Yiddish

Black Honey: A Film about Abraham Sutzkever

Black Honey: A Film about Abraham Sutzkever

The Vilnius Jewish Public Library will screen the film Black Honey about Vilnius partisan and Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever created by his granddaughter and actress Hadas Kalderon of Israel. She will retell stories she heard directly from him and talk about film and filming. The screening is open to the public and will take place at 7:00 P.M. on August 8. The Vilnius Jewish Public Library (not affiliated with the Lithuanian Jewish Community) is located at Gedimino prospect no. 24 in Vilnius with entry through the alley and to the right.

Register by calling (8-5) 219 77 48 or sending an email to info@vilnius-jewish-public-library.com

The film is in English, Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles.

Jewish Sacred Cultural Heritage: The Telz Rabbis Seminary Yeshiva and Synagogues

Jewish Sacred Cultural Heritage: The Telz Rabbis Seminary Yeshiva and Synagogues

Bernardinai.lt

Telšiai became an important economic and cultural center in the late 19th century. The large Jewish community which had lived there since ancient times had great influence on the growth and success of the city. Its members harmoniously merged with the city’s cultural, economic and political activity and were active participants in it.

In Telšiai as in other Lithuanian towns and cities Jews mainly engaged in mercantilism and traditional trades; there were also many Jewish doctors and dentists as well as Jews offering other services. Services and light industry were an important source of income for the Jews of Telšiai. For many others, however, the Jewish spiritual seminary–the yeshiva and its synagogues where hundreds of students from all over the world studied–became the way of making a living.

It wasn’t just the residents but the entire atmosphere of the community which demonstrated the spirit of the Jews of Telšiai. Here the ancient past the present lived alongside one another, proponents of tradition and of the Enlightenment, the orthodox and the secular and social activists. There were Torah sages and highly-educated people among the Jews of Telšiai. The city was filled with creative energy and spirituality and materiality merged into a perfect whole there. The crooked narrow streets and the old buildings were miraculous, a world filled with enchantment where thousands of Jewish families lived.

Utyan Jews Speak about Holocaust and Post-War Years in Lithuanian Translation of Zakhor Book

Utyan Jews Speak about Holocaust and Post-War Years in Lithuanian Translation of Zakhor Book

The A. and M. Miškiniai Public Library in Utena (Utyan in Yiddish), Lithuania, hosted a presentation of the only Lithuanian translation of a zakhor or memorial book in Yiddish about the city and region of Utena (the region includes Molėtai, Anykščiai, Vyžuonos and other locations. Incredibly, it took the book 42 years to reach the Lithuanian reading public: it was published in Tel Aviv by Nay Leben in 1979 under the title “Yishker-bukh Utyan un umgegnt.”

The translation and publication was the initiative of cultural historian Sandra Dastikienė as part of her project “Old Neighbors” to educate the public about the Jewish community, Jewish culture and the Litvak legacy in the Utena region.

“The old neighbors return to their towns in different ways–as works of art on the streets, through live appearances–but we are really missing the authentic history. This book fills that gap. It’s not an academic work, not an historical study, but the real memories of Jews who survived the Holocaust or left Lithuania before it. It raises more questions and presents a lot of answers,” Sandra Dastikienė said.

The recollections were collected into a single zakhor book from 1945 to 1979 in Israel. Roma Jančauskienė has long been interested in the history of the Utyan Jews and when she learned of the existence of this book tried over an extended period to buy a copy on the internet, unsuccessfully. About four years ago she finally did buy a copy on eBay, in Yiddish of course.

Happy Birthday to Fania Brantsovskaya

Happy Birthday to Fania Brantsovskaya

Happy birthday to Fania Brantsovskaya, our living link with former Lithuania before the Holocaust. A Jewish partisan, she kept fighting after the war, educating generations about the truth of what happened. Most of us at a certain age in adulthood begin to slow down, to rise more slowly from our chairs, to walk more cautiously. Fania never did. She still walks with a spring in her step as if she were a teenager, with a smile for everyone and ready to talk to anyone without regard for social status. Happy birthday, Fania. Mazl tov! Bis 120!

Hirsh Glik’s Birthday Was April 24

Hirsh Glik’s Birthday Was April 24

Hirsh Glik authored the words to the Jewish partisan hymn Zog Nit Keynmol. He was born on April 24, ca. 1921 according to the US Holocaust Museum, in Vilnius and belonged to the Yungvald circle of Yiddish poets. Later imprisoned in the Vilnius ghetto, he and fellow ghetto inmate and Vilnius native Rokha Margolis, both youth members of the FPO Jewish partisans group operating there, set his words to music and presented the song to the FPO leadership. He is thought to have been killed in 1944.

