Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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The perfect day in Hawaii

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

-by Erin

Hawaii-10
Imagine this…

You wake up to the sounds of waves crashing outside your window and you walk bleary eyed down to the lobby where you grab a fresh cup of local Hawaiian coffee which instantly wakes you up and energizes you for the incredible day ahead.  With your sunglasses on your head and your camera on your shoulder, you walk down to the beach where the warm sand tickles your toes and you lay out your blanket and watch one of the most impressive sunrises that you will ever see in your life.  You see locals showing off their surfing skills and smell authentic Hawaiian cuisine as you walk down the long stretches of sandy beaches.

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After a delicious breakfast of fresh local fruit and homemade pastries, you pack your day bag and make your way down the beach to Diamond Head.  As you hike to the top of the dormant volcono, the warm sun makes you smile while the cool sea breeze reminds you where you are.  At the overlook, you gather with your friends and take pictures of the island with breathtaking 360-degree views.

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After an active morning, it’s time to relax so with a strawberry daiquiri in one hand and a good magazine in the other, you head down to the pool.  With the sounds of the ukulele strumming and waves lulling you to sleep, you take a nap soaking in the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle and dreaming of tomorrow’s adventure.  After a relaxing hour or two poolside, you head back to your room and don your most festive and colorful outfit because tonight, you are going to a luau!  You are taught to dance the hula, learn about the Hawaiian culture and watch an impressive show of dancers and fire breathers.

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As the sun sets and the sky becomes a wash of indigo’s and violet’s, you think of all the fabulous experiences that you will get to share with your family, the friends that you have made and the warm Hawaiian rays of sun that will keep you warm when you are back home and digging your car out of a pile of snow.

Sound like something you’d want to experience?  Join us in Hawaii this November and learn the true meaning of Aloha!  Click here for a preview video of Aloha Hawaii.

Getting Excited to Hike the Inca Trail

Monday, March 31st, 2014

-by Stacey

peru inca trail tents

Okay, I’m going to be totally honest here. I’ve never been camping. Well that’s not entirely true – one time I camped out in a tent in our living room, and one time I camped in the woods behind my friend’s house in Maine. Do those count? Maybe. Okay, probably not.

So why not make my first time really camping absolutely stellar? That’s right, I will be camping for 3 nights on the Inca Trail in Peru during our 4-day trek to the top of Machu Picchu. This is a Bucket List trip. It’s one that not many people get to do in their lifetime, and I have the opportunity to escort our group of Young Adventurers on what’s sure to be a trip of a lifetime for them as well as for myself.

inca trail peru group

What am I most looking forward to for this group? This is a tricky trip to plan – obtaining Inca Trail permits, getting intra-Peruvian flights, coordinating porters and cooks to climb with us, making sure we have all of the right equipment – I love the fact that when we’ve coordinated all of the details, those on our trip can just sit back, relax, hike a lot, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Since this is a small group with a maximum group size of 15, everyone is going to have this amazingly unique shared experience. From a bike tour around Lima to enjoying Pisco sours in Cuzco and camping on the Inca Trail, this is going to be an experience to remember forever.

peru main 5As if that wasn’t enough. I’m doing it again! But this time we’re going to take it a little easier. The day after I finish with the active group, I begin again! This time, we will be staying in hotels every night (phew!). This trip is going to have the same highlights but with a totally different feel. We will be staying at local hotel properties throughout Peru, filled with activities each day and enjoying the nightlife, and the highlight of the journey, seeing that amazing view when we hike to the top of the Inca Trail and set our eyes on Maccu Picchu for the first time.

I can’t wait to meet the local people, see their amazing textiles, taste the food (and drinks), get our hike on, and breath the fresh – albeit much thinner – air.

Peru, here we come!

