Explore Jewish Communities around the world
Travel with us every Thursday and discover different Jewish stories
We invite you to get on our Hot Air Zoom Balloon to meet exceptional guides and Jewish community members who live around the world and will tell us first-hand the history and current activities of their communities.
When: Every Thursday
Time: See below
Duration: 60 minutes
Check out our next destinations
Every month, we will be flying to 4 or 5 countries in different regions. Join us!
MAY: EXPLORING THE ‘S’-ENCE OF JEWISH IDENTITY
The present-day population of Sevilla is about 700,000 with a minimal Jewish presence. Sevilla, which had the second-largest Jewish population in all of the Kingdom of Castile during the Middle Ages, is also where the destruction of Spanish Jewry began in June of 1391. Sevilla also was the first city in Spain where the Jews returned after 1860 and settled down again, creating the first Jewish community of Spain after the expulsion in 1492. Our guide, Moisés Hassán-Amsélem, runs his own travel agency, specializing in Jewish heritage trips to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. He will take us on a virtual journey through the Jewish history of Sevilla, visiting places of Jewish heritage that still exist in the city. In order to understand current Jewish life in Sevilla (and in all of Spain) we will put into context the past with the present. See you in Sevilla!
Explore the Suriname Jewish Community, the oldest existing Jewish community in the Americas, with our guide, Jacob Steinberg. After graduating from university, Jacob traveled around the world for five years. Later on, he spent three decades as a project finance executive, financing infrastructure projects in Africa, South America, South East Asia and Eastern Europe, where he met small and isolated Jewish communities. He got involved with Kulanu Canada, a non-profit organization that supports such communities. In 2016, he raised the funds to build a Memorial Monument for the 104 Surinamese Jews who died in the Holocaust. Jacob is excited to share his learnings with all of us.
Learn about Jewish life on the vast, bitterly cold and dangerous territory of Siberia, where, as popular stereotypes say, polar bears walk the streets. We will briefly cover the history of the communities and will concentrate on the Jewish renaissance in the past 30 years. Our guide, Gregory Touretsky, was born in Novisibirsk, Russia. He remembers secret Passover celebrations in his grandfather’s house in the early ’80s. Gregory was an activist in the Jewish community during the ’90s while studying Computer Sciences at university. He organized public Jewish holiday celebrations, taught Hebrew and traditions in a Jewish Sunday school, helped to publish local Jewish newspapers and eventually moved to Israel, where he lived for almost 20 years. A few years ago, Gregory relocated with his family to the U.S., where he works as a Product Manager and Architect. In his rare spare time, he continues to explore his family history and the overall Jewish history of Siberia.
4 PM EST
As the purported location of biblical Tarshish, and then the spice-trading nexus of Ceylon, Sri Lanka has long been a crossroads for traders. Although no definitive records exist of Jewish communities on the Island, the handful of Jewish graves in Colombo, the memory of a synagogue and a commonly recalled story that the Jews left after the establishment of Israel leads one to believe that there must have been a community there — it just doesn’t make sense, otherwise, does it? Join our guide, Andrew Harris, to discover more about Sri Lanka and its elusive Jewish community. Andrew is a writer and photographer based in Melbourne, Australia, with roots in South Africa and Zimbabwe. On a trip to Sri Lanka in 2011, not long after the end of the civil war, Andrew set about finding out what he could of the community, starting with the community of Burghers, many of whom may have had and obscured Jewish roots. Since his visit, a new Jewish community has organized itself, alongside the long-standing Chabad presence. But this is a story of looking for something that may not have been there, and making a long-standing connection with the national English-language poet of Sri Lanka, the only Jew with a Sri Lankan passport at the time, the late, great Anne Ranasinghe.
Our Hot Air Zoom Balloon is landing in Sri Lanka in
Please check your local time at the start of the next tour this THURSDAY.
