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 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.
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 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.
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. 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 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
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.
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Jewish Community invited guests and the public to a ceremony to unveil a plaque near the site of the former Vilnius headquarters of YIVO on Vivulskio street in Vilnius June 20. Those attending included deputy to the LJC chairwoman professor Leonidas Melnikas, the heads of YIVO, Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius, Lithuanian culture minister Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja and the mayor of Vilnius.
YIVO began in Vilnius in 1925 and was originally housed in the apartment of its founder and prime mover Max Weinreich on Basanavičiaus street (aka Pogulanskaya, Pogulnaka and Wielka Pohulanka street) in Vilnius. Dedicated to research on the language, literature, culture and history of Jews in Eastern Europe, the institute collected a large mass of documents and archive material from local Jewish communities before the Holocaust.
Architect and designer Victoria Sideraitė-Alon designed the new YIVO plaque.
Although much of YIVO’s material was lost during the war, some made its way to the provisional war-time headquarters in New York, which became world headquarters following the war.
Vytautas Magnus University pro-rector for international relations professor Ienta Dabašinskienė and Dr. Vilma Gradinskaitė are presenting a new exhibit about the famous Soloveitchik family of rabbis from Kaunas in Kaunas at the Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library located at Daukanto street no. 25 on June 25. Peter Salovey, an American psychologist, professor and president of Yale University, comes from this family and is scheduled to receive the regalia of an honorary doctorate at Vytautas Magnus University on June 20.
The Soloveitchik family is known for its many accomplished rabbis and Talmudic scholars. Their roots reach back to the early 18th century in Lithuania. They are Levites who are commanded by the Torah to sing in the Temple in Jerusalem. The surname comes from the diminutive of the Russian word for nightingale. The Kaunas branch of the family gave rise to the famous rabbinic dynasties in Volozhin and Brest-Litovsk.
The exhibit will run till the end of September.
Mass deportations to Stalin’s camps began on this day in 1941.
About 17,500 people were deported from Lithuania between June 14 and 18, 1941, (the fates of 16,246 have been determined so far), a number derived from the 4,663 arrested and 12, 832 people officially deported. The deportations were a huge loss and tragedy for Lithuania. Not all those deported were ethnic Lithuanians: about 3,000 Jews, according to various sources, were also deported and about 375 Jews died at the camps and in exile.
Jews deported to Siberia resisted the brutality and terror of the oppressive Soviet organs with a deep spirituality and faith. In 1941 about 1.3 percent of the total Lithuanian Jewish population were deported, and as a percentage constitute the largest group by ethnicity deported from Lithuania.
Santariškės Children’s Hospital doctor Rozalija Černakova tells the story of what happened to her grandfather and family. Her grandparents were deported with their families. Rozalija’s parents were still children when they were deported: her mother 11 and her mother’s brother 8. They were sent to the Altai region. That’s where Rozalija was born.
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and the Lithuanian Jewish Community invite the public to attend an unveiling ceremony of a plaque to commemorate the site of the former headquarters of YIVO in Vilnius at 3:00 P.M. on June 20 at the building now located at Vivulskio street no. 18 in Vilnius. YIVO, the most significant center for the study of Jewish culture, history and languages in Eastern Europe, was located near this site from 1925 to 1941. Its founder moved its activities to New York which became world headquarters following the German invasion in 1941.
Participants at the ceremony are to include YIVO director Jonathan Brent and YIVO board of directors deputy chairwoman Irene Pletka.
For a number of years now the Lithuanian Jewish Community has been inviting artists and special guests to celebrate Sabbath with the community. Last Friday LJC executive director Renaldas Vaisbrodas presented Lithuanian designer Agnė Kuzmickatė to members. She holds a doctorate and is sometimes called butterfly queen because of her use of her butterflies in her designs.
Renaldas led the discussion and tendered questions to the famous young designer, starting with questions about her family. Her father is the philosopher Bronislovas Kuzmickas, PhD, who was a founding member of Sąjūdis, the Lithuanian independence movement, who went on to become a member of parliament, a signatory to the Lithuanian declaration of the restoration of independence and served as deputy to parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis.
Agnė Kuzmickatė’s grandmother Gita Jekentienė was at a children’s summer camp in Palanga, Lithuania, when World War II arrived. She and some of the other children were evacuated to safer locations in the Soviet Union. When she spoke of her family, Agnė Kuzmickatė repeatedly returned to her grandmother Gita’s experience and said she only know understood how her grandmother’s environment shaped her. She said she and her grandmother often spoke about Jewish identity, about the Yiddish language and the tragic loss of family, all of whom, except for her grandmother’s brother, were murdered at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas. Returning to Lithuania after the war, her grandmother experienced all sorts of bullying and name-calling because she was Jewish. Agnė Kuzmickatė said she had never experienced this and everyone at school respected her because of her father’s activities on behalf of independent Lithuania.
