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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official September 14, 2021

The Jewish City Story of Minsk

The capital of Belarus, Minsk is a beautiful city with a rich historical heritage that was largely promoted by the Jewish population. Jews began to populate Minsk actively in the 16th century, and since that time their number has only grown. It is hard to believe that from the middle of the 19th century until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, Minsk was a predominantly Jewish city - 52% of the capital's population were Jews, and this was the city's largest community.  [caption id="attachment_28499" align="alignnone" width="1824"] Photograph by The Together Plan - subject to copyright ©[/caption]   From the beginning of the 14th century until 1793, Minsk was part of Poland-Lithuania; it later fell under czarist rule and became the most important commercial center of Belarus from the 15th century. At the same time, the first Jews appeared on the territory of modern Belarus, during the era of the existence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Jews who lived there in this medieval state and their descendants are still called "Litvaks". The Jewish community of Minsk prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries in spite of the opposition of the townspeople. During the 19th century, Minsk was one of the largest and most important communities in Russia. In 1847 the Jewish population numbered 12,976, rising to 47,562 (52.3% of the total population) in 1897, which made Minsk the fourth largest community in the Pale of Settlement.  Minsk was one of the places where the Jewish labor movement originated and developed. In the middle of the 1870s circles of Jewish Socialists were organized, which were very active during the 1880s and 1890s. The years 1893–94 also saw the birth of the "national opposition" to them, led by A. Liessin. In 1895 a convention of Jewish Socialists was held in Minsk, which discussed the projected establishment of a Jewish Socialist Federation. The Jewish Socialists of Minsk sent delegates to the founding convention of the Bund in 1897, and Minsk became one of the centers of the Bund's activities, being the first seat of the movement's central committee until 1898, when it was dispersed by the police. From 1901 to 1903, Minsk likewise became the center of the activities of the Independent Jewish Workers' Party. [caption id="attachment_28528" align="alignnone" width="1824"] Photograph by The Together Plan - subject to copyright ©[/caption] After the establishment of the Soviet regime, Jewish communal and religious life was silenced at Minsk as elsewhere in the Soviet Union. The suppressed religious and national institutions were replaced by institutions of Jewish culture based on the Yiddish language and Communist ideology, and Minsk became an important center of Jewish-Communist cultural activity in the Soviet Union. Moreover, until 1936, Yiddish was the state language of the BSSR together with the Belarusian, Russian and Polish languages. Yiddish schools were established, and at the Institute of Belorussian Culture, founded in 1924, a Jewish section was organized. It published several scientific works devoted to Jewish history, literature, and folklore. A Jewish department was also established (1921) within the faculty of education of the University of Minsk. These institutions, however, were closed down in the mid-1930s. Various newspapers, periodicals, and other publications in Yiddish were issued in the town. These included the daily newspaper Der Shtern (1918–21), Der Veker (1917–25; until 1921 the organ of the Bund), Oktyabr (1925–41), and the literary monthly Shtern (1925–41). In 1926 the Belorussian Jewish State Theater was opened, presenting performances until June 1941. In 1926 there were 53,686 Jews in Minsk (40.8% of the population), increasing to 70,998 by 1939 (29.7% of the total population). [caption id="attachment_28529" align="alignnone" width="2409"] Photograph by The Together Plan - subject to copyright ©[/caption] Some 100,000 inhabitants were left in the city when the German forces entered on June 28. The population rose to 150,000 as the front line moved farther east, and tens of thousands who had fled and had been overtaken by the speed of the German advance, turned back. About one-third of these were local Jews. Their number was increased by refugees from as far west as Bialystok, as well as by survivors of mass executions carried out by the Einsatzkommandos (mobile killing squads) in the vicinity, so that another 30,000 Jews were added. Later, about 23,500 German, Austrian, and Czech Jews were deported to Minsk, and settled in a separate ghetto, so that despite the fact that a large number of Minsk Jews had been murdered before the establishment of the ghetto, at least 85,000 Jews found themselves incarcerated and trapped. Some say the numbers were as high as 100,000. The only Jews to survive the Minsk Ghetto were those who escaped, and it is believed, up to 13 people who hid underground for 9 months.   