Learning, History, Culture

Litvaks in the Creation of Modern Lithuania and Israel

The Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library is to host a conference called “Together towards the Modern State: Litvaks in the History of Lithuanian and Israeli Statehood” on November 13 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lithuanian and 70th anniversary of Israeli statehood.

Speakers are to include Lithuanian and Israeli academics who will present the contribution Lithuanian Jews made in the creation of the Lithuanian state in 1918 and the contribution Litvaks also made to foundation of the state of Israel. Lithuanian students will also present their research on the life of local Jewish communities.

Please register before November 12 by sending an email to gustas.siauciulis@praktika.urm.lt

The conference will begin at 10:00 A.M. on November 13 at the national library.

The library’s Judaica Research Center will also present an exhibit during the conference called “Reflections in a Broken Mirror” presenting the life of the Lithuanian and Vilnius Jewish communities in the period between the two world wars.

Information available in Lithuanian here.

Book Launch: And the Goat Does Bring Happiness

You are cordially invited to attend the launch of Ilja Bereznickas’s book Ir ožka neša laimę [And the Goat Does Bring Happiness] on Monday, October 29 at 6:00 P.M. at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius. The author will be there along with illustrator and publisher Leonardas Armonas, and there will be a screening of Ilja Bereznickas’s animated film Ne ožkoje laimė [Happiness Is Not Found in a Goat], perfectly suited for adults and children alike (film and book in Lithuanian).

Condolences

Feiga Koganskienė passed away October 23, 2018. She was born in 1926. For many years she served as deputy chairwoman for the Kaunas Jewish Community and was responsible for social needs of the community. She was also the director of the Community’s Yiddish Club and spoke the language fluently. Our deepest condolences to her many friends and relatives.

Happiness Is Not Found in a Goat (Or Is it?)

The tailor Mendel Katz lived with his prolific family in a small village together with other tailors, cobblers, poor musicians and strange and wise rabbis… They lived in poverty and as head of the house Mendel worked from early in the morning to late at night, sewing shirts, vests and trousers. The work had to be done very carefully and peace and quiet was required to concentrate, otherwise all sorts of things happened: a sleeve was sewn to trousers, or a pant-leg to a shirt. Mendel often made such mistakes. Why? For several reasons. His wife Sonya was a great village gossip. The children–five girls and even worse, ten bone-headed boys. And wife Sonya also had a spinster sister, a mother dissatisfied with everything and a father who was going deaf. This was reason enough for someone to be driven out of their mind.

The entire family lived in a tiny house. Mendel’s sewing machine stood next to a dark window. How can one possibly work when the scandals never end from the morning onwards? But, as the local wise man Josef said, an end comes to every person’s patience, even that of a Jewish tailor. And one morning Mendel’s patience ended.

This is how it happened. Mendel began sewing in the morning, the entire famished family sat around the table, the children banged their spoons waiting for the porridge to be ready. Sonya put a pot of porridge on the table and stood there in silence, but not for long. The eldest daughter, blue-eyed Riva, a real boss, pointed her finger towards, she told the youngest daughter, a fly which had alighted on the ceiling, and this young fool of a girl turned her head upwards and began searching for the fly. You understand that this was exactly what Riva had wanted. As soon as the youngest understood she had been tricked and her porridge eaten, she began to howl so that even the deaf father-in-law was awakened from his slumber, the mother-in-law in fright and the unexpectedness of the thing sat on the cat. And so it began… Mendel’s wife grabbed the broom and began chasing the eldest daughter through the small house with it. The brush flew off the handle and hit the wedding dress which Sonya’s quiet spinster sister had been sewing.

Remembering Victims of the Great Aktion in Kaunas

The Kaunas Jewish Community will remember the victims of the Great Aktion in the Kaunas ghetto with a candle-lighting ceremony and honor Holocaust victims with a prayer at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas at 12 noon on October 28. The largest mass murder of Jews in the Kaunas ghetto on any day took place on October 28 into October 29, 1941, when about 10,000 people were killed. Over 4,200 children were murdered during the Great Aktion.

Kaunas Jewish Community Celebrates 30th Birthday

The Kaunas Jewish Community celebrated the 30th anniversary of its restoration with the concert “From Mendelssohn to Latėnas” October 22. Members of the Kaunas Jewish Community, city society and cultural figures attended the elegant event reminiscent of Kaunas in the period between the two world wars.

Speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Viktoras Pranckietis greeted the audience and the Community.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community is proud of the achievements by the Kaunas Jewish Community and thanks chairman Gercas Žakas for his efforts in rallying and uniting the Jews of Lithuania’s provisional capital, for his sincere and ceaseless concern for the needs of members and Righteous Gentiles, for popularizing athletics and reviving Yiddish culture.

We are so proud of you and wish you many more such anniversaries! Mazl tov!

Meeting/Discussion “Prospects for Jewish Heritage in 2020”

You are invited to attend and speak at a meeting and discussion called “Prospects for Jewish Heritage in 2020: Major Tasks and Goals during the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History” at 5:30 P.M. on October 24 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Pylimo street no. 4, Vilnius.

