Religion

World Sabbath Celebration November 15

World Sabbath Celebration November 15

The Vilnius Jewish Religious Community invites you to take part in the Shabbat Project’s 2019 global sabbath celebration November 15, starting at 4:00 P.M. at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. Come celebrate the sabbath together with millions of Jews around the world. Sabbath favorites will be served following the service.

South Africa’s Rabbi Warren Goldstein began the global sabbath celebrations in 2013. The goal of the international project is to bring Jews around the world together, to remind them of our roots and to get them involved in the community.

City of Vilnius Again Promises to Remove School from Great Synagogue Site

City of Vilnius Again Promises to Remove School from Great Synagogue Site

The newspaper Kauno Diena reports the Vilnius city council has voted to raze and remove a brick school building from the Great Synagogue archaeological site in the Lithuanian capital.

The school built 55 years ago hasn’t been in operation for several years but is being rented by 10 renters, following an earlier announcement by the city of Vilnius it would be completely removed. The city’s promise of the imminent removal of the school has become a standing joke among the team of international archaeologists who have been conducting digs every summer there for five years.

Lithuanian news report here.

Photos from the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot Celebration at the LJC

Photos from the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot Celebration at the LJC

The Lithuanian Jewish Community invited members and members of the Gesher, Kavaret and Rikudey Am Clubs as well as students from the Raimondas Savickas Art Studio and from the Community’s Hebrew classes to come celebrate two holidays–Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot–at once on October 10. Žana Skudovičienė organized and conducted the festivities, delivering a thank-you speech at the beginning to the heads of the clubs, studio and classes. Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky gave holiday greetings to all participants and spoke about the preceding year, 5779, saying the Community had a lot to be proud of but that there is always room for improvement. The performance by the Fayerlakh group enhanced the evening and made it complete.

Nine of Ten American Jews Worried Anti-Semitism Rising

Nine of Ten American Jews Worried Anti-Semitism Rising

Photo: a person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The overwhelming majority in an AJC poll of over 1,200 Jewish respondents across political and religious lines see Jew-hatred as a problem

Some nine out of 10 Jews in the United States believe anti-Semitism is a problem in the country, with widespread fear that it is on the rise, according to a recent survey by the American Jewish Committee. The survey is the largest and most comprehensive conducted among Jews on the topic of Jew-hatred in the US to date.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents to the AJC poll said anti-Semitism was a “very serious problem” and 50% said it was “somewhat of a problem” — adding up to 88%. Eighty-four percent said that anti-Semitism has increased over the last five years; 43% said that it increased a lot over that time span.

Come Celebrate Simchat Torah

Come Celebrate Simchat Torah

This marks the end of the Jewish New Year cycle. On the 23rd of Tishrei we celebrate the last but happiest of the New Year holidays, Simchat Torah. The name itself says this is a day we should be happy together. Simchat Torah is a holiday symbolizing the unity of our people, independent of age or religiosity. Simchat Torah is the day we realize we are one family, sharing the bond of faith and love of the Most High.

We wish you a happy and joyful 5780 in the name of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Vilnius Jewish Religious Community and the Lithuanian Jewish Religious Association. Everyone is invited to carrying of the Torah and a shared meal at the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius at 7:00 P.M. on October 21.

Faina Kukliansky, Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky and Simas Levinas

Correction

Correction

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky says she and Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky never agreed on setting up a yeshiva in the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius. She says there was never any discussion about a Chabad Lubavitch Hassidic synagogue in Vilnius. Back in 2001 Rabbi Krinsky tried to set up a Hssidic synagogue but encountered opposition from Mitnagid Jews of Vilnius.

When Vilnius Religious Jewish Community chairman Simas Levinas announced in September, 2019, a yeshiva would be established at the synagogue, people began asking what kind of yeshiva it would be. During Rosh Hashanah Rabbi Krinsky spoke about the similarity between the Vilna Gaon and Chabad Lubavitch, but Lithuanian Jews know about the Litvaks’ opposition to Hassidism which began in the 18th century, about resistance to the movement which resulted in two groups of Jews, Hassidim and Mitnagdim.

These days Chabad rabbis are asked to work at Jewish Orthodox Mitnagid synagogues. This is acceptable. It was agreed with Rabbi Krinsky that he would conduct prayer services in the Litvak way. No one is opposed to the desire of opening a yeshiva. Chabad Lubavitch has its own building on Bokšto street [in Vilnius]. The rabbi may do whatever he likes there, for example, opening a yeshiva.

YIVO to Lend Lithuania Vilna Gaon Synagogue Pinkas

YIVO to Lend Lithuania Vilna Gaon Synagogue Pinkas

The board of directors of New York’s YIVO has voted to lend the pinkas of the Vilna Gaon synagogue to Lithuania for exhibition following a meeting with Lithuanian minister of culture Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, YIVO director Jonathan Brent said.

This is the book of vital statistics for the local Jewish community, a priceless source of information on the life of the Vilnius Jewish community. The document will be lent in 2020 as Lithuania marks its Year of the Vilna Gaon and Litvak History. The plan is to show it at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library.