The resistance record of the Jews imprisoned in the Minsk ghetto is unique. One Sunday in 1941, within days of finding themselves inside the ghetto, a group of local Jews and Jewish Communists from Poland met and decided that it was the duty of the Minsk Jews to take an active part in the war against the German invaders. They rejected the possibility of armed resistance inside the ghetto and decided to devote all their efforts to affecting the escape of the largest possible number of Jews into the forests in order to become partisans. Four resistance groups arose in the "Aryan" part of the city in August and September 1941. However, it was only after the November 7 massacre that Hersh Smolar, the Polish-born leader of the Jewish resistance, met Isai Pavlovich Kozinets, known as Slavek, the leader of one of the four groups, who subsequently became the leader of the entire underground movement in Minsk.  [caption id="attachment_28530" align="alignnone" width="1824"] Photograph by The Together Plan - subject to copyright ©[/caption] After World War II, the Jewish culture of Belarus was destroyed. The surviving Jews, under the pressure of the anti-Semitic policy of the authorities, were actively assimilated. The activity of religious communities was practically stopped in the 1940s - 1950s. The number of the Jewish population in the post-war period decreased from 150,000 in 1959 to 112,000 in 1989. And today in Belarus, according to the latest census, there are only about 12 thousand Jews.  Almost nothing reminds of the pre-war and even more so the pre-revolutionary Jewish heritage, old Jewish schools and synagogues were closed or converted into civilian facilities. However, if desired, traces of the Jewish presence can still be found.  

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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official August 25, 2021

Constantly Rebuilt: The Worms Synagogue, a Space of Belief, Trauma and Resilience

The Jewish communities in three cities alongside the Rhine – Speyer, Worms and Mainz – formed a unique and outstanding community alliance in medieval times. Since the 12th century, ShUM is not only an abbreviation of the three Hebrew city names Schpira, Warmaisa and Magenza, but also a trademark of the cities today. ShUM was the cradle of Ashkenazi Jewish culture during its formation, from the 11th century onwards. The ShUM communities were extremely innovative: The architecture of its synagogues influenced others across Europe, in ShUM the first ever-recorded women’s shuln was established and monumental ritual baths were built. Women and men alike are praised on the tombstones in the old Jewish cemeteries in Worms and Mainz, with no differentiation between genders. These cemeteries are the oldest in Ashkenaz and there, Jewish sepulchral culture was developed. Religious laws and religious decisions, known as Takkanot ShUM, were discussed by scholars from the three communities – and binding for Ashkenazi Jewish Culture for centuries. Still today, liturgical poetry and prayers from ShUM are sung in Synagogues. Despite destructions, crusades, pogroms and massacres throughout the centuries, ShUM was a promised land among the diaspora. The communities were known as holy communities. The sites are still today spaces where Jews from all around the world connect to their heritage, both tangible and intangible. The monuments and cemeteries are iconographic spaces which are well known and therefore a journey to them is more significant than mere sightseeing. It is like a visit to the origins of Ashkenazi Judaism, to connect with heritage spanning over centuries. On July 27, 2021, UNESCO inscribed the “ShUM-Sites Speyer, Worms and Mainz” among the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Let