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Category Archives: Lithuania

Springform pans- reloaded

Apple Cinnamon spring-form pan cake. Good for break-fast or just breakfast!

Tonight I made my friend Liz’s apple cinnamon cake in a “spring-form pan” for break-fast or just for breakfast.  I was thinking about my blog entry from April 2012 when I thought I was hysterical writing about….”springform pans in 1800’s Europe” and “Do they have 5k’s in Warsaw?”.  Back then I thought I was the only one going to read my blog.  It amazing that even after the trip, I am still getting followers and my blog has hit over 4,300 hits.  Since the trip, I have a visual on the house where my great great grandparents lived.  Like me tonight, they prepared special food and deserts for the holy holiday of Yom Kippur.  I wonder if we share the same recipes? Did my great great grandmother use a spring-form pan? LOL. Wishing everyone an easy fast.

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Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Ancestry, Family Tree, Food, Jewish, Lithuania, Uncategorized

 

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Crossing the River

crossing the riverI just finished reading “Crossing the River” by Shalom Eilati. It was recommended to me by a Temple Chai Member who is related to the author and thought I would be interested as I had just spoke at Yiskor about our trip to Lithuania. He said he wanted to go with his cousin who had an incredible escape from the Kaunas Ghetto, lived in hiding with Lithuanians, traveled to Germany then finally to Israel.  I feel like I now have names and stories to the places I visited. The IX fort which was the mass murder site for more than 30,000 Jews has names attached.  When we were there; we walked the grounds, traced the path of the escapees, saw the areas of execution, but…it didn’t feel personal until now.  The pictures I took in the museum (oops I wasn’t supposed to, sorry Chaim!) now have new meaning.  Anyway, Bennett has now taken the book and is likely going to read it in 2 days being the speed reader that he is. I am sure that he will write about it in his “bennettsbookblog” when he finishes it. I will be curious to see his reaction as a child the same age as the author while under Nazi captivity. What would he have done? Would he have been so brave?

Execution site

Execution site

Horrible Soviet monument dedicated to the "Soviets" who lost their lives

Horrible Soviet monument dedicated to the “Soviets” who lost their lives

IX Fort, Kaunas

IX Fort, Kaunas

Simon, our guide, by the memorial at the Kaunas Ghetto.It was burned down during the war.

Simon, our guide, by the memorial at the Kaunas Ghetto.It was burned down during the war.

Anti-semitism still strong where there are so few Jews

Anti-semitism still strong where there are so few Jews

Destroyed Kaunas Ghetto

Destroyed Kaunas Ghetto

Kaunas Ghetto

Kaunas Ghetto

Jews marching to their demise at the IX fort

Jews marching to their demise at the IX fort

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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Ancestry, Holocaust, Jewish, Lithuania, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Yizkor

When I got back from “the” trip, I printed a Shutterfly album. I made an appointment to have coffee with Rabbi Mari Chernow as I was so excited and proud to share the book with her. She asked me if I would say a few words about it at the memorial Yizkor services.   This is what I have planned so far…

This summer, my mother and I had the honor of visiting my great-great grandmother’s grave.  There were no stones placed on her gravestone as no one has visited her since 1942.  It was a beautiful cemetery that has been slowly restored by a non-Jewish local woman named Riva Vaivos. We met RiVa at the cemetery and I asked her why she is spending countless hours by herself in the Jewish cemetery restoring and hand painting each headstone… her response was, “because there are no Jews left to do this.”   The cemetery is illuminated with color.  Riva hand paints the Hebrew letters on each headstone in a rainbow of colors telling me that she is fulfilling OUR tradition.  While restoring, she sometimes she scrapes off 7-8 layers of paint.  Risa Gittel Freyman’s stone is in a cemetery in Jurbarkas, Lithuania adjacent to the town’s mass murder site where the remainder of her family is buried in the mass grave.

My mother and I had brought our blue Temple Chai Yizkor book and said Kaddish for her and for everyone around us who haven’t had Kaddish read for them in 70 years.

We also said Kaddish in the Jewish cemeteries of Vysokie Mazalowieki and Chee-cha-novitz, Poland where my grandfather’s family are likely buried.  I say likely because Jewish headstones were frequently taken and used for building materials such as foundation walls and wheels after the Jews were gone.  There are no caretakers there and the headstones are going back to becoming field stones.

I need to take a step back and tell you how I got here.  My family was watching the NBC show “who do you think you are?” which follows some of today’s iconic celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees.  Bennett asked me if I would make our family tree.  I thought…how hard could it be when you have those little shaky leaves giving you all your hints?  After a few months of tracing the Freeman family to 1750 Lithuania, I got hooked.  I now have 2200 people in the Weitz/Katz tree and it has transformed from just being about “my” family to something much bigger. I have new connections with new family around the globe from sharing my tree with relatives who also were wondering “who they were and where did they come from.” 

