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How Did Vilna Become the “Jerusalem of Lithuania”?

Posted 11/04/2015
Posted by David Isgur

The University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies will present an evening devoted to understanding one of the greatest rabbinic figures of the modern period, the Vilna Gaon (Genius of Vilna), along with a preview of the archaeological work that University of Hartford Professor Richard Freund and others will be working on in Vilna (Vilnius) and Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania this summer. This program, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. in the University’s Mali II Auditorium.

Vilna was the center of Jewish religious and cultural life in Lithuania for nearly 500 years and it became known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” thanks to the scholars such as the Vilna Gaon. This will be an evening to celebrate the great religious traditions of Vilna and commemorate what was lost.

The keynote speaker will be Eliyahu Stern whose new book states that “Elijah ben Solomon, the ‘Genius of Vilna,’ was perhaps the best-known and most understudied figure in modern Jewish history. “ Stern, a professor at Yale University and author of The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism (Yale University Press, 2013) will talk about his study of the 18th century leader of Lithuanian Judaism.

In addition, University of Hartford Professor Richard Freund will provide an update on the Greenberg Center's multi-university ground-breaking archaeological work on the Great Synagogue of Vilna and Holocaust sites in Vilna and Kovno.

For more information or to reserve a seat at the program, contact the Greenberg Center at 860.768.5018 or