us take a closer look at the Worms’ Synagogue and also its reconstruction after the Shoah. The first synagogue in Worms was built in 1034, as we know from the original Hebrew founder’s inscription. It is the oldest Hebrew inscription north of the Alps. The inscription names the founders, Jacob and Rachel, a childless couple who are praised in that what they did was “Better than sons and daughters / They shall remain remembered for good memory”. It is also said that the Worms’ synagogue is “the small sanctuary” – miqdash me’at –, in reference to the temple in Jerusalem as the large sanctuary. This seems positive, as a confirmation of God’s presence in exile. It can also be interpreted that a small temple is a limitation of God’s presence in exile. The term reflects the experience of exile as a restriction – and at the same time of great creativity and achievement, especially in SchUM. A new Synagogue was built in 1174/75 as the first Synagogue was destroyed in the Crusades from 1096 onwards. The first two-span Synagogue ever known was built in Worms – in comparison to the usual Romanesque halls. The Bimah for Torah reading is situated between two columns dividing the inner space. These columns were another architectural revolution as they referred to the temple in Jerusalem and the two columns there, named in the bible Yahin (HE will raise up) and Boaz (In HIM is the power). This combination of two columns and the bimah at the centre were role models for the Synagogues of places such as Regensburg, Vienna, Prague and Krakow. The Women’s shul, built in 1212/13, was donated by Judith and her husband Me’ir ben Joel. Judith herself was the daughter of Joseph, the founder of the mikveh (ritual bath) from 1186. The women’s shul is cross-vaulted over a central pillar. Listening windows in the wall assisted women to follow the main services – although they had their own female cantors and prayer leaders. With another reconstruction of the synagogue in 1355, after the plague pogrom in 1349, the women’s shul received gothic windows. The next devastating pogrom, in 1615, was followed again by a time of rebuilding and adapting. The new synagogue was re-opened only in September 1620. This reconstruction followed the Romanesque architectural form and also added the gothic and new architectural elements that we know today. A new entrance with a small community hall on the upper floor was also added to the front of the women’s shul. The facade formed the new representative north view of the synagogue district. In addition, the famous Rashi-Yeshiva, named after the scholar who had studied in Mainz and Worms in the 11th century, was built as an annex to the synagogue. Further changes of the substance followed in the renovations after the city fire in the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689. After this, the interior became much more baroque. From then on until 1938, no more destruction swept over the time-honoured synagogue compound. The synagogue reform movement of the nineteenth century left its own mark: an inscription of 1842 reported with pride on opening the wall between the synagogue and the women’s shul in order to enable women to participate freely in the synagogue services. The traditional seating arrangement along the walls and around the Bimah was abandoned. The gothic Bimah was replaced by a new one. In the 1860s, the community installed, against a minority opinion, an organ in the synagogue. Because of this, orthodox members of the community erected their own synagogue, not more than 50 metres apart from the façade of the women’s shul. On Shabbat and High holidays, the community nevertheless gathered in the old, time-honoured synagogue. In 1934, the 900th year of the first Worms Synagogue was commemorated. Letters from the Jewish world streamed in, from Budapest to New York and from many German-Jewish communities. They mirror what the Worms’ community meant to the Jewish world because of its long-lasting tradition and the clear signs of resilience and of feeling home. Leo Baeck, head of Germany’s Jewish community, who held the main speech in June 1934, underlined: “Nine centuries of such a house of prayer means also fatherland. A covenant was created: between this space and fatherland, between home country and spirituality.” As the wave of destruction swept over the German Reich around November 9, 1938, the Worms Synagogue was not spared, it burnt for two nights. Lost were its