Jewish song and dance ensemble Fajerlech

Purim at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

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There was a celebration of the Purim holiday at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius March 24, which was also proclaimed a day of mourning in Lithuania to pay honors to the dead in the bombings in Brussels. Everyone observed a moment of silence for the victims at the synagogue.

Lithuanian Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas presented holiday greetings to the assembled and spoke about the meaning of Purim: Haman’s attempt to kill all the Jews. “History has seen more than one Haman, who sought to destroy the Jewish people. Stalin, Hitler and now ISIS, but no one has succeeded,” Levinas said.

Rabbi Samson Daniel Isaacson also gave holiday greetings and said Purim is a unique holiday which is about getting drunk, which seems strange, since this is considered a bad thing among Jews. “Only during Purim is it remembered that salvation comes from affliction. After all, getting drunk was suggested so that no one would be able to tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai. And it so happens that way often in life, when you think one thing, but it happens another way. Purim sameach!”

Fayerlakh ensemble musicians Miša Filipov Jablonskis and Leonardas Zinkevič performed a rousing set of Purim songs for young and old.

LJC deputy chairwoman Maša Grodnik said she was glad that things were finally getting back to normal at the synagogue and that the holiday was being celebrated with a rabbi, which for a long time was missing from the community. “Today the tragic events in Brussels remind us that Israel is setting an example for Europe on how to protect society,” Grodnik commented.

Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon recalled how he looked forward to Purim as a child, and that it always began to rain when Purim came around. “Today in Vilnius on Purim the sun was shining, and we are celebrating the liberation of the Jews. The victory of the Jews of Lithuania that they can celebrate in their own synagogue,” the Israeli ambassador remarked.

More snapshots from the event here.

Purim in Panevėžys

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The Panevėžys Jewish Community kicked off their Purim celebrations in the events hall of the Panevėžys Community Center March 20. Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman greeted a large party of guests from Vilnius, Ukmergė, Šiauliai and Panevežys and read an excerpt from Magilat Ester.

Artūras Taicas, deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and chairman of the Ukmergė Jewish Community, greeted guests as well and passed on the good wishes of LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Panevėžys city deputy mayor Petras Luomanas and city council member Alfonsas Petrauskas also gave wonderful addresses.

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Fayerlakh Concert

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The Jewish song and dance Ensemble celebrate their 45th anniversary with a concert at the Russian Drama Theater in Vilnius. The concert is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. on March 22. Tickets cost 12 euros for the general public, 9 euros for Community members and 2 euros for students and senior citizens. To purchase tickets, see here.

Fayerlakh Concert and Bagel Shop at the Kaziukas Fair in Vilnius

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The opening of Vilnius’s annual street fair will feature a concert by the Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh, at 5:00 P.M. at the Vilnius Old Town Hall square. The group is promising a whole range of music and performances, including a traditional Sabbath prayer and song.

Don’t forget, the Bagel Shop Café will also be at the fair on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. LJC staff, members and volunteers are all invited to come and help sell Jewish bagels during the fair. It should be a lot of fun and this year the annual street fair will include a Jewish shtetl section.

Hundredth Anniversary of Birth of Vladas Varčikas, Rescuer of Jews, Teacher, Violinist

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The Kaunas Jewish Community and the Sugihara Foundation “Visas for Life” invited friends who knew Vladas Varčikas and all who wanted to pay their respects to this gigantic figure, a rescuer of Jews, humanitarian, teacher and violinist, to celebrate hsi 100th birthday with a concert in the Grand Hall at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. The hall was filled to capacity and overflowing despite the frozen weather.

Kaunas Jewish Community member Stasys Makštutis began to tell the story of Varčikas and the story was continued by his grandmother, Elena Andriuškevičienė, who was rescued from the Kaunas ghetto by Varčikas and survived to later become his colleague. Varčikas’s students, students of his students and their children performed music and shared their memories of the man. Actress Kristina Kazakevičiūtė, whose daughter was a student of Varčikas, read out director Kama Ginkas’s recollections of Varčikas, the man who saved him. She also read passages from Reinhard Kaiser’s book about Edwin Geist, whose compositions were rescued for posterity by Varčikas.