Yiddish

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

Israel Cohen’s Vilna Translated to Lithuanian

by Olga Ugriumova, Lithuanian Radio and Television Russian service

Vilnius publishing house Hubris has published a Lithuanian translation of British writer and early proponent of Zionism Israel Cohen’s book “Vilna.” The author was born in London to a family of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He worked as a correspondent for the Times and the Manchester Guardian in Berlin, and also collaborated with Manchester Evening Chronicle and Jewish World, among many other publications. The book “Vilna” was first published in 1943 by the Jewish Publication Society of America as part of their Jewish Community Series showcasing Jewish communities in various countries for English speakers.

Full article in Russian here.

Publisher’s page here.

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.

Yiddish Journalists of Argentina

Yiddish Journalists of Argentina

by Javier Sinay

A newly translated book spotlights the country’s long-forgotten Jewish journalism, and the immigrants who shaped it

In February of 1898, 4,824 immigrants arrived at the port of Buenos Aires: 2,919 Italians, 1,284 Spaniards, 166 French, 137 Turks, 84 Russians, 47 Austrians, 46 Germans, 42 Brits, 35 Portuguese, 23 Swiss, 15 Belgians, 13 Moroccans, five Americans, four Danes, three Swedes, and one Dutch. In Buenos Aires, 1 out of every 2 people on the streets had been born elsewhere, at least one ocean away.

Many of these communities had their own newspapers; the Jewish community did also. We know a lot about Argentina’s Yiddish pioneers thanks to Pinie Katz, a journalist who years later, in 1929, published in Buenos Aires a book titled Tsu der geshijte fun der idisher dyurnalistik in Argentine (with a Spanish title, Apuntes para la historia del periodismo judío en la Argentina), which tells the story of the Jewish press in Argentina between 1898 to 1914. That last year, David Goldman wrote in his book Di Yuden in Argentine (Jews in Argentina) that there was a “mass of corpses in Argentina’s literary cemetery,” referring to the high number of newspapers that were short-lived. Goldman calculated that up until 1914, some 40 newspapers had sprung up, and in 1951 the magazine Der Shpigl defined that early period as “the heroic era of Jewish journalism” in Argentina.

In his book, Pinie Katz told us about those restless Quixotes and their newspapers, their reports, their intrigues, the debates they prompted within the community, and their relationship to Argentine society. Over the years, however, Katz and the pioneers he chronicled became figures blurred by time, or as in most cases, completely forgotten. This was especially true given that they wrote and published in Yiddish, which isolated them from anyone who didn’t speak the language. Now, though, we have translated Katz’s book into Spanish, appearing under the title La caja de letras: Hallazgo y recuperación de “Apuntes para la historia del periodismo judío en la Argentina”, de Pinie Katz, or The Box of Letters: Discovery and Recovery of “Notes for a History of Jewish Journalism in Argentina,” by Pinie Katz.

Full story here.

Lithuanian Cinematographer and Cultural Expert Pranas Morkus Has Died

Lithuanian Cinematographer and Cultural Expert Pranas Morkus Has Died

The Lithuanian Jewish Community mourns the death of the famous Lithuanian filmmaker and cultural scientist Pranas Morkus (1938-2022) and we extend our most sincere and deepest condolences to his family members and friends.

Morkus was born February 18, 1938, in Klaipėda to the family of theater actress Galina Yatskevich. From 1955 to 1957 he was a student at the Lomonosov Philology Department of Moscow State University, and from 1957 to 1960 at the History and Philology Faculties of Vilnius University.

From 1962 to 1964 he was attended the highest-level courses for scriptwriters and directors in Moscow. He was a member of the Lithuanian Union of Cinematographers. From 1960 to 1962 he was editor-in-chief of radio theater for the Television Radio Committee of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, and from 1968 to 1970 he served as editor-in-chief for the creative body Lietuvos Telefilmas.

A Cry to Heaven

A Cry to Heaven

Photo: Jewish nursery school in Plungė, Lithuania. Almost no Jewish children survived in Lithuania. Photo source: Screenshot from the documentary J’Accuse

Renowned cantors unite to give their voices to Baltic Truth premiere

There were very few survivors from Lithuania. In the villages, there were almost none. We know what happened in some locations because we have testimonies from some survivors.

Yakov Zak testified about the Lithuanian Holocaust: “The rabbi of Kelmė, Kalmen Benushevits, who had escaped to Vaiguva at the outbreak of the war, had been brought together with the Jews from Vaiguva. He had been forced to kneel next to the pit the entire day. He had quietly whispered a prayer, watching while the Jews were shot. After all the Jews were shot, he was shot as well.”