You can find some great articles, pictures, and information on the following sites:
Click around here, there are a number of short personal insights and beautiful pictures.
An avid hiker takes on the 4-day hike. Here she gives her advice for what to bring with you
Click here for tips from an experienced Inca Trail hiker

Singles and Solos

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

– by Erin

Here at Amazing Journeys, we take pride in the fact that we have opened up the world to thousands of people.  We have tried local delicacies, experienced unique cultures and learned about our Jewish heritage on all seven continents.  Historically, our trips have been for Jewish Singles, but we now have a new category of travelers – Jewish SIngles and Solos.

What is a Jewish Solo you may ask?  Well, I’m glad you did!  A solo is someone who doesn’t necessarily categorize themselves as a ‘single’.  They may be in a relationship or may only be looking for friends, but they still have the urge to travel but don’t want to do it alone.


So if you are looking for a vacation where you can explore exotic destinations with like-minded travelers and want to travel in a group thats not geared towards families or couples, then join us in Thailand and explore with other Jewish Singles and Solos from around the world!

Wandering Jews

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

– by Malori

We are a community of nomads; the moniker “Wandering Jews” is part of who we are. Whether celebrating Purim on the banks of the Amazon River or Shabbat in the African Savannah; participating in a local service in a Cuban Synagogue in Miami or visiting a shul from the 3rd century in Barcelona, and yes, on the continent of Antarctica where we planted an Israeli flag and said a shehechianu; our Jewishness travels with us and we celebrate it where we can. You truly can take Judaism with you wherever you travel!

Here’s how an ordinary plastic Israeli flag made it from Mobile, Alabama – to Antarctica – and back:

This little plastic Israeli flag adorning my bookshelf does not appear to be unusual. They are a dime a dozen. Its pole is about 12” in length and the flag itself is about 6” by 8”. But it is quite remark- able.

Two years ago Malori Asman (a cousin of Jeff Redisch) and I happened to be in conversation. Malori mentioned that she was leading a tour to Antarctica. A travel agent, Malori is often at the fore – leading tours to familiar and also more exotic locations. This specific tour was geared primarily towards Jews. I suggested that she take an Israeli flag along with her and place it in Antarctica. She agreed. Months passed and I had forgotten our conversation. About a year ago, Malori came back to Mobile for a visit. She came by the shul and brought me this small Israeli flag.

And then she told me the following story: We arrived in Antarctica. We stepped foot onto the shores of this unique landscape, placed the flad on this southernmost point of the world’s surface, held hands around the Israeli flag and sang the Hatikvah.

I asked if she had thought about leaving the flag there as a permanent market. She retiieved it and handed it to me and explained that people are very devoted to removal of all items so that Antarctica could remain as pristine as possible. Plus, she thought that I would enjoy having an israeli flag that had visited Antarctica.

It’s a remarkable little flag: just a small piece of plastic with the design that you and I know so well, yet it gives voice to the indomitable Jewish spirit. This extraordinary little flag, that looks fairly typical, escorted a group of Jews to one of the most remote locations on the earth’s surface and assisted that group (and all of us) in proudly demonstrating our presence and our identity. Truly remarkable! Every one of us has an opportunity to make his or her journeys remarkable. Each of us has the power to mark the world in which we live. How will you make your mark as a Jew on our world? Travel in peace. Travel with pride.

L’Shalom,
Rabbi Steven Silberman
Congregation Ahavas Chesed
Mobile, Alabama 

Yom Kippur; More Than A Day Off

Monday, September 24th, 2012

As we delve into the pinnacle of Jewish observance with the Day of Atonement soon upon us, for some it is a day of conflict even before it envelopes us with its true meaning. 

Yom Kippur falls on a Wednesday this year. Midweek.  For those who work in Jewish communal work or with Jewish clientele like Amazing Journeys, taking the day off to pray is a non-issue.  For many, however, the necessity of taking a day off can be lost due to the responsibilities of work, the pressures of school, or the non-compliance of a boss or administration recognizing the significance that this day is to our heritage.

