(JTA) — For the first time in recent history, Lithuanian Jews will be represented at a Vilnius street market that is one the country’s oldest traditions.
The Jewish presence at the March 4-6 Kaziukas Fair — a large annual Lithuanian folk arts and crafts event dating back to 1604 — will include a stand where shoppers can haggle over prices, the news portal www.zw.lt reported last week based on an interview with Algis Gurevicius, director of the Lithuania state’s Jewish Culture and Information Center.
“In the Jewish area, prices will include VAT, and there will also be the opportunity to bargain,” Gurevicius said, adding: “”Probably, no one will deny that it was the Jews who taught Lithuanians trade.” In the 19th century, Vilnius alone had 70 Jewish guilds, the news site 15min.lt quoted him as saying.
The Jewish area at the Kaziukas Fair will offer Jewish music concerts featuring the dance ensemble “Fajerlech” and will feature Jewish cuisine. The local Jewish community is involved in operating the Jewish corner at the fair, Gurevicius said. The market will have 500 stand operators from 16 countries.
Lithuania was a major hub for Orthodox Jews before World War II, when it had a Jewish population of 220,000. But 95 percent of them were killed by German Nazis and local collaborators during the Holocaust.
Lithuanian governments have invested millions of dollars in recent years in projects that highlight the country’s Jewish heritage. While Jewish groups have praised Lithuania for those efforts, the country has also been criticized for state-sponsored celebration of the legacy of people complicit in the murder of Jews and of construction on sites that some critics deem sacred to Jews.