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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.

Border

COVID Travel Update

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

by Malori

No doubt, you’re ready to leave your own borders and get out in the world once more. While we are not recommending travel at this time, as you can see by the list of country requirements below that some countries are beginning to open, but still risky, cumbersome and complicated.

Below is a list of countries and what they are requiring of US and Canadian citizens at this time including opening of borders, entry requirements and restrictions. Please note, this update is changing daily and it’s best to check with local embassies for countries to which you may travel and also COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination | CDC,  the U.S. Embassy or Canadian Government and your preferred airline before finalizing travel plans.

Caribbean/Mexico
Turks & Caicos: Open to Canadians and Americans with restrictions. Due to a rise in cases, a curfew is now imposed on Grand Turk from 8pm to 5am (due to be updated January 27, 2021).
Antigua: Open to Canadians and Americans with restrictions. All travelers arriving by air must have a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 7 days of their flight (not required for children under 12 years of age). Fill out an online health form. All arriving passengers will be monitored for Covid-19 for periods of up to 14 days. Curfew in effect from 11pm to 5am.
Mexico: Open to Canadians and Americans with no restrictions.

Latin America
Costa Rica: Open to Canadians and Americans with restrictions. You must have PCR testing before returning home to the U.S. or Canada.
Ecuador/Galapagos: Open to Canadians and Americans with restrictions. As of January 11, 2021, antigen rapid test can be performed on a random basis to passengers arriving into Quito or Guayaquil.

Europe
Montenegro: Open to Canadians and Americans as of January 12, 2021. No test required.
Turkey: Open to Canadians and Americans with restrictions. International passengers age 6 years and older traveling to Turkey are required to have taken a Covid-19 PCR test with a negative result within 72 hours prior to their flight. Passengers must submit their test results to the airline at the time of check-in. Borders open to all travelers with temperature check upon arrival. This requirement will remain in effect until March 1, 2021.
Croatia: Open to Canadians and Americans. Entry allowed with a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours. Travelers also have the option of being tested upon entry at their own expense, but they must self-isolate until test results confirmed. Travelers must also prove they are traveling for urgent personal/family reasons, business reasons or other economic interest (Tourism is considered to be an economic interest).

Africa
Egypt: Open to Canadians and Americans with restrictions. All travelers must present a medical certificate issued 72 hours before entry on arrival proving they are not infected with Covid-19. Children under 6 years of age are exempt from this requirement. Travelers departing from Japan, China, Thailand, North America, South America and Canada, as well as London Heathrow, Paris Charles De Gaulle and Frankfurt airports, will be permitted to enter with a negative Covid-19 test no older than 96 hours. Tourists must hold a valid travel insurance to cover medical expenses in Egypt. Health checks may take place at the airport for all travelers entering Egypt.

Important Note for Returning U.S./Canada Passengers
U.S.: All U.S. passengers over the age of 2 years must provide one of the following before boarding their flight back home:
-A negative Covid-19 test result (PCR or Antigen) taken within 72 hours prior.
-Documentation of having recovered from Covid-19 and approved to travel by a doctor.
Canada: All Canadian passengers over the age of 5 years must provide a negative Covid-19 test result (PCR or LAMP) taken within the 72 hours prior.

Please review the full order for the U.S. on the CDC’s website here. Canada issued a similar order earlier this month. Read here.

Because of a new variant, the US has imposed restrictions on non-US citizens entering the US from South Africa and the border-free Schengen zone which include 26 European countries. They include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

There is one European cruise line who is requiring all passengers have a COVID vaccine prior to boarding. You may find more of this in the future.

Airlines, cruise lines and other modes of transportation may require a ‘Travel Passport” or Vaccine Passport” in order to board your flight, cruise, etc.  Read more about it in the following article. COVID in US: What ‘vaccine passports’ mean for your summer vacation.

Travel will be safer in the near future and we at Amazing Journeys are ready for it.  But until it is safe to do so, you will find us at home, planning opportunities of a lifetime!

Country requirements provided by Kensington Tours

New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

by Malori

Here it is, the week of New Year’s and I am at home. I’m usually working at “light-speed” finalizing logistics, programs, wrapping gifts and packing for myself and 70 others. So now I am getting a taste of just what it is that most people do over the holiday weekends of Christmas and New Years…going for walks in the snow, watching lots of movies, eating Chinese food, playing games and catching up with friends via Facetime or Zoom.  It’s a bit surreal for me and seems really strange for me to be here.