Members of the LJC’s heritage protection group will attend, including Lyudmila Sholokhova from YIVO, Assumpcio Hosta from the AEPJ in Spain and Sergey Kravtsov from Hebrew University.

To register, contact renginiai@lzb.lt

Come Learn to Play Chess

Playing chess improves memory, thinking ahead, concentration and creativity. Chess teaches you to make good decisions and helps you find new friends!

These basic classes will be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. The first demonstration class will be on Monday, September 22, at 6:00 P.M. The teachers will be FIDE master Boris Rositsan and Virginijus Dambrauskas. To register, just send an email to renginiai@lzb.lt

Condolences

Accomplished Lithuanian sculptor Romualdas Kvintas has died following a long battle with illness. He passed away October 20, 2018. He was born June 16, 1953, in Žagarė, Lithuania. Many of his works started dealing with Jewish figures and the Holocaust in the late 1990s. He created portraits in sculpture of Romain Gary, Daniel Dolski, Tsemakh Shabad, Jascha Heifetz, Hermanas Perelšteinas, Nehru, Mohandis Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach together, and many others. He also created several memorials to the Jews of Šeduva.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community feels we have lost a friend and great artist. Our deepest condolences to his family, friends and many admirers.

Juvenishki Memorial, an Exhibit of Works by Simon Karczmar

The Dieveniškės School of Business and Technologies is inviting the public to attend a special event for the region and the nation, the opening of an exhibit of works by Simon Karczmar called “Juvenishki Memorial” at the school located at Geranionų street no. 42 in Dieveniškės, Lithuania, from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. on October 23, 2018.

Simon Karczmar visited his grandfather in Dieveniškės, aka Juvenishki and aka Divenishok ca. 1908 where he discovered the life of the shtetl for the first time. He went on to pursue a career in art which he paid for by trading furs and lived in Warsaw and Paris. He joined the French resistance during World War II, found his surviving wife who had been sent to Auschwitz and they moved to Israel together, moving eventually to Montreal and then back to Israel. While in Canada and then later in Safed, Israel, Karczmar produced a series of works connected with his grandfather’s shtetl.

The exhibit will travel on from Dieveniškės to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius later.

For more information, see the school’s facebook page here.

Righteous Gentile Vladas Varčikas Commemorated in Kaunas

The Juozas Naujalis Music Gymnasium in Kaunas has unveiled a plaque commemorating Righteous Gentile, teacher and famous violinist Vladas Varčikas, and has also created his portrait based on the memories of colleagues and those he rescued.

The Juozas Naujalis Music Gymnasium and the Kaunas Jewish Community commemorated Varčikas at the gymnasium where he worked as a teacher of violin from 1946 to 2008.

Varčikas isn’t just well known to the musical community, he’s also venerated in the Jewish community, as stated in the inscription on the plaque by the sculptor Gediminas Pašvenskas placed on the wall of the Chamber Hall of the gymnasium. The white marble plaque says he is a violinist, pedagogue and Righteous Gentile.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

LJC Invites Public to Express Solidarity with Holocaust Victims

The Lithuanian Jewish Community has learned of a protest organized by the Vilnius Forum to stop the alleged tarnishing of Jonas Noreika’s name. They invited protesters to assemble at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry just before noon on October 16.

The LJC reminds readers there is a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika, aka General Vėtra, the organizer of the Šiauliai ghetto and the person in charge of isolating Jews there, right in central Vilnius erected apparently illegally in 1997, while only this year was a site announced for a future statue to Righteous Gentiles. We believe this lack of moral priorities is not in keeping with the spirit of a free, democratic and lawful state.

It is a great shame that 28 years after the restoration of Lithuanian independence, some still refuse to accept and admit the historical facts and to seek reconciliation.

The LJC appreciates the Lithuanian foreign minister’s position regarding the removal of the plaque commemorating Noreika and we encourage international Jewish organizations to express their opinion as well.

We also invite all sensible Lithuanian citizens to go to the Foreign Ministry and take part in an alternative meeting by the LJC, to become a voice for the 200,000 murdered Lithuanian Jews, and to again read out the names of the Lithuanian Jewish citizens imprisoned and murdered in the Šiauliai ghetto. Let’s not allow the lionization of people who contributed to the destruction of the Jews and the various excuses to overshadow the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and of those who saved Lithuania’s honor, the rescuers of Jews.

Those unable to come are invited to sign a petition for the immediate removal of the illegal plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.

Remembering the Holocaust Victims in Švenčionys

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and residents of Švenčionys remember the victims of the Holocaust from this Lithuanian city at the Menorah statue in the city park October 7. Those who turned out for the event then went to the Švenčionėliai polygon [military reservation] mass murder site in the forest between Platumai village and Šalnaitis lake where about 8,000 Jews from around the Vilnius region were murdered.

The commemoration is always held on the first Wednesday in October by the Menorah statue in what was formerly the Jewish ghetto.

Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moshe Šapiro personally thanked all who arrived, especially those who travelled long distances. LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, Beit Vilna [Association of Jews from Vilna and Vicinity in Israel] president Mickey Kantor and Polish ambassador to Lithuania Urszula Doroszewska attended the event, among others. Choral Synagogue cantor Shmuel Yatom performed the prayer.

Free Concert to Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Kaunas Jewish Community

The Kaunas State Philharmonic invites you to a unique concert dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the restoration of the Kaunas Jewish Community, “…from Mendelssohn to Latėnas…,” at 6:00 PM on October 22 at the Kaunas State Philharmonic.

Performances by the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra (directed by Mindaugas Bačkus), Gabrielė Ašmontaitė (on harp), soloists Vilhelmas Čepinskis (violin), Stein Skjervold (baritone) and Mindaugas Bačkus (cello).

The concert is free.

Exhibit of Michailis Duškesas’s Document Collection

The third floor of the Lithuanian Jewish Community is now hosting an exhibit of documents to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. All of the documents relate to Vilnius and the people of the city, including Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, Dr. Tsemakh Shabad, banker Israel Bunimovich, the businessman Isak Shuman and others. The documents are from around the world with the majority from Germany, the USA and Israel.

One interesting document appears in the first display case at the new exhibit. It carries the inscription in Russia “Proyekt ustava dukhovnogo obschestva Vilniuskoy sinagogi” and the date 1888. It was acquired in Israel and comes from the collection of Leizer Ran, a well-known collector of Judaica.

There are many photographs from various angles of the Great Synagogue and the Choral Synagogue.

Document collector Michailis Duškesas says he began collecting pre-Holocaust Lithuanian Jewish documents about 15 years ago, and began collecting stamps since about 1980. He has an extensive stamp collection from around the world featuring the game of ping pong. He says he’s constantly enlarging his Judaica collection and now has a great number of documents concerning Lithuanian cities and towns where Jews lived. His documents have been exhibited before at the Lithuanian parliament, the National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum and the Lithuanian Historical Presidential Palace in Kaunas. He says they have also been used in documentary films about Jewish life in Lithuania before the Holocaust.

Street in Šiauliai To Be Renamed after Prominent Jewish Family


Jakob, Dora and Haim Frenkel ca. 1893, Šiauliai. From the collection of the Aušra Museum.

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community learned October 4 the Šiauliai city municipality had decided to rename Elnio street after a famous local Jewish family, the Frenkels.

Haim Frenkel was a Jewish industrialist in Šiauliai.

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community would like to thank the city council for adopting their proposal so quickly, and singles out Zina Žuklijienė, Gintaras Karalevičius and Domas Griškevičius for special mention, as well as MP Stasys Tumėnas and his team of advisors, the politician Vytautas Juškas, the Aušra Museum, Laiptai Gallery director Janina Ališauskienė, Šiauliai Tourist Information Center director Rūta Stankuvienė and others.

The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community believes this is a lesson in civics which will help restore historical justice to some extent.

Lithuanian Public Television Features Program about Litvaks

The Lithuanian Radio and Television television program Misija: Vilnija [Mission: Vilnius Region] about ethnic communities and minority cultures in Lithuania featured Litvaks as the program entered its fourth season at the beginning of October.

In the interview with Miša Jakobas, the principal of the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium in Vilnius, he remarked how much freer children have become in Lithuania, which he said has its plusses as well as minuses. He said he never sees students carrying books during breaks between classes anymore and that the current student body was born into a technological society they know better than his generation does. Hostess and interviewer Katažina Zvonkuvienė and Jakobas discussed the sense of loss and sadness in which the post-war generation of Lithuanian Jews lives and which is sometimes unperceived as such. They also talked about the role of the state in guaranteeing the rights of all ethnic communities in Lithuania and the multiethnic and interfaith composition of the Sholem Aleichem school’s student body.

Interviewed at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, Vilnius Jewish Religious Community chairman Simas Levinas spoke about the glorious reputation for scholarship Jewish Vilna once had, and the slow path to drawing back more Jewish families to tradition and to restoring what existed before.

Sholem Aleichem Gymnasium Hebrew teacher Ruth Reches spoke about the durability of Jewish tradition in the face of assimilation. She said rather than grandparents passing on tradition to children, the reverse process seems to be at work now: children are learning Jewish traditions at school and teaching their parents.

Riva Portnaja, the chief chef and baker at the Bagel Shop Café, recalled her childhood in Žemaitija when keeping a kosher kitchen was the customary thing, and spoke about the great demand in Vilnius for Jewish cuisine among Lithuanians.

Cardiology Lesson for Elderly at Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community

A class and consultation by cardiologist Virginija Ežerskienė was held for senior citizens of the Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community October 4. Our elderly learned about modern heart treatments and the doctor gave individual consultations and answered questions following the lecture.

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community senior citizens said they find these sorts of lessons very useful. In line with the wishes of our seniors we will try to hold lectures with consultations by medical specialists once a month. The Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community is deeply grateful to Dr. Virginija Ežerskienė for her gift of expertise and advice to our senior citizens.