Yiddish

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

Large Jewish Community Lived in Švenčionys Region Before Holocaust

The Švenčionys region of Lithuania is a multicultural place where Lithuanians live alongside Poles, Russians, Belarussians, Jews and people of other ethnicities.

The Švenčionys Jewish Community was reconstituted in 2013. It is now headed by the energetic Švenčionys native Moshe Shapiro (aka Moisiejus Šapiro).

There was a large Jewish community living in the Švenčionys region in the period between the two world wars. In fact there were five synagogues operating there.

Jews there set up an herbal pharmaceuticals factory and different workshops in the center of the town of Švenčionys. Jewish effort, initiative and expertise were involved in all fields of production and business.

This Year Marks 160th Anniversary of Birth of Famous Litvak Writer, Yiddishist, Journalist and Politician Abraham Cahan

This Year Marks 160th Anniversary of Birth of Famous Litvak Writer, Yiddishist, Journalist and Politician Abraham Cahan

Abraham “Abe” Cahan (July 7, 1860 – August 31, 1951) was Jewish American socialist newspaper editor, novelist, and politician. Cahan was one of the founders of The Forward, an American Yiddish publication, and was its editor-in-chief for 43 years. During his stewardship of the Forward, it became a prominent voice in the Jewish community and in the Socialist Party of America, voicing a relatively moderate stance within the realm of American socialist politics.

Abraham Cahan was born July 7, 1860, in Podberezhie in Belarus (at the time in Vilnius Governorate, Russian Empire), into an Orthodox Litvak family. His grandfather was a rabbi in Vidz, Vitebsk, his father a teacher of Hebrew and the Talmud. The devoutly religious family moved to Vilnius in 1866, where the young Cahan studied to become a rabbi. He was attracted by secular knowledge and clandestinely studied Russian, ultimately demanding that his parents allow him to enter the Teachers Institute of Vilnius from which he graduated in 1881. He was appointed as a teacher in a Jewish school funded by the Russian government in Velizh, Vitebsk, in the same year.

Musical Happy Birthday from the Kaunas Jewish Community

Musical Happy Birthday from the Kaunas Jewish Community

As spring finally arrives, the Kaunas Jewish Community sends birthday greetings to our beloved member Liuba Stulgaitienė.

Liuba is very active in Community events, a member of the Yiddish Club, a member of the Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners and a woman who always radiates positivity, optimism and joy. She smiles at the whole world despite all injuries experienced and the world answers her the same way.

Dear Liuba, keep being so young at heart, so energetic, so thirsty for knowledge and someone who is able to say the years are not a burden, but a rich experience.

Mazl tov! May you live to 120!

Faina Kukliansky Interviewed by Lithuanian Media on Yom haAtzma’ut

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky was interviewed by Lithuanian publicist Donatas Puslys on Yom haAtzma’ut, Israeli independence day, and spoke about what the holiday means to Jews in Lithuania, to her personally and to Jews around the world. She also spoke about the Holocaust, Litvaks living in Israel, the promise Eretz Israel held out to Soviet Jews and the country’s progress over the last 72 years. The interview was conducted in Lithuanian but concludes with warm wishes in Yiddish.

EBRD Awards Grigoriy Kanovich’s Book Devilspel European Literature Prize

EBRD Awards Grigoriy Kanovich’s Book Devilspel European Literature Prize

From Noir Press:

PRESS RELEASE

April 22, 2020

Lithuanian author wins €20,000 Literature Prize from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
The UK publishing house Noir Press is delighted Lithuanian Jewish author Grigory Kanovich has just won the €20,000 EBRD Literature Prize, a prestigious award celebrating literature in translation.

The prize, normally awarded at Bank headquarters in London, was awarded virtually this year because of the quarantine announced by the UK Government. The award was announced on Twitter on April 22.

Rosie Goldsmith, chairwoman of the panel of judges for this year’s prize, said the winning novel “is sincere, it is warm, it is generous. It has the feeling of a very great classic.”