valuable interior from the 13th century onwards, Torah Scrolls, furniture, a small Jewish museum and its over 180 objects. After autumn 1939, the remaining walls and entrances of the Synagogue and its annexes were further destroyed. As the rubble was piling high, much of the original building material, enclosing ornamental fragments or the entrance portals, was sheltered within the debris. After this, Friedrich Maria Illert, City archivist and since 1934 director of the City’s Cultural Institutions stepped onto the scene. Immediately after the November Pogrom, Illert put all of his efforts into saving architectural fragments, objects and documents from the rubble – everything he was able to lay his hands on. In the aftermath of WWII, Illert, on this ground, depicted himself as the saviour of the Jewish past in Worms. Illert was, before and after 1945, an influential enthusiast for the city’s cultural heritage as the “oldest City of Germany” and the Nibelung legends. He included the Jewish monuments in his view on Worms – not as Jewish places but as a mere reflection of German culture. After 1945, he never said one word about the deported and murdered Jews of Worms. In 1945, the rubble was piling high and the streets of Worms was empty of Jews. Around six Jews lived in Worms at that time, having survived in so-called “mixed marriages”. In 1945/6, Jewish Displaced persons started to visit Worms, the ruins, and the still intact Cemetery Holy Sand, where numerous Rabbis and other renowned Jews are buried. In 1946, the Yiddish paper Frayhayt wrote: “The ruins of Worms and the destroyed Warsaw together represent … the destruction of all European Jewry.” Then an initiative started to rebuild the synagogue in Worms. Illert was moving through the rubble, building up the entrance portal of the synagogue in 1948/9. In a letter in 1947, he addressed various politicians and state administrations: “Since I was outside the Nazi-party and had no knowledge of the events within the party, I do not know whether and on what grounds the destruction of the synagogue was ordered. All I can say is that after the demolition of the walls in 1942, I was not prevented from picking out all the inscriptions, portals, window-wraps, and the Rashi-chair from the ruins and bringing them to the museum.” This was self-made white-washing. Only in 1949, a wall was built around the destroyed synagogues compound. It was built after a visit by the Jewish Restitution Organization. Representatives had underlined in a report that nothing was done to shelter the ruins. Illert in 1947 contacted Isidor Kiefer who, until his emigration to the US in 1933, was a member of the board of the Jewish community. Illert presented himself as a trustee for the Jewish Heritage in Worms. He was never designated as such, neither by the last Jews of Worms nor by the Reichsvereinigung, which was the implemented directorate of all communities after 1939. Regardless, Isidor Kiefer gratefully took up the initiative and supported strongly the reconstruction of the Synagogue. He had lost his status, his home, his country, and he longed for Warmaisa. Both, Illert and Kiefer, did not consider the Jewish community in Worms as legally extinct, but rather still alive, but in exile. Illert did this because his aim was to reconstruct medieval Worms and Kiefer because he was not able to face the abyss of destruction. There is no proof that Illert and Kiefer even knew each other personally before 1933 – what makes the story even more complicated. Kiefer insisted that the reconstruction of the synagogue was central for the Jewish world in general and he started a signature collection in mid-1955 for supporting the reconstruction, using a form produced by Illert. Illert and Kiefer also reached out to politicians: the city administration of Worms, as well as the federal and the national governments. There were also voices from exiled Jews who did not support the reconstruction. One example of this was Ferdinand and Carola Kaufmann who wrote: “Incidentally, a synagogue should only be there where it serves its original purpose and where ten Jews unite for prayer. … the Worms community no longer exists”. A letter from the City of Worms to the Federal Office for Preservation of Heritage from 1958 exposes a more than ambiguous motivation: “The resurrection of this synagogue in Worms could be regarded as sufficient in the sense of the reparation idea, which is the primary basis of … the reconstruction plan.” Since February 1949, the small, newly established Jewish Community in Mainz – around 80 individuals – was responsible for the Jewish Communities alongside the left bank of the River Rhine – including the handful of Jews in Worms. Prominent intercessors such as Chancellor Konrad Adenauer or Federal President Theodor Heuss turned the balance for the rebuilding of the Worms Synagogue. A letter from Kiefer to Adenauer in March 1954 was, in my opinion, the crucial turning point. “The writer of these lines was a machine manufacturer in Worms before emigrating as a result of anti-Semitic events. … A few days ago, the American Newspapers, especially the N.Y. Times, wrote about your suggestion regarding further reconciliation between Germany and the United States… I would like to contribute to this attitude of reconciliation and as a gesture towards the Jews who experienced such an injustice in the past and ask for the immediate reconstruction of the over 900-year old synagogue in Worms… I mention briefly that the synagogue coincides with the Worms Cathedral that was built in the 11th century.” The Chancellors administration answered that his suggestion would be, with great sympathy, considered and discussed. Kiefer wrote to the Minister of the Interior in 1955. The result was an intensification of the debates and negotiations between the parties participating – although the Jewish community in Mainz was more or less overlooking the scenery from the sideline. In 1955, the Council for Monuments Preservation agreed to the reconstruction. In 1957, the compound was cleared of rubble. A huge amount of the original material for the reconstruction came out of the debris. The Foundation stone was laid on September 29, 1959. A reply to another letter from Kiefer in November 1958 to the Chancellery underlined that the reconstruction of the synagogue “is of special interest to Chancellor Adenauer.” The synagogue was reconstructed with small adaptations to the modern style in the 1950s – and the organ was not reinserted. On the 3rd of December, 1961, the new-old Worms’ synagogue was opened. Isidor Kiefer passed away on October 16 of the same year. Numerous prominent visitors and guests attended the opening ceremony in 1961. Exiled Jews arrived to Worms. Many institutions and individuals had assisted in buying objects such as prayer books,  wooden benches, etc. to make the synagogue ready for services. German police were present and watched over the ceremony – something very different compared to 1934. The head of the Mainz Jewish community is the owner of the Compound although the city of Worms is still legally the trustee, as the Jewish Community does not have enough financial and human resources to maintain the building. Up to the 1980s, the structure was, at first glance,  more or less a museum, a space visited by tourists. They often perceived the synagogue as a symbol for reconciliation. Until the mid-1990s, Jewish visitors left remarks in the visitor book that it was a wonderful place but empty of “Jewishness” and a space where ghosts lived. In the 1990s, through immigration from the former Soviet Union, Jews began to arrive in Germany. Jews started to build their lives in Worms and Mainz. The Worms Synagogue started to change: the former women’s shul is now a vivid space where cultural events, concerts, exhibitions and commemoration on the Shoah takes place. The Synagogue itself is used as a religious space. The Jewish community’s head today is a woman. Life has returned to the Jewish religious heritage of SchUM. It was unique and also ambiguous to rebuild a synagogue in Post-Shoah times without a community and based partly on the indistinct idea of “Wiedergutmachung”. However, I am sitting at my desk and looking directly from my office down to the synagogue and I can see that it has changed again – into a living heritage, a Jewish heritage with a living Jewish community. Jewish chants and prayers can be heard again, drifting on Shabbat or other holidays, through the old alleys of Worms. Credit to: Dr Susanne Urban, Worms, Germany 2021 - Taken from: https://www.frh-europe.org/constantly-rebuilt-the-worms-synagogue-a-space-of-belief-trauma-and-resilience/

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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official August 25, 2021

From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot: Bringing in the Jewish New Year!