You see, it has been an Amazing Journeys tradition since 2002 to be away on a cruise for the New Year’s holiday.  It goes without saying, we are missing this once-a-year opportunity to sail into the new year with you, all of our friends. The planning, the excitement, the anticipation… it’s all part of a normal December for me and the rest of the team here at AJ.  Over the past nearly 20 years, we have traveled to close to home places such as the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal and Hawaii, and some exotic locales such as South America, India, the UAE, and Asia during this time of year.  It’s provided memories that are still fresh in our minds, and helps to get us through these times of this “travel black-out” we’re all a part of.

While on our New Year’s Eve cruises, we always share New Year’s traditions from the countries we are traveling.  Since we are unable to travel around the world, at least we can celebrate as though we’re traveling with our INTERNATIONAL NEW YEAR’S FUN FACTS:

NEW ZEALAND: Gisborne is 308.4 miles west of the International Date Line and thus is the first major city to see the beginning of the New Year (however it is Kiritimati, Republic of Kiribati that is the first “city” in the world to see the first sun rise for the year, and Amazing Journeys was there on New Year’s Eve 2002/2003).

LATIN COUNTRIES INCLUDING SPAIN, MEXICO, BRAZIL, COLUMBIA, ARGENTINA, CHILE AND OTHERS: Residents of Latin American countries down a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the New Year countdown, while making a wish with each one. On New Year’s Eve, women who want to find love in the New Year wear red underwear, or yellow if they want money. Other traditions include sweeping the dirt out and taking luggage outside as a symbol of future trips. (Side note – some of our travelers in Chile last year bought me yellow underwear for prosperity in 2020 – it didn’t work).  (And another side note – I will be walking around the block with my suitcase on New Year’s Day with hopes of future travel and I hope all of you will join me on this one!).

TAIWAN: The end of the year is celebrated with concerts held in all major cities.  Recently, the nation has used higher technology to communicate among the cities via video, enabling the cities to count down together.

SOUTH AFRICA: In downtown Jo-burg, locals throw old appliances out the window

FINLAND: It’s a longtime Finnish tradition to predict the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, and then interpreting the shape the metal takes after hardening.

PANAMA: Effigies of well-known people—called muñecos—are traditionally burned in New Year’s bonfires in Panama. The effigies represent the old year; immolating them is meant to drive off evil spirits for a fresh New Year’s start.

JAPAN: Many Japanese decorate their house with a New Year’s wreath made from rice straw and a lucky talisman and hang it on the door.  The tradition on December 31st is to eat toshikoshu soba – their long noodles symbolize a longevity and wealth.  They listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which is commonly associated with New Years in Japan.  At midnight, the New Year is welcomed with 108 bell chimes in alignment with the Buddhist belief that this brings cleanness. It’s also considered good to be smiling going into the New Year as it supposedly brings good luck.

SWITZERLAND: Ever hear of dropping a dollop of cream on the floor to ring in the new year with good luck, wealth and peace? Well that’s what some do in Switzerland — it’s thought to bring a year of abundance. Some Swiss also observe the tradition of dressing up in costumes to invoke good spirits and chase evil energies.

PORTUGAL: In the northern parts of Portugal, children traditionally sing carols as they visit houses where they are given coins and treats. The songs they sing are called janeiros and are said to bring good luck.

DENMARK: Danes ring in the New Year by hurling old plates and glasses… against the doors of friends’ and relatives’ houses. They also stand on chairs and then jump off them together at midnight. Leaping into January is supposed to banish bad spirits and bring good luck.

Although we’ll miss traveling with you during the New Year, we hope you’ll celebrate in grand style, in whatever tradition you choose.  If you’re home alone, dance like nobody’s watching.  That’s what I’ll be doing –wait, that’s what I always do even when traveling!  Just have a great time!

Wishing you a New Year filled with health and happiness and dream of the day we will traveling together again.

We Show You the World and You Mean the World to Us

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

by Michele

Vacations That Change Your Life, originally, a tagline when created, was with the thought that the travel experience alone would be what changed your life.  What we have come to understand and have witnessed for decades, is that in addition to that, our journeys are changing your personal life here at home as well.