Full story in Lithuanian here.

Thank You

Thank You

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman wants to thank Bagel Shop Café director Dovilė Rūkaitė and senior cook Riva Portnaja for their wonderful idea to hold a Litvak culinary luncheon with a delegation from the Taube Jewish Heritage Tours with partial support from the Ethnic Minorities Department, and for their tireless enthusiasm in promoting and passing on the Litvak Jewish culinary heritage. Thank you to Taube delegation leader and Ashkenazi cooking expert Jeffrey Yoskowitz and to all the volunteers and guests who made this event so much fun. It was good to sit down together at a shared table and it was very delicious.

Launch of Book about Vilkija Ghetto in Kaunas

Launch of Book about Vilkija Ghetto in Kaunas

The rare books department of the Kaunas Public Library hosted the launch of the book “Vilkijos getas. 1941 metai” by Aleksandras Vitkus and Chaim Bargman. Vilkija deputy alderman Algimantas Smolenskas led the event.

Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas spoke about Lithuanian Jewish community activities before 1940 and the active participation of Jews in the country’s cultural, economic and social life.

Participants discussed current commemoration policies, Lithuanian and Jewish relations, what goes into determining Nazi collaboration, education and other topics.

The Jewish community formed in the village of Vilkija, just 30 kilometers from Kaunas, in the late 18th century. According to the censuses, there were 652 Jews in Vilkija in 1766, 789 in 1847 and 1,431 out of a total population of 2,012 in 1897.

Sukkot Celebration with Guests from America and Baked Gefilte Herring

Sukkot Celebration with Guests from America and Baked Gefilte Herring

It’s long been the tradition during SUkkot to set up a booth, invite guests and treat them to various family recipes. While they say there is no traditional Sukkot dish, it does seem to be characteristic to make things which are stuffed and rolled, like the Torah scroll. Stuffed cabbage and filled pancakes are popular.

Ashkenazi cooking expert Jeffrey Yoskowitz visited the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the first day of Sukkot and made select dishes from the Litvak culinary legacy. Guests–loves of Litvak cooking–joined in and for every dish there were multiple stories and recollections from childhood. There was even a dispute on the correct form cut carrots should take.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz is leading a Taube Jewish Heritage Tours tour currently in Lithuania. He and Dovilė from the Bagel Shop Café had a long discussion on which dishes to include in cooking workshops. In the end they arrived at the solution of Litvak exceptionalism: to select the dishes which Polish Jews don’t make and which are unknown to the American Jewish community.

Have a Happy Sukkot with Friends and Family

Have a Happy Sukkot with Friends and Family

Members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community traditionally gather in the Sukkot tent–the sukka–to talk and eat. The happy holiday lasts seven days.

Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles or tents) is one of three pilgrim holidays mentioned in the Bible as shalosh regalim. In earlier times it was an agricultural holiday to give thanks for the harvest. The sukka is a tent, the only home Jews knew for the 40 years they wandered the desert after the exodus from Egypt. As a temporary shelter, the sukka also reminds us existence is fragile, and Sukkot is a time when we should appreciate our home and body.

The sukka is a necessary part of the holiday of Sukkot and needs to be built. Jews are supposed to sit in the booth and eat and celebrate. It is celebrated for seven days in Israel. There, where it’s usually warm, people even sleep in the make-shift dwellings and children especially enjoy the holiday. The dwelling place is decorated on the eve of the holiday and it is forbidden to work on the first day of the holiday.

Four species of plant are required and are placed together on a platter or plate and waved around. This is written in the Bible. The species are the fruit of the citron tree, palm fronds, myrtle fronds and willow branches. On the seventh day of Sukkot Jews circle seven times in synagogue reciting the prayer used on that day.

European Commission Wants Better Security for Jewish Institutions

European Commission Wants Better Security for Jewish Institutions

European Commission coordinator for fighting anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein reports many EU states need to increase security for Jewish institutions.

Following Wednesday’s attack in Halle in eastern Germany, the EC is calling on all member-states to insure protection for Jewish institutions and communities. In an interview with the Funke media group published on October 11, von Shnurbein said many countries need to pay more attention and improve their methods and attitudes regarding security. She said each country is responsible for providing security for its Jewish communities.

The Commission’s coordinator for anti-Semitism said this is a problem throughout Europe which needs solving and that EU member-states must also help finance security for synagogues.

Sukkah on the Shore

Sukkah on the Shore

Singer and Yiddish enthusiast Sara Klompus describes spending Sukkot in Lithuania during her time at the Vilnius summer Yiddish program. She remembers the unique experience of celebrating in a special sukkah on the shore in Trakai and in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

This is an excerpt from an oral history with Sara Klompus.

This excerpt is in English.

This interview is part of the Yiddish and the Arts: Musicians, Actors and Artists series.