Before World War II a large Jewish community lived in Vilnius whose cultural, religious and social traces are only recalled today in statues and commemorative plaques. It’s a rare resident of the city who knows why Vilnius was called the Jerusalem of Lithuania, who knows what an active community life bustled on the narrow streets of the Old Town and how the tragic events of World War II changed forever the face of the Lithuanian capital.
For many years Vilnius was a Jewish spiritual and academic center. Besides some faded inscriptions in Hebrew characters on buildings which were part of the Vilnius ghetto, there are more surviving traces of the history of this people. Before World War II Jews accounted for more than a third of all city residents.
Today we invite you to discover with us some small details of this history, small but important to our city.
Full text in Lithuanian here.
Time: 5:30 P.M., May 15, 2019
Place: Central Library of the City of Vilnius
The Dr. Janusz Korczak Center and the Central Library of the City of Vilnius are pleased to invite you to an evening of music entitled Sounds of Music and Janusz Korczak.
Markas Volynskij and Marija Duškina will perform Yiddish songs.
Dr. Janusz Korczak Center director I. Belienė will be master of ceremonies.
Janusz Korczak’s real name was Henrik Goldshmit and was also known as Stary Doktor (Old Doctor) and Pan Doktor (Mr. Doctor). He was born in Warsaw on July 22, 1878, and died in August of 1942 at Treblinka. He was a doctor, teacher, writer, publicist and Jewish public figure. He was the originator of children’s rights and the idea that children should enjoy equal rights.
The Central Library of the City of Vilnius is located at Žirmūnų street no. 6 in Vilnius.
Lithuanian Jewish Community members gathered at the Jewish cemetery on Sudervės road in Vilnius May 8 to commemorate those who fell fighting the Nazis and the victims of fascism.
They assembled at a monument to Vilnius ghetto FPO (Fareinikte partizaner organizatsye) leader Yitzhak Vitenberg and partisan Sheyna Madeisker.
LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky recalled the number of Jews living in Lithuania before the Nazi occupation and the horror and tragedy of the majority who were murdered. Jewish partisan Fania Brancovskaja spoke in Yiddish about the painful experience of the war and the loss of family. “Do not forget those who were murdered, they fought for your freedom,” she said.
The Litvak cemetery catalog organization Maceva (www.litvak-cemetery.info) began documenting the old Jewish cemetery in Seirijai, Lithuania, last year and the work is almost complete.
During an international summer camp held August 6 to 19 in 2018, all surviving headstones were cleaned, cataloged and digitized. A total of 692 were found. Maceva has issued a map of the cemetery following the intense clean-up and cataloging there. The Lithuanian Jewish Community has partially funded some of the cemetery renovation and digitization project.
The Vilnius ghetto diary of Yitzhak Rudashevski is now available as an audiobook in Lithuanian, read by Justinas Gapšys. According to the card catalog of the Lithuanian Library for the Blind in Vilnius, the insert in the CD includes a text in braille. The very limited-edition CD is available at 5 branches of the Lithuanian Library for the Blind around the country. The book itself is bilingual with excerpts from the diary in Yiddish starting from the back cover and moving inward. The audiobook does not contain a reading of the Yiddish section.
More information available in Lithuanian here.
Rabbi Borukh Gorin from Russia gave a presentation of the life and work of Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer at the 2019 Lithuanian Jewish Community Limmud held in Druskininkai this month.
Gorin is editor-in-chief of the Lekhaim magazine and the Knizhniki publishing house. The magazine is published on paper (about 7,000 copies per issue) and the internet, and is read by about 80,000 internet subscribers. The hard-copy magazine is sent out to readers in Israel, Europe and America, as well as 75 other countries. Gorin says Lekhaim is a window on the contemporary Jewish world and contains articles on history, religion and modern Jewish life. It is published in Russian. It often contains information about Lithuanian Jews. Some time ago the magazine featured Chaim Grade, one of the most important writers in Yiddish who was born in Vilnius on April 4, 1910. He passed away in New York on April 26, 1982. Following the death of his widow, unpublished manuscripts by Chaim Grade were discovered and should be published within a few years. Grade wrote about Vilnius.
In Druskininkai Gorin spoke about Bashevis Singer, calling him one of two well-known Yiddish writers, along with Sholem Aleichem. Singer wrote about Polish Jewish life before the Holocaust. Gorin pointed out Singer came from a family of talented writers, with his brother Israel and sister Ester respected writers in their own right. His father was a rabbi and a good storyteller and his mother was a rationalist and aristocrat. Bashevis Singer moved to the USA before World War II and wrote for the Forward, where he published a cycle about a Polish Jewish family. Singer describes Polish Jewish life and he wrote after the war as if the Holocaust had never happened.