As we are now spending time at home and riding this wave together, we have felt the strength of our Amazing Journeys family.  Since we first received the “shelter in place” orders, one of our top priorities was to continue to share the power of positivity and what better way than to continue our time together even if for now it is virtually. Trivia, Lunch and Learn, Ice Cream Social, Happy Hour, Art Gallery Crawl, Shabbat and the list goes on.  We have even seen new faces online who we can virtually welcome into our AJ family until we can welcome them in person somewhere in the world.

I know from hundreds of calls I have had over the years, no one ever truly expects how their life will change when traveling with a group of AJers. Oftentimes, I find myself telling the first-time caller that I am personally still in touch and friends with several from our very first trip in 1993. We form special bonds and they have changed my life and I know have impacted many others.

After speaking with one of our newer AJ friends recently, he said something very poignant as before he traveled with us, he really didn’t know what to expect.  His personal observation was there have been some wonderful “unintended consequences”!  He thought he was just signing up for a tour but what he came back with was new friends that enhanced his world.  Looking back on many conversations from the last 20+ years, we hear all of the time:
…I met my best friend on my trip.
…All of my fellow Broadway goers I met through AJ.
…So many that celebrated my milestone birthday were my friends from AJ
…Going through a challenging time, when I looked around, I realized most
were my travel friends from AJ.


As we navigate these uncharted waters, I have learned now more than ever, there is so much to be thankful for.  Although we show you the world, we want you to know that you mean the world to us and also to each other.


Please feel free to share with us one moment or friendship that has changed your life as we would love to hear from you and be thankful together!

The Wandering Jew

Friday, August 28th, 2020

by Malori

Traveling around the world, I’m so fortunate that I get to see a plethora of amazing sights. And the experience that I hold close to my heart is sharing our Jewish heritage with our travelers in faraway lands throughout the world. Whether joining a local community for Shabbat services, creating our own community for holiday observances or bringing back prayer to a synagogue that hasn’t seen Jewish life for years, or sharing the Hora with those who may not have ever experienced it, these are the moments treasured by myself and our groups alike.

We have had the good fortune to see many of Europe’s Synagogues. The largest and most magnificent I’ve experienced is Budapest’s Dohany Street Synagogue. Built in the mid-19th century, the architectural style is Moorish Revival and is truly remarkable.  With seating for 3,000 participants in its main sanctuary, it also houses a museum, a graveyard, and sits on the site of Theodore Herzl’s home. But in addition to the glorious interior, it’s the experiences one has that is the most memorable,  Being brought up to the bima and away from the crowds of visitors, we pre-arranged the opportunity of having their world famous Cantor lead us in prayers, together as an Amazing Journeys community.  Our voices rang to the top rafters of this massive interior structure.  Just outside the doors to the most beautiful synagogue in the world, we were taken to the site where thousands of Jews were murdered during the 1930’s and 40’s.  Anyone who has been to Budapest will have vivid memories of the stories of the atrocities that happened along the river dividing Buda and Pest and elsewhere in the city.

While most of our Jewish experiences are pre-planned by our Amazing Journeys team, some are bashert or, just happens because they are meant to be. When headed to the Azores, a remote group of islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 930 miles off the coast of Portugal and 2400 miles off the US coast, I received a call from a would-be traveler.  She said her dad was on a business trip a few years prior, along with a business associate, a Catholic woman who was born in the Azores. They asked about a run-down building they saw while walking down the street and were told it was a hidden synagogue from the 1800’s.  For over 30 years, the two had decided to raise money to restore the synagogue, and took trips to Ponta Delagada on the island of San Miguel until they had restored the Sahar Hassamain Synagogue into its original look.  They also created a museum and included details of Jewish life in Ponte Delgada. Upon hearing the story, we wanted to take our group to visit as well as have Shabbat services there.  In advance of our Amazing Journeys visit, we asked employees at the museum, those running the fundraising organizations and were told it was a museum and was not used as a synagogue for nearly 60 years. We asked different times and in different ways, and still the answer was no.  We arrived in the Azores, visited the museum as part of our tour and later, at the end of our day of touring, I mentioned to the guide we had been hoping to have our Shabbat services inside the synagogue.  She said, “why not?”  I told her we had already had a long line of “no’s” from everyone we spoke to and she said, “I work for the Mayor… I can make it happen.  Give me until tomorrow (Friday)… I am certain I can get this approved.”  Sure enough, she did and we kept our secret from the group.  Later that evening, I asked everyone to meet in the hotel lobby so we could have Shabbat services together, followed by dinner.  We walked the 4 blocks to the synagogue and had a private service in this 130 year old space.  We all realized the specialness of this experience, and that we were bringing voices of prayer to these walls that had not heard songs for decades.  Many of us cried.