According to Jewish tradition, the beginning of the year is not brought in by a countdown at midnight on January 1st.  No, for the Jewish people the New Year is brought in by a series of high holidays all with specific rituals used to mark this special time.  These holidays are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.  There are also additional holiday traditions during this time of year.  Rituals like saying Selichot prayers or hearing the shofar blast during the feast of the tabernacles.  The Jewish Near Year clears the air for the community. It grounds the Jewish people in their history, dealing with the mistakes of their past, and looking ahead towards a better future.  Apples and Honey for a Sweet Rosh Hashanah The holiest month of the Jewish calendar begins with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as “Head of the Year.”  For two days the Jewish people honour and acknowledge God as the creator of the universe.  The holiday also pays homage to God’s first human creations, Adam and Eve.  In preparation for the holiday, the shofar is blown every weekday morning a month before and through the two days.  Other than sounds, Rosh Hashanah is a high holiday with tons of rituals and symbols that focus on food.  The food eaten during these days usually follows a sweet theme.  These can be things like honey cakes, challah with raisins, and dates.  However the most well known of these food traditions is dipping apples in honey.  This is one of Judaism’s oldest eating rituals.  Some scholars believe that the practice dates back hundreds of years.  Eating the two sweet foods together acts as a wishful prayer for the sweetness in the coming year. Divine Prayers of Forgiveness for the Jewish People After flattering God as the king of the universe, the Jewish New Year continues with asking for God’s divine forgiveness.  The main day to ask for this forgiveness is on Yom Kippur.  However, in the days leading up to Yom Kippur (for some communities even before Rosh Hashanah) it is customary to recite selichot.  Selichot are prayers for forgiveness that are recited by the Jewish people together in large gatherings.  While they are usually said on fast days they can be used to bring in significant events.  The prayers are taken from well-known biblical verses but are given a poetic edge.  If you are in Jerusalem during the High Holiday season take a trip down to the Kotel on September 12th.  You’ll see hundreds reciting selichot prayers in the plaza.  There are seventeen different selichot events happening at the Kotel.  They start around midnight so be sure to take a disco nap beforehand and bring a facemask! The Worst/Best Day of the Jewish New Year In order, the next official Jewish Holiday on the calendar after Rosh HaShanah is Yom Kippur.  The Day of Atonement is celebrated through fasting.  The night before what is known as Erev Yom Kippur, Jews around the world have their last meal.  They will not eat again until the end of the following day.  In between meals, Jewish people around the world crowd into their local synagogue for an entire day of prayer.  They directly ask God for the forgiveness of their sins or directly apologize to those they have wronged.   At the end of the day the shofar blasts signal that it is time to eat, and oh, what a feast is prepared.  It is traditional for many Jewish communities to serve a lot of dairy dishes for the break fast meal.  Dishes like bagels with cream cheese and lox, blintzes, kugel, and tons and tons of cakes, especially cheesecake.  After a day of fasting for the sins of an entire year people reward their stomachs and start the year off right with their families.     The Jewish Holiday That Requires Camping The family time only gets more intense from here on out.  After Rosh Hashanah, Selichot, and Yom Kippur finally comes Sukkot.  This Jewish Holiday is celebrated to remember the Israelites' time in the desert after they fled Egypt.  It is during the seven days of Sukkot that the Jewish people remember God’s kindness during those forty years in the desert.  Christians also mark this time with an event known as the Feast of Tabernacles.  Thousands of Christians flock to the Kotel every fall to hear the sound of the shofar marking the holiday.  For the Jewish people, this piece of history is honoured by recreating a desert hut in every Jewish household, known as the sukkah. The Sukkah is a simple hut made of at least two walls, with a thatched roof of palm leaves or a simple tarp.  It can be decorated with all sorts of plants, vines, fruits, and even the artwork of the family children.  However a sukkah is not a sukkah without a sechach.  This is a covering for the walls of the sukkah so that there is enough shade during the day.  In Israel, almost every household has a balcony space where the sukkah is put up.  During sukkot a good portion of Jerusalem eats and sleeps inside of the sukkah.  Every day each family must shake the “four kinds” while reciting a prayer.  The “four kinds” are a palm branch, two willows, three myrtles, and one citron, known as the etrog. From Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot: Connecting to the Source  The Jewish New Year is a topsy turvy time in the life of a Jewish community.  It’s New Years but people are guilty, they may be hungry but still happy to fast a whole twenty-four hours.  Despite the challenges and endless preparations, the High Holidays are a joyful time for family and community.  They are rooted in some of Judaism’s most ancient history and beliefs.  One whole month dedicated to the Jewish people building and strengthening their relationship with God and one another.