Small Children, Small Troubles

Small Children, Small Troubles

Kleiner kinder — klein zorgn, groise kinder — groise zorgn.

This Jewish saying means small children pose worries and bigger children bigger problems.

Natalja Cheifec invites you to her third lecture on the subject, “Raising Children in the Traditional Jewish Family,” in Lithuanian.

The lecture will teach you about innate features children have and how to encourage them, and why Jewish children end up learning their entire lives. The issue of whether children should pay attention to the opinions of others and which way to choose–to act like everyone else, or to go one’s own way–will be addressed.

Together with Natalja you will learn how to turn an enemy into a friend, how to teach children to behave morally and the effects loneliness and a bad environment have on children.

The lecture is free and will be held on the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Zoom page from 5:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on April 22.

The lesson will be repeated in Russian a week from now, on April 29.

To register, go to http://bit.ly/3arwHRn

#NataljosPaskaitos

Condolences

Condolences

Milan Cheronskis passed away April 14. He was born in 1937 and grew up on Sakhalin Island in the Soviet Far East. Our deepest condolences to his wife Svetlana, daughter Polina and many, many friends within the Jewish community.

Cheronskis was a director at the Yiddish People’s Theater and a journalist. He was graduated from the Leningrad State Theater, Music and Comedy Institute in 1964. He directed the Yiddish People’s Theater in Vilnius from 1979 to 1999.

Besides serving on the board of directors of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Milan was the force behind the Community’s long-time press organ, Jerusalem of Lithuania, which was at one time published in four languages simultaneously. The newspaper was published from 1989 to 2010. Following the newspaper’s cancellation and his retirement, Milan continued to fight against Holocaust distortion and the falsification of Lithuanian history in the press and on the internet.

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

This is How It Was Done in Vilne…

Photo: Pinchos Fridberg, the only Jew left in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius who was born there before the Nazis invaded in 1941. By Brendan Hoffman for the New York Times.

by professor Pinchos Fridberg, an alter vilner id [an old Jew born and raised in Vilnius]

Rebe, will there ever come a time when the words Vilne and Yidish will be inseparable again?”
Saydn nor mit Meshiakh’n ineinem.” [Not unless it comes with the Messiah.]

Introduction

The article “Как это делалось ин Вилнэ…” [This Is How It Was Done in Vilne] became the main feature for issue no. 505 of the international magazine “Мы Здесь” [We Are Here] in 2015. More than 7,000 people read it, and I began receiving letters from people whom I didn’t know.

The largest Russian-language weekly newspaper in Lithuania “Обзор” [Review] reprinted this article on its website on March 8, 2021.

The article concerns the history of Jewish Vilnius.

I think it might be interesting to non-Russian-language readers as well. *

“This is How It Was Done in Vilne…”

As I was putting my archive in order, I came across a small program for a concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Jewish volunteer collectives. This program is more than half a calendrical century old. I think the reader might be interested to see “how it was done in Vilne.” The program contains over 30 photographs. I will present a few of them. I believe it has long been time for them to be revived on the wider internet.

Vilnius and Cape Town Celebrate Sabbath

Vilnius and Cape Town Celebrate Sabbath

A special joint internet Sabbath celebration was held between Vilnius and Cape Town, South Africa last Friday, February 19.

Cape Town Rabbi Greg Alexander greeted the internet celebrants in both cities and presented Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman to those in South Africa.

The Sabbath was ushered in with song. The rabbi and Millian Rivlin sang and played guitar, after which prayers were delivered. Despite the distance between the two cities, communication was almost instantaneous, and it felt as if everyone were in the same room at home.

The vast majority of Jews living in South Africa were and are Litvaks. That affinity was clear during the internet Sabbath.

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman on Importance of January 13 to Nation’s Jews

Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman on Importance of January 13 to Nation’s Jews

Photo: Faina Kukliansky, by Vidmantas Balkūnas, courtesy 15min.lt

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky remembers January 13. Lithuanian Jews, who restored their community finally 30 years ago after decades of restrictions, took part in events in those days [in 1991] Nowadays when they talk about the struggle for freedom, members of the community emphasize the greatest gift: the opportunity to speak freely.

What do you remember personally about that fateful night at the TV tower, the Lithuanian Radio and Television building and the parliament? What does the Jewish community remember about these events?

Jews did the same thing as everyone else in Lithuania. We have collected the recollections of our community members of that fateful night. They watched the television broadcast until it was cut off and they went to the barricades, in Vilnius but also in Kaunas and other cities.

We were there where the majority of Lithuania was. I remember when I travelled from Varėna during that time and saw the road full of tanks. At that time I had an elderly guest from America who said he was seeing tanks for the first time in his life.

