In Celebration of Lithuanian-Jewish Heritage
On Tuesday, November 21, Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in Chicago opened an exclusive exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center – “One Century from Seven: Lithuania. Lite. Lita”. The exhibition tells the history of Lithuanian Jews (the Litvaks) since their arrival to the territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14th Century.
During the event, the audience was given an opportunity to engage and learn more about the Jewish political and cultural life and its impact on the Lithuanian community through a beautifully designed exhibit. Its creator and curator, Pranas Morkus, portrayed a variety of exceptional details of Yiddish and Jewish relations with the local populations, a number of extraordinary individuals of Litvak origin, one of which is the Vilna Gaon himself, and many more.
“Here in the United States, we have a great population of Jews, many of which have roots in Lithuania and take pride in calling themselves Litvaks. A singer, film actor and comedian Al Jonson, a composer and pianist Leopold Godowsky, a singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, an actor Harrison Ford are just a few examples of Americans whose parents or grandparents came from Lithuania. This is the reason we think it is extremely important to start this exhibition here – in the heart of Chicago’s culture – and to show that the Jewish were, are and always will be an essential part of the Lithuanian history”, said the Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania Matvydas Bekesius at the opening of the exhibition.
Since their arrival, the Jews of Lithuania lived an intense Jewish life and even started to call Vilnius the “Jerusalem of the North”. Although, the Holocaust tragically wiped out a large part of the Jewish community of the country, Litvaks continue to play remarkably strong and leading roles in the Lithuanian political and social lives.
During her speech, the Chair of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Mrs. Faina Kukliansky, emphasized that although there is only 5,000 Jews living in Lithuania today, the heritage and impact of the Lithuanian Jews will forever remain a remarkable part of the Lithuanian history. Mrs. Faina Kukliansky expressed her gratitude for being able to meet with a variety of Jewish organizations during her visit in Chicago, such as the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish United Fund, a number of rabbis and other community leaders and ended her speech with a welcoming invitation to visit Lithuania in the near future.
In addition to the exhibit, the event was accompanied by a quartet of Lithuanian musicians that performed a number of pieces by world-famous Litvak musicians and composers. This concert is a meaningful attempt by a group of Lithuanian musicians to connect past and present by following the footprints of the Litvak musical heritage. The programme included music of Benny Goodman, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and others.
“One Century from Seven: Lithuania. Lite. Lita” will continue to travel to different locations in Chicago for the rest of the year with a purpose of introducing people to an extraordinary history of Lithuanian-Jewry. It will also be available for display at various other cultural, religious and educational centers.
Pictures by Sandra Scedrina
For more information or possibility to showcase the exhibition please contact:
Egle Lauzonyte, Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in Chicago
+1 312 994 8260