8. Riga: Half-Day Jewish History Tour
Riga is the largest city in the Baltics and the capital of Latvia. Once called the 'Paris of the North,' it is an architectural gem of medieval houses with Gothic gabled roofs, Renaissance guild houses, Baroque homes of the wealthy and Art Nouveau housing by Jewish architect Mikhail Eisenstein, being able to compete to that of Prague, Vienna or Barcelona. Distinguished Jewish philosophers of the 20th century, Yeshayahu Leibovich and Sir Isaiah Berlin, film director Sergej Eizenstein, world chess champion Mikhail Tal and photographer Philippe Halsman have been living here. It is possible to visit the Riga Synagogue (Peitav Shul) – the only synagogue that survived the Nazi period, and is still in use today. Here, you can learn how the Torah scrolls were saved.
The Maskavas suburb with its unique wooden housing is the historical Jewish square. Never before a ghetto until the Nazi years, Maskavas Forstadt became the main area of Jewish settlement in the 19th century. The first Jewish secular school is now operating as a private Jewish school. Likewise, the historical Jewish hospital Bikur Holim is still in use. The site of the Great Choral Synagogue (Die Greise Hor Shul, Gogol Shul) is now a memorial, and evidence of the Nazi inhumanities brings back memory of many people who have helped to save Jewish lives.
The old Jewish cemetery, Rumbula and Biķernieki Forests, where mass murders were carried out, now are memorials and a place of contemplation. The Riga Ghetto Museum, located on the border of the former ghetto territory, is one of the rare places in Europe that experienced no architectural changes and small wooden houses where people lived, still stand there. Names of more than 70,000 holocaust victims are engraved in the walls of a museum. The excursion will be designed according to your wishes.