Interestingly, the contrast between how society treats Christmas, for example, and how it treats the Jewish High Holy Days is apparent to some. Jewish law requires a halt to work on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, which are not legal days off. Religious strictures on working are generally looser for Christians on Christmas. Yet Christmas is a legal holiday.

Under federal law, employers in businesses of more than 15 workers must ”reasonably accommodate” religious needs unless they can demonstrate ”undue hardship.” A religious need includes taking a holiday off. An accommodation can include allowing a holiday swap.

This doesn’t mean that other veins comply with the need.  The sporting world, for example doesn’t pause their schedule.

Hall of Famer baseball players Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, both Jewish, were faced with the dilemmas of playing important games during the high holidays. Greenberg was quoted:  “The team was fighting for first place, and I was probably the only batter in the lineup who was not in a slump. But in the Jewish religion, it is traditional that one observe the holiday solemnly, with prayer. One should not engage in work or play. And I wasn’t sure what to do.” –

In 1934, Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers decided not to play in a game during a tight pennant race because it fell on Yom Kippur. In 1965, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax missed a World Series game in observance of Yom Kippur.

In some industries, it can be a simple matter of tit for tat.  For many Jews, working on Christmas is payback to gentile colleagues who fill in on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana. Other Jews view working on Christmas as a way to fulfill tenets of the faith. Many Jews speak of working on Christmas as obeying an unwritten rule, or upholding a social contract… or just being a mensch.

The topic is often not discussed but is rather part of the social grease that keeps society working smoothly. The practice tends to keep everyone happy and adds an underscore the words ”happy holidays.”

On Yom Kippur, may you, your family, Israel and its people be sealed in the Book of Life for a year of life and peace.

Summer Time – Amazing Times

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Summertime conjures up an innate desire in all of us to do something different than we do during the three other seasons. Likely this premise dates back to our youth when summer vacation was the end result…the reward…the yearning of every student each and every school year. As adults we never really shed that urge; to “vacate” somewhere during the summer.

For many of our Amazing Journeys friends who live in New York, that means buying into a share at Fire Island for weekends of beach time, party time and time with friends. For teachers, it means that the job breaks for 2 months and its time to get out of dodge (our friend Bob C from Toronto and Maris J from New York–both teachers–actually spend more of their time in foreign countries than at home during their summer breaks. “School’s out, pack my bags and see ya at Labor Day!” are their summer time mottos). For others, its simply that the weather is nice and the desire to get out of the house–way out of the house–is what they’ve been waiting for. The “summer vacation” impression is so deeply rooted in our souls from days gone by in our youth, we almost have no choice but to succumb to that urge and take that break.

Knowing that the summer is an important travel season to so many people, Amazing Journeys plans 2-3 impressive, destination-oriented and very well attended vacations annually at this time. After a very successful and mesmerizing tour of the Canadian Rockies in July, we just returned home from an amazingly fun and memorable tour through England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France. 98 passengers from 20 cities and 6 countries shared some special times throughout the British Isles, partaking in their choice of 24 different private tours throughout the two weeks around the towns and scores of relaxing enjoyable activities aboard our Princess Cruises floating hotel.

The town of Edinburgh, Scotland was a favorite of many as we joined the locals in celebrating the annual Fringe Festival and Royal Military Tattoo performance. With hundreds of festive street entertainers, musical performances, local fare, medieval castles and the absolutely incredible theatrical concert of the Military Tattoo celebrating the Scottish heritage, our time in Edinburgh is a memory never to be forgotten.

A few of the other many highlights throughout our tour of the British Isles included:

 * A tour of the Guinness Storehouse factory in Dublin

 * Entrance into the Eiffel Tower in Paris

 * A visit to the Royal Suites in Buckingham Palace in London (where Kate’s wedding dress was on display),

 * A speed boat ride on Loch Ness (with many claims of seeing glimpses of Nessie),

 * A tour to the Beaches of Normandy and commentary on the incredible story of D-Day,

 * Tours of ancient medieval castles dating back to the 12th century-including the fortress and surrounding land that inspired the film Braveheart and a most meaningful “Political Tour” of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Our two-part journey took us on a guided tour through the Protestant neighborhood with commentary on that point of view, followed by a separate guide leading us through the Catholic neighborhood sharing that viewpoint. Each neighborhood was separated by a wall that, while not monitoring who could cross, was a clear divide between who was welcome where.