Pacific Standard Time (LA): 1 PM
Mountain Standard Time (Denver): 2 PM
Central Standard Time (Chicago): 3 PM
Eastern Time (New York): 4 PM
Argentina Time: 5 PM
British Standard Time: 9 PM
Central European Time: 10 PM
Israel Standard Time: 11 PM
JUNE: THE BALKANS
4 PM EST
Although a relatively small community today — about 6,000-7,000 Jews, the majority of whom live in the capital city of Sofia — Bulgaria’s Jewish history is quite old. In the country’s second-largest city of Plovdiv, you can find the remains of a 2nd Century synagogue. One of the most well-known moments in Bulgaria’s history was the Salvation of the Jews from the so-called “proper Bulgarian lands” during the Holocaust. It is a story with national importance, but also personal importance for our guide, Maxim. Director of Jewish education for the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom,” Maxim also serves as Chairman of the Jewish Religious Council, the official representative body of Jewish religion in the country. Join him to learn more about the small but well-organized Jewish community of Bulgaria that, 30 years after reestablishment from the Communism, is thriving with an active Jewish school, kindergarten and different opportunities for expressing Jewishness.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
4 PM EST
The Jewish community in Sarajevo has a rich history of more than 500 years and is home to one of the oldest Haggadahs. The community now has merely a couple of hundred members, who have very good relations with their predominantly Muslim neighbors. However, the community is facing challenges, some related to the complicated economic, constitutional and political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our guide, Ana, was born in Sarajevo and spent five years in Spain as a refugee during the 1992-1995 war, fleeing the besieged Sarajevo with the help of Jewish organizations. She now lives in her hometown and works as a political advisor to an Embassy.
4 PM EST
The city of Subotica in Serbia boasts having one of the most beautiful synagogues, and perhaps one of the smallest Jewish communities in Europe. Our guide, Sonja, was born in Subotica and learned that she is Jewish at the age of 9. She gained her Jewish identity and knowledge in the International Jewish Summer Camp Szarvas, where she spent every summer for 20 years. After high school, Sonja dedicated her professional and personal life to the development of Jewish communities around Europe by working for JDC, Rothschild (Hanadiv) Foundation Europe, MASA Leadership Centre, and as a volunteer on Limmud International. Some 10 years ago, Sonja settled in Belgrade, Serbia, where she founded Haver Srbija, an educational NGO that educates people about Jewish history, culture and tradition, the Holocaust, and other minorities. Sonja is also a Jewish educator of the European Union of Jewish Students based in Brussels.
4 PM EST
One of the charming and smallest capitals in Europe, Ljubljana in Slovenia also has one of the smallest Jewish communities. The area’s Jewish heritage can be traced back to the Ancient Roman Empire, and Jewish life thrived until the expulsion in the medieval period, especially in Maribor, where the famous Rabbi Isserline worked. Our guide, Maja, was born and raised in Ljubljana, which was proclaimed Europe’s Best Destination to visit in 2022. Maja studied in Israel and, after returning to Slovenia, has been involved in connecting the two countries in the cultural and tourism sectors, where she is occasionally also a tour guide. Join Maja in discovering the Jewish history of Slovenia, which includes two former synagogues in Maribor and Lendava, as well as an active one in Ljubljana; stolperstones telling the story of Jewish families that survived WWII; and the establishment of the Slovenian Jewish community that received a Sefer Torah and a rabbi after the war.
4 PM EST
Romania was the Paris of the east, a center for fashion, music, architecture and more. Jews were mostly assimilated and highly cultural, speaking French and German as common second languages. The city of Sighet was the center of eastern European Chassidut since the 18th century, visited by the Baal Shem Tov, as well as Elie Wiesel. Before 1939, there were almost 1 million Romanian Jews. The present-day community numbers around 5,000. Half a million Romanian Jews were murdered in Auschwitz and Transnistria camps (in what is present-day Ukraine). Our guide, Peninah was born in Israel to Romanian survivor parents. As a young adult, she moved to Toronto, Canada. Presently she lives in Israel during the winters and spring to late fall in Romania. Her professional career started as a Hebrew teacher which then led to becoming the principal of Hebrew afternoon schools. She used to serve as the Director of the Toronto Holocaust Museum. She is also the founder and CEO of the Tarbut Sighet Foundation.
JULY: JEWISH ISLANDS
4 PM EST
Many Sephardic families from Jamaica, Curação, and other Caribbean Islands migrated to the Dominican Republic throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The majority of them were merchants in search of a prosperous future. Initially, they gathered in houses for prayers and other social gatherings. Fortunately, they were equipped with a mohel and a ḥazzan. However, they did not establish any educational institutions for the ensuing generations. As a result, some of their descendants assimilated to the host population, though a number of families maintained their identity through endogamous marriages, albeit without a solid sense of Jewish culture. Today, these Sepharadim speak Spanish and bear the prestigious surnames of their ancestors, some of whom became writers, historians, diplomats, and statesmen. Dr. Hakham Yehonatan Elazar-DeMota, was born to Dominican Jewish parents who migrated to the United States in the 1970s. He was trained as a rabbi, mohel, and shohet in Israel and America. He moved to the Dominican Republic in 2009 to gather the remnant families of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews and to organize them into a community. This presentation entails an ethnographic work of the Dominican Sephardim and how they have managed to preserve their identity through the creolization of rituals, superstition, and endogamous marriages.
