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On 27 June, 2007 the Vilnius Yiddish Institute completed the ’06-’07 session of the Dr. Sheine Sideraite Yiddish Reading Circle. The reading circle, or léyenkrayz meets during term time each Wednesday at 4 PM in the institute’s Richard Maullin Study Hall. It was founded by Professor Dovid Katz in the autumn of 1999 at Vilnius University’s Center for Stateless Cultures in partnership with the Jewish Community of Lithuania. In 2001, it was secured and enhanced, along with many other Yiddish projects in Vilnius, by incorporation into the new Vilnius Yiddish Institute. It continues to be led by Prof. Katz, who is the institute’s director of research.
Shortly after the death of one the reading circle’s founding members, Dr. Sheine Sideraite, on March 15, 2005, the Léyenkrayz was named in her memory. Born on 9 February 1921 in Lazdéy (now Lazdijai, Lithuania), Dr. Sideraite settled in the Lithuanian capital after the war, and became one of the leading pioneers of endocrinology in the Baltic region of East Central Europe. She was the wife of the Yiddish and Lithuanian writer Yankl Yosade (Jokubas Josade), and became a beloved personality in her own right in the circles of Yiddish literature and culture. Her sharp wit and deep erudition in Hebrew as well as Yiddish literature were widely known and appreciated in Vilnius. A profile of Dr. Sideraite by Dovid Katz appeared in New York’s weekly Yiddish Forverts on 25 Sept. 1998.
In 2006-2007, the reading circle’s participants included about a dozen Vilnius residents ranging from students of Yiddish in their twenties to seniors from the survivors’ and veterans’ Jewish communities. The regulars include Ms. Fira Bramson (Esfir Bramsonaite-Alperniene), director of the Judaica section of at the Lithuanian National Library; Dr. Israel Lempertas, academic advisor to the Jewish Community of Lithuania; Ms. Regina Kopilevich, the well-known tour guide and genealogist; Ms. Indre Joffyte, a young businesswoman who hopes to return to academia to study the Yiddish literature of Lithuania; Ms. Eveline Poppe of Belgium, who previously studied Yiddish in Antwerp with Ms. Jennifer Bell, a veteran of the VYI educator program (and summer course); and Ms. Akvile Grigoravichiute, a third-year undergraduate in political science who enrolls in the summer course for the second time in 2007, and who frequently keys in Yiddish texts for the VYI’s Yiddish classics online project. The senior Léyenkrayz member is Mr. Meylakh Stalevich, a native of Vilna who delights the group with his vivid recollections of the nooks and crannies of the prewar era of the city once known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania.” Like Dr. Lempertas, he is a World War II veteran, heavily decorated for his valor in the resistance against Nazism.
In 2006-2007, the Léyenkrayz read works by Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Ash, Meshulem Gitlin, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Chaim Grade, Moyshe Kulbak, Esther Kreitman (Hinde-Esther Singer), Avrom Reyzen (Abraham Reyzen), and Sarah Reyzen. It has become a Léyenkrayz tradition to warm up each week with a page or two of wholesome Yiddish humor from Abraham Sklarin’s Toyznt un eyns (‘A Thousand and One’), which was published in New York City in 1958. The volume, donated in 1996 by the late Carl Cowl (Kalmen Kovl) of New York City to the Jewish studies program at Vilnius University, was “inherited” by the Léyenkrayz.
The Léyenkrayz is administered by the VYI’s associate director, Ms. Ruta Puisyte, who can be contacted at the institute for further information about the reading circle’s plans for 2007-2008.
|2005 VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE. Solution: Neosymmetria|