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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official August 9, 2021

Your Ultimate Israeli Festival Guide for August 2021

For those of you located in Israel August is the month of the Israeli festival.  There are several events being held around the country dedicated to Israeli and Jewish culture including music, beer, films, art. If you are looking for an Israeli summer of fun and variety look no further than World Jewish Travel’s guide below. This list was personally organized by a Jerusalem local. The Felicja Blumental International and Israeli Music Festival The good times start in Tel Aviv at the Felicja Blumental International Music Festival. This festival has been taking place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art since 1999 and features a 5-day long musical program of classical, jazz, and ethnic music. This year, the event will take place from August 3rd to August 7th so you have plenty of time to fit it into your plan while exploring the city. [caption id="attachment_27638" align="alignnone" width="640"] Let There Be Laughter exhibition at the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv[/caption] A History of Jewish Comedians Tel Aviv is known for its beautiful beaches and colorful culture. The city has some of the most highly-reviewed museums in the country with temporary exhibitions that you don’t want to miss. The newly renovated Museum of the Jewish People has a new exhibit, Let There Be Laughter.  It looks at the origins of Jewish humor and the contributions of Jewish comedians to the history of comedy. The Eretz Israel Museum is another highly rated museum with exhibitions of local nature, glass artifacts, and pottery. If you find yourself needing a break from the August heat, these museums are worth adding to your Israeli festival itinerary. [caption id="attachment_27639" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Hutzot Fair in the Old City of Jerusalem - Credit: https://www.itraveljerusalem.com/evt/hutzot-hayotzer-intl-arts-and-crafts-fair/[/caption] Sunset in the Jewish Quarter From Tel Aviv, head over to the Holy City of Jerusalem just in time for Shabbat. You’ll want to make sure to stop at the Machane Yehuda market to see the pre-Shabbat hustle and bustle. Taste the fresh halva, nuts, tahini and knafe from the local shops. There are also several restaurants located in or nearby the market where you can grab a bite to eat. Once Shabbat has started, take a walk to the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. you’ll find a peaceful atmosphere that you don’t usually get with all of the tourists who visit during the week. Don’t forget that public transportation doesn’t run on Shabbat, so you may want to find a hotel near the old city.    Hutzot Hayotzer: The Potters Section After a relaxing weekend, you will be ready for the international arts and crafts festival, the Hutzot Hayotzer Fair.  The festivities begin on August 9th in one of Jerusalem’s most iconic locations, the Sultan’s Pool, an ancient water basin located in the valley of Hinnom on the west side of Mount Zion.  Wrapped in the pines of Jerusalem underneath a sky of stars, visitors can view a variety of handmade goods and art from hammocks to paintings. This is also a spot to catch some of the hottest rock and pop stars in the Israeli music industry. You can also catch dance performances and scheduled workshops.     [caption id="attachment_27640" align="alignnone" width="600"] Band playing at the annual Safed Klezmier Festival - Credit: https://www.secrettelaviv.com/tickets/safed-klezmer-festival-2016[/caption] Klezmer, Kabbalah, and Israeli Art From the Jerusalem Central Bus Station you can hop on a bus to the mystical birthplace of Kabbalah, Safed. Here the 34th annual Safed Klezmer Festival invites patrons to experience three nights of Klezmer performances starting on August 17th. Don't miss dozens of Israeli and international bands.  During the festival, performances are held throughout the alleyways of the Jewish Quarter and Artist’s Quarter at 9:00 and going until midnight. During the day we recommend attending the festival's numerous workshops and activities. There is glass blowing, ceramics, tours of the city, or visit the artisans selling their art.  If you need a bite to eat during the festival, be sure to check out our recommended restaurants, and visit Safed’s other must-see sites.  [caption id="attachment_27641" align="alignnone" width="770"] Jerusalem International Film Festival - Credit: https://www.itraveljerusalem.com/evt/international-film-festival/[/caption] The Jerusalem Film Festival After you’ve had your fill of Klezmer, make your way back to the Holy City just in time for the 38th Jerusalem Film Festival on August 24th.  This festival screens a number of Israeli cinematic masterpieces. Additionally, it features films by internationally acclaimed directors and actors with past contributors including Wong Kar Wai, Tsai Ming-Liang, John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch, Stephen Frears, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Jane Fonda, and Robert Dinero; the star-studded list is endless. The opening event will also be held in the Sultan’s Pool. The remaining screenings take place around the city. Featuring the presence of 5000 viewers with 200 films from 50 different countries. [caption id="attachment_27642" align="alignnone" width="640"] The Old City of Jerusalem[/caption] Design Your Own Israel Guide for Next Time In case you wanted to add some extra stops to your agenda there are a ton of great options. Now that Shabbat is over and the city is back to life you can take a guided tour of Jerusalem at one of the many historic sites. Besides tours you can visit one of the city’s many unique museums, archeological sites, historic cemeteries, and synagogues. You will find that you could spend weeks in Jerusalem alone so you may have to save some of the sites for your next trip to Israel.   There is no better way to end your summer than with a trip around Israel. This is definitely one of the easiest countries to navigate and explore. On top of this the nation hosts some of the worlds top cultural events and sites. Whether you’re a local or thinking of making Israel your post-pandemic vacation destination, don’t hesitate to attend these Israeli festivals. You will get to experience Israel’s culture, creativity, and love of life.

