Vilna Gaon Street in Vilnius, 2015 and 1940. (Rabbi Ari Cartun)
Vilna Gaon Street in Vilnius, 2015 and 1940. (Rabbi Ari Cartun)

Bay Area Rabbi to lead tour of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland

Calling all Litvaks! Rabbi Ari Cartun, rabbi emeritus at Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto, will be leading a summer tour of Lithuania and Latvia — the Baltic nations from which Litvak Jews hailed — for Keshet Educational Journeys.

The tour, from June 23 to July 2, 2020, will start in Warsaw, Poland, where travelers can visit the area that had been the Warsaw Ghetto, the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and the Warsaw Vodka Museum for a tour and tasting. Upon departing Warsaw for Lithuania, there will be a stop at the Treblinka death camp.

In Lithuania, there will be stops in Vilna, a town once considered the seat of Jewish scholarship in Europe, and Trakai, once home to the largest Karaite Jewish community in Europe. Many synagogues in the region survived the war, and the tour will visit several of those, with a stop in the town of Shavi, as well.

“I know I’m a Litvak,” said Cartun, whose forebears hailed from Shavl. “It is an intriguing thing to be in a place where you know your family’s from.”

There will also be a visit to Latvia and its capital city of Riga.

Jewish historical sites will be visited on all stops, and there will be meetings with Jewish community leaders. Keshet tour educator Danny Ehrlich will also be one of the guides.

The cost of the trip is $3,295 per person, which does not include airfare. For a detailed itinerary and more information about the costs, visit You can also call Rabbi Cartun at (650) 813-9011 or write to him at [email protected].

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.