Tag Archives: Jewish heritage travel

Pacific Delight Debuts Kosher Jewish Heritage Tour of Southeast Asia ‘Through Jewish Eyes’

NEW YORK – Pacific Delight, a luxury tour operator which introduced a Jewish heritage tour of India last year, is now introducing Southeast Asia Through Jewish Eyes™ covering Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam in partnership with Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and the Foundation for Remote Jewish Communities (FRJC). The tour departs on Jan. 3, 2018 and will be co-led by Rabbi Marcia Tilchin, founder of the non-profit Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, and Rabbi Rachel Safman of Congregation Beth El in New London, CT.

Highlights include dinner at Singapore’s historic Magen Aboth Synagogue and a night safari to observe Singapore’s nocturnal wildlife, a boat ride on Bangkok’s “River of Kings” to the Temple of Dawn and shimmering Grand Palace with lunch at “the backpacker’s shul,” a tour of the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site at Ayutthya, a journey through Chiang Mai’s rainforests interspersed with rice paddies and waterfalls, Shabbat at the historic Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue in Myanmar, and a fascinating trip to observe the famous pagodas of Bagan. The experience culminates in Ho Chi Minh City where passengers will visit the local synagogue in addition to exploring Saigon’s past and present by boat, bus, cyclo and foot.

The tour cost is $6,988 per person, based on double occupancy, and includes roundtrip group economy airfare from New York (JFK) or Los Angeles (LAX) via Cathay Pacific Airways, with premium upgrades available at additional cost. All internal flights and transportation are included along with deluxe, air-conditioned four- and five-star accommodations, all meals (kosher or vegetarian) including memorable Shabbat dinners in Singapore and Yangon, and fascinating cultural events and sightseeing, including riverboat tours in Singapore, Bangkok and Saigon.

Transfers, all gratuities to guides, drivers and hotel staff, and all hotel taxes and service charges are included in the package cost. Airport taxes, fuel surcharges and visa fees for Myanmar and Vietnam are not included.

An early-bird discount of $180 per person applies to bookings received by Oct. 3, 2017.

The tour cost includes a $900 per person tax-deductible donation to FRJC, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational charity that is devoted to preserving and promoting the endangered Jewish communities on the periphery of the Diaspora. Since its inception in 2003, FRJC has distributed more than $1 million for Jewish libraries, scholarships and sustainable farming projects in the Far East, Southeast Asia and India. Learn more at www.frjc.org.

Rabbi-Cantor Marcia Tilchin is the founder of the Jewish Collaborative of Orange County (JCoOC), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping OC Jewish residents and their families “feel the joy of Jewish.” Marcia’s passion for all things Jewish and love of helping people find what is meaningful to them in Judaism is a signature of her spiritual leadership and service to the OC Jewish community.

Rabbi Rachel Safman of Temple Beth El in New London, CT is a second-career rabbi. She earned a BS in biology from Harvard and a PhD in sociology from Cornell, then served as an advisor to the government of Thailand before accepting a teaching position at National University of Singapore, where she became involved with Singapore’s Jewish community.

Pacific Delight Tours has been a leading American tour operator to China and Asia for 44 years and is a member of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA). The luxury tour operator has won numerous industry awards including the TravelAge West WAVE Award from 2008-2015, the 2009 Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Award, and the 2016 Travvy Award from travAlliancemedia for Best Vacation Packager-Pacific Asia.

Reservations, brochures and information can be obtained from travel agents and Pacific Delight Tours, telephone: (800) 221-7179 or (212) 818-1781; website: www.PacificDelightTours.com.

 

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Pacific Delight Launches Jewish Heritage Tours in Conjunction with Foundation for Remote Jewish Communities

‘India: My Second Home’ Kosher Itinerary Departs January 10, 2017

A local Jewish woman explains how mezuzot (encased Hebrew parchments) are common in Diaspora communities throughout India
A local Jewish woman explains how mezuzot (encased Hebrew parchments) are common in Diaspora communities throughout India

NEW YORK, NY – Pacific Delight Tours is teaming up with Rabbi Marvin Tokayer  and the Foundation for Remote Jewish Communities (FRJC) to create a series of specialized Kosher Jewish interest tours.  The program will launch with the India: My Second Home tour and will be expanded throughout Asia and other enticing global destinations where travelers can meet and learn about lesser known, yet thriving Jewish Diaspora communities.

