Jewish Lithuania 2014
The Jewish Lithuania Workshop, lead by Menachem Kaiser
Vilna, once referred to as Yerushalayim D’lita, served as the cultural, philosophical, spiritual, and intellectual center of pre-war Jewish life in Europe. The Litvak culture that existed in the Baltics came to an abrupt and tragic end in the Shoah. Unlike other experiences in Europe, our Jewish Lithuania program is as focused on the present and future as it is on the past. We purposely invite many faculty whose work engages with Jewish identity, Jewish politics, and most importantly, Jewish life. In 2011 and 2012 we hosted Yiddish concerts, with local Vilnius Litvak, Rafailas Karpis-- a rapidly rising opera star.
We work with the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the local community, historians, lecturers, and people who are engaged with contemporary Jewish politics and culture in Vilnius, to shed light on a uniquely rich and complicated Jewish place. SLS-Jewish Lithuania is intent, above all, on having a free and unfettered exchange of opinions, providing an open forum of ideas. We also have leading Litvak genealogists on our faculty, helping the participants of Litvak origins to find and explore their roots on the ground.
We bring a large number of local and international presenters to our Jewish Lithuania program. It is truly a unique, groundbreaking forum and cultural/academic program. We are constantly developing, expanding and deepening it.
All things said, Lithuania is a very complicated place for both its Jewish present and past. We also pay witness to the brutalities that took place in Vilnius, both by celebrating the culture of the Litvaks, but also by immersing ourselves within the physical space they once occupied, that same space in which they no longer are. But this is one of those important circumstances of this program, that the absence of something provides for no less of a context than its presence.
SLS-Lithuania program is interesting, meaningful, and profound. It is all about bringing back the memories, and suffusing the place – arguably the most important of all the “Jewish” places in Europe – with the new, vital, independent, inquisitive energy.