Before World War II, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was known as “The Jerusalem of the North.”
The city was the center of Jewish scholarship, home to rabbis and radicals, businessmen and artists. The YIVO Yiddish research institute was founded there. The sage known as the Vilna Gaon lived there.
Then came the Holocaust.
Ninety-five percent of Lithuania’s 200,000 Jews were victims of the Final Solution.Vilnius became a setting of memories and memorials.
Now Vilnius is a venue of Jewish renaissance.
Most of Lithuania’s 5,000 current Jews live there, and nearly two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, they are working to restore some of the country’s Jewish religious and cultural life.
The annual Vilnius Yiddish Institute got under way last month at Vilnius University. And this summer brought the usual groups of tourists flocking to Jewish sites — they photograph a plaque dedicated to the Vilna Gaon, below, right and a bust of the scholar, below left. Above, a view of Vilnuis’ picturesque Old Town.