2018-12-05 / Voice at the Shore

Vilna remembered and celebrated at Beth El

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice Shore Editor


From left: Stockton University’s Jane Stark, Beth El Rabbi Aaron Krauss, Beth Israel Cantor Larissa Averbakh, and Stockton visiting professor Ann Millin were among those who recreated the old-world culture of Vilna, Lithuania, on October 18 at Beth El. From left: Stockton University’s Jane Stark, Beth El Rabbi Aaron Krauss, Beth Israel Cantor Larissa Averbakh, and Stockton visiting professor Ann Millin were among those who recreated the old-world culture of Vilna, Lithuania, on October 18 at Beth El. “When the Germans invaded Vilna in June of 1941, a thriving community of 60,000 Jews, often referred to as the ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania,’ was destroyed,” said Jane Stark, director of Stockton University’s Azeez Museum.

A taste of that rich, old-world culture was recently recreated at Beth El Synagogue in Margate, thanks to the vision of Rabbi Aaron Krauss and the combined planning efforts of Stockton’s Azeez Museum and Holocaust Resource Center, which both co-sponsored the event.

“Rabbi Krauss of Beth El was the genesis for this event,” said Stark. “Having strong familial ties to Vilna, Lithuania (his father was born there) Rabbi’s intent was to honor those in our community who share the common link to the Jewish Community of Vilna and create awareness to the community at large.”

The Celebration of Vilna on October 18 brought together more than 150 people—including 30 Stockton University students— to remember and learn about the culture of a city that was once the Jewish spiritual center of Eastern Europe. Attendees also enjoyed a traditional meal.

Dr. Ann Millin, Stockton University’s Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Professor of Holocaust Studies, presented a slide show of Vilna before it was destroyed during World War II.

Irv Jacoby, the son and son-in-law of Vilna survivors, also gave “a personal description of the glory that was Vilna, recalling the cultural and religious life, educational institutions, intellectuals, scholars, authors and poets, craftspeople and theatres, and gifted Talmudic scholars and rabbis…all lost in the Shoah,” said Stark.

Cantor Larisa Averbakh of Beth Israel, an emigre from Russia and frequent visitor to Vilna as a young woman, provided entertainment at the dinner by singing familiar songs in Yiddish. 

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