“In addition to an interest in viewing history Through Jewish Eyes™ with an insight into the fascinating remote Diaspora communities, travelers who observe kashrut (kosher guidelines) have specific dietary requirements which are not satisfied by typical tour programs,” said Rabbi Tokayer. “In order to keep kosher in distant places, we arrange visits to Jewish Community Centers with first-class kosher restaurants. Additionally, in places where there is no synagogue, Hindu and Buddhist vegetarian restaurants allow us to keep kosher as these restaurants serve no “life” – no meat, poultry, fish, eggs or even milk. They allow us to keep kosher while experiencing some unique local cuisine.”

Dr. Katz poses with members of India's Jewish Community
Dr. Katz poses with members of India’s Jewish Community

Led Dr. Nathan Katz, a leading authority and award-winning author on Indian Jewish life, India: My Second Home is a two-week deluxe tour with opportunities to meet and interact with India’s diverse Jewish communities in Kochi (Cochin), Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai (Bombay), New Delhi and Agra.  The program departs on January 10, 2017.

The program visits many “must-see” sights, including the iconic Taj Mahal, Elephanta Caves and other UNESCO World Heritage sites. Travelers will learn new traditions at Shabbat services and dinners in Mumbai and New Delhi, tour Kochi and Kolkata’s historic synagogues with local members of the Jewish community and experience Kerala’s scenic backwaters by boat while exploring rural Jewish settlements. Guests will also enjoy a scenic rickshaw ride through Old Delhi along with cultural music and dance performances.

“India is known for its antiquity and modern high-tech, its spirituality and Bollywood swagger, its bustling cities and pristine nature – a cultural kaleidoscope at the center of the world’s largest democracy. But what’s typically not known is India’s long history as one of the most hospitable homes in the Jewish Diaspora,” said Dr. Katz. “For centuries, Jews found a haven in which their traditions flourished. So too, they’ve been among India’s great mystics, taken center stage in Bollywood, served as mayor of major cities and produced the country’s greatest military hero, General J. F. R. ‘Jack’ Jacob, and most celebrated patron saint of 17th century Indian poetry, Sarmad Kashani.”

“India is fascinating not only for its sacred cow, the Taj Mahal and Hinduism, but it is also home to the least known and most benevolent Jewish Diaspora, including a Jewish kingdom established in the 5th century. Jews have lived in India for well over 2,000 years without a trace of anti-Semitism. I was surprised to learn so much about Jewish history of which I was previously unaware during the creation of this program,” noted Charmaine Lau, Operations Manager at Pacific Delight Tours. “This is truly a fascinating experience and we are very excited to work with Rabbi Tokayer and the Foundation on similar programs throughout China and global destinations.”

Pacific Delight’s kosher tours utilize deluxe hotels such as Mumbai’s five-star Taj Mahal Tower overlooking the Gateway of India and Arabian Sea. Other accommodations may include the Vivanta by Taj-Malabar Hotel in Kochi, the Oberoi Grand Kolkata Hotel, Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi and Agra’s ITC Mughal Hotel (hotels may be substituted with similar class accommodations at the discretion of Pacific Delight and the Foundation for Remote Jewish Communities).

The fully-escorted tour is available from $7,195 per person, based on double occupancy. Rates include deluxe accommodations, all meals (kosher or strictly vegetarian), all intra-India flights, the services of an English-speaking escort and local guides including acclaimed scholar Dr. Katz, enticing cultural events and personalized photos/travel blog of the trip. All taxes and gratuities are included so there is no need to tip drivers, escorts, guides or hotel staff.

International airfare and visa processing fees are not included and can be arranged by Pacific Delight Tours based on competitive market rates at the time of booking.

Dr. Katz is distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Florida International University where he was director of Jewish Studies and founding director of the Program in the Study of Spirituality. He has written 15 books, including The Last Jews of Cochin and Who Are the Jews of India? A Fulbright scholar who has spent more than eight years in South Asia, Dr. Katz was delegate to the 1990 Tibetan-Jewish dialogue hosted by the Dalai Lama, which was chronicled in the bestselling book, The Jew in the Lotus.

