JEWISH ART

The children group of the "Fajerlech" ensemble

Once upon a time, when there were many Jews in Lithuania (in some towns, "shtetlech", they constituted almost a half or even more of town's population), Jewish culture developed on their own, there was a certain kind of chain reaction of reviving and developing culture. Now, when there is only a handful of us left, just 5,000 people, that "critical mass" is gone, attempts to preserve Jewish culture require all manner huge effort. Therefore the fostering of our culture, and the preservation of our great heritage is one of the priorities of the work of our community. The fact that Jews are gathered in several largest towns, to some extent makes the work easier.

It so happens that even now, in certain fields, especially those with a rich cultural heritage, we have a wealth of artistic talent. Composer Anatolijus Shenderovas has received the highest Lithuanian National Award for his works on Judaic themes in 1998. Professor Borisas Borisovas of Lithuanian Musical Academy is country's well-known composer. "Jerusalem of Lithuania" is a highly professional instrumental group headed by a violinist Borisas Traubas. "Fajerlech", a professional dance ensemble, has won various international competitions. A talented young soloist, student of Musical Academy Liora Grodnikaite amazes the Lithuanian public as well as for visitors from abroad by performing Jewish songs. We are frequently visited by world famous musicians who grew up and received musical education in Lithuania - cellist David Geringas, violinist Danute Pomerancaite, who was saved as child from the ghetto by the family of the great singer Kipras Petrauskas, pianists Golda Vainberg-Tac, Emanuel Krasovski and others.

A sculpture of Moses, carved by Jakovas Bunka, stands near the Plateliai lake

A scene from "Smile to us, God" by Grigorij Kanovitch at the National Lithuanian Drama Theater

The community which brought up such famous painters as Chajim Soutine, Neemija Arbitblat, who passed away recently, sculptors Zhak Lipshits, Mordechaj Antakolski, today is also proud of a large group of artists: Adasa Skliutauskaite, Adomas, Aleksandra and Jokubas Jatsovskis, Izabela Bindler, Mina Babianskaja, Michail Pertsov, and a very young artist Solomon Taitelbaum. Jakovas Bunka, a self-taught folk artist with innate talent, who in his wooden sculptors masterfully combines the traditions of Jewish and Lithuanian art, lives in a small provincial town of Plunge.

Books by Icchokas Meras, now residing in Israel, published in Lithuania are very popular. As a child  Icchokas Meras was rescued by a Lithuanian family. Now, in Israel, he writes in Lithuanian, however, the themes of his books, spread all over the world, are Jewish. The former chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, who left Lithuania several years ago, Grigorij Kanovitch also lives in Israel. Many of his books were translated into Lithuanian, published here and are widely read. His play "Smile to us, God!" has been staged at the Lithuanian National dramatic theater attracts the audience for many years now and has been given the highest 

A cover of the multi linguistic publication of the poem "Vilnius" by Moishe Kulbak

evaluation. The play has been directed by a Lithuanian theater director, it is performed by Lithuanian actors, a Lithuanian composer wrote wonderful "Jewish" music - indeed, this work is the phenomenon of both Jewish and Lithuanian cultures.

This is not the only case when Jewish culture inspires Lithuanian artists. Many of the most prominent Lithuanian poets translated from Yiddish the works of a Vilner poet Hirsh Osherovitch, who recently passed away in Israel. The Lithuanian poet of Jewish origins Alfonsas Bukontas also translated a lot of works into Lithuanian. A. Bukontas, like I. Meras, was saved during the war, raised in Lithuanian culture. Now he is an active member Jewish community's cultural life. He translated the works of the Avraham Suckever, the most famous contemporary Yiddish poet, who used to live in Vilnius. A. Bukontas also put into Lithuanian poems of Moishe Kulbak, the former Vilner poet, who became a victim of Stalin's terror. A. Bukontas prepared and published a unique book - the selection of translations into seven languages of Kulbak's poem "Vilnius".

Another Jewish poet and publicist Markas Zingeris also writes in Lithuanian. Jewish theme is very much emphasized in his works.

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Jews in Lithuania, Vilnius, 1999-2000