And:

“The mystic religious melodies of the yeshiva students, their rabbis and leaders were eternally silenced. The town was ruined down to the foundations; the Jewish community of Kelmė was ruined forever. Peasants also related that while the yeshiva students were being taken to be shot, they did not weep. Like stone statues, they moved slowly, with their eyes raised to the sky, murmuring prayers.”

European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

European Days of Jewish Culture in Vilnius

This year will be the seventh the Lithuanian Jewish Community is holding events for the European Days of Jewish Culture. This year’s theme is renewal.

Renewal is woven into almost all aspects of Jewish life. Jewish life is continually building on the past in new ways, bringing a sense of constant change along with a reassuring sense of continuity. The Jewish New Year opens with the festivals of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. These holy days through their traditions and prayers present an opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge our past actions while looking ahead with new resolutions, optimism and determination. During this period we reconcile personal and communal differences within ourselves and with others as we actively strive to renew our aspirations for the coming year, and beyond.

We invite you to attend the events, all of which are free and open to the public.

Register here, space is limited.

Program:

Condolences

We extend our deepest condolences on the death of Polina Zingerienė at the age of 101 to her sons Markas and Emanuelis and her many friends and relatives.

She was born in Kaunas where she was graduated from high school. Her adolescence was cut short by World War II. She was imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto and later sent to a concentration camp. After the Allies liberated the camp, Polina returned to Kaunas.

Her painful experiences and struggle to survive the Holocaust led her to go into medicine. She received in diploma in natal and developmental nursing. She worked in her field of medicine till the age of 76.

Dybbuk Exhibit in Jerusalem

Dybbuk Exhibit in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Theater Archive and Museum is hosting an exhibit to mark the 100th anniversary of the staging of S. An-sky’s “Dybbuk” at the Habima Theater in Moscow. The exhibit opened August 8 at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, according to Birobaidzhaner Shtern.

An-sky’s “Dybbuk, or, Between Two Worlds” was written in Yiddish. The Moscow production was translated to Hebrew by Evgeny Vakhtangov and Haim-Nahman Bialik. The Vilner Troupe presented the play in Yiddish in Warsaw in 1920, directed by Dovid Herman. The Polish film “Dybbuk” directed by Michał Waszyński was shot in 1937 and marks the birth of Yiddish cinema. The Hebrew-language production in Moscow, however, is considered special because its success became a kind of calling card for Habima, which in turn eventually became the National Theater of Israel.

Full article in Yiddish here.

Shalom in All the World Events in Klaipėda

Shalom in All the World Events in Klaipėda

The International Festival of Jewish culture “Shalom in All The World” returns to Klaipėda.

This year, the International Festival dedicated to learning about the history, culture, art, and traditions of the Jewish society will be held for the second time and is part of the program of events dedicated to the 770th anniversary of the city of Klaipėda. During the events of the Festival, the aim will be to emphasize the historical roots of the Jewish society in Memel, specifically the contribution of the Jewish residents to the development of the city in that time

Full of events, an enthralling and significant Festival will again invite everyone, regardless of their nationality, religion, beliefs, to meet at the concerts, talks, movie screenings, exhibitions, creative workshops, traditional Jewish dance lessons, excursions.

Youth, adults, families, regardless of age, education, interests are very welcome! All events are free of charge! Be with us and among us!

Full program here.

Limmud in the Woods 2022

Limmud in the Woods 2022

The annual international Limmud conference will be held August 19 and 20 in the woods of south Estonia. To register, go to the Limmud page here. For more information, check out Limmud’s facebook page here.

Vilnius Approves Restoration of Jewish Street

Vilnius Approves Restoration of Jewish Street

MadeinVilnius.lt

The city of Vilnius wants to reconstruct historical Žydų or Jewish street and decorate the territory of the former Great Synagogue with architectural accents recalling the 16th century. The Vilnius municipality and the Vilniaus Planas group of architects back in May presented the public proposed projects for the restoration of Žydų street and the Shulhoyf. The Vilnius city municipality approved a project this week.

The contours of historical Jewish street were established more precisely according to the location of fragments of street paving boards discovered. The current street trajectory has changed from the historical one and the proposal is to return it to its original course through the deconstruction and removal of existing street and sidewalk pavement. The paving stones on Stiklių street, which becomes Žydų street, would continue on into Žydų street, according to the current plan.

