The forest and the Rose: the unique Jewish heritage of the Naliboki Forest area


In the history of Jewish people of 19-20 centuries the former Jewish community of the vast primeval Naliboki Forest is famous with several excellent representatives such as the present President of Israel Shimon Peres (born in Vishneva), the founder and the leader of the World Jewish Congress Nahum Goldmann, and many others. Also vivid and famous examples of resistance to Holocaust and, generally, to Nazism as a phenomenon, both with a word and with weapons, in Naliboki Forest in 1940s, were given by so much different people as famous Jewish partisan leaders Tuvia Bielski (1906-1987, a hero of many books and films, including the Hollywood blockbuster “Defiance” with Daniel Craig) and Shalom (Simcha) Zorin (1902-1974) or Carmelite monk, a founder of the first Hebrew Catholic community in Israel, Daniel Stein (properly, Oswald Rufeisen). Among those famous people who survived Holocaust in the Naliboki Forest partisan troops there are real estate magnate Joseph Kushner , grandfather of the chief advisor for President Trump, Jared Kushner, and perfumer Sophia Grojsman.

Sophia Grojsman

Both the Bible and academic history often show the Great Forest as inherently hostile or, at least, alien to Jewish people – but Naliboki Forest gives a rare and vivid example of rather successful and harmonic adaptation of the Jews to the natural and cultural environment of the Great Forest in the course of several centuries, tragically interrupted by Holocaust. However, heroic struggle with Nazism in the 1940s is an important lesson of resistance to violence and
hatred in general, appealing not only to Belarusian and Jewish, but also for other peoples.

Defiance movie with Daniel Craig

Jewish symbolism of the Naliboki Forest area may be best represented by the Forest-and-Rose symbol, coming from and old Chassidic nigun:

Forest, O Forest, how vast are you!
Rose, O Rose, how distant you are!
Were the Forest not so vast,
My Rose wouldn’t be so far.
Who will guide me out of the Forest,
And unite me with my Rose?

Rose here is the symbol of Shechina (Divine Presence) and the lost but long-lasted Land of Israel, and Forest – symbol of exile, hostility, wilderness and ignorance. But, ironically, during the World War II, Naliboki Forest was the only place for Jews to survive…

We developed a special Jewish tour through and/or around Naliboki Forest which may be adapted to your needs, and may include:

  • Volozhin, with its famous yeshiva;
  • Vishneva, the birthplace of Nahum Goldmann and Shimon Peres, with the memorial museum of the latter;
  • Ivye, with almost fully preserved pre-war architecture, the museum of Jewish and Tartar cultures and the Tolerance monument, dedicated to the 4 historical communtites peacefully living together – Catholics, Jews, Russian Orthodox and Moslems;
  • Vicinity of Kliacishcha, with the remnants of several Jewish partisan camps;
  • Novogrudok, with its unique museum of Jewish Resistance.

And many other places, including Mir, Rubezhevichi, Rakov, Gorodok, with their
famous – and less famous, sometimes very recent, Jewish memories, legends, ghosts and present-day activists.

You may spend in this beautiful and unique area half a day or 2 days – we have options for any travellers, which may also take into consideration your personal family roots.

Volozhin yeshiva

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