The Day After the Shootings in Halle and Landsberg

The Day After the Shootings in Halle and Landsberg

A suspect in the shooting in the eastern German city of Halle was arrested Wednesday according to German police. German chancellor Angela Merkel joined mourners holding a silent vigil at Berlin’s main synagogue Wednesday evening.

At least two people were killed in the shootings Wednesday and at least two more wounded. Eye-witnesses at the shooting in Halle said the local synagogue was one of the targets as Jews there marked Yom Kippur.

More in Lithuanian here.

Children Invited to Sukkot Event

Children Invited to Sukkot Event

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Ilan and Dubi Clubs invite children to a fun gathering at 1:00 P.M. on October 13 called “From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot.” We’ll “dwell” in the Sukkot booth and have traditional Jewish snacks and treats. Lego engineering teachers will be on hand for building and playing. Come to the Ilan Club at the Lithuanian Jewish Community. Registration is required, so call 8 601 46656 or send an email to sofja@lzb.lt

From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot Celebration

Celebrate “From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot” at 6:00 P.M. on October 10 at the Lithuanian Jewish Community and come meet members of the LJC’s various programs, including the seniors’ Gesher Club, the Kaveret young families’ club, Israeli dance club Rikudei Am, the Students’ Club and students in the Hebrew courses.

Program: song, dance, traditional Jewish fall treats, an exhibit and sale of Jewish-themed work by Olga Kapustina and musicians and dancers of the Fayerlakh collective.

Registration required. Call 8 678 81514 or write zanas@sc.lzb.lt

Yom Kippur, the Day of Spiritual Cleansing and Hope

Yom Kippur, the Day of Spiritual Cleansing and Hope

The tenth day of the Jewish New Year is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It is the only day of the year when the Torah calls upon the person to do nothing at all except reflect upon his actions and thoughts. Contrition over one’s sins.

The prayer Kol Nidrei rings out, a symbol of the entire holiday. It is sung loudly three times. Its motif is wonderful, originating in mediaeval Spain, and is beloved by world-renowned symphony orchestras.

Prayers of remembrance for dead parents are also read during Yom Kuppur. Today we add two more parts: for Holocaust victims and for the soldiers who have fallen defending the State of Israel.

Special significance attaches to the final prayer, which is read at evening twilight. This is the time when forgiveness is sought from the Most High. The plea is either accepted or rejected.

The blowing of the shofar horn concludes the Yom Kippur rituals. The traditional Jewish wish is heard: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Everyone wishes every other “gmar khatima tova,” Hebrew for wishing someone a conclusive entry in the Book of Life.

Simas Levinas, chairman
Vilnius Jewish Religious Community

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates Rosh Hashanah

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community Celebrates Rosh Hashanah

Šiauliai Regional Jewish Community celebrated the advent of the new Jewish year 5780 with a dinner and ceremony. Community chairman Naum Gleizer welcomed participants and wished everyone a good, sweet and healthy coming year. Frida Šteinienė began the celebration by lighting candles and saying a prayer. She reminded participants of the significance and traditions of the holiday.

Traditional foods graced the dinner table, including challa, apples with honey, pomegranates, gefilte fish, chicken liver and chopped herring. Community housewives provided traditional Jewish sweets such as teigalakh, imberlakh and apple pie.

Live Jewish song and dance provided by Vadim Kamrazer enlivened the celebration and the children Sofija, Karina and Natanas also sang.

Young and old appeared to have a great time. Animator and children’s event organizer Simona provided a special program for the kids. Every family received the new 5780 Jewish calendar published by the Lithuanian Jewish Community.

History of the Destruction of the Šiauliai Jewish Cemetery

History of the Destruction of the Šiauliai Jewish Cemetery

Nerijus Brazauskas, PhD, has written a history of the destruction of the old Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai up to 2016. The newspaper Šiaulių kraštas has published the study in Lithuanian on their website. He attempts to determine whether the former cemetery, which is state-protected heritage site, should be protected by the Šiauliai Jewish Community or whether it is a matter for the local municipal administration. He details the partial destruction of the cemetery, along with the complete destruction of the Lutheran cemetery, in the 1964-1965 period by the Soviet authorities and calls it an attempt to erase Jews from public memory. He concludes it should be restored and maintained as a sacred site of memory and says both institutional and civic efforts could be harnessed to that purpose.

Full paper in Lithuanian here.

Lost Yanishok: Two Synagogues and the Last Jewish Woman

Lost Yanishok: Two Synagogues and the Last Jewish Woman

15min.lt

Note: On October 3 Irena Gečienė passed away. The Lithuanian Jewish Community expresses its condolences to her daughter Jurgita and brother Eduardas.

Before the tragic losses of World War II, Joniškis in northern Lithuania was a very Jewish town known as the shtetl of Yanishok with a vibrant Jewish community. Nothing was left after the Holocaust which only a few Jews survived here, as was the case throughout Lithuania. Now only the two restored synagogues and the only living Jew recall that Yanishok.

They Donned White Armbands and Went to Shoot Jews

Irena Gečienė remembers November 27, 1944, when the war hadn’t ended yet, in the town of Žagarė.