Latvia, Lithuania & Belarus Heritage Journey, May 10 -17. Kosher tour culture, heritage and history.
Jews have lived in Lithuania/Belarus for over 700 years – in some areas predating even the arrival of Christianity to this part of the world. Their legacy is rich with both Torah and secular scholarship – most Litvaks could speak at least three languages, two of them being Hebrew and a rich, classic Yiddish. Although the Nazis cut a vast swathe through Jewish life here, there is still much to see and experience in this part of the world, and a new, post-Soviet openness has awakened a huge interest in Jewish history and culture.
Come and meet with members of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute – where Yiddish is being taught as part of the curriculum of the Vilnius University, Lithuania’s premier center of higher learning. Travel on to Belarus once a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, for centuries home to great yeshivas and small shtetls. Vilna, Kovno, Minsk, Mir, Novardok and Slonim – all are basic building blocks of Ashkenazic Jewish heritage.
Lithuania and Belarus 2107
Day 1: Wednesday, May 10 2017: Riga
Upon arrival at Riga airport we head to Hotel for light lunch and luggage check-in. We start our tour of Jewish Riga including the Jewish quarter, a memorial for the burnt Great Synagogue of Riga, the Jewish school founded in the XIX. by Rav Dr. Max Lilienthal, the Synagogue, the museum “Jews in Latvia”, the Jewish community centre, the sites of Shimon Dubnov in Riga. Visit the Rumbula and Bikierniki Memorials, where Nazis murdered many thousands of Jews from Latvia, Germany and Czechoslovakia. In the late afternoon a tour of the Old Town, including the Castle of Riga, the Dome Cathedral, the Swedish gate and the former Swedish barracks, the Great and Small Guilds, Cat’s house, the “Three Brothers”, the House of the “Blackheads”
Day 2: Thursday, May 11, 2017: Bauska / Panevezys / Kaunas
We start the day with a visit Riga’s only remaining Synagogue, which today serves as the central meeting place for the Jews of Latvia. Drive to Bauska (Boisk), the place where Rav Kook comes from. After the visit we will Depart to Panevezys (Ponevezh), see the building of the former world famous Ponevezh Yeshiva, Synagogue, the Jewish ghetto. Then we depart to Kaunas (Kovna), the second large city, an interim capital of pre-war Lithuania. After dinner we will walk along the main street, Laisves aleja, boulevard, with its 2-3 storey buildings, restaurants, shops, as they looked before the war.
Day 3: Friday, May 12, 2017: Kaunas / Zezmariai / Vilnius
Tour of Kaunas, including visit to the only opened Synagogue and the Children’s Memorial in its courtyard.
Visit Slobodka, a Jewish suburb of Kaunas since 1500 and ghetto during World War II. See the building of the famous Slobodka Yeshiva founded by Rabbi Nathan Zvi Finkel. Learn about The Musar movement and the influence of R’ Israel Salanter on Slobodka Yeshiva as well as the personality of Rav Itzhak Elchanan Spector.
Learn about The Great Action at Demokratu square followed by a visit to The Ninth Fort, the death site where Nazis and their collaborators killed over 50 thousand people, mostly Jews from Lithuania, but also from France and Germany; its Holocaust museum and Memorial. Inside the Museum / former prison hear the story of famous escape from the 9th forth. Then we visit Chiune Sugihara Museum, to understand the story of the Japanese consul in Kaunas in 1940, who issued several thousand lifesaving visas for the Jewish refugees from Poland.
On the way to Vilnius we stop at Zezmariai (Zhezhmer), where a remarkable Jewish community settled before the war with its surviving wooden Synagogue building. After our tour we'll check in to our hotel and prepare for Shabbat.
Day 4: Shabbat, May 13, 2017: Vilnius
After breakfast and Shabbat services we'll take a walking tour to the old Jewish quarter to see the narrow streets and courtyards of the middle-age Ghetto, the Great Vilna Synagogue and the shulhoyf, Vilna Gaon - the great Jewish scholar; Vilna - a centre of the struggle between mitnagdim and Hasidim, the famous Jewish sculptor Mordekhai Antokolsk and the world-renowned Strashun library, that numbered over 6000 volumes at the end of the 19th century. Tefilla at Great Synagogue of Vilnius followed by lunch at Hotel. Seuda Shlishit at Chabad.
Day 5: Sunday, May 14, 2017: Vilnius / Paneriai / Trakai / Vilnius
We start the day at the Hill of Three Crosses to enjoy the fascinating panoramic view of the city. We will then visit the present and the past of the Jewish cemeteries, the grave of the Vilna Gaon and R’ Baruch Ber Leibovitz. We will visit the Building of the world famous printing house "Widow and Brothers Romm". We will visit the "Cheap Houses" dwelling houses built by Baron Hirsch for Jewish poor people after the great flood.
We will visit Ponar Memorial, near Vilnius, where the Nazis and their local accomplices murdered in the pits many thousands of the Jews of Lithuania and other countries. We will then visit Trakai, the ancient capital and the residence of Grand Dukes of Lithuania, famous for the lakes and the 14th century castle with a museum of Lithuanian history. We will enjoy a 30min lake boat ride. We will explore the Karaite sect and learn the story of this small ethnic group brought by Vytautas the Great from Crimea as war prisoners about 600 years ago.
Gala Dinner at JCC.
Day 6: Monday, May 15, 2017: Vilnius / Radin / Volozhyn / Minsk
Today we will cross the border to Belarus and drive to Radin where The Chafetz Chayim founded the Yeshivah of Radin in 1869. One can see the impressive building of the Synagogue. Visit the Jewish cemetery with the mitzvah of Chafetz Chayim and the memorial for the Jews murdered in the WWII.
Continue to Volozhyn and see the renowned yeshiva established by Rav Hayim Volozhiner, a disciple of the Vilna Gaon in 1803. Visit the Jewish cemetery with the tomb of the great Hayim Volozhiner. Dinner at Chabad Minsk
Day 7: Tuesday, May 16, 2017: Mir / Novogrudok / Slonim / Minsk
Morning depart for Mir, a world-renown yeshiva, that numbered about five hundred students from around the world was established in 1815. The yeshiva existed up to 1939. After reunification of the Western with Eastern Belarus it has moved to Vilno, and after the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Army yeshiva's pupils have moved to Shanghai. After the WWII Mir yeshiva was reopened in Jerusalem and New York. The old Jewish cemetery of Mir. Memorial for the Jewish inhabitants murdered during WWII. View the medieval Dukes’ Radziwill castle of Mir built in 1495. We head on to Slonim which was a typical shtetl, where before the WWII 75% of the population was Jewish. See the 500 year old Slonim Synagogue, which survived the Holocaust and is now being caringly restored. Then we continue to Novogrudok, once the center of the Great Duchy of Lithuania. Here Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz served as Rosh Yeshiva of Novogrudok. Visit to the area of the Jewish ghetto and the places of the mass murder. Learn the story of the escape of 233 ghetto prisoners to the partisans and the Bielsky Brothers story at the Jewish Resistance Museum and tunnel remains.
Farewell Dinner at Chabad Minsk
Day 8: Wednesday, May 18, 2017: Minsk
Visit the sights of Minsk. “Yama” a memorial for the Jews perished in Minsk during the Nazi occupation. The obelisk was built on the exact spot where five thousand Jews were slaughtered. Visit Minsk Synagogue. A walk in the small part of the Old Town the only one survived of the pre-war Minsk.
Visit the site of the Minsk ghetto and see samples of Jewish architecture. Then we have lunch followed by transfer to the airport for flight back to home.
- International flights
- Tourist 4-5 Star hotels
- Air-conditioned tourist coach
- Kosher Full Board 3 meals per day and snacks on bus.
- English-speaking local guides and our own experienced guide Hugh Raichlin
- Entrance to all sites mentioned in the itinerary
- Personal expenses such as drinks laundry, dry cleaning & shopping etc.
- Travel Insurance
- Tips for local service providers 50 Euro per person
A $500 USD Deposit per person must be received at the time of booking in order to confirm your reservation. Payment in full is due 60 days before departure. A minimum number of participants are required to operate tour dates. If a minimum number has not been reached prior to tour departure and the tour is cancelled you will receive a FULL refund.If client cancels at any time outside dates below a $100/person Admin Fee applies.
- Within 90-60 days prior to departure date: Full refund less cancellation fee $200 per person
- Within 60-30 days prior to departure date: Full refund less cancellation fee $500 per person
- Within 30 days prior to departure date: The Full amount is payable - No Refund
- We strongly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance.
- Important to Know:
The tour organizers have no control over airline services such as seating, special meal requests, changes in departure times or delays. These remain the sole responsibility of the airline company.
Travel insurance encompassing both cancellation and medical insurance is very important and we cannot stress that enough. We strongly recommend that our clients are adequately insured when travelling. It is crucial to purchase the travel insurance within 14 days from the 1st payment that you make for this trip (flights/cruise/tour etc). Your payment is made directly to the insurance company. We highly recommend the ‘cancel for any reason’ upgrade option. Our preferred policies are Travel Safe (USA & Canadian residents), Travel Select (USA residents) and Global Trip Protection Elite (All other Nationalities). For an obligation free quote, just Ask!
To reserve your space on this tour, please contact us at your soonest to guarantee your place on the tour.
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