Passport the Litvaks
Diversity is usually discussed in terms of different ethnic and religious communities co-existing in the same socioeconomic environment. However, when applying it to portray the life of one ethnic and religious group, the concept of di...
Knygos „Passport the Litvaks“ aprašymas
Diversity is usually discussed in terms of different ethnic and religious communities co-existing in the same socioeconomic environment.
However, when applying it to portray the life of one ethnic and religious group, the concept of diversity presents a very different perspective. This is the case when analysing the history of the remarkable and heterogeneous Jewish community in Lithuania. There are several indisputable foundational links within this community, such as common history and faith as well as any moral values and beliefs arising from it. But we can also observe an increasing number of differences, especially in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th.
The image of the Lithuanian Jewish community is multifaceted. One can almost visualise the shtetl and its wooden architecture, the stone structures of Vilnius with more than a hundred synagogues spread across the city; one can imagine the young faces leaning over the Holy Scriptures in quiet yeshivas or hear the hustle and bustle of the market square with its never-ending sound of people talking, horses neighing and children shouting; one might even catch a whiff of herring stored in huge barrels or the smell of fresh soft challah being shared in the candlelight of the Sabbath. These interwoven images eventually merge into a single narrative of Litvak history. The narrative of this community not only complements the way the history of Lithuania is told but is, in fact, its integral part.
Today we piece these scattered colourful fragments of everyday life into a mosaic of Litvak history and heritage. The story begins with the earliest Jewish communities which settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in small numbers. From this point on, the narrative diverges into a number of paths – from the culturally and economically unique world of the shtetl, to the flourishing of Jewish culture in the largest towns of the region, to the various aspects of the religious and everyday lives lived by the Litvaks. Hand in hand with these stories goes the tangible and intangible Litvak heritage, remaining in towns and villages across Lithuania, in the stories told and the memories shared.
This legacy will help any attentive reader and observer (re)discover traces of the Litvak history surrounding us today.
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