Sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, six.


Republic, the northernmost state in South America. Italian Jews who wandered from Cayenne to Cura


Of the state‘s 5,500 Jews, close to 4,000 live in Burlington, with 500 each in Montpelier-Barre and Rutland. Jewish life began after the Civil War. Burlington has a congregation that has been in existence since 1880. Rutland’s community started around 1900. There are four Reform and two Conservative congregations in the state.


After World War I, representatives of the nations met at Versailles, France, to work out the terms of peace. A Jewish delegation made up of representatives of the European and American Jewish communities came to the peace conference to present the Zionist claims on Palestine, and the claims for minority rights for the Jews of Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. On February 27, 1919, Nahum Sokolow, Menachem Ussishkin, Chaim Weizmann, and Andre Spire presented the Zionist claims. At a later session, another committee headed by Louis Marshall presented the claims for Jewish minority rights. The peace conference accepted the validity of these claims, extended them to other groups, and wrote them into the peace treaties. These stated that minority rights “shall be recognized as fundamental law and shall be placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations.”


See Austria.


City in Lithuania, famous as a center of Talmudic learning, cultural institutions, and traditional Judaism. It was the cradle of modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and a stronghold of Zionism and Jewish socialism from the 19th century on.

Jews settled in Vilna in the 14th and 15th centuries and were, for the most part, traders. In the beginning they were on good terms with their Christian neighbors. As the Jewish community grew and prospered, the Gentile population became hostile. Jews of Vilna suffered great losses at the hands of the invading Cossacks in 1654. The remaining Jews were expelled by the Russian King Alexis a year later, but returned once more after the victory of the Polish army in 1661. Early in the 17th century, Vilna again changed hands. It was occupied in turn by the Russian and Swedish armies. During this time, 4,000 Jews perished from famine.

Known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania,” the Jewish community of Vilna rose to prominence through its renowned scholars, the most famous being Elijah, Gaon of Vilna. It was also one of the centers of the Enlightenment (Haskalah) movement. In the early 1860’s, the scholar Samuel Joseph Finn published the Hebrew periodical Ha-Carmel in Vilna. Vilna was the seat of the well-known Romm Publishing house, printer of the Talmud.

Between the two World Wars, the Jewish population of Vilna was close to 60,000. The city had many yeshivot, Hebrew and Yiddish teachers’ training schools, and numerous newspapers. It housed the famous Strashun Library and the YIVO Yiddish Scientific Institute.

During World War II, Vilna was occupied first by Soviet Russia and later, in 1941, by the Nazis. The extermination of the Jews extended through 1942 and 1943. All the historic landmarks and institutions were destroyed. Only a few of Vilna’s Jews managed to escape the Nazi slaughter, among them several hundred who fought as partisans in nearby forests. It is estimated that 6,500 Jews were living in Vilna in 2006. They have a synagogue and a Chabad school.


Group of islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The three largest, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, are inhabited. These islands, formerly the Danish West Indies, were purchased by the U.S. from Denmark in 1917.

There are an estimated 250 Jewish families in the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas has had a Jewish population since 1764. The Jewish settlers, mainly sailors and merchants, came from the nearby island of St. Eustatius, one of the Dutch West Indies. By 1850, about 500 Jews lived in St. Thomas. The flourishing commercial and maritime settlement built a number of synagogues successively, Orthodox-Sephardic in character except for a brief period of Reform. The economic decline, resulting from the abolition of slavery in 1848 and the removal of the Royal Mail Steamship Company in 1855 to Barbados, led many Jews to leave the island. Jews figured prominently in the public life of the Virgin Islands. Among important Americans descended from Jewish families of the Virgin Islands was Judah P. Benjamin, distinguished lawyer and Secretary of State for the Southern Confederacy. In recent years it has become fashionable for American Jews to celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah in the Virgin Island.


Of Virginia’s 70,000 Jews, 35,000 live in Alexandria (outside D.C.), 19,000 in Norfolk, 12,000 in Richmond, about 2,000 each in Newport News and Portsmouth, and 1,000 in Roanoke. Jewish life began in Virginia in the mid-17th century. A congregation was organized in Richmond in 1789. The Jewish population grew significantly after 1880, and by 1900 there were 13 established Jewish communities. Today, there are 12 Reform and 10 Conservative congregation in the state, with Northern Virginia (Greater Washington, D.C.) having the most thriving Jewish communities.


See Kabbalah.