Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Jews’

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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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!

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.

The Majesty of the Canadian Rockies

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I came to the Canadian Rockies with high expectations.  For over 30 years, I have wanted to travel here…ever since I saw my first brochure of the area, filled with photos of majestic snow-capped mountains towering over lakes with the bluest water you can imagine.  The Canadian Rockies as a destination was at the top of my “bucket list”.   Those who had traveled with me on Amazing Journeys always asked, “if you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?”  My answer, for the past 30 years has been,  “the Canadian Rockies”.

This past week, 40 travelers and I ventured into Alberta, Canada, the Wild West.  We arrived in Calgary and headed north to Banff.  Our castle- like hotel was situated right in Banff National Park, on a hilltop overlooking a river and a waterfall, and sat below high granite mountains.  We were nestled in between natures beautiful landscape – just as those travel brochures had portrayed it, all those years ago.  We explored the area from horseback below and from a gondola high above.  It was beautiful from every angle.

We left Banff and headed west to the Columbia Icefiends Parkway where we discovered a glacier that we could walk on!  Our “glacier busses” put us right on top of an actual glacier, where we could walk around, and drink glacier water from a river that ran through the face of the glacier.  It was amazing!

We arrived in Jasper National Park and stayed at the historical Jasper Park Lodge.  It felt just like summer camp.  Our “cabins” were scattered all around a lake.  The lake was crystal clear, and some of us walked around the 2.5 mile circumference.  Standing at the pier, you could see all the way down to the bottom.  It was like glass, with a reflection of the mountains every where you looked.  Geese and ducks enjoyed the calm surroundings, as did we!  Some hiked, some went on a float trip down the river and some enjoyed a peaceful cruise to Spirit Island on Maligne Lake.  In the evening, we enjoyed a wildlife specialist who taught us about bears, moose and elk and brought us antlers to hold and replicas of actual bear feet that were so huge, we decided that we never want to be up close and personal with a grizzly!

Driving back across the Columbia Icefields Parkway, we stopped first at a lake with green water, then one with turquoise water.  Amazing and unbelievable.  I had always thought that the photos in the brochure must have been touched up and that they were a little over zealous in their coloration process.  These lakes are real and have so much color you can hardly imagine!

We arrived at Lake Louise and were overwhelmed at the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel which was constructed at the turn of the last century and is so palatial!  We dined at the Fairview Restaurant, where Prince William and Kate dined together just one night before.  The scene over the lake from the restaurant was magical.  We were looking out over a glacier, right in front of us.  Most of us took a two mile hike around the lake and were closer to the face of the glacier.  It was a scene out of a fairy tale and took our collective breath away.

Our last stop on the tour was Calgary, and we were treated to the famous Calgary Stampede, a once-a-year event where Calgary becomes a town filled with cowboys, rodeo and country music.  Upon our arrival at the Stampede Grounds, we were each given a cowboy hat and went to the rodeo!  Bucking broncos, bull riding, rope tying…we all got a good cowboy education.  We rode amusement rides, listened to music at the Nashville North Tent, and visited an Indian Village.  We saw baby pigs, giant Clydesdale horses and learned about agriculture.   That night we switched gears and went to Temple Tikva where we enjoyed Shabbat services with the local community.  It was a real treat to be invited to this warm and welcoming synagogue.  The next day we went back to the Stampede grounds where we saw Chuckwagon Races and the grand finale, the famous Grandstand Show.  This was one of the best shows anywhere, ever!  A combination of Circ du Soliel, the Muppets and Hollywood, combined with a horse or two, a marching band and a comedian.  And fireworks!

But the best show of all was the beauty of nature.  After waiting 30 years to see the wonders of the Canadian Rockies, high expectations and all, I was not disappointed.

Around The World In 8 (brightly lit) Days

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

As we begin the festive holiday of Hanukkah tonight, we embark on a tradition that’s thousands of years in the making.  As Jews in the 21st century, we have been made aware of the candle lighting customs…the spinning of dreidles…the giving of gifts…and the eating of sufganiyot (jelly donuts).  But that’s here, in America.  What about other parts of the world?  Is our tradition varied at all by culture, geography or even political climate? 

