A few months ago our team launched a project called "Lita Lives" which aims to give back to the Jewish community in Lithuania (Lita), helping it flourish once more. Our creative venture is not a typical charity as there are no calls for donations. Rather, individuals can support the cause by buying from our colourful range of products, including yarmulkas, Yiddish magnetic fridge poetry, and Limited Edition Lithuanian Black Vodka. We also offer a unique service for purchase, whereby a person can arrange for Kaddish to be recited on the date of passing of their ancestor or loved one, by a fellow Jew in Lita. In addition, we will soon be launching an interactive Social Network for people of Lithuanian descent called The Shtetl Network. This is an online platform where Lithuanian descendants across the globe can connect, bringing thousands of people back to Lita, virtually.
Most South African Jews descend from Lithuania, and have a special part of Lita found in their family, values and traditions. With this in mind, a group of South African Jews of Lithuanian descent, will be travelling with Lita Lives to Vilnius, to enjoy a 5 Star Shabbos in Lita. Simultaneously, Lita Lives and its guests will be bringing the global Shabbos Project to Lithuania. The concept is very nostalgic and heart-warming: witnessing the very first Shabbos Project in Lithuania - sharing a Shabbos in Vilna together with local Litvak Jewry, just as our grandparents and great-grandparents did, several decades ago. It is undeniably unique and exceptional - one community journeying across continents to experience Shabbos in the surrounds of their familial roots.
For me it is a very moving experience as both my father's and mother's families have ancestors from Lithuania. When most people think of Lithuania, they imagine it in black and white and I'm looking forward to seeing it in colour.
On Thursday night our group will be partaking in a communal Challah bake with the Lithuanian Jewish community. On Shabbos afternoon we will be having a walking tour of the Vilna ghetto and will end off the shabbos with a very special seudah shlishit and havdalah with the community.
We will be documenting our journey on our Lita Lives Facebook page, so check in with us as we go!
Justine Seeff is a director of Lita Lives, a non-profit organisation which aims to raise funds for the Jewish community of Lithuania (Lita). By working together with the Jewish community of modern day Lithuania, Lita Lives is helping to ensure that Lita doesn’t just live in our hearts, and in our minds, and in our memories, but that Lita can also live in Lita.
Justine has a honours degree in brand management specialising in brand leadership, has spent time working for Disney and was responsible for implementing the re-branding and marketing of the Johannesburg Chevrah Kadisha.
Justine will be taking part in a Lita Lives initiative of bringing the Shabbos Project to Lithuania for the very first time. She is travelling with a South African group to Vilna to share Shabbos together with local Litvak Jewry.
Justine currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband and 2 children.