The tour cost includes a $900 per person tax-deductible donation to Rabbi Tokayer’s FRJC, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit educational charity that is devoted to preserving and promoting the endangered Jewish communities on the periphery of the Diaspora. Since its inception in 2003, FRJC has distributed nearly $1 million for Jewish libraries, scholarships and sustainable farming projects. Learn more at www.frjc.org.

Consult your local travel agent to book, contact Pacific Delight Tours at 800-221-7179 or visit www.PacificDelightTours.com for more information.

 

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Context Travel Adds Jewish Vienna to catalog of 15 Jewish Heritage Walking Tours

Judenplatz, the historic Jewish Quarter of Vienna, Austria, has a museum, an archeological excavation of a Medieval synagogue, and Holocaust memorial. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Judenplatz, the historic Jewish Quarter of Vienna, Austria, has a museum, an archeological excavation of a Medieval synagogue, and Holocaust memorial. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Context Travel, which offers walking tours around the world, has added a new walking tour in Vienna to its list of 15 different Jewish history and culture tours in cities around the world, from a Jewish Buenos Aires tour to a knoshing tour of the Lower East Side

The Jewish Vienna Walking Tour is led by a small group of historians, visiting key sites in Vienna, including: the City Temple, Holocaust Memorial, and neighborhoods of notable Jewish residents like Theodor Hertzl.

Docents from the Context network around the world share their insight and views on some of the greatest Jewish Heritage sites in the world, including their favorite synagogues and critical Holocaust Memorials that you must visit if you consider yourself an informed world citizen. See:
Holocaust Memorials Around the World and Jewish Synagogues Across the World

Here are links to the 15 tours:

Jewish Berlin Tour
Jewish Buenos Aires Tour
Jewish Prague
Jewish Ghetto & Trastevere in Rome
Jewish Catacombs in Rome
Jewish Vienna Tour (new)
Jewish Culture and Food Tour of NYC
Jewish Quarter Paris Tour
Hungarian Jewish Food Tour in Budapest
Jewish Quarter Budapest Tour
Jewish Heritage Tour of London
Jewish Barcelona Tour
Jewish Amsterdam Tour
Shylock’s Venice
Sachsenhausen Camp Excursion from Berlin

Founded by National Geographic writer Paul Bennett and designer Lani Bevacqua, Context Travel is a network of English-speaking scholars and professionals, including art historians, writers, architects and gastronomes, who organize and lead walking seminars in  thirty-seven (37) world cities, including: Florence, Rome, Venice, Naples, Milan, Paris, London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Cartagena, Istanbul, Athens, Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Milan, Dublin, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Montreal, Melbourne, and Sydney. A certified B Corporation, Context Travel was named one of the fastest-growing American companies in 2011 by Inc Magazine. Travel + Leisure has called Context one of the top European tour companies for its innovative approach to travel and the depth of its programs. To learn more about Context, visit the website at: www.contexttravel.com.

 

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Photo Exhibit Honoring Elie Wiesel Opens in Moscow

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Limmud FSU, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, in partnership with the Shem Olam Institute and the Nativ organization, has just opened a photographic survey of the life of Elie Wiesel, at the Israeli Cultural Center in Moscow. The exhibition will run until the end of September.

An array of VIPs participated in the opening August 25, including Russian Chief Rabbi Avraham Shayevich; Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kenner; Israel’s Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver; Conference of European Rabbis President Pinchas Goldschmidt; Euro-Asian Jewish Congress Secretary General Mikhail Chlenov; Israeli-Russian Business Council Chairman Dr. Temur Ben Yehuda; Prof. Ilya Altman, representing the Claims Conference in the FSU; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s representative in Moscow, Alik Nadan; and the founder and chairman of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler.

Wiesel was a leading supporter of the movement to free Soviet Jewry and in 1966 wrote a highly influential book on the struggle. “It’s fitting that Elie Wiesel was honored in Moscow by the very people he helped free 50 years after writing ‘The Jews of Silence,'” said Chesler. “His memory will serve as an inspiration and a symbol of our triumph.”

Dr. Yoel Rappel, the founder and director of the Elie Wiesel Archive at Boston University, curated the exhibition, which showcases milestones in Wiesel’s life, from his youth before and during the Holocaust to his work as a novelist, journalist, Jewish leader and Nobel Prize winner.