There are less than 5,000 Jews in the entire country of Lithuania. Over 96% were liquidated during WWII.  One thing that struck me while in Poland and Lithuania was that the majority of people we met at Jewish sites caring for our cemeteries and synagogues were not Jews.  Similar to angel in the Jurbarkas cemetery, our guide at Auschwitz was not Jewish, nor was our guide on the Jewish Quarter/Schindler Factory tour, nor the head of Matzevah in Lithuania, nor was our researcher in Poland, nor the man who cares for the only wooden synagogue standing in Lithuania.  They all said that there are no Jews to do this.  I hope ‘out of sight out of mind” will not become our American Jewish “norm”.  It was an honor to visit Lithuania and Poland. I hope I can pass on the family legacy and to continue the Yizkor tradition of remembering so our family will be able to visit a grave and know others were there to visit and honor them too. Let’s also remember those generations cut short with no one left to leave a stone for them.

 

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Everything is complicated-semitism

One thing we kept hearing from all of our guides is that “everything is complicated”. Some people on our trip felt that we were in a Jew hating country others felt the opposite and saw progress in modern Lithuanian Jewry. Meeting Rita who restores the Jewish cemetery stones in Jurbarkas gave me hope but not everyone respects her like we do for what she is doing. We met the gentile man who takes care of the wooden synagogue in Ziezmariai who is not respected for caring for the holy structure. We went to Slobatka across the river in Kaunas and saw that the memorial plaque noting the ghetto and the murder of 30,000 Jews had acid splashed on it. When we were in Vilnius we saw some weird march with some idiots dressed with CIA on their backs with holding a chain someone wearing a concentration camp uniform in shackles. A few minutes later some local drunks were dancing around singing “Havana Gila” for money. But not in a cute or funny way. It was rather icky. Didn’t want to confront either of them as we weren’t sure what would happen.

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strange demonstration in street

Everyone we met in Lithuania was very nice, courteous, and helpful. I think the Soviet years severely held them back in embracing diversity. We met and had dinner with American Attaché Jonathan Berger. The US embassy is working with educators to bring them up to speed with teaching about crimes against former “Jewish soviet citizens”. Time will tell. I would highly encourage everyone with Lithuanian roots to visit. It is a beautiful country with a lovely educated culture that is finally coming back.

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acid thrown on monument

 
 

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Random Lithuania pictures

Random photos from the streets of Kaunas and Vilnius.

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Lithuanian Flag (Mc Donalds in the distance

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They are so happy to start getting big concerts in Lithuania

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A lot of really bad hair dye jobs. So many bad reds, pinks, and orange hair

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I liked this “chill bar” check out the roads, very typical

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This is a Karaite restaurant with a “Drive through” There are not many Kariaites in the world, they have their own cuisine. This restaurant had the best soup I have ever had in my life. Served in a brown rye bread bowl.

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Sitting on the toilet, I have no idea what it says

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Kairaite restaurant

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Our tour bus pulls up to the restaurant and then this helicopter out of nowhere arrives, picks up some guy then takes off

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Old Town Kaunas

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Old Town Kaunas

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Old Town Kaunas, the Soviets didn’t take care of churches or temples very well

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Old Town Kaunas

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Old Town Kaunas, very typical street

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I liked the barrel look of this bar

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Not just a happy face, a sundial

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Overlooking Old Town Kaunas

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Part of the group at the Kaunas Archives

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My obsession with doors continues

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Old Town Kaunas

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Old Town Kaunas

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Freedom Avenue had many shops and restaurants. It made for a great Kaunas jog in the morning

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Beautiful church at the end of Freedom street. Unfortunately, not very cared for during soviet times

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Loved this store front

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Great storefront for this tavern

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Evening walk in Vilnius (taken around 10:30 at night)

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forget the Euro… basketball is big in Lithuania

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Sunset stroll in Vilnius

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Outside the remaining temple in Vilnius

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Vilnius

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Pats Run tshirt in front of a Soviet landmark, funny

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Everything Euro 2012

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Temple in Vilnius, we went there for Shabbot services on Saturday, beautiful inside. We sat in the women’s gallery

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beautiful interior in this coffee/chocolate shop in Old Town Vilnius

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Restaurant we ate at in Old Town Vilnius

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Old Town Vilnius

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Kazamier church in Old town Vilnius, across from our hotel.

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loved this sculpture on German St.

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signage!

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Our luggage cart at the airport

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local art school

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in design, Lithuania, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Soviet designer

I think the easiest job would have been a designer during Soviet times. You had 3 choices of paint, yellow, yellow/orange, and brown. If paint was available the choices were easy. You could tell your client that these colors give you a very “national look” lol.

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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in design, Lithuania, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Just met an angel

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caretaker of the synagogue

We just met an angel. Mr. Lludvikas was only 5 when the Nazis came to Ziezmariai. He and his mother would disguise themselves as beggars and smuggle food to the Jews hiding in the forest. Fast forward to today, by himself, he takes care of the only remaining wooden synagogue in Lithuania dating back to 1780. He defines the Yad Vashem title “righteous gentile”. I have video of him as well as pictures. There is one of where the mezuzah was located. Wooden synagogues were banned after a certain date because they would catch fire.

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exterior of synagogue

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where the light hung over where they read torah

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the women’s gallery above

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former location of the mezzuzh

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last wooden sysnogogue in Lithuania

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