Judith Tsik Was Born July 7 in Gargždai

Judith Tsik Was Born July 7 in Gargždai

The Yiddish poetess Judith Tsik, also known as Yehudis and Yudis and the pen-name Judika, was born July 7, 1898, in Gargždai, Lithuania.

Encyclopaedia Judaica:

YUDIKA

YUDIKA (Yudis (Judith ) Tsik; 1898–1988), poetess. She was born in Gorzhd (Gargždai), Lithuania. Poverty forced her family to send Tsik to live with an aunt in Eastern Prussia, then annexed to Germany.

One Hundred and Seven Years Late for Dinner

One Hundred and Seven Years Late for Dinner

by Grant Gochin

When your grandmother’s last words make it clear that she’s not who you thought she was, you are willing to move all the mountains in Europe to get to the truth

Dinner between cousins was scheduled for Shabbat on Friday, May 14, 1915. How was I to know that the Shabbos meal never took place? Without warning, Russian forces launched a genocidal mass deportation of Baltic Jews deep into Russia. Families were torn apart, lives were destroyed and communities of Jews devastated.

The first inkling I had was on my grandmother’s deathbed. Her final lucid words to me were: “I wish I knew my name. I wish I knew who my family was.” We thought we knew her name–Bertha Lee Arenson. We were wrong.

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.

Faina Kukliansky: June 14 Recalls Agony of All Lithuanian Citizens

Faina Kukliansky: June 14 Recalls Agony of All Lithuanian Citizens

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky participated in a commemoration at the Lithuanian parliament to mark the Day of Mourning and Hope and the Day of Occupation and Genocide, and also attended a ceremony at a memorial in Naujoji Vilnia.

“Lithuanian Jews didn’t just experience the tragedy of the Holocaust, but also the repressions of the Soviet regime. The system sought to do away with the Jewish national spirit and the values. All sorts of means were used to achieve this, including the deportations already mentioned, but also communal and personal property seizures, the monument at Ponar blown up because it bore an inscription in Yiddish, synagogues nationalized and the closure of the YIVO institute. The Sovietization of the educational system dealt a huge blow to Jews, with private and communal schools banned. Some of the Jewish schools were destroyed, others were made into state schools where Hebrew was no longer taught and the traditional ethnic curricula–Jewish curricula–formed over many years were abolished. In their place new subjects were introduced, including mandatory Russian language and classes on the constitution of the USSR. The goal was obvious: to erase and replace the identity of the Jewish people. So when we talk about these horrific days in June, we are talking about a tragedy for Lithuanian citizens, no matter what their ethnic identity,” chairwoman Kukliansky said.

June 14 to 18 are remembered in Lithuania as an especially brutal part of history which destroyed the lives of many people of Lithuania, including Lithuanians, Jews, Poles and Russians. There is a public misconception the deportations during those days in 1941 only affected ethnic Lithuanians. Actually more than 3,000 Jews from Lithuania were among the deportees. The Lithuanian Jewish Community marks this painful anniversary annually in common with all the people of Lithuania and we will not forget the pain inflicted on Lithuania during this period in 1941.

Discussion Club #ŽydiškiPašnekesiai with Arkadijus Vinokuras

Discussion Club #ŽydiškiPašnekesiai with Arkadijus Vinokuras

Back in the time of King David, 3,000 years ago, the king was considered the best singer, and under his reign the professional musicians dynasty of the Levites from the tribe of Levi began. Music schools were established for singers of hymns and players of instruments. Hymns and instrumental music accompanied rituals for the offering of sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem built by Solomon in 959 BCE. During sacred rituals the priests blew 120 trumpets at the same time.

Of course we won’t go that deep into history. We’ll just discuss the period of Jewish music from Smetona’s Lithuania till today, discussion club #ŽydiškiPašnekesiai initiator Arkadijus Vinokuras promises.

The next discussion is called “Jewish Music: What Is It, and Why Doesn’t It Ever Grow Old?” on June 14, 2022.

The club will meet outside this time at the site of the former statue to Petras Cvirka where the Cvi in the Park Israeli street food kiosk is operating for the summer. The meeting will take place inside the Bagel Shop Café due to rain at 5:00 P.M. It’s open to everyone and will be live-streamed on the LJC facebook page.

Participants are to include Leonidas Melnikas, Boris Traub, Boris Kizner and Masha Dushkina, moderated by Arkadijus Vinokuras. The discussion will likely take place in Lithuanian.

