My father's father was born in Vilna, Lithuania. Yes, he was a Litvak -- a Lithuanian Jew. Certain stereotypes attach to the Litvak.
The stereotypical Litvak is portrayed as unemotional, withdrawn, intellectual, and mercilessly critical; he challenges authority and is by nature skeptical, stubborn, and impatient with, and suspicious of, others. The Litvak’s commitment to tradition is suspect; his Judaism purely intellectual. Hyperbolic expressions of the stereotype maintained that even when he is studying Torah, the Litvak has one leg out the door of the bet midrash (study hall), on his way to inevitable apostasy. He studies Mishnah, Talmud, and halakhic codes publicly, went the stereotype, while at the same time furtively glances into Christian scripture or reads Marx and Tolstoy. The Litvak was called, derisively, tselem kopf—meaning, split the head of a Litvak and you’ll find a cross. There was widespread suspicion among Polish Jews that Litvaks somehow lacked a yidishe neshome, an authentic Jewish soul, and that there was something inherently flawed, “goyish” and lacking in authentic Jewish flavor (yidisher tam), about them—the latter confirmed by the Litvak’s austere diet, which contrasted with the sweeter and more complex foods of Galitsianers. While Polish, Galician, and Romanian Jews would typically sweeten the most popular Jewish staple foods (e.g., gefilte fish or kugel) with sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and the like, Litvaks prepared their food with salt and pepper—appropriate, according to the stereotype, to their bitter personalities. “The Galitsianer’s gut is too big, but he has a small head,” wrote Mendele Moykher-Sforim; “the Litvak’s gut is too small, but he has a big head.”