On that particular night my friends and I–all of us were together with our young children–followed events, held vigil, waiting for our husbands who were there in the crowd by the barricades or who were doing their job as doctors.

My children are now grown up and always remember that night and the tension. It wasn’t clear what would happen and the tanks were already in place in the city. We didn’t have any information, we had seen the final frame when E. Bučelytė had to quit the [television] studio. We learned that night from medics that there were dead and wounded people.

Interview with Simas Levinas, First Principal of the First Post-War Jewish School, Chairman of Lithuanian Jewish Religious Community

Interview with Simas Levinas, First Principal of the First Post-War Jewish School, Chairman of Lithuanian Jewish Religious Community

by Ilona Rūkienė

The entire Lithuanian Jewish community knows Simas Levinas as the head of the Lithuanian Jewish Religious Community, which includes two Jewish religious communities in Kaunas and the Klaipėda and Vilnius Jewish Religious Communities. Mr. Levinas was the first principal at the post-war Jewish school in Vilnius and has also served as the head of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Social Center.

Vilnius has only one working synagogue [excluding Chabad Lubavitch House], the Choral Synagogue on Pylimo street. How are prayer services conducted there?

Prayer services are held three times daily. There are sufficient numbers of those who come to pray. Judaism is complicated, people come to prayer in the morning, afternoon and evening. Life is structured by coming and going to synagogue. They only come once during Sabbath. There are a lot of people in attendance during the summer and famous rabbis come, the followers of the Vilna Gaon. People are frequently proud of their Lithuanian roots, because being Litvak means the continuation of the Gaon’s school, meaning that their parents or ancestors came from the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, many of them from [the smaller ethnically-defined nation-state of] Lithuania. They dedicate an entire day to prayer, then travel on to Volozhin, where Chaim of Volozhin [1749-1821], a disciple of the Vilna Gaon, taught the Gaon’s method of textual analysis at the yehsiva he [Chaim] established especially for that purpose. During the Jewish holy days the synagogue is packed, at least before the pandemic, and it’s not just Jews who come, many Lithuanian guests do as well. Ambassadors from many countries resident in Vilnius also participate.

New Archaeological Discoveries at Pakruojis Synagogue Complex

New Archaeological Discoveries at Pakruojis Synagogue Complex

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Pakruojis regional administration mayor Saulius Margis, administration director Ilona Gelažnikienė, deputy mayor Virginijus Kacilevičius and others attended a lecture by Dr. Ernestas Vasiliauskas presenting new archaeological discoveries at the Pakruojis synagogue complex.

The Pakruojis regional administration reports:

Dr. Ernestas Vasiliauskas gave a presentation October 14 detailing the newest archaeological discoveries in the winter synagogue and shtibl at the Pakruojis synagogue complex. The project “Maintenance of the City Park and the Banks of the Kruoja River in the City of Pakruojis” decided to perform the archaeology in concert with the Cultural Heritage Department of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture.

There is a lot of surviving information about the summer synagogue in Pakruojis, but very little about the winter synagogue and the shtibl. Senior archaeologist Dr. Vasiliauskas said the wooden synagogue complex built in the 19th century in Pakruojis is unique in Lithuania and blends different architectural styles, including late baroque (summer synagogue), classicism (winter synagogue) and traditional architecture (the shtibl), and was an important part of the cityscape, one of the dominant buildings on the Pakruojis skyline.

Chiune Sugihara Statue Unveiled in Kaunas

Chiune Sugihara Statue Unveiled in Kaunas

A statue was unveiled Saturday to World War II-era Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara. He issued so-called visas for life, saving thousands of Jews from Lithuania and Poland as Nazi Germany advanced on the small Baltic country of Lithuania.

The bronze statue is almost 12 feet high and is located on Kaunas’s famous promenade, Laisvės aleja or Freedom Alley, next to the Metropol hotel where Sugihara continued to issue visas even after being ordered to stop, close down the Japanese consulate and to travel to a new assignment in Berlin. There are numerous stories Sugihara even issued visas from the train as it was pulling away from the station, and that he left blank visas and stamps with Jews in the city so they could make their own visas for life.

The sculpture designed by Martynas Gaubas depicts origami cranes which he says symbolize freedom. An inscription in Lithuanian, Japanese, English and Yiddish, reads: “Whoever saves a life, saves the world.”

Kaunas Commemorates Lea Goldberg

Kaunas Commemorates Lea Goldberg

There’s a larger-than-life fresco painted on the wall of a building on Kęstutis street in Kaunas featuring a portrait of celebrated Israeli poetess Lea Goldberg, with a poem by her in Hebrew and Lithuanian. Her family fled their home in this building 85 years ago, with Leah making aliyah and settling in Tel Aviv in 1935, after receiving PhDs from universities in Bonn and Berlin in Semitic and Germanic languages.