Fifth World Litvak Congress Participants Visit Panevėžys, Pakruojis, Šeduva

Fifth World Litvak Congress Participants Visit Panevėžys, Pakruojis, Šeduva

A delegation of participants from the Fifth World Litvak Congress travelled to Panevėžys May 25 and were met there by members of the Panevėžys Jewish Community and the local municipality.

Panevėžys city municipality deputy director of administration Žibutė Gaivenienė said: “It is nice to welcome today guests arriving in Panevėžys from the Fifth World Litvak Congress and members of the city’s Jewish community. Panevėžys has long been a multi-ethnic and multicultural city, and the Jewish community has played an important role in the life of the city and the whole district. At certain periods of history Jews constituted a very significant part of the population of the city and were active participants in the city’s economic and service sectors. A larger Jewish community formed in the city in the second half of the 18th century. In the mid-19th century Jews constituted about 60 percent of the city population, and in the early 1920s Jews accounted for about 35 percent of the population. So the Jewish community’s contribution to the development of Panevėžys, and especially its transformation into a modern city, is a great one, and the Jewish legacy in different forms still operates in our daily life.”

Ben Tsiyon Klibansky: Lithuanian Holocaust Perpetrators Turned into Heroes

Ben Tsiyon Klibansky: Lithuanian Holocaust Perpetrators Turned into Heroes

Lithuanian State Television and Radio LRT.lt interview with Ben Tsiyon Klibansky

Lithuanians are still heroizing people who took part in the Holocaust, regrets historian and author Ben Tsiyon Klibansky. It’s up to the nation’s leaders to start a long-overdue conversation about these painful pages from the country’s history.

Ben Tsiyon Klibansky teaches at Tel Aviv University and researches Eastern European Jewry. This is now a lost world, and the Jews of Lithuania were the cornerstone in this world, Klibansky tells LRT.lt, something he feels it to be his duty to research.

You were born in Lithuania, Vilnius, but now, you live in Israel. Could you tell me more about your connection to Lithuania?

My family was a traditional family. My grandfather was a spiritual leader of the community. … I was a student at the Antanas Vienuolis School for two years, then my parents got permission to leave Lithuania and immigrate to Israel, which had been their dream for many years.

You should understand that it wasn’t because they hated Lithuania, but because of the prophecies of the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, who promised one day we will return to the land of Israel and settle there again. They tried to get permission to leave Lithuania and go to Israel, but it was Soviet Lithuania and the Soviets didn’t let them to go. It took them 13 years, from 1956 when they returned from Siberia until 1969. …

After I finished high school in Israel I started studying at Tel Aviv University. I studied electronic engineering. I joined the army and served for many years. I was a high-ranking officer in the army and when I finished my army service, I got a very good contract in the industry.

Vilnius Municipality, Goodwill Foundation, Lithuanian Jewish Community Sign Memorandum on Great Synagogue

Vilnius Municipality, Goodwill Foundation, Lithuanian Jewish Community Sign Memorandum on Great Synagogue

The Vilnius city municipality, the Goodwill Foundation and the Lithuanian Jewish Community have signed a memorandum for commemorating the Vilnius Great Synagogue site by mid-2026. The synagogue site and surrounding area which was home to the synagogue complex will become a Vilnius Great Synagogue memorial square with a Lithuanian Jewish Community information center telling the story of the grand synagogue complex to the wider society.

“Many Vilnius residents know why Vilnius is called the Jerusalem of the North. Faded inscriptions in Hebrew, commemorative plaques and monuments on and around buildings in the former Vilnius ghetto recall the history of Jewish spirituality and learning. We have agreed how we will create a new center of attraction for Lithuanians and foreigners at the site of the Great Synagogue destroyed by the Soviets,” Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius said.

Archaeological investigations of the Great Synagogue site began circa 2010. Archaeologists at the digs discovered part of the bimah, the foundations for two of its columns, the two mikvot ritual bath sites, the location of the large external wall at the back of the synagogue and a portion of the original flooring in the main chamber of worship. They also discovered inscriptions engraved on the walls next to where the bimah stood, naming people and quoting from the Book of Genesis and lines from hymns.

Fania Brantskovskaya on Film

Fania Brantskovskaya on Film

In 2014 a group of German filmmakers travelled to Lithuania to document the amazing life story of our resident Jewish partisan soldier and long-standing member of the Community who recently celebrated a milestone birthday. The film was released in 2015 and is available on DVD and may be booked by cinemas anywhere in the world (see contact information at the bottom of this post). Here are the liner notes from the DVD released in 2015:

Fania Yocheles-Barntsovskaya was about to begin her studies when on June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded her hometown of Vilnius, known at that time as the Jerusalem of the North.