Paris of the North
Riga is the largest city in the Baltic states and the capital of Latvia. Once dubbed the 'Paris of the North,' it is an architectural gem replete with medieval houses, Gothic gabled roofs, Renaissance guild houses, wealthy Baroque homes and Art Nouveau housing designed by Jewish architect Mikhail Eisenstein, on a par with the architecture of Vienna or Barcelona.
One may visit the Peitav Shul - the one synagogue to survive the Nazi period that is still in use today - and hear about how the Torah scrolls were saved. Passing the Parliament Building, one can learn about how Jewish democrats were involved in the creation of the first independent Latvia in 1920 and of the Jewish parliamentarians at work today. The Maskavas Forstate (suburb) with its unique wooden housing was the historical Yiddish-speaking quarter and home to Poles, Russians and Old Believers.
Never a ghetto until the Nazi years, Maskavas Forstate became the main area of Jewish settlement in the 19th century. The first Jewish secular school is used today as a private Jewish school. Likewise the historical Jewish hospital Bikur Holim is still in use. The sites of the Great Choral Synagogue and old Jewish cemetery are now places of contemplation of the Nazi inhumanities.
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