I’ve been to Shabbat Services all around the world; from Australia to Costa Rica…Argentina, Croatia, England and even Russia.  What I’ve noticed is that as people we are all so different…..yet as Jews, we are all so much the same.  I may have (tried to) read the non-Hebrew portions in Spanish, Croatian or Russian, but when it came to the traditional prayers read in Hebrew, it was as familiar to me as my Gates Of Prayer. The Sh’ma, Shalom Aleyhem, Lecha Dodi and others….all just the same as mine back home.  

But I digress. Hanukkah.  One would think that this meaningful, yet rather easily understood holiday would be celebrated just as simply around the world.  You light candles, sing songs, spin dreidles and eat latkes & donuts. How much variation could there be?  Well, see the stories below for a “wow” on just how different Hanukkah can be:

Spanish Jews hold first Hanukkah in five centuries –

The Jewish community of Spain held a public celebration of Hanukkah Dec. 20, 1998, for the first time in more than five centuries.  Members of the small community lit candles at the same location in Girona, Spain, where their ancestors sought protection in 1391 from anti-Semitic violence that was prevalent at the time. Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. “This is an emotional and unforgettable day,” Mayor Joaquim Nadal told the gathering outside the ruins of Gironella Tower.  The candle-lighting ritual on the eighth and last day of Hanukkah drew close to 1,000 people, including many non-Jews. The ceremony was lead by Eliahu Bakshi Doron, Israel’s chief rabbi of Sephardic Jews, who trace their ancestry to Spain.

A Jew in Japan (trying to) celebrate Hanukkah  –   One thing that I do every year at this time is decorate my English school with Hanukkah memorabilia. Near the entryway, I put out a hanukiyah . On the table in the lobby, I laid out a number of dreidels. The walls are decorated with posters of children eating latkes  and sufganiyot  playing with dreidels, and, of course, lighting hanukiyah.

 The yearly display always draws a big response because it is unfamiliar to Japanese people (many American people, too, I imagine). Kids love to play with the dreidels (tops are a popular New Year`s activity in Japan). Young and old admire the candles displayed in the hanukiyah. And, invariably, several people say, “I didn`t know that people in America celebrated Christmas like this!” Oy Vey! One student even looked at a picture of Judas Macabbee and said, “I thought Santa Claus always wore red!”

MEXICO  In Mexico Hanukkah is written “Januca,”. The Jewish Hanukkah customs are very similar to those of Jews elsewhere except that the food may be a little different. Instead of latkes and sufganiot which are common among the Ashkenazic Jews of Russia and Eastern Europe the Sephardic Jews of Mexico tend to favor things like “buñuelos” which are fried fritters drenched in sugar syrup and also balls of corn dough with marmalade inside. Like their Jewish counterparts around the world they play the game of “dreidel” which they call “toma todo” and they call the dreidel top a “pirinola”. To make their holiday really special and authentically Mexican the add a Mexican “piñata” in the shape of the dreidel top to the festivities.

Today, there are about 50,000 Jews living freely in Mexico and openly practicing their ancient religion. I hope they all enjoy their Hanukka festival. Happy Hanukka to everyone!!!

The Light of Hanukkah Menorahs shall Shine all over Russia –  This year, despite the global crisis, the light of Hanukkah candles will shine not only for kids, but, for all Jews across Russia. In the outgoing year, as never before, Jews had the support and understanding of the government. For us, this support is very important, and we are pleased that the Russian government shows its support for all the traditional religious confessions, in particular, for its care for our Jewish community.

Without this support, the full-blooded rebirth of Jewish life in Russia would have been impossible. Firstly, the state returned to us many buildings that were owned by the Jewish community before the Revolution. Today, the government actively cooperates with the Jewish community in tackling social problems. Recently, our community won one of the support grants for non-commercial organisations. With God’s guidance, we will use it to implement our plans in the incoming year. Generally speaking, without the involvement on the part of the state, the Jewish community would have been unable to achieve the successes it has achieved in the sphere of education, enlightenment, and religious life”.

Eight days of Hanukkah celebrations will take place  throughout the entire country. During these days, in Moscow, there will be holiday concerts, fairs, and music and arts festivals, which shall bring together ensembles and performers from many Russian regions, Israel, and Jewish communities around the world.


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