One of the first documents on the restoration of Jewish culture in Independent Lithuania

After the Nazi occupation there were hardly any Jews left in the country, their cultural life was destroyed. Those who survived gathered in the larger towns - after the horrific Catastrophe they felt huge need to live among their countrymen, communicate with them. This created the illusion of the continuity of a Jewish life. There were attempts to revive the remnants of Jewishness. In 1945 the Jewish Museum was registered in Vilnius. Jewish primary schools, children's homes for the orphans-survivors, and kindergartens were established in Vilnius and Kaunas. Vilnius and Kaunas religious communities were formed in 1946. However, in 1949 the Soviet government, who carried out anti-Semitic policy, closed down the museum, the schools, and the kindergartens. But they didn't succeed in crushing the national consciousness of the Jews. When the regime liberalized slightly after the death of Stalin in 1953, they formed several amateur artist collectives with a Jewish repertoire of songs and theatre in Yiddish. These were the first such collectives in the Soviet Union to be known in many regions throughout the country. These attempts to revive Jewish culture and national life under the threat of Soviet cultural genocide proved how deep-rooted is the culture of Lithuanian Jews, how strong the love for one's culture, the Yiddish language, Jewishness is.

With the restoration of Lithuanian Independence on March 11, 1990 the life of the Jews underwent essential changes. The government of the state approved and guaranteed equal rights for national minorities, the Jews included. Decisions were passed abolishing discrimination against Jews and allowing conditions for the remnants of a Jewish cultural life to be resurrected from ruins.

At the art studio in the Sholom Aleichem's Jewish school

The Jewish State Museum was re-established at that time, and a Jewish state school, kindergartens, Center for Judaic studies at Vilnius University, Judaic section at Martynas M. Mazhvydas National Library were formed.

There is a state Jewish school in Vilnius, named after the great Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem. It has been functioning for ten years now. In addition to general curriculum, there are Judaic subjects - Torah, traditions, Hebrew, history Jewish people. The school celebrates all Jewish holidays, with a strong accent of the Sabbath day. The Jewish culture is cherished by numerous children artistic groups. School's art studio organizes exhibitions, successfully participates in international children's art expositions. The topics of paintings are on Jewish history, mythology. Children's and professional artists' works on Judaica themes hang on the walls school's corridors.

Jewish school's children choir

The repertoire of the dance and song ensemble also fosters national traditions.

So, at school children are brought up in the atmosphere of Jewish culture.

The Jewish State Museum, recently named after our genius country-fellow the Gaon of Vilnius, is an important Jewish cultural institution. The Museum staff collect materials on the history of Lithuanian Jews, their culture, the Holocaust. Several permanent exhibitions are open here - the Holocaust, posters of the ghetto theater, the memory of the Great synagogue, Purim dolls and others.

The Museum has done a lot of work in presenting those people who rescued Jews during the years of the Nazi occupation. The Gallery of the World Righteous has been opened here. The Museum carries out extensive scientific work, which results are numerous publications, among them the selection of articles "Almanac", the proceedings of the conference "Days of Memory", a listing of Vilnius Ghetto prisoners, a guide to Jewish Vilnius etc. The Museum also has a Judaica Library. The Museum is visited by many foreign guests.


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Jews in Lithuania, Vilnius, 1999-2000