Between November 29 and December 2, 2018 a seminar about Yiddish culture for the Moscow members of "Knafaim" young leadership program took place in Vilnius. It was jointly organized by the International Yiddish Center at the World Jewish Congress and the regional branch of the American Jewish Joint Distrib
The "Knafaim" program (which in Hebrew means "wings") offers young people efficient tools for developing their leadership skills, providing them with knowledge and experience in areas such as psychology, project management, PR and giving them subsequent opportunities to realize these qualities in Jewish projects.
The hectic and comprehensive program of the Vilnius seminar was designed for teaching them Jewish values, first and foremost Yiddish heritage.
A lively, vibrant lecture was provided by the young WJC YC lecturer Simonas Gurevičius, whose story was based on his personal life, which ran in Yiddish speaking surroundings. The audience reacted very lively to what was said, often interrupting the lecture with bursts of laughter.
A lecture-concert based on Yiddish songs was delivered by two professional musicians, Boris Kirzhner and Mikhail Yablonsky. Every song had been described by the performers, who explained its derivation, narrative and fate.
Boris Kirzhner, a violinist, a graduate of the Lithuanian Music academy, worked for some years as a teacher in the music school, later he joined the Jewish music and dance ensemble "Faierlech" – now he is the leader of its instrumental group. He has recorded a few CDs, took part in concert tours in Finland, Poland, Ukraine, Israel, UK with various groups. Mikhail Yablonsky, a singer and guitarist, member of "Faierlech", also concerts with various musical groups and orchestras.
On the last day, a study tour round Vilnius Jewish sites was led by the guide Raisa Shapiro, illustrated by inspiring stories about ancient and deep Jewish history of that city.
After the event, WJC YC got the gratitude letter:
On behalf of JDC Moscow I wish to express our thanks to WJC International Yiddish Center for hosting JDC project "Knafaim" in Vilnius during its visit on November 28th – December 2nd.
Unfortunately, the Yiddish program at the seminar was short; nevertheless it touched our students deeply and left them overwhelmed by the atmosphere of Jewish life.
A concert by two talented musicians was truly a unique and unforgettable experience, together with the guided tour round Jewish Vilnius and personal stories of Simonas Gurevičius it gave the perspective of Jewish life of once "Lithuanian Jerusalem".
Almost all 27 participants express their wish to learn more about Yiddish heritage.
I wish to especially acknowledge the invaluable support received by the dedicated YC staff, particularly by Mis Audrė Ralytė-Jasiukaitienė, who helped us with logistics and were there to solve all the possible questions out and allowed our seminar to go smooth as never before.
The generosity and hospitality of WJC International Yiddish Center in Vilnius made it possible for 32 people - both students and the staff - to feel at home. There is no doubt that this trip will be a precious piece of memories.
Thank you very much.
Looking forward to hearing from you about your future plans.
Yulya Karchevskaya, JDC Moscow and the "Knafaim" team