Ahh…summer. Its been a great season of travel at Amazing Journeys. And, we’re not done yet. In just over a week we have one last summer getaway with over 40 eager travelers joining us on our 5-night cruise to Bermuda.

Its been a summer of amazingly fun times here at Amazing Journeys, with much more to come. Even though summer is a popular travel season, any season is travel season at Amazing Journeys. Travel in the fall with us to French Polynesia or the Music Cities of the south. Travel in the winter with us on a New Year’s Caribbean cruise or to India. Travel with us in the spring to China or Spain. Or…if you are the quintessential summer traveler, join us in 2012 in Alaska or on a cruise in the Black Sea to Turkey, the Ukraine, Romania and Greece.

Wherever and whenever you want to go, Amazing Journeys will be there for you with a great group of Jewish single travelers, value-added vacation packages, exclusive touring, carefree travel planning and the greatest team of group leaders in the industry.

Make some plans today!

Landmarks of the World

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Are you ready for a trip around the world?  Are you?  Really??

Sadly, the majority of Americans will rarely see any geography beyond their own borders.  The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries published a finding that only about 10% of of US residents have ever traveled to overseas destinations (Canada and Mexico excluded – they’re not overseas. )  Leisure travel is more than a vacation. Its an activity that makes you more worldly, knowledgeable and tolerant of the differences in cultures that make our planet so special.  Its an adventure.  Its a means to experience “Life” with a capital “L” – a chance to break from the routine…the norm…the grind…the familiararity…the common.  Its a purpose, not just an experience.  Humans are born to travel; we’ve been given the mobility and dexterity to do so and as Americans we’ve also been given the “land of opportunity’; a means to earn, spend and have plentiful of what most other nations around the world don’t.

Get Out There, America! Whether you’re single or married…Jewish or Christian….in your 30s or in your 60s; don’t do what the regretful elderly do when they say for decades “I’ll travel when I retire” or “I’ll get there someday”.  Go now, while you’re able-bodied, healthy and capable! You never know when you might not be, and denying yourself the greatest of life’s givings is a regret of unfathomable proportions.  Trust me, the world is an incredible place.  America is wonderful…but the world is, well, an Amazing Journey for all to see.

IF NOT NOW….WHEN?

Scattered Among The Nations

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

For thousands of years since successive waves of invaders chased the Israelites from their ancestral home, Jews have carried their religion with them wherever they have gone. Living in the Diaspora, Jews maintained their way of life, gathering in communities to share their traditions. Others were touched by the faith of the Jews scattered among them, or by the words of the Torah, and bound their lives to this enduring heritage.

There are scarcely more than thirteen million Jews in the world today; most of them live in established Jewish centers like Israel and large cities in North America and Western Europe. But what many do not know is that there are Jewish communities in Africa, Asia, South America, even parts of Europe and the Former Soviet Union, in which the Jewish populations do not have white skin or do not live fast-paced, modern lives. Some of these communities exist in places so geographically and culturally distant from other Jews that they must struggle daily to maintain the religion of their ancestors.

These often tiny Jewish communities are fascinating. Some of them are ancient such as in Tunisia where the first Jews arrived 2600 years ago during the Babylonian Exile. Others are brand new such as the the Inca Jews of Peru who started practicing Judaism just a few decades ago. The small communities are recognizably Jewish with many of them observing Shabbat and kosher laws in the familiar ways one would find everywhere. However, each have customs reflecting their own “flavor” of Judaism. For example, in the tiny Jewish communities of Uganda and Zimbabwe songs written in Hebrew are set to African melodies; in India the Benei Menashe still practice ritual sacrifice of animals while the Bene Israel have their “Malida” ceremony which offers prayers, songs and bowls of fruits and flowers to the Prophet Elijah.