Jewish Holiday of Freedom Celebrated without Foods Recalling Slavery

Jewish Holiday of Freedom Celebrated without Foods Recalling Slavery

Judita Gliauberzonaitė, 42, chairwoman of the Vilnius Lithuanian Jerusalem Jewish community, recalls how her grandmother Cilė Žiburkienė every spring before Passover would cleanse the entire house so that, God forbid, not even a grain of flour would remain, which would mean leavened bread remained in the house, a sign recalling the enslavement of the Jews in the land of Egypt.

Jews around the world who count their history in millennia begin celebrating their Passover holiday on the 15th day in the month of Nisan (March or April), lasting for seven days in Israel and eight elsewhere in the world. Secular Jews who keep to tradition usually celebrate the first and last days of Passover, gathering as families for dinner.

Judita Gliauberzonaitė says more religious Jews attend synagogue every day of Passover.

Passover often coincides with Catholic Easter. This year it began on April 8 and continues till April 15.

No, Mr. Kasčiūnas, Jews Did Not Create the Corona Virus

No, Mr. Kasčiūnas, Jews Did Not Create the Corona Virus

by Arkadijus Vinokuras

I’m having a dark laugh, Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats member of parliament Laurynas Kasčiūnas did not, thank God, accuse Jews for the corona virus. But he did accuse the Lithuanian Jewish Community of financially supporting “that liar” Rūta Vanagaitė’s book “How Did It Happen.”

You might ask what my fake headline has in common with MP Kasčiūnas’s accusation against the LJC. Well both ideas are false and allow for manipulating the truth.

See, the main figure in the book isn’t Rūta Vanagaitė, but Dr. Christoph Dieckmann, one of the best known European historians and an expert on the Holocaust in Lithuania. Or is it this fact which frightens Kasčiūnas? It’s one thing to criticize a “dilettante of history” (as Rūta Vanagaitė’s critics claim) and quite another to criticize a member of the International Commission for Assessing the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, convened and supported by the president of Lithuania.

Lithuanian Government Lists Famous Litvaks

Lithuanian Government Lists Famous Litvaks

The web page of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania now features in Lithuanian and English texts about the Vilna Gaon, famous Litvaks and visual materials for celebrating 2020 as the Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History.

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Most Prominent Jewish Personalities in Lithuania

Lithuania has been home to many Jews, who were born in this country, lived and created here leaving an indelible mark in the scholarly and cultural heritage of Lithuania as well as of the world.

Writers

Icchokas Meras (1934-2014). The author of books on the Holocaust (Geltonas lopas (The Yellow Patch), Ant ko laikosi pasaulis (What the World Rests on), Lygiosios trunka akimirką (A Stalemate), and a film script writer for well-known Lithuanian films Kai aš mažas buvau (When I Was a Child), Birželis, vasaros pradžia (June, the Beginning of Summer) and Maža išpažintis (Small Confession).

Chaim Grade (1910-1982). Vilna-born writer, a member of Yung Vilne (Young Vilnius), a group of avant-garde writers and artists. Chaim Grade is considered to be one of the leading Yiddish writers in post-Holocaust period. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Vilnius Religious Jewish Community Chairman Inspects Electrical Work at Synagogue, Discovers Nobel Prize Winner by Accident

Vilnius Religious Jewish Community Chairman Inspects Electrical Work at Synagogue, Discovers Nobel Prize Winner by Accident

Around noon on Wednesday I went to take a look at the progress of the electrical wiring being installed in the prayer hall of the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. I noticed a man who was looking over the synagogue carefully. I greeted him in Hebrew and he immediately began asking me questions about synagogue operations, Lithuanian Jewish life and in general “how are you living in Lithuania?” A usual Jewish question.

As a Jew I of course responded to his questions with questions: where are you from, why are you interested in the synagogue, are you perhaps in need of tefillin? … Then the visitor humbly introduced himself, explaining he was attending an academic conference at Vilnius University and had given himself an extra day especially for going to the synagogue, hoping to meet a Jew and get a chance to talk, maybe even in Yiddish, and then walk around the Vilnius Old Town a bit.

