Did You know, that famous American jazz singer Louis Armstrong was familiar with the name of small Vilkija town? Louis was raised with the nostalgic stories in Yiddish about this beautiful town and villages surrounding it. Even though the boy and his birth-parents were born and raised Americans, but his second home, people who took care of him, were Karnovsky’s family from Vilkija surroundings. In 1900 they emigrated to New Orleans and it is where they met little Louis. They saw the boy`s talent and gifted him with his first instrument. While driving to visit this picturesque town by the Nemunas river do not hesitate to listen to the famous “What a wonderful world” by Louis. And when You will reach Your destination in Vilkija, You will able to see by yourself what a wonderful place it is.
Jewish community settled in Vilkija at the end of the 18th century. The community grew so fast, that at the beginning of the 20th century Jews constituted about 80 percent of the local population. Unfortunately, during the interwar period, many Jews emigrated from Vilkija. Those who were Zionist idealists emigrated mostly to Palestine and those who only search for more career possibilities went to the nearby capital – Kaunas. Despite this active emigration process, the local Jewish community was still strong and vibrant – there were two Jewish prayer houses, a secular school in Hebrew, and various cultural and sports organizations.
Today only the remnants of the famous mural synagogue in Vilkija are the reminders of local Jewish history. During the first half of the 20th century, this Neo-Rennaisance style prayer house in white on the banks of Nemunas river was the main element of Vilkija landscape. This mural synagogue has been built in the middle of the 19th century and its iconic view with massive counterforces became the iconic view in all postcards of that time depicting Vilkija. The synagogue operated until the beginning of the Second World War, after the War it was reorganized to the storage house and eventually abandoned. The collapsed building has been demolished in the 1960s, but its fortifications were left and reminds us about the history of the Jewish community in Vilkija.
Historical Jewish quarter in Kulautuva
Mural synagogue in Čekiškė
Ohel Jakov choral synagogue in Kaunas
Chasidic kloiz in Kaunas
New beit midrash in Kaunas
Tsvi Hirsh Neviazher kloiz in Kaunas
Memorial plague to Lėja Goldberg in Kaunas
Memorial plague to Emanuel Levin in Kaunas
Sculpture of Danielius Dolskis in Kaunas
Chiune Sugihara house-museum in Kaunas
Vilijampolė Yeshiva in Kaunas