JEWS IN LITHUANIA

The Vilnius Gaon Eliyahu 

Our web site is dedicated to Lithuanian Jews, known as litvaks. In the course of almost 700 years of their presence in Lithuania, Jews created a flourishing, diverse culture.

The religious culture of Lithuanian Jews enriched the world Jewry. A wealth of famous scholars of Judaism lived and worked in Lithuania. The Vilnius Gaon Eliyahu was one of the most prominent Talmudists of all times.

The spiritual academies - yeshivas - attended by young men from many countries were known throughout the world.

In different periods of time there were over 250 synagogues in Vilnius.

Litvaks made a weighty contribution to the development of Judaism, and Vilnius became to be known as Jerusalem of Lithuania.

The  Great synagogue in Vilnius

Jews in Lithuania also cherished a highly developed secular culture, which enriched not only the culture of world Jewry, but also the culture of Lithuania, as well as the whole world. Litvaks spoke Yiddish and created outstanding literary works. The Lithuanian Yiddish is considered to be the fundament of the literary Yiddish language. Books on Judaica, published in Vilnius, spread all over the world. Libraries in Vilnius were famous for the wealth and value of books kept there. The world known Judaic scientific institutions, first of all, the Jewish Scientific Institute YIVO, were situated in Vilnius. Jasha Heifets, Zhak Lipshits, Chajim Soutine and many others enriched the world of art and music. Litvaks - emigrants from Lithuania became prominent scientists, public figures, politicians in Israel, the USA, South Africa. The Nazi regime annihilated Lithuanian Jews and their culture. Less than 10% of Jews survived. Paneriai is one of the most horrible sites of mass-extermination of Jews in Europe.

The Soviet genocide destroyed the remnants of the Litvak legacy. When Lithuania regained its independence attempts were made to revive Jewish life. It is not only our homage to history, it is also our responsibility to world Jewry - the unique culture of Litvaks must survive. In 1965 in New York Max Vainraich said: "The fate of world Jewry depends on the scale to which the Jews of Jerusalem, Moscow, Buenos Aires and most importantly New York, imbue the spirit of Jerusalem of Lithuania."

We thank you for your attention to our web site.

If you have any inquiries or remarks and suggestions please write to Mr. Ilja Lempertas at lemper@post.5ci.lt or call/fax (3702) 44 89 35.

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Jews in Lithuania, Vilnius, 1999-2000