Jewish song and dance ensemble Fajerlech

Jewish Street in Vilnius to Get Trilingual Street Sign

Žydų gatvė (Jewish street, aka Yidishe gas, aka ulica Żydowska), where the traditional Jewish quarter and the Great Synagogue of Vilnius was located, is about to get signs in Yiddish and Hebrew.

The special event to unveil the new sign is scheduled for 11:30 A.M., Tuesday, September 20 at Žydų street no. 2.

The program includes a performance of a piece by the Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh, followed by Vytautas Mitalas, chairman of the Vilnius municipal council’s culture, education and sports committee, presenting Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. Šimašius is to present a small speech. Mitalas will then introduce Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, who will also deliver a small speech. The mayor and the chairwoman will then unveil the new street sign. Fayerlakh is then scheduled to perform another song.

The historic street and a neighboring street were cleared of their mainly Jewish residents in 1941 when the Nazis and Nazi collaborators set up the Vilnius ghetto. The residents were murdered and a large population of Jews from other parts of the city were forced into the cramped quarters there. It was part of the so-called Small Ghetto in Vilnius, liquidated in October of 1942. Žydų gatvė was the site of the Shulhof, the collection of buildings built around the location of the residence and study of the Vilna Gaon and the Great Synagogue.

Fayerlakh Kindles Spirit of Litvak Culture

Larisa Fajerlech

The Lithuanian song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh has been around for four and a half decades now and for the last 18 years has been led by the energetic Larisa Vyšniauskienė. The group which celebrates Litvak traditions is a frequent guest at different holiday celebrations in Lithuania but also performs abroad. Fayerlakh is one of the oldest ethnic community folklore collectives in Lithuania. It was formed in 1971 as a continuation of the Jewish cultural volunteer movement which was reborn after the war in Lithuania in 1956.

“It’s no accident this revival happened in Lithuania first, since even after the war in which millions of Jewish people were exterminated, there was still strong expressions of anti-Semitism in Russia, the Ukraine and Byelorussia. All sorts of low-lifes rise to the surface during wars, of course,” Vyšniauskienė said.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

World Jewish Congress Israel Delegation Visits LJC

WJC IZ7

A delegation from World Jewish Congress Israel visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The delegation included WJC Israel chairman Shai Hermesh (former MK), member of the board of directors J. Moshe Leshem, foreign relations council director Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, Knesset Christian Allies Caucus chairman MK Robert Ilatov, MK Yakov Margi, KCAC director Josh Reinstein and WJC Israel director general Sam Grundwerg. WJC Israel visits national capitals annually to meet with members of national parliaments and Christian community leaders to establish contacts and discuss shared problems, set up Israeli support groups and increase understanding of Jewish problems. This sort of support is especially sought by Israel now, when the Jewish state is increasingly facing isolation in the international arena and especially in the EU. Last year delegations visited Russia, Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

On June 1 the delegation visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community, met LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky and were greeted with a musical welcome of Jewish song and dance provided by the Fayerlakh ensemble, which warmed everyone’s hearts and facilitated better communication. Former MK, current vice president of the WJC and leader of WJC Israel Shai Hermesh shared with everyone heartwarming news he received on the trip to Lithuania.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Thanks Fayerlakh Ensemble

To the Vilnius Cultural Center Jewish song and dance ensemble

Fayerlakh

Dear guardians of ethnic tradition,

There is no doubt the identity of a people resides in the depths of their folklore where a unique world of music beckons to us and symbolic meanings cavort. For many a year now the Fayerlakh ensemble in their concerts have brought lovers of folklore together and have popularized Yiddish culture wonderfully.

Inventive musicians, great singers and expressive dancers have come together nicely under the Fayerlakh flag. And so your concerts are dominated by a sense of beauty and cohesion. Your playful appearances are eagerly awaited by many admirers around the world.

You are probably the only ensemble in Europe who so creatively, cleverly and tightly present your own musical sources and roots.

I sincerely congratulate the entire Fayerlakh collective on the beautiful 45th anniversary of your establishment.

Let your music ring out widely across the nations for many centuries. Celebrate and preserve your foundational values. I wish you great success, creative talent and many happy meetings with the real lovers of folklore on all continents.

Algirdas Butkevičius
March 22, 2016
Vilnius

A Letter of Thanks to the Fayerlakh Ensemble from the Lithuanian Jewish Community

Celebrating their 45th anniversary, the Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayerlakh provided a real celebration for the people of Vilnius with their performance, and a packed hall of spectators applauded, swayed to the beat and tapped their feet because the musicians enchanted them and warmed everyone’s hearts. The Lithuanian Jewish Community is grateful to and proud of the Vilnius Cultural Center Jewish song and dance ensemble Fayarlakh, whose name is Yiddish for “little flames.”

Let the creative fire of this ensemble led by Larisa Vyšniauskienė continue to burn, reminding everyone of the rich culture of the Litvaks. It is extremely important to our community that the ensemble with Yiddish songs and dances which over many years has achieved a highly professional level has preserved our dear Jewish cultural legacy. Thank you, our thanks to the ensemble and their director, to the wonderful performers, for the program The Shtetl Once Upon a Time, which is now being offered to audiences in Lithuania and abroad. The program is about the small town, or shtetl in Yiddish, where until the Holocaust Jewish people and people of other ethnicities lived together in harmony. The mood of the concert is one of happy songs, dances, music which gives rise to good emotions, nostalgic and exciting, in everyone’s hearts. We appreciate that the ensemble celebrates the Yiddish language and that Jewish works in this language are performed in concert. It fills us with gladness to see all the ensemble’s groups, from children to senior citizens, on stage. Our sincerest gratitude to all of you.

Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community

Purim at the Gesher Club

Pur6

The Gesher Club of the Lithuanian Jewish Community celebrated Purim March 25 at the Natali Restaurant in Vilnius. Since carnival costumes are a usual part of Purim, all participants were required to come in costume or at least partially dressed in costumes. LJC program coordinator Žana Skudovičienė took care of those who for one or another reason were unable or did not have time to get ready for the holiday. She let them chose a mask or costume accessory provided by Fayerlakh ensemble director Larisa Vyšniauskienė for the occasion.

LJC Children’s Purim Was the Most Fun

Vaiku Purimas

This isn’t the first time LJC Youth Programs coordinator Pavelas Guliakovas has organized a holiday celebration. This year he decided there should be costume play based on excerpts from the Book of Esther with all the heroes and villains: the Persian king, Haman, Esther and all the others. But there were also samurai, cowboys, doctors and princesses. The entire play was performed in rhyme. During the breaks between acts, the children rushed off to change masks, apply glitter and use it as coloring, then came back to the performance space. Dancers from the Fayerlakh ensemble danced. All of the children and several of the parents as well had grown up attending the small children’s club Dubi, and Dubi, Dubi Mishpakha and Ilan Club children aged 2 to 12 took part in the Purim celebration. Samuel Gar, a professional teacher of Jewish dance, taught dances to the children. Their performance was amazing and the celebration lasted for about two hours.

Purim at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius

sin6

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

pan1purim

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.

pan6purim

Fayerlakh Concert

Untitled1

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

Kaziukas2

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

fa094381-1734-477d-8407-eee257e1537b

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.