His family came from Poland and Vilnius looks a lot like where they came from. Then he said almost in passing, “I was invited to Vilnius University because I’m a Nobel prize winner…” I thought it was quite a good joke! In Yiddish I asked him to tell me the story of his life and how he had come to be the recipient of this most prestigious prize in the world.

The Truth Heals: Grigoriy Kanovitch Interviewed by Son Sergejus

The Truth Heals: Grigoriy Kanovitch Interviewed by Son Sergejus

As the Vilnius Book Fair ramps up this year, Grigoriy Kanovitch’s “Miestelio romansas” (the Lithuanian translation of his “Shtetl Love Song”] is reappearing on bookshop shelves. The novel tells the stories of people in small-town Lithuania, including Jews, Lithuanians, Poles and Russians, in the period between 1920 and 1941. Kanovitch’s son Sergejus, also an accomplished author, interviewed him in a press release for the book fair.

How does Shtetl Love Song fit in the context of your entire corupus? How important is it that the Lithuanian edition has gone into its second printing?

Shtetl Love Song is my most personal book. It’s the most biographical. I wouldn’t say I’m spoiled by second editions. Of course there have been some. But I should consider the additional publication of Shtetl Love Song the most important. News of this made me extraordinarily happy.

Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Commemorates Holocaust Victims

Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Commemorates Holocaust Victims

On January 28 the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Jewish Community held a commemoration of International Holocaust Day at the ministry.

“The Holocaust is a horrid scar on humanity, on the face of Lithuania. It is a wound which likely will never heal. Let’s hope and try so that humanity never experiences this again. We are endlessly grateful to all the survivors of the Holocaust who are with us here today. In celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon, we hope Vilnius will again become a center of gravity for the Jews of the entire world, as the Jerusalem of Lithuania once was,” foreign minister Linas Linkevičius said after presenting red roses to Holocaust survivors attending the event.

A student choir from the Sholem Aleichem ORT Gymnasium performed three songs in Yiddish and Lithuanian.

Condolences

Ruth “Rivke” Feldman Katz has passed away at the age of 98 at her home in Florida. She was the wife of the Litvak Yiddish writer, poet and teacher Menke Katz and is survived by her son Dovid Katz and Menke’s daughter from a previous marriage, Mrs. Troim Katz Handler. Both children went on to teach Yiddish as adults.

Lithuania’s Jewish Victims of Genocide Remembered in Ponar

Lithuania’s Jewish Victims of Genocide Remembered in Ponar

Lithuania’s Day of Remembrance of Jewish Victims of Genocide was marked at Ponar September 23 in a March of the Living event. Although some of the traditional March of the Living Litvaks resident in Israel attended, they were far outnumbered by Lithuanians and especially by Lithuanian high school students.

As usual, people gathered on the west side of the railroad tracks in the town of Paneriai or Ponar just outside Vilnius to march the kilometer or so into the Ponar Memorial Complex for the ceremony at the central monument there. This year, however, hundreds of students arrived by train and walked in on the pedestrian overpass over the railroad. Also new this year was the Lithuanian honor guard who led the procession.

Poles, Russians, Lithuanians and Soviet POWs were also murdered at Ponar, albeit in significantly lower numbers than Jews. This year a Polish delegation and Catholic priest awaited the procession at the Polish monument at the entrance to the memorial complex.

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.

Panevėžys Jewish Community Receives Esperanto Speakers

Panevėžys Jewish Community Receives Esperanto Speakers

The Panevėžys Jewish Community hosted a meeting with Esperanto speakers during the 55th Baltic Esperanto Congress held in Panevėžys, with visitors from Ukraine, Israel, Romania, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Estonia and Latvia all speaking the universal language invented by Ludvik Zamenhof.