Sometimes synagogues appear in the most random of places, nevertheless, they are houses of prayer.  Cochin, India was once known as ‘Jew Town’ because they were located along the Spice Route and had many Jewish families who settled there.  Cochin is filled with many synagogues, some being currently brought to their original beauty as houses of worship by congregations in the US and other countries who want our Jewish history not to be lost forever. We visited several synagogues in the once bustling area.  My favorite was one synagogue visit where we had to pass alongside of several aquariums filled with fish to reach the entrance of the synagogue.  Not very fitting for a house of worship, it reminded me that having a defined prayer space is a gift.  People in different parts of the world will make sacrifices so that they can pray as Jews.  While in Cochin, we met Sarah Cohen, the last Jew in Jew Town.  We spoke to Sarah, then in her 90’s, who still produced handmade challah covers.  Sarah recently passed away at the age of 95, leaving the former Jew Town devoid of Jews.

We have celebrated Shabbat in synagogues in Cuba where in Havana there are still two shuls, and as always, there is the one you “don’t go to.”   We have prayed with 400 visitors and Jewish business people living in the area in Shanghai, China and said prayers in a tiny underground hidden shul at Auschwitz in Poland.

 

One of the most sobering was in Linz, Austria where we had Shabbat services at The Linz Synagogue.  This meaningful symbol of our Jewish religion and our heritage sits just one block away from the balcony where Hitler gave one of his earlier hate speeches.  On the tiny balcony in front of the Rathaus in the main square in Linz, Hitler proclaimed the Greater German Reich on May 12, 1938.  He called Linz “my home.”  It was so important that here, we came together to pray as one.  This reconstructed Synagogue was both architecturally meaningful and hauntingly spiritual. Our voices during services were loud and proud as we aimed them to reach the heavens.

Whether one is Jewish or not, most likely a Jewish wedding is associated with dancing the Hora to Hava Negela.  On our travels, we have created the fun and fervor of the hora in many spaces and places on earth, including the most remote spots imaginable. We taught a local dance troupe in Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal in an archipelago comprising four islands off the northwest coast of Africa, to dance the hora.  Even more remote, our Amazing Journeys travelers to Antarctica did an impromptu singing of Hava Negila around an Israeli flag, after doing the Shehecheyanu blessing, a common Jewish prayer to celebrate special occasions. On a recent trip to Tanzania, we met the Hadzabe people, an isolated tribe who still hunt for their meals with poison arrows and spears. They live under bushes and move about Tanzania, following the game. Here, after this tribe taught us their dance, we showed them ours!  Although we couldn’t communicate through verbal language as they still use the “click language,” the language of dance was our connection. Although we weren’t 100% sure our movements would translate favorably, we’re still here to talk about it!

In India, just outside of Varanasi, the holiest city in all of India, we celebrated Tu’ BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees.  I asked our guide to provide me with a space under a tree, so that we could say some prayers and experience this holiday. He was proud to bring us to the Bodhi tree where Buddha was enlightened. Nearby, we found a tree we could sit under as a group and celebrate Tu’ BiShvat.

Sometimes it’s the remoteness and serenity of nature that connects us most to God. In my favorite spot on the planet, our heli-hiking lodge in the Bugaboo Mountains in eastern British Columbia, Canada, our group celebrated Shabbat with a setting filled with glaciers, mountains and granite spires. It’s the most majestic backdrop to a memorable Shabbat.  Equally so, perhaps my favorite Shabbat ever was facing Uluru, formally known as Ayers Rock, in the Outback of Australia.  Here, we perched ourselves on a large, red rock, indicative of the landscape of this desert area, complete with challah, wine and candles as I led the group through Shabbat services. As the sun set and the colors of Uluru changed with the changing sunlight, surrounded by our Amazing Journeys community in song and prayer, it brought us to tears.

Of all the exploration we do on our Amazing Journeys, it’s our visits to explore our Jewish heritage, see synagogues and visiting Jewish communities throughout the world, and  it’s the Jewish celebrations in which we participate that are always the most memorable part of the trip and our travelers remember for years to come.

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.

Hawaii-40

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.

Hawaii-13

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.

hawaii main 2

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!

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!