“When I asked Wiesel how the struggle for Soviet Jewry is more important than the struggle for Holocaust awareness, he replied: ‘the Jews of Europe were exterminated physically by the Nazis; the Jews of the Soviet Union were being destroyed spiritually. The first we were unable to avoid, but we must prevent the second from succeeding,'” said Rappel.

Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, now in Romania. He was just 15 years old when the Nazis deported him and his family to Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister perished, yet his two older sisters survived. Elie and his father were later transported to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.

“Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was a source of inspiration for Jews around the world – and all free people. A philosopher, teacher, journalist and writer, he embodied the struggle against evil and for the right of Diaspora Jews to immigrate to Israel,” said Landver. “There is no one who will be better remembered as a fighter for humanity. Wiesel managed to break through the Iron Curtain and allow many Jews to return to the Jewish homeland.”

In 1978, U.S. President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel as chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became the founding chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. Wiesel and his wife Marion established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice. He received 140 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning all over the world.

Elie Wiesel died in New York in July.

The entire exhibition may be viewed or downloaded here.

Limmud FSU is a nonprofit founded 10 years ago by Chaim Chesler, former treasurer of the Jewish Agency, and Sandra Cahn, a philanthropist from New York. Since its inaugural conference in Moscow in 2006, Limmud FSU has created an independent educational and communal network of annual conferences and festivals, attracting more than 35,000 participants in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Russian Far East and the Volga-Ural region), Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Israel, North America (Greater New York, the West Coast, and Canada), and Australia. Limmud FSU engages young Russian-Jewish adults, empowering them to take ownership of their identity and to connect with their communities through pluralistic, egalitarian volunteer-driven conferences of Jewish learning and culture. In this way, Limmud FSU strives to foster the next generation of young Russian-speaking Jewish leadership and so revitalize Jewish communities in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in countries with Russian-Jewish communities, wherever they may be. Key partners include the Claims Conference, JDC, philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, Aaron Frenkel, Michal Grayevsky, Ronald Lauder, Diane Wohl, the Jewish National Fund (KKL), UJA-Federation of New York, Israel Bonds, the Jewish Agency, and others. For additional details: www.limmudfsu.org.
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Burkat Global Tour Explores 3000 Years of Jewish India Up to Present

Travelers at Magen Aboth Synagogue in Alibag on the Konkan Coast following the path of Jews shipwrecked there more than 2,000 years ago. The synagogue is two hours from Mumbai by private boat and bus on Burkat Global's "3000 Years of Jewish India" tour starting in Mumbai, January 26, 2015 © Burkat Global, LLC
Travelers at Magen Aboth Synagogue in Alibag on the Konkan Coast following the path of Jews shipwrecked there more than 2,000 years ago. The synagogue is two hours from Mumbai by private boat and bus on Burkat Global’s “3000 Years of Jewish India” tour starting in Mumbai, January 26, 2015 © Burkat Global, LLC

Coming upon a pastel pink synagogue with hot pink trim is only one of the surprises travelers will uncover on Burkat Global’s 3,000 Years of Jewish India tour.  In Southern India you’ll walk in the footsteps of the Jews who arrived as spice traders 3,000 years ago and those who settled there.2,000 years ago after the destruction of the second temple.

The journey begins in Mumbai (aka Bombay), India’s  most sophisticated city, where you’ll shop in ancient bazaars and visit colonial relics.  You’ll also tour breathtaking synagogues and historic sites,  take a private boat across Mumbai harbor  to visit age-old synagogues and oil pressers on the Konkan Coast, and take another private boat to Elephanta Island to explore  early Hindu caves.

A short flight takes the group to Cochin (aka Kochi) and the backwaters of Kerala, “the Venice of the East,”  for Ayurveda massage, yoga, or just relaxing. You’ll enjoy a Kathakali performance and traditional Kerala home-style meals.   There’s also a lazy afternoon on board a luxury houseboat, dining and taking pictures of villagers fishing, palm-fringed paddy fields and brightly-painted houses and churches.

In the city of Cochin you’ll have a cooking lesson and visit  a “secret” synagogue;  tour ancient Jew Town’s spice markets, antiques shops, Jewish cemetery and India’s oldest synagogue; view contemporary art on a special tour of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale; and see the Dutch Palace, Vasco da Gama’s church and more. In Muziris, where Jewish traders settled even before Cochin, you can work with archaeologists digging up the past, and swim in the Arabian Sea.  You’ll see recently-restored synagogues and an ancient Jewish cemetery in a town where Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Christians  have lived peacefully  for millennia.

