The town of Trakai has a lot of colourful wooden houses and most belong to the Kairim who practice a branch of Judaism. Their plain temple, called a Kenesa, is on the main street and is open for visitors. The Kairim are thought to be descended from another people called The Khazars, who lived between the Black and Caspian Seas.
The Khazars were a pagan people who decided at some point in the 7th and 8th centuries that they should embrace a religion, but weren’t sure which one. In a wonderful example of magnanimity thinking the Khazar leaders invited envoys from the three main monotheistic religions to meet them and show them why the Khazars should choose their religion.
The Jewish delegates were obviously the most persuasive and the rest is history. What is known is that Vytautas the Great met the Kairim in Crimea when campaigning there in 1397 and invited them back to Trakai to form an elite guard. Migration continued through the centuries until by the beginning of the 20th century there were 800 Kairim in Lithuania.
Sadly, since then the numbers have diminished as the Kairim are assimilated into Lithuanian life and the usage of their language decreases.