Vilna Says Its Final Goodbye to Its Nearly 50 Year Soviet Past

On our first evening in Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno, ווילנע), we heard reports from our tour guide that the city’s newly elected mayor had finally decided to remove the four statues adoring the Green Bridge, one of the most important crossings of the Neris River, which runs through the city. The four statues–one with two hetero… Read More Vilna Says Its Final Goodbye to Its Nearly 50 Year Soviet Past

Vilnius, Vilna, Wilno, ווילנע: Once the Jerusalem of Lithuania

Once upon a time, Rabbi Eliyohu Ben Shloyme roamed the streets of this beautiful medieval city, which has had a continuous Jewish population since the mid 14th century. This 18th century rabbi, who earned the name “the Vilna Gaon” or ” genius” (one translation of the Hebrew word “gaon”) fought fierce battles with the Hasidim,… Read More Vilnius, Vilna, Wilno, ווילנע: Once the Jerusalem of Lithuania

Slutsk, Mayn Sluts (or Slutsk, My Slutsk, a popular Yiddish song sung before World War II and in 2015 on a Helix bus)

Yesterday, Helix went to Slutsk and Uzda, the former a shtetl known for its weavers, the latter, the hometown of the Hebrew writer, Dvora Baron. It was a powerful day of engaging locals, who helped us animate the ghosts of the past.  I generally try to learn the names of people I encounter on my journeys,… Read More Slutsk, Mayn Sluts (or Slutsk, My Slutsk, a popular Yiddish song sung before World War II and in 2015 on a Helix bus)

Why Belarus is a Fascinating Place for a Jewish History Tour

Yesterday I collected a few “fun facts” about independent Belarus that reflect on why this country makes for a fascinating place to begin an exploration of a multicultural eastern European past…and possible present.  Our first few days, we explored Minsk, Volozhin, and Smorgon, each central for Jewish cultural history and Jews’ relationship to a multicultural region.… Read More Why Belarus is a Fascinating Place for a Jewish History Tour