Concept

Litvaks

Résumé
Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks (ליטװאַקעס) or Lita'im (לִיטָאִים) are Jews with roots in the territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (covering present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, the northeastern Suwałki and Białystok regions of Poland, as well as adjacent areas of modern-day Russia and Ukraine). The term is sometimes used to cover all Haredi Jews who follow an Ashkenazi, non-Hasidic style of life and learning, whatever their ethnic background. The area where Lithuanian Jews lived is referred to in Yiddish as ליטע Lite, hence the Hebrew term Lita'im (לִיטָאִים). No other Jew is more closely linked to a specifically Lithuanian city than the Vilna Gaon (in Yiddish, "the genius of Vilna"). Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (1720–1797), to give his rarely used full name, helped make Vilna (modern-day Vilnius) a world center for Talmudic learning. Chaim Grade (1910–1982) was born in Vilna, the city about which he would write. The inter-war Republic of Lithuania was home to a large and influential Jewish community; its members either fled the country or were murdered during the Holocaust in Lithuania which began in 1941. Prior to World War II, the Lithuanian Jewish population comprised some 160,000 people, or about 7% of the total population. Wilno, as it was called then, had a Jewish community of nearly 100,000, about 45% of the city's total population. There were over 110 synagogues and 10 yeshivas in Vilnius alone. Census figures from 2005 recorded 4007 Jews in Lithuania – 0.12 percent of the country's total population. Vilna (Vilnius) was occupied by Nazi Germany in June 1941. Within a matter of months, this famous Jewish community had been devastated with over two-thirds of its population killed. Based on data by Institute of Jewish Policy Research, as of 1 January 2016, the core Jewish population of Lithuania is estimated to be 2,700 (0.09% of the wider population), and the enlarged Jewish population was estimated at 6,500 (0.23% of the wider population).
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