AUG 07,2018 - AUG 07,2018 (1 DAYS)
Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre:
Main Attractions: Easter Egg (Margutis) Sculpture, Choral Synagogue, Tolerance Center and Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.
Duartion: 1/2 day. Weather: any weather. Distance: 1/2 km. Combinations: we spent 1/2 - 3/4 day in Trakai and the rest of the day was devoted to the Gaon Museum. Start: Easter Egg (Margutis) Sculpture in the intersection of 45 Pylimo g. and 1 Raugyklos g. End: Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.
Introduction - Jewish Vilnius:
Lithuanian Jews can be traced back from the 14th century. Vilnius as the capital is known in Jewish culture as Vilna or, more precisely Vilne in Yiddish. Jews were attracted to starting a new life in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1323, Grand Duke Gediminas issued an invitation for craftsmen and merchants to settle there, stressing the tolerance of local people, and in 1388 under Vytautas the Great, the Duchy’s Jews gained their first charter. The charter was confirmed in 1507, by which time more than 6,000 Jews were residing in the Grand Duchy. By the mid-16th century, around 30,000 Jews called the Grand Duchy their home. Many more Jews flocked to Lithuania during the bloody Northern Wars and Great Plague of 1708-11. Jewish communities tended to exist fairly independently, with each local community (Kahal), made up of Rabbis and elders responsible for collecting taxes and maintaining public buildings. A council, or Va’ad, kept close relations with the monarch and made sure the correct taxes were given to the state, while, on the same time, opposing any anti-Jewish legislation. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth slowly became home to the world’s biggest Jewish population. In 1800, at least a quarter of a million Jews lived in Lithuania, but by then the country had been absorbed into the Russian Tsarist empire. Hassidism, which strengthened traditional principals of faith while urging people to enjoy life, was spread in Lithuania by learned Rabbis. But Vilnius (Vilna) was also the world capital for traditional Talmudic learning, eventually becoming known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, or Jerusalem of the North. Towering over the many great Jewish figures the city has produced is unquestionably the Vilna Gaon (‘Wiseman’) Elijah son of Shlomo Zalman (1720-97), who headed the Mitnagdim - a trend that criticized Hassidism. Jews established themselves as successful tailors, grocers, furriers, clothiers, innkeepers and doctors. Academies (Yeshivot) for young Jewish men were established in: Vilnius, Kaunas, Telšiai and Panevėžys and were internationally renowned.
Life for Jews in the Tsarist empire was restrictive, however. Throughout the 19th century Jews were not permitted to move from many regions of the empire into the inner regions of Russia. Jewish boys were forced to conscript into the Tsar’s army for a term of 25 years, many of them forced to be baptized. By the outbreak of World War I most Jews were impoverished, with very low incomes. Jews were forced to move out of villages, as they were blamed for alcoholism and dishonesty among local people. Although Jews made up little over 14% of the population of Lithuania, towns like Ukmergė became more than 50% Jewish. Small towns known as Shtetl thrived with dozens of wooden houses, a wooden synagogue and countless artisans. At the same time, however, Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) were known for their dedication to science as well as religion, their high intellect and individualism. Though the Haskalah tradition which promoted Jewish assimilation with other cultures was slow to take hold in Lithuania, communities gradually opened up more. Zionism, which looked to the creation of a new state in Israel or the Holyland, also gained in popularity. In Vilnius, Kaunas and other cities and towns, traditional Rabbis clashed with progressive cultural activists. At the same time, anti-Semitism increased among Christians, spurred on by rumors and propaganda.
As the 20th century approached, Jews became renowned activists, writers, journalists and businessmen. Famous Litvaks included the brilliant violinist Yasha Heifetz, the influential artists Chaim Soutine, Marc Chagall and Jacques Lipchitz and such expressive native-Yiddish writers as Abraham Sutzkever, Chaim Grade and Moshe Kulbak. Between the wars, Vilna, at that time under Polish rule and known as Wilno, was a bustling international centre of modern Yiddish culture and scholarship. Jews made up more than 36% of the city’s population. Yiddish schools, newspapers and many other institutions flourished. Vilna had more than a hundred synagogues and prayer houses. Famous libraries such as the Strashun Library had more than 35,000 rare volumes of literature by the mid-1930s. Scholars gathered in Berlin in 1925 founded YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research, to be located not in Prague or Warsaw but in Vilna, with branches in Warsaw and New York. Honorary members included Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein. It was between the wars that Vilna truly became known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania – the capital of Yiddish culture and learning. But this thriving life was cut abruptly. During the Holocaust around 95% of Lithuania’s Jews – 200,000 women, children and men – were murdered, the highest percentage in Europe, destroying centuries of Jewish existence in Lithuania. Many were killed by local collaborators, including the vast majority of the 80,000 Jewish residents who lived in Vilna before the Nazi invasion of June 1941. Sites of mass murder can be found throughout the country. Today, Lithuania’s small Jewish community of three to four thousand makes bold efforts to maintain its extraordinary and valuable heritage.
