On Sunday (11 December), four Rabbis, a Bishop and members of the local Jewish and Lithuanian communities celebrated together at the first annual joint Hanukah and Lithuanian Kucios Party at the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania. The joint party was hosted by The Jewish Lithuanian Heritage Project and The Lithuanian-American Community of D.C. at the invitation of His Excellency Ambassador Zygimantas Pavilionis. The celebration is part of The Sunflower Project, an international effort to bridge the Jewish and Lithuanian communities through open dialogue, youth exchanges and shared cultural events.
Ambassador Pavilionis welcomed the crowd of over 130 people, “Lithuania has a rich history of many peoples and cultures, and today we are reconstructing our Lithuania family.”
Diana Vidutis, the President of The Lithuanian-American Community of D.C. introduced the children from the Lithuanian School, Kristijono Donelaičio Lituanistinė Mokykla of Washington, D.C., who performed Lithuanian Christmas songs and shared their Kucios traditions. Children from Congregation Har Shalom and other local synagogues performed short readings, taught the game of dreidel (spinning tops) and conducted a menorah lighting ceremony, central to the celebration of Hanukah all over the world. Rabbi Elhanan “Sunny” Schnitzer, Spiritual Leader of Bethesda Jewish Congregation led the entire group in a Hanukah sing-a-long. Also attending was Rabbi Ken Cohen, Founder of the Vine and Fig Project and Karl Altau of the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.
Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen, the Director of Congregational Learning at Congregation Har Shalom, read from her newly published children’s Hanukah book, “Engineer Ari & the Hanukkah Mishap.”
The Most Reverend Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington explained that his Lithuanian roots go back to his great grandfather who came from Lithuania to America. Rabbi Adam Raskin, Spiritual Leader of Congregation Har Shalom, blessed the menorah lighting ceremony after a meal of traditional Hanukah treats of latkes, doughnuts and gelt (chocolate coins) and Lithuanian Kucios food.
The Founder of the Sunflower Project, Harley Felstein, summed up the afternoon, “The First Annual Joint Hanukah Kucios Party was a great success in bringing together the Jewish people and the Lithuania people in a united, positive celebration, deepening the roots of the Sunflower Project.”