The history of Jews in Vilnius goes back to the 14th century. Due to its tolerance to various nationalities and religions the city was known as an international centre of Jewish culture and learning, often referred to as “The Jerusalem of The North.” The Nazis almost wiped, out all of the Vilnius Jews. Today, the memory of the Lithuanian Jews and its tragedy is memorialized in the Vilnius Jewish State Museum, the monument in Paneriai and the 9th Fort Museum in Kaunas. This tour also includes a short visit to Riga with visits to its major historic sites and memorials.
Day 1: Arrival in Vilnius, transfer to your hotel with the remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 2: A morning city tour of Vilnius takes you through the medieval Jewish quarter and the former ghetto territory to the street named after the famous “Vilnius Gaon” a world renowned, pious and enlightened Rabbi who led the orthodox in the 18th century, and to the Choral Synagogue dating back to the 19th century.
In the afternoon, you visit the Jewish State Museum that tells the heart rending tragic story of the Jewish community during World War II.
Day 3: Enjoy a pleasant morning 28 km drive to Trakai, the ancient capital of Lithuania, with the 15th century Trakai Castle amidst the lakes. The castle museum among other things also explains the origin and role of the Karaites, a Judaic sect brought by Grand Duke Vytautas from the Crimea in the 15th century.
The afternoon tour is to Paneriai, southeast of Vilnius, the place where the Vilnius Jews were exterminated by the Nazis. On the way back we stop at the Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius that commemorates the ghetto fighters, Bundists, and members of the underground.
Day 4: A morning visit to the Tolerance Center, located in the former building of Jewish Theater that existed between the two World Wars, during Lithuanian’s pre war period of independence. At present the Centre displays a wide range of work: temporary exhibitions in the arts gallery, cultural events, political events for the society at large and specialists.
Day 5: This morning we depart for Kaunas and check-in at our hotel.
Our city tour takes you to the Synagogue dating back to 1871, that claims to have one of the most beautiful altars in the entire Jewish world, then to Zamenhof street with the remains of two other synagogues and includes visits to the Ninth Fort Museum, a former concentration camp and death site of many thousands of Jewish nationals during the World War II, and finally to Sugihara House, where Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul to Lithuania for a brief period between 1939 and 1940 lived and saved thousands of Jews by issuing visas to get them out of the country and away to safety.
Day 6: After breakfast we leave Kaunas for Riga, the Capital of Latvia and on arrival check-in to our hotel accommodation. The afternoon tour of Riga features important historical sites of Riga’s Jewish community: the site of the former Big Choral Synagogue of which a metal menorah and a memorial stone are all that remain, the Riga Synagogue, also called Peitav Shul, which is the sole survivor of Riga’s fourteen synagogues. The tour ends with a visit to the Museum “Jews in Latvia”.
Day 7: In the morning we drive to Salaspils outside Riga, a place that commemorates the holocaust of World War II. This will be followed by your transfer to the airport for a departure flight home.
A full day may be set aside for “root” tours to visit towns and villages where your forefathers came from.
The tour can be extended to Belarus, where there are many places related to Jewish history: Baranovichi, the former residence of Hasidic Rabbis of Koydanovskaya and Slonimskaya dynasties; Bobruisk, the centre of cultural and political life of Belarusian Jews at the end of the 19th century; Volozhin, one of the world famous centers of Talmud teaching of the 19th century; Grodno, the town where the first Jewish community was founded at the end of the 14th century; Vitebsk, the centre of European Jewish culture before World War I, and closely related with the creative work of Mark Chagall.