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Jewish Heritage and General Vilnius
Tour to Paneriai
Today vibrant Vilnius is known as the City of a Thousand Spires, with 65 churches that make the city’s skyline unforgettable. Before WWII it had another name--the Jerusalem of Lithuania – and was home to over 100 synagogues! Its thriving pre-war community of nearly 100,000 Jews – an astonishing forty-five percent of the city’s population! – supported the development of both city and nation in their roles as merchants, artisans, and traders, while renowned Jewish scientists, teachers, writers, sculptors and musicians greatly impacted the intellectual life of the Lithuanian capital. What do Menachem Begin, Marc Chagall, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Nadine Gordimer have in common? They are all of Lithuanian Jewish or, as it is called locally, Litvak descent!
Vilnius served as a major center of Torah study in Europe, where such scholars as the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski learned and taught. Indeed many Jewish secular and religious institutions flourished here, including Der Yiddisher Visenshaftlicher Institut or YIVO in the 1920s and 30s. Learn how the modern-day Vilnius Jewish Community honors its past while moving forward with new institutions like the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University, and the Vilnius Jewish Library – a collection now in progress, started by American Wyman Brent, with a dream to commemorate Jewish Lithuania by accumulating over 100,000 volumes! The Vilna Jewish State Museum, the Tolerance Center, the Sholom Aleichem Jewish high school and Vilna Synagogue, all contribute to maintaining an active Jewish life in Lithuania.
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