Jewish Vilnius sites:
Holocaust Exhibition: Pamėnkalnio str. 12, Vilnius. Prices: adult - 3 €, concessions: 1.5 €. Opening hours: MON - THU: 09.00 - 17.00, FRI: 09.00 - 16.00, SUN: 10.00 - 16.00. Saturdays - closed. Tel: +370 5 262 0730. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an affiliated exposition of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. The museum boldly exhibits Lithuanian collaboration in those dark times and leaves no aspect of the topic untouched. One unusual section is the Malina, a Ghetto hideout video and audio installation in which real diary entries can be experienced. Guided tours available in: English, Lithuanian, German and Russian.
Paneriai Memorial (Ponar Cmentarz), Agrastų g. 15, Vilnius. FREE. Opening hours: MAY-SEP: Mondays, Saturdays: closed, TUE-WED: 09.00 - 17.00, FRI, SUN: 09.00 - 16.00. From OCT-APR (inc. APR): the Center is opened by appointment only. Between July 1941 and July 1944, approximately 70,000 people of whom over half were Jewish were murdered at this site by the Nazi Security Police (Gestapo), the SS security service and the Vilniaus ypatingasis burys (Vilnius Special Squad), in which the majority were Lithuanians. Find several monuments and the remains of pits where the victims were killed and burned. A tiny museum inside the territory displays copies of archival photographs – not recommended for children – and documents, explained in an irregular mix of languages. Paneriai (Ponar to the Jews, Ponary to the Poles, Paneriai to the Lithuanians) is about 10km southwest of the Old Town. Catch a Trakai- or Kaunas-bound train, get off at Paneriai, turn right from the station and walk about 800 metres along Agrastu Street. The site is at the end of the road. To get there by car, leave Vilnius via Švitrigailos Street and follow the same road, bearing right on Eišiškiu plentas (near the Statoil fuel station) and then follow the signs.
Jewish Cemetery, Sudervės Kelias 28: To get there from the centre, take bus Nº73 from the Juozo Tumo-Vaižganto stop or Nº43 from the Lukiškės bus stop. Very few graves of famous Jewish people such as the Gaon of Vilna were moved here. This new, pre-war Jewish cemetery was actually opened just before the WW2. The Gaon’s grave attracts many visitors from many countries. Currently it has about 6,500 Jewish graves. Gravestones are covered in the writing of several languages including Yiddish, Lithuanian, Russian, Polish and English. There are plans to build a monument in place of the old cemetery in Užupis.
Užupis Old Jewish Cemetery in Krivių g.: Only very few graves survived in the most northern end of Krivių g. in Užupis. It was active from 1828 to 1943 or 1948. It was also destroyed by the Soviet authorities in the 1960s following the destruction of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.
Our 3-4 hours itinerary: we start at the Easter Egg (Margutis) Sculpture in the intersection of 45 Pylimo g. and 1 Raugyklos g. Sculptor: Romas Vilčiauskas. 2003. Today the Easter egg signifies the restoration and revival of this part of the Old Town. This sculpture is on a stone platform with some non-uniform patterns on the surface, and with primarily three
colours: green, red and gold/yellow, in a few shades. This sculpture was a present from the republic of Užupis. Previously this part of the city was very busy because of the bird market situated next to "The egg“. Bird market was the point of attraction for people from all around Vilnius districts.