4 PM EST
The history of the Jews in Curaçao can be traced back to 1651, when 12 Jewish families from the Amsterdam Portuguese community made the six-month journey from Holland to Curaçao, establishing the agricultural community of Mikvé Israel on land granted to them by the Dutch. The Synagogue they founded, Congregation Mikvé Israel, still holds services today and is the oldest Synagogue in continuous use in the Americas. Today there are a few hundred Jews living on the Island of 150,000. But in the 18th century, 2,000 — more than half of the Island’s European population — were Jewish. In September of 2017 Rabbi Refoel, Chani and (then) baby Chaya moved to Curaçao to establish Chabad of Curaçao and serve as Rabbi & Rebbitzen of Shaarei Tsedek – Curacao’s Ashkenazi Synagogue. Rabbi Refoel and Chani are looking forward to spending an engaging evening together discussing Curacao’s fascinating Jewish history, the unlikely role the island played in saving thousands of European Jews during the Holocaust, and the recent resurgence of Jewish life on the Island.
4 PM EST
Once numbering over 15,000, the Jewish community of Havana is now around 1,500, consisting mostly of converts, although some of the older generation remains. The community continues to operate three functioning synagogues as well as a cemetery and community center that houses a Holocaust exhibit that chronicles the history of Cuban Jews from World War II. Jews came to Cuba in two distinct migratory waves in the 20th century, beginning with the Turcos (Turks) around the turn of the century, and then followed by the Polacos (Polish), who fled war-torn Europe. For most, Cuba was intended as a stopover before emigrating to the United States, but many families remained and created a new life on the island. During the Castro era, organized religion was effectively barred, but Fidel Castro himself had an affinity for the community and preserved the only kosher butcher in the country, ensuring that the community had kosher meat. Our guide Saul Berenthal is a Cuban-American entrepreneur born and raised in Cuba who returned to his homeland to reacquaint himself and his family with their history. As part of his efforts to bring attention to the Jewish community, he established Cuba’s first and only kosher hotel with the idea of attracting Jews from around the world to experience their shared heritage.
4 PM EST
The discovery of the New World was a golden opportunity, and some Sephardic families chose to settle in Hispaniola (the island home to both the Dominican Republic and Haiti). The French revolution of 1789 was a turning point for the status of the Jewish nation, but the slave revolt of 1791 forced Jews once again to move abroad, for the sake of their lives. After 1804, other Jewish families settled in the new Republic of Haiti, led by the vast trade network of the Jewish nation in America. During the Shoah, the Haitian government saved the lives of hundreds of Jews from Europe by granting them the Haitian nationality. Dr. Joseph Bernard Jr. was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He is of Jewish descent through his mother, born Naar. His grandfather, Andre Emmanuel Naar, used to talk about their Jewish origins. The Naars came to Haiti from Curaçao during the colonial period. They were Sephardic Jews who, in time, converted to Catholicism. He is eager to discuss the many historic links between the Jewish people and Haiti, a country with no synagogue or Jewish town.
APRIL: MODERN DAY EXODUS (RECORDINGS)
If you’d like to view a recording of any previous tour from February, March and/or April, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to view all 4 or 5 recordings per month you can access them with a special discount using the form below:
MARCH: TRAVEL TO JEWISH ASIA (RECORDINGS)
FEBRUARY: VISIT SOUTH AMERICA (RECORDINGS)
SPECIAL RATES FOR GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES
Are you a group of friends, familiy or a Jewish community that would like to travel together? See the table below with special discounts for groups. Costs are shown as price per person.
|Sessions||1 to 4 people||5 to 9 people||10 to 24 people||25 or more|
|Individual Session||1||18 USD||15,30 USD||13,50 USD||12,60 USD|
|Monthly Series||4||60 USD||51 USD||45 USD||42 USD|
|Complete Package||13||120 USD||102 USD||90 USD||84 USD|
If you’ve signed up for one or more tours and haven’t been able to attend,
don’t worry! Send us an email and we will send you the recording.
Well, once again, you hit it out of the park. Thank you and your group for all your work.
Thank you so much for bringing Jewish communities around the world to our living rooms / dens / phones, etc. I am becoming more and more interested in my Jewish heritage with each visit, especially having been brought up with a not particularly strong Jewish identity.
One of the best presentations I’ve ever heard anywhere…
Sheryl A Roberts