Jewish Street in The Heart of Vilnius Decorated With Hebrew and Yiddish Title
The sign on Jewish Street
On September 20, Vilnius Municipality unveiled the latest instalment of its foreign language street art series, by unveiling a plaque in Hebrew and Yiddish on Jewish Street (Žydų gatvė), which can be found in the former Jewish quarter in the heart of the Lithuanian capital’s Old Town.
“I would like to thank our Jewish community for the role that it has played in making Vilnius the hospitable, friendly, and peaceful city that it is today,” said Vilnius Mayor, Remigijus Šimašius. “Jewish life has always been important in Vilnius, and prior to World War II, its population was 40 percent Jewish.
“During that time, there was a saying: “you will make your fortune [in the Polish city of] Łódź, but you will become wise in Vilnius. Like any good city, we must preserve those values of wisdom and friendliness.”
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius meets with happy attendees after the opening ceremony
According to historical records, Vilnius’ Jewish street was first mentioned in 1592, and the city was known as the “Jerusalem of the north” thanks to its status as Europe’s hub for Jewish spiritual and cultural life.
Vilnius Municipality chose to write the street name in both Hebrew and Yiddish, as both languages played a significant role in Lithuanian-Jewish (Litvak) life. Hebrew was language of prayer and education, while Yiddish was used as an everyday language, in addition to Lithuanian.
The artwork on Jewish Street is the latest in a series of pieces that celebrate nations and ethnic and other groups that have played a significant role in the history of Vilnius.
Vilnius’ Jewish Street was first mentioned in 1592
Icelandic Street was the first to be marked in a foreign language with a sign in Icelandic appearing under the standard Lithuanian street sign in early 2016. (Iceland was the first country to recognise the reestablishment of Lithuanian independence in 1990.) This was followed by placement of a piece of street art in English marking Washington Square this summer.
In early September, artworks in Russian and Polish were unveiled to mark Russian and Warsaw Streets (“Русская Улица” and “ulica Warszawska” respectively), and the roles both communities have played in the history of Vilnius. Prior to Jewish Street, the latest street art to be revealed was on Tatar Street on September 15 in the Tatar language.
Vilnius Municipality aims to continue its policy of celebrating openness, and will unveil the next instalment in its street art series on October 3, on German Street (Vokiečių gatvė).