Now the Lithuanian city is scheduled to become the European Union’s honorary European Capital of Culture for the year 2022. Now, in the run-up to that auspicious year, local and visiting Jews in Kaunas held a celebration of, perhaps, the town’s most famous poet, as well as its lost Jewish heritage.

Bella Shirin, who has been appointed “ambassador” of Kaunas, Capital of European Culture 2022, recited in selections from Goldberg’s corpus in Hebrew to musical accompaniment. Israeli exchange student Shahar Berkowitz sang Goldberg’s work.

President Gitanas Nausėda Speaks at Ceremony to Commemorate Victims of Genocide at Paneriai

President Gitanas Nausėda Speaks at Ceremony to Commemorate Victims of Genocide at Paneriai

Dear Holocaust survivors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We are gathered here today to pay our respects to the hundreds of thousands of Lithuanian Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust.

Shoah means catastrophe. But this is not just the tragedy and catastrophe of the Jewish people. The Shoah is Lithuania’s. This is the Shoah of all mankind. This is a Shoah of our humanity, compassion and ambivalence.

Here alone in Paneriai, we, the state of Lithuania, lost tens of thousands of our fellow citizens with whom we built the independent Lithuanian state together. Fighting together in the battles for independence, suffering together the young state’s most difficult years, together putting our hopes in the future of an independent Lithuania.

We lost talented scholars, artists, poets, doctors, businesspeople and artisans, teachers and clerics. Me lost elders who preserved the memory of hundreds of generations living together in friendship, and we lost the children who would have been this country’s future.

Ponar Calls on Us to Remember

Ponar Calls on Us to Remember

I thank all of you who walked with the Lithuanian Jewish Community today along the route taken by 70,000 men, women and children 77 years ago.

While the bodies of the victims of Ponar, reduced to ashes, will not rise again, no attempts to burn the pages of history will liberate our fellow citizens from the guilt dwelling in the subconscious over the murder of the Jews, nor will it relieve the suffering of the experience of the Holocaust even of the generation which came after.

No actions will return the lives of the more than 200,000 people of Lithuania lost during the Holocaust while words, whether in Lithuanian or Yiddish, will only briefly return a glimmer of the crown of the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

The memory of the Holocaust, however, isn’t just filled with shame for one side and pain for another. Its memory awakens our conscience and our duty to the future: to remember and honor the dead, thus imparting some sense to the victims of senseless hatred, lessons written in innocent blood for humanity. As long as we’re alive we must insure through joint effort, testifying to the memory of the Holocaust victims, the tragedy of Ponar never recurs, and that it doesn’t become the object of new and error-filled forms of hatred.

As we recall the events of that era of pain, it’s just as important to remember those giants of the spirit. I don’t know how many times now here in Ponar I’ve talked about Liba Mednikienė, a heroine of Lithuania’s battles for freedom. Finally now, during the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Litvak History, a monument to her memory, to this Lithuanian patriot murdered at the hands of Lithuanians, has found a home in the town of her youth, Širvintos.

Today hope is reborn, listening to the words of the president and prime minister and watching the soldiers pay tribute to Lithuania’s Jewish victims of genocide, hope that our society and out state have matured, have reached a new stage in the dialogue between Jews and Lithuanians, devoted wholly to learning and recognizing historical justice. We have an history inherited and shared from the time of Vytautas the Great, and so I believe commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust and being an indivisible part of it will become, eventually, not a matter of just marking an event or opportunity, but an issue of civic dignity and our view of the world.

Thanks to all of you for being here today with us, the small Lithuanian Jewish Community, for blazing a path in remembering those who were innocent and were sentenced to death.

Faina Kukliansky
September 23, 2020
Ponar, Lithuania

Public Still Knows Little about 2021 as Year of  Lukša-Daumantas

Public Still Knows Little about 2021 as Year of Lukša-Daumantas

The Lithuanian parliament’s draft resolution naming 2021 the Year of Juozas Lukša-Daumantas is largely unknown to the public, as is the man Juozas Lukša-Daumantas. The Lithuanian parliament has made a tradition out of naming years after people and events, but this time it isn’t clear what is being celebrated, and perhaps only Lithuanian MPs know the answer.

So far we only have official explanations on the Lithuanian Activist Front and Juozas Lukša-Daumantas’s membership in this organization, including on the official website of Lithuania’s Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, where Juozas Lukša-Daumantas is listed as an LAF member.

We are presenting additional information from Chaim Bargman, amateur historian and tourist guide from Kaunas, to try to elucidate the nature of the historical figure. We would very much welcome additional information from scholars and academic works.

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.