We continue walking along Pylimo g. with our face to the north-west and our back to the south-east. 160 m. further north we arrive to the Choral Synagogue (Vilniaus choralinė sinagoga), Pylimo 39. Built in a Moorish style in 1903 (an inscription on a dark grey stone tablet on the walls gives a date, 1903). Architect: Dovydas Rozenhauzas. It is the only active synagogue that survived both the Holocaust and Soviet rule in this city that once had over 100 synagogues. The term Choral Synagogue relates to the inclusion of a choir section, a feature considered by some to be a revolutionary form of modernization and assimilation at the time it was built. Several cantors who are famous all over the world were born in Vilnius. A small-scale attraction: on the 2nd floor in the women's section is a matzah (matzos) - making machine that is worth seeing. Opening hours: MON-FRI: 10.00 - 14.00 (better, come earlier in the morning - during services. It is difficult to see it without disturbing the prayers. Our advice: come in Friday evenings and Shabbat/Saturday early morning hours). Prices: €1.
From the Choral Synagogue - head northwest on Pylimo g. toward Plačioji g., 250 m. Turn left and CLIMB onto Naugarduko g. and the Tolerance Center and Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, Naugarduko g. 10/2 is 200 m. further up (south-west). Opening hours: MON-THU: 10.00 - 18.00, FRI,SUN: 10.00-16.00. Saturdays - closed. Prices: adult - €4, concessions - €2. Combined ticket: Tolerance Center and Holocaust Exposition – €5. Groups up to 15 visitors (tours in a foreign language): €16. Photography permit €1.50. Note: door may be closed, you have to ring a bell to alert an old lady to open the door. Tel.: +370 5 212 0112. E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Established inside a former Jewish theatre, the Centre for Tolerance’s activities include visiting exhibitions and a permanent exhibition on the upper floors. It is a beautifully restored building and is used for art exhibitions, symposiums, conferences, discussions and seminars. It focuses on the heritage of art and culture of Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews).
The first floor hosts the main/permanent exhibition "Jewish Life in Lithuania" (Žydų gyvenimas Lietuvoje) documenting the historical ties between Jews and Lithuanians, historical and cultural dimensions of the Jewish community, the course of the Holocaust in Lithuanian and anti-Semitism today. It includes 28 stands telling the story of the Jews, from the settlement of the very first communities in the current and historical territories of Lithuania to current events. The main aspects of the life of the Jewish community are sketched in the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, the 19th century, the early 20th century and independent inter-war Lithuania. The painful facts of the Holocaust and genocide, the history of the community in the Soviet period and the development of Jewish life in the newly independent Lithuania (from 1990) are presented. The exhibit provides a view of the features of Shtetl life, including daily life and cultural, scientific and political achievements. The Second World War (WW2) took the lives of more than 94 percent of Jews within the current borders of Lithuania. Fascinating Yiddish theatre posters which showed vibrant and Jewish Vilnius was before 1941. The Litvak civilization was lost along with them. The exhibition doesn’t allow us to forget the relatively recent consequences of war and a stimulus to encouraging tolerance in Lithuanian society of today. A very moving museum. The testimonies (pictures, videos, voices, documents) of some of the few Lithuanian Jewish survivors will leave you breathless for several hours or days. Many heartbreaking tales of family tragedies side by side with really amazing stories of people reaching out to help, very often at great risk to themselves.
Marc Chagall - Vilnius Great Synagogue, 1935:
The first temporary exhibition (AUG 2018) was a retrospective exhibition of Rafael Chwoles pictures. Born on April 25, 1913 , in Vilnius , died on March 31, 2002 , in Paris. Most of his life, lived in Warsaw. A Polish painter and graphic artist of Jewish descent , a member of the Vilnius literary and artistic group Jung Wilne. In 2020, the Rafael Chwoles Museum is planned to open in Vilnius:
A girl with a flower:
But, the main highlight, being an outstanding find is the Samuel Bak pictures. Spectacular. This is an enormously stunning exhibition with large-scale, highly surreal and imaginative pictures of a Jewish genius, who, concentrates, mainly, in Jewish (but, still, universal) symbology. A painter who survived the holocaust as a boy and, since, dealt with it in his many moving paintings.
Samuel Bak - Rumors:
Samuel Bak - Market:
Samuel Bak - Old:
Samuel Bak - Ancient Town:
Samuel Bak - Triptych:
Samuel Bak - Realers:
Samuel Bak - The Possibility:
Samuel Bak - The Secret:
Samuel Bak - Time is Money:
Samuel Bak - Jacob Dream:
Samuel Bak - Eye for an Eye:
Samuel Bak - Adam & Eve in Shelter:
Samuel Bak - Ideologies:
Samuel Bak - Return to Vilnius: