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Jewish Jewels of the Baltics
Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia
Heritage & Culture Explored
June 2–13, 2024

Join a FREE Travel Info Session

This hour-long Zoom session will be hosted by Aryeh Maidenbaum, Jewish Heritage Travel’s founder, and will feature the tour’s accompanying scholar Therkel Straede and tour manager Lucy Rapoport. They look forward to sharing information about the trip and answering your questions. 

Please pre-register to receive the Zoom link for attendance.

Monday January 29

Session Times by Location: 11am PT | 2pm ET | 7pm UK | 20:00 EU

Overview

Lithuanian Jews, also called Litvaks, were among Europe’s most influential scholars, energetic businessmen, and skilled professionals prior to World War II. In Lithuania, Jewish secular and religious institutions flourished. With more than 100 synagogues and some of the leading rabbinical schools of Europe, Vilnius was affectionately known as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania.” The YIVO Institute — the leading academic institution for the study of Yiddish language and literature — was founded in Vilnius. Earlier, the 18th-century Gaon of Vilna was world-renowned as a Talmudist and scholar.

In nearby Latvia and Estonia, Jews also played important roles in the economic and intellectual life of their countries. Their Jewish communities flourished, with customs and culture influenced by German, Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian traditions. Over the years, such luminaries as Isaiah Berlin, Rabbi Kook, Mark Rothko, Louis Kahn, Abba Eban, and Amos Oz have come from Lithuanian, Latvian, or Estonian families.

Join us and our Jewish Heritage Travel scholar as we explore the heritage and culture of these Baltic gems. Our trip begins in the picturesque city of Vilnius and continues through the forested countryside of Lithuania and Latvia, finishing in Estonia. As well as Vilnius, we visit the charming city of Riga, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Tallinn, an architectural wonder. Fascinating lectures provide invaluable context and insights into the background of Baltic Jewry.

Highlights

  • 11 nights’ accommodations at deluxe hotels (5 nights in Vilnius, 3 in Riga and 3 in Tallinn)
  • Walking tours with expert local guides through the medieval quarters of Vilnius and the historic Old Towns of Riga and Tallinn.
  • Visits to the old Jewish cemetery of Vilnius, the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, the synagogue and museum of Keidan, the Kaunas synagogue, the Paneriai Forest memorial site, Trakai Castle and the Karaite Ethnographic Museum.
  • Guided tours of Rundāle Palace, Riga Art Nouveau Museum, Riga’s Jewish Community Center and Museum and the former ghetto, Tallinn’s Jewish Community Center and synagogue and the stunning KUMU modern art museum.
  • Presentations and discussions with our Jewish Heritage Travel scholar and a very special meeting with Emanuelis Zingeris, the only Jew ever to be a member of the Lithuanian Parliament and an important voice in Lithuanian and European politics for the last 30 years.

Itinerary

Sunday, June 2 | Vilnius
Afternoon: Arrival and check in to the centrally located Grand Hotel Kempinski in Cathedral Square.

There will be an evening presentation by our Jewish Heritage Travel accompanying scholar, followed by an orientation meeting for an opportunity to get to know one another. We enjoy an opening dinner at our hotel to become better acquainted.

Meals Included: Dinner
Accommodations: Kempinski Hotel

Monday, June 3 | Vilnius
This morning begins with a visit to the old Jewish cemetery (the final resting place of the Gaon of Vilna) and a walk through the medieval Jewish quarter and ghetto before visiting the Vilnius synagogue.
In the afternoon, we will visit one section of the State Jewish Museum, dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of Lithuanian Jewry. This small institution surveys the history of the Jewish community of Vilnius from the 15th through 20th centuries. It displays rare photographs and copies of diaries and handwritten notes relating to the Holocaust.

This evening, we will have a special meeting with Emanuelis Zingeris, the only Jew ever to be a member of the Lithuanian Parliament, the founding director of the Vilnius Jewish Museum, and an important voice in Lithuanian and European politics for the last 30 years. This encounter will help bring to light the difficulties of Lithuanian “history politics” and the challenges facing the country’s tiny Jewish minority.

Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations: Kempinski Hotel

Tuesday, June 4 | Vilnius | Keidan | Kaunus
The day will start with an early-morning departure for Keidan (also known as Kedainiai), once an important Jewish shtetl. Here, we will visit the town synagogue and museum, tour the Old Town, and have lunch together. Following lunch, we will drive to Kaunus (also known as Kovno) and visit its synagogue founded in 1871. Before the Holocaust, this radically designed, neo-Baroque temple was one of more than 35 synagogues and Jewish prayer houses in Kaunus. Though few Jews remain here, the synagogue houses a stunning Torah ark and encapsulates the rich and famous history of Jewish Kovno. Now a museum, the building also contains collections of historical artifacts related to Soviet and Nazi atrocities.

We return to Vilnius for a free evening with dinner on our own.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations: Kempinski Hotel

Wednesday, June 5 | Vilnius | Trakai
Depart for a day trip to Trakai, the ancient capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. En route, we’ll stop at Paneriai Forest to see the memorial site commemorating victims of the Holocaust. Here, more than 100,000 Jews were murdered, most of them over a period of a few days.

In Trakai, we will tour the historic Trakai Castle and visit the Karaite Ethnographic Museum, situated on a street characterized by picturesque wooden houses. Many of these were built by the Karaites, an ancient sect and offshoot of Judaism whose descendants arrived in Trakai from the Crimea in the 14th century.

In the evening, we enjoy another presentation by our accompanying scholar.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations: Kempinski Hotel

Thursday, June 6 | Vilnius
Morning: We depart for Old Town to see the Gothic quarter and Dawn Gate. Later, we take a tour of the Tolerance Center, a branch of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum that teaches about the history and culture of Lithuanian Jewry and also acts as a performance space, before returning to our hotel. The afternoon and evening are free to explore the city, sightsee, and shop.

Evening presentation by our scholar.

Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations: Kempinski Hotel

Friday, June 7 | Riga
We depart Vilnius for Riga, stopping at the Baroque Rundale Palace for a private guided tour. One of the most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo architecture in Latvia, the palace was built as a summer residence for Ernst Johann Biron, Duke of Courland and a favorite of the Russian empress Anna Ioannovna. Lunch is included at the Palace restaurant.

Evening: we enjoy Shabbat dinner together at our hotel.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations: Grand Palace Hotel

Saturday, June 8 | Riga
Morning: Guests are free to relax or attend Shabbat services at Riga’s Peitav Shul synagogue.

Afternoon: We take a walking tour of historic Old Riga (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), with its wonderful mediaeval architecture, followed by a guided tour of the Art Nouveau Museum, situated just a short walk from the center.
Evening: Free to relax or explore on our own.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations: Grand Palace Hotel

Sunday, June 9 | Riga
Our morning will begin with a private guided tour of Riga’s Jewish Community Center and Museum. At the museum, we will hear a presentation about Riga’s Jewish history by Ilya Lensky, the director of the museum. Following a break for lunch in Old Town, we will visit the “Moscow District”, the former Jewish ghetto area.

We will end our day at the Žanis Lipke Museum (a modern, interactive museum designed by a prominent local architect that tells the little-known tale of Žanis Lipke and the network of about 25 people who created an “underground railroad” to rescue Jews from the Nazis during the German occupation of Latvia).

Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodations: Grand Palace Hotel

Monday, June 10 | Tallinn
Depart for Estonia and its capital city, Tallinn. Along the way, we break for lunch in the seaside town of Pärnu, where lunch is included at Villa Ammende, an example of early Art Nouveau in Estonia. From Pärnu, we will drive on to Tallinn, situated on the Baltic Sea.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations: Hotel Telegraaf

Tuesday, June 11 | Tallinn
Morning: We head to the spectacular Kumu Museum for a private guided tour that encompasses the building’s award-winning architecture and its permanent collection of Estonian art. In 2008, it received the European Museum of the Year Award, one of the most prestigious in Europe. Lunch is included at the museum.

Afternoon: Walking tour of the Old Town, including Town Hall Square, Toompea Castle, Dominican Monastery, and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (a magnificent example of a Russian Orthodox cathedral). Along the way, we’ll take a guided tour of the Niguliste Museum, with its collection of medieval and early modern ecclesiastical art.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations: Hotel Telegraaf

Wednesday, June 12 | Tallinn
Morning: We visit Tallinn’s new Jewish Community Center and the adjoining, architecturally fascinating synagogue and museum for a guided tour. After a break for lunch, we’ll have the afternoon free for last-minute shopping or to explore the city.

Evening: Final closing dinner at our hotel.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Accommodations: Hotel Telegraaf

Thursday, June 13
Depart for home.

Traveling with you…

Therkel Straede is professor of contemporary history at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and one of the world’s leading experts on the October 1943 rescue (and deportation) of the Jews from Denmark. His newest book, about the networks and motives of Jewish and non-Jewish rescuers, will be published in 2023, the 80th anniversary of the German assault on Denmark’s Jews. Recently, Professor Straede worked with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City on an exhibition designed for children and their families about the Danish rescue. He operates a website about the Danish deportees in the Theresienstadt ghetto (www.danske joe deri theresienstadt.org) and has received a congressional citation of honor by the U.S. House of Representatives for his achievements in Holocaust research and education.

Lucy Rapoport, trip leader, has guided and accompanied many previous Jewish heritage tours, all to great acclaim. Born and schooled in England before moving to Italy as a young adult, Lucy is fluent in Italian, German, French, and Spanish and has been a tour manager for over twenty years. Specializing in Europe, she has accompanied previous Jewish groups to such places as Lithuania, Krakow, Prague, Berlin, Croatia, Spain, Romania, Serbia, France, northern and southern Italy, and Sicily. With Lucy’s attention to detail, knowledge of history, and considerable expertise in guiding groups, participants will be well served on this trip.

Accommodations

Vilnius: The Grand Hotel Kempinski
The Kempinski Hotel Cathedral Square is a truly distinctive hotel located on Cathedral Square, featuring breathtaking views over the UNESCO-listed Old Town. Major tourist attractions, such as the Presidential Palace and the main shopping street, Gedimino Boulevard (home to many designer boutiques), in addition to galleries, are all within walking distance.

Riga: The Grand Palace Riga
The Grand Palace Riga was originally built in 1877 as the Central Bank of Latvia and was converted into a boutique 5-star hotel in 2000. It now offers a setting that encompasses luxury, warmth, and comfort. Voted as Latvia’s leading hotel, the Grand Palace Hotel is located in the heart of the sightseeing district of Riga Old Town.

Tallinn: Hotel Telegraaf
Hotel Telegraaf is an elegant 19th-century building with a stunning façade, perfectly placed in the heart of Tallinn’s historical Old Town. Formerly a telephone exchange, it has been masterfully converted to a boutique hotel that provides the highest standards of accommodations and cuisine.

Details

Program Cost: $7,250* includes: 

  • 11 nights of deluxe accommodations in Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn
  • Full breakfast daily; five lunches; three dinners
  • All group transportation via deluxe air-conditioned coach
  • All lectures, guided tours, and museum and site entrance fees

*Per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement: $1,800. Fees not included: gratuities: $195. Museum membership for nonmembers.

Secure your place

Book Now: use the link below to reach our easy online booking form.

By phone: 845-256-0197 Monday–Friday, 10am–4pm EST.

Payment Reserve your space with a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 per person. Final balance is due 120 days prior to departure.

Membership Participation on these tours is a benefit for active members of our museum partners. During the registration process, you will be asked about your membership status with your affiliated museum. If you are not a current member, you will have a chance to activate your membership.

Participation Tour sizes are limited to 28 participants unless otherwise noted. Trips entail considerable walking including over uneven terrain. Participants need to be in good health, be able to keep up with the group, be able to experience group and cultural differences with grace. Please let us know if you have any physical conditions that may require special attention while on tour.

Cancellations All cancellations must be received by Jewish Heritage Travel in writing. Cancellations received 120 days or more prior to departure: full refund less nonrefundable deposits, per person; 119–90 days prior to departure: 50% refund per person after nonrefundable deposits. 89–0 days before departure: no refund.

Trip Cancellation Insurance Jewish Heritage Travel strongly urges all participants to purchase travel insurance for coverage of losses necessitated by having to cancel due to illness or accident. For your convenience, we are providing a link to Allianz Global Assistance, which many past participants have used. Please use code ACCAM/Agency ID# F026815 or feel free to use your own insurance agent. When purchasing insurance, please consider the plans carefully to familiarize yourself with what is covered. In this context, do take note that most insurance companies generally will waive exclusion for preexisting conditions only if your application is received by them within 14 days from the date of your program registration. If you have a preexisting medical condition and are interested in taking trip insurance, you should do so either with Allianz or through your own insurance agent within 14 days of registration.

Changes All rights are reserved by Jewish Heritage Travel to make scholar substitutions and/or to modify the itinerary (including hotels) as needed. Every reasonable effort will be made to operate the program as planned; however, should unforeseen world events and conditions require the itinerary to be altered, Jewish Heritage Travel reserves the right to do so for the safety and best interest of the group. Any extra expenses incurred in this situation are the responsibility of the participant.

Disclaimer of Responsibility By registering for this program, participant specifically waives any and all claims of action against the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Heritage Travel office and their respective staffs for damages, loss, injury, accident, or death incurred by any person in connection with this tour. The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Heritage Travel office and their respective staffs assume no responsibility or liability in connection with the service of any train, vessel, carriage, aircraft, or other conveyance that may be used wholly or in part in the performance of their duty to the passengers. Neither will the Museum of Jewish Heritage or the Jewish Heritage Travel office or their staffs be responsible for any injury, death, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity through neglect or default of any company or person engaged in carrying out the purposes for which tickets, vouchers, or coupons are issued. No responsibility is accepted for losses or expenses due to sickness, viruses, weather, strikes, wars, and other causes. In the event it becomes necessary or advisable for any reason whatsoever to alter the itinerary or arrangements, including hotels or scholars, such alterations may be made without penalty. All rights reserved to require any participant to withdraw from the tour at his/her own expense when such an action is determined by the tour staff to be in the best interest of the participant’s health and safety and that of the group in general. Prices subject to change. Cost in effect at time of registration will be honored.

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