Nusakh Vilne Memorial: The Secrets of the Great Synagogue of Vilna


September 27, 2023    
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Event Type

Annual Nusakh Vilne Memorial Program: Film Screening & Concert
at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011)

Co-sponsored by Nusakh Vilne and the Lithuanian Culture Institute

YIVO’s annual Nusakh Vilne program commemorates the Jewish community of Vilna through poetry and music. This year, YIVO will feature the American premiere of The Secrets of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, a new documentary by Loïc Salfati.

Comprising many interviews, the film follows the 2019 and 2021 excavation campaigns of the Great Synagogue of Vilna day by day. Both an archaeological adventure and a historical investigation, The Secrets of the Great Synagogue of Vilna highlights the Lithuanian Jewish community’s intellectual effervescence and the reputation of Vilnius, regarded as one of the most important Jewish cultural centers in Eastern Europe.

Join YIVO for a screening of this documentary followed by a Q&A with director Salfati. As a part of the evening, Rita Glassman, Maria Krupoves, and Zalmen Mlotek will perform a selection of music.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Admission: Free


About the Participants

Loïc Salfati is a French engineer who was born in 1974 and moved to Lithuania in 2002. After working in the lighting sector in France, he became a photographer and film director. Loïc Salfati has also worked in the cultural sector since 2005. He is currently deputy director and cultural attaché at the French Institute in Lithuania, where he developed cultural relations between France and Lithuania.


Cantor Rita Glassman is the Cantor of Temple Israel of New Rochelle in New York. She previously served as Cantor of Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco, California. In addition to being an ordained Cantor, she is a composer and a Board Certified Chaplain. She has produced seven CD recordings with original music both liturgical and secular on the themes of healing, hope and peace ( Cantor Glassman is the daughter of Holocaust survivor Isaac Glazman, z’l, who daringly escaped from the Vilna Ghetto one day before its liquidation. The details of his escape and survival in Vilna were recorded in letters he wrote to a brother in New York which were published in the Yiddish Forward newspaper in 1945. Rita travelled to Vilnius for the first time in the summer of 2019, arriving at the excavation site of the Great Synagogue of Vilna the day the Bima was located. Her rendition of the prayer “El Maleh Rachamim” captured in the film “The Secrets of the Great Synagogue of Vilna” was from that very moment.

Dr. Maria Krupoves, an artist and folklorist, is internationally acclaimed as a singer and interpreter of the folksongs of Eastern Europe, especially those of her native Vilnius with its multicultural heritage. In 2001, Dr. Krupoves was awarded a Vladimir and Pearl Heyfetz Fellowship at YIVO (Institute for Jewish Research) in New York. While in the United States, she has lectured and performed at YIVO and various universities. The singer has published seven albums with a multicultural repertory in collaboration with klezmer, jazz and classical musicians. Her album Without a Country: Songs of Stateless Peoples got an enthusiastic review in the Billboard Magazine. Recordings from her album Songs of the Vilna Ghetto have been used in the numerous documentaries about Vilna’s Jewish history.

Zalmen Mlotek is an internationally recognized authority on Yiddish folk and theater music as well as creator of new musicals such as The Golden Land which toured Italy under the sponsorship of Leonard Bernstein and Those Were The Days, nominated for two Tony Awards. As the artistic director of the NYTF for the past twenty years, Mlotek helped revive Yiddish classics, instituted simultaneous English and Russian supertitles at performances and brought leading creative artists of television, theatre and film, such as Itzhak Perlman, Mandy Patinkin, Sheldon Harnick, Ron Rifkin and Joel Grey to the Yiddish stage. His vision has propelled classics, including NYTF productions of the world premiere of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Yentl in Yiddish (1998), Di Yam Gazlonim (The Yiddish Pirates of Penzance, 2006) the 1923 Rumshinky operetta The Golden Bride (2016), and the critically acclaimed Fidler Afn Dakh (Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, 2018). During his tenure at the NYTF, the theatre company has been nominated or received over ten Drama Desk Awards and four Lucille Lortel Awards.