Polish director, writer and Esperanto enthusiast Roman Dobrzyński spoke about Zamenhof, aka Dr. Esperanto, and took an interest in the history of the Holocaust in Panevėžys. Lucy Rimon, a translator from Israel, proposed a joint project to offer Lithuanian Jews an opportunity to learn Esperanto. Amri Wandel, a professor of astrophysics at Hebrew University, guest professor at UCLA and president of the Esperanto League in Israel, donated his book and other items to the Panevėžys Jewish Community. He spoke about Jewish Esperanto speakers in Israel. The Russian delegation was represented by writer, translator and author and performer of Jewish songs Mikhail Bronshtayn, who performed several of his works in Yiddish.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman told guests of the founder of the Esperanto organization in Panevėžys, Yakob Kan, who lived at Respublikos street no. 49 in the city. Kan was graduated from the Jewish gymnasium, was a press correspondent and had a personal library. He attended the 26th Esperanto congress in Stockholm, studied medicine at Moscow University in Tsarist times, was widely-read and a music enthusiast, especially opera. Kan’s wife Regina, whom he married in 1937, was his true helper and advisor. Kan was taken prisoner in June, 1941, and shot. His wife left Panevėžys immediately after his execution on June 21.

The True State of the Jewish Cemeteries in Vilnius

The True State of the Jewish Cemeteries in Vilnius

The True State of the Jewish Cemeteries in Vilnius. Part of a Proud Past Which Must Be Protected

In the international sphere there has been no respite regarding preservation of the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius (in the historical neighborhood of Piromont, now known as Šnipiškės): petitions are being circulated, the issue has even been raised in the United States Senate and there is the attempt being made to put a halt to plans to renovate the Palace of Sports building there. But are these disputes over the now-destroyed cemetery sufficiently well-founded?

The Soviet Era Destroyed the Šnipiškės Jewish Cemetery and Buried Its Memory

It’s important to look at the history of the Šnipiškės cemetery. The old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius established in 1592 or 1593 (although other sources say 1487) was for all intents and purposes closed in 1830, after which part of the cemetery was destroyed, with another part surviving to the end of World War II.

The Executive Committee of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted a resolution on October 15, 1948, to close the old Jewish cemetery. At that time it had an area of just over three hectares, a quarter of the size of the Užupis Jewish cemetery on Olandų street in Vilnius.

Yale University President Peter Salovey Visits Lithuanian Jewish Community

Yale University President Peter Salovey Visits Lithuanian Jewish Community

Yale University president Peter Salovey visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the last day of his visit to Lithuania on June 21.

Salovey, a descendant of the famous Soloveitchik family of rabbis who were followers of the Vilna Gaon, maintains close connection with his Litvak roots in Kaunas and Volozhin. One of his relatives was Max Soloveitchik, a Zionist who was a member of the first interwar Lithuanian parliament, an attorney and who actively fought for recognition of Lithuania’s independence at the Paris Peace Conference. He later became Lithuanian minister of Jewish affairs.

Peter Solovey is known for his theory of emotional intelligence. With John D. Mayer, he significantly expanded the scope of the concept and authored several of the field’s seminal papers, arguing people have widely ranging abilities pertaining to emotional control, reasoning, and perceptivity. In contrast to earlier theories of intelligence which held emotions in rivalry to reason, Salovey and Mayer claimed emotion could motivate productive outcomes when properly directed. He worked to develop models and tests of emotional intelligence such as the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test. Salovey’s second area of research is in health psychology, where he applied social psychology principles to investigate the efficacy of information and education in promoting HIV risk reduction, early cancer detection and quitting smoking

Enchanting Pflaumen-Tzimmes

Enchanting Pflaumen-Tzimmes

Bagel Shop Café cooks have been sharing some of the secrets of Litvak cooking this summer with the managers of a small restaurant in Merkinė, Lithuania, called Šilo kopa. They’ve been making bagels, herring and pflaumen-tzimmes together.

Pflaumen-tzimmes is a stew made of plums and beef often made for the Sabbath table and Rosh Hashanah.

Bagel Shop Café cook Riva remembers this dish well and still makes it according to a simple recipe: about 1.5 kilograms of beef (from the forequarter), bone, about 15 to 20 plums, about 1.5 kg of potatoes and 1 onion, which is later removed. Laurel leaves aren’t required, only salt. The flavor is enhanced by several tablespoons of caramelized sugar added at the end.

The beef is boiled with the onion for about 2 hours, the onion is removed, the plums are added for about an hour and later the potatoes. When everything has been boiled sufficiently, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of liquefied caramelized sugar.