Amazing Journeys has toured 7 continents and save for Antarctica, have explored and enjoyed points of Jewish interest in places like Peru, St. Petersburg, Sydney, Buenos Aires and even San Jose, Costa Rica.  Yours truly was actually an invited guest on my extended “tour of duty” in Costa Rica back in 2003, to join a family—a big “machar” at the local synagogue—for Pesach Seder.  A totally unexpected experience; so amazingly different…yet so amazingly familiar.  Jews are Jews no matter where in the world they are, no matter what language their native tongue, no matter how mainstream or remote their neighborhood.

See below for some snapshots showing our fellow Jewish kinship from places you probably never thought of around the world:

 

 

 

 

 

Ugandan Jews are called the Abayudaya and here are some congregants and their Shule. They are found in the town of Mbale which is in the Eastern part of Uganda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are five rabbis in Tunisia; and even several kosher restaurants. Yacov B’Chiri is a cantor of the Djerba, Tunisia Jewish community. B’Chiri has been playing lute, or ud, and singing Arabic and Hebrew songs since he was young, and has become a legendary voice of the Djerban Jewish community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over five decades ago, in the northern Peruvian city of Cajamarca, two brothers began a spiritual journey that would reshape their own lives and those of hundreds of others. After Alvaro and Segundo Villanueva Correa read the Torah, they eventually decided to embrace Judaism, forming a community in 1958 whose members strictly observed the Sabbath and the Festivals and kept kosher.

The group, which came to be known as the “Bnei Moshe” (or Children of Moses), makes no claim of Jewish ancestry. Rather, it consists of like-minded families and individuals who found their spiritual truth in Judaism and decided out of deep sincerity to join the Jewish people. They continued to practice Judaism faithfully over several decades, expanding to the city of Trujillo as well, and growing in number to more than 500 people.  Subsequently, nearly all of the Inca Jews underwent conversion by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and made aliyah, thanks in part to Shavei Israel.

Jews in Berlin – Part 2

Friday, July 30th, 2010

The Jewish experience in Berlin, Germany.  Very Powerful.  Click here:  Berlin_Jewish_Journey

Jews in Berlin – a new beginning…?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Having just returned from a truly “Amazing” Journey with 130 passengers throughout Scandinavia, Russia and even Germany, I am in a reflective mood.  In the hustle and bustle of leading groups around the world, I sometimes don’t have the opportunity to actual absorb the essenses of where I am.  Now that I am seizing that opportunity, I am reminded of a stop that meant a lot to me.

Our first port of call was one that I was a little unsure of.  Historically, Berlin has been a city in flux and I felt similar feelings about visitin g a place with such a harsh history. Turns out it was an eye opening experience and a very memorable one, in more good ways than I imagined. I learned that Berlin is trying to reinvent itself and that the dedication to a Jewish cause is currently respectable at the very least.

There is a noticeable vibe in the city as it works to earn the respect of the world, and as a Jew, I felt a sense of passion and change for the better.  Our guide was very poignant as he described Berlin of yesterday compared to Berlin today saying that after decades of hate, it is now a city aimed at youth, peace and resistance to becoming again what it once was.

Seeing the remnants of the Berlin Wall and the landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate (pictured here), as well has hearing some of the stories of survival, escape…war and peace, were powerful features and definite highlights of our tour.  I think I share the same sentiment as most of my group in stating that time in Berlin was memorable and hopeful, but not without pain.

In the end, I felt that Berlin is on its way back. I felt good about my visit and about the future of the Jewish people in that part of the world.  I spent an hour and a half in the Jewish Museum and I spent time with an Israeli guide who made “Aliyah” to Germany…and those few moments-in-time showed me promise.  Berlin has been a bad place; a very bad place for so long. But now its on its way to being a good place and lets all hope it continues to reinvent itself in the years ahead.