember Jewish Merkinė

The town of Merkinė, Lithuania, held a big celebration August 17 and 18, marking the 660th anniversary of the first mention of the town in the historical sources and the 450th anniversary of the town receiving autonomous Magdeburg charter rights. The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Fayerlakh group were invited to the celebration.

The project “Doors Are Opening” was dedicated to commemorating life in Merkinė during the period between the two world wars, when the majority of the population was Jewish. Before the Holocaust Jews accounted for about 80% of inhabitants. The old Jewish doors were donated for the celebration.

“It’s normal not to want to talk about the painful past, but it’s abnormal if we try to live our lives as if none of those experiences ever even existed,” Mindaugas Černiauskas, the director of the Merkinė Regional History Museum, said.