There are about 5,000 Jews left in India, Howard Burkat tells me. “Because no one really knows the exact number, sometimes the number is thought to be as many as 7,500. There were substantially fewer than 100,000 before Israel became a state. Again, an exact and reliable number is very hard to come by. The vast majority of Indian Jews left the country to settle in Israel  in the years immediately after that country’s gaining independence in 1948.

The synagogues that remain are in many cases still used as places of worship. They were built in the 17th-19th centuries and most have been used by the community ever since. However, some are in excellent condition. Some need sprucing up. And some are in terrible shape waiting to be restored.

Recently the government of the southern state of Kerala, where the synagogues around Cochin are located, has  restored a number of synagogues beautifully, he says. “In fact Dr. Shalva Weil of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is the scholar in residence on our tour and travels with us, was heavily involved in a number of these restorations.”

Dr. Shalva Weil of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem speaking at Bombay's 1884 Temple Knesset Eliyahoo, built by the Sassoon family, prominent Jewish philanthropists. On Burkat Global's "3000 Years of Jewish India" tour, Dr. Weil is the scholar in residence speaking daily on tour destinations. © Burkat Global, LLC
Dr. Shalva Weil of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem speaking at Bombay’s 1884 Temple Knesset Eliyahoo, built by the Sassoon family, prominent Jewish philanthropists. On Burkat Global’s “3000 Years of Jewish India” tour, Dr. Weil is the scholar in residence speaking daily on tour destinations. © Burkat Global, LLC

In Mumbai on the holidays a few hundred people might attend services; out on the Konkan coast in the country outside Mumbai, fewer than a dozen people might worship. In still other synagogues, no one attends – they are museums maintained by government entities.

There is an old, beautiful synagogue, nearly 300 years old, hidden deep in the marketplace in Cochin. It is not visible from the street. You must be led to it through a large pet store and garden center whose Jewish owner will take you through his stores and into the synagogue to tell you its history.

“There are no regular services now, the last rabbi returned to Israel more than two years ago,  but on our tour, Sabbath worship will be arranged,” Burkat says., “Travelers sit under chandeliers ordered from Europe in the 1700s, and walk on tile floors from China, each one different from the next, that have been in place for hundreds of years.”

Dr. Shalva Weil of The Hebrew University, considered the world’s leading expert on Jewish India, will be the scholar in residence, traveling with and teaching the group.

Along the way there are delicious meals of Indian food—not hot unless you like it hot—and special Jewish Indian Shabbat dinners.  (Note that tour meals are not kosher, but are  vegetarian and fish.)   Hotels, all green award winners, include the legendary 5-star Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, Kerala’s lakeside Coconut Lagoon Resort, which Condé Nast Traveler has called one of the world’s best getaways, and the Brunton Boatyard, which combines 19th-century atmosphere with 21st-century luxury on an historic stretch of Cochin’s celebrated harbor.

There are also opportunities to meet local people. “In Mumbai and Cochin we arrange dinners with local Jewish community leaders. Our ground operator and guides are members of the Bene Israel community in Mumbai – they are leading our group into their own community.”

“3000 Years of Jewish India” makes three stops. In Mumbai and Cochin the group travels to numerous Jewish and non-Jewish sites. “Doctor Shalva Weil explains and lectures on the Jewish sites each day when we are visiting them. We also spend four days at the Coconut Lagoon resort, one of the most luxurious in India. This is a wonderful indulgence stop. There is a chance to learn about the literary heritage of Kerala and also see its famous Kathakali dances. There may be a lecture by Dr, Weill, but there is not Jewish heritage component here as there is in Cochin and Mumbai.

The tour is geared organized by the Burkat family and designed for families.

The small-group, land-only tour costs $7,995 per person, double occupancy, and includes almost everything: accommodation in luxury hotels, all intra-India transportation and transfers, daily breakfast, 21 lunches and dinners, bottled water,  sightseeing with entrance fees, the services of expert Indian Jewish guides, taxes and gratuities.  There is one departure: January 26, 2015; the tour is limited to 20 people.  International air fare is not included.

For more information about the “3,000 Years of Jewish India” tour, visit www.burkatglobal.com.  For reservations, call 914-231-9023.

 

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