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World Jewish Travel
World Jewish Travel Official August 24, 2021

Hungary Exhibit Honors Architect Lipot Baumhorn

Hungary: An exhibit honors architect Lipót Baumhorn in his 160th birthday year. And a new book highlights the stained glass windows in Baumhorn’s masterpiece, the New Synagogue in Szeged [caption id="attachment_25815" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Looking up at the dome in the New Synagogue, Szeged[/caption] (JHE) — Lipót Baumhorn, the most prolific synagogue architect in pre-WW2 Europe, is being honored with an open-air exhibit in Szeged, the city that is home to his masterpiece — the monumental domed New Synagogue, dedicated in 1903. At the same time, a beautifully illustrated new book — downloadable for free — celebrates the synagogue’s spectacular stained glass windows and documents their creation by the artist Mánó Róth in collaboration with Baumhorn and Szeged’s chief rabbi, Immanuel Löw. [caption id="attachment_25814" align="alignnone" width="670"] Lipot Baumhorn[/caption] Both are part of initiatives marking the 160th anniversary this year of Baumhorn’s birth. Some events connected to “Baumhorn 160,” including a major exhibition in Szeged, have had to be postponed because of COVID-19 measures. But a travelling exhibition about the Szeged synagogue is planned in various cities in 2021–2022 and due to open  in April in Budapest at the Páva Street Synagogue — another of Baumhorn’s synagogues, which is now part of the city’s Holocaust memorial museum complex. A documentary about the architect’s work in Timisoara, Romania, is also in the works. The open-air exhibit Baumhorn 160 opened on October 1 on Szeged’s downtown Klauzal square and will run until October 25. Organized by the Hungarian Museum of Architecture and Monument Protection Documentation Center (MÉM MDK) in cooperation with the Csongrád County Chamber of Architects and the Szeged Jewish Community, it focuses on Baumhorn’s synagogues — but mainly on his many secular buildings in Szeged and other towns. [caption id="attachment_25813" align="alignnone" width="1728"] Panels in the Baumhorn160 exhibition in Szeged. Photo: Rediscover[/caption] Curated by the art historian Ágnes Ivett Oszkó, who has researched and written widely on Baumhorn, it consists of 10  panel displays with photographs and text showcasing  Baumhorn’s work in four cities — Szeged and Budapest in Hungary; Timisoara, Romania; and Novi Sad, Serba.  Besides synagogues in each city,  the exhibit highlights buildings such as banks, homes, office buildings, schools, and apartment buildings. The new book, Windows of Celebrations in the New Synagogue of Szeged, was edited by Krisztina Frauhammer and Anna Szentgyörgyi and published by the Szeged Municipality and Rediscover, a Jewish heritage and tourism project of the EU’s Interreg Danube Transnational Program. [caption id="attachment_25817" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Cover of the book about the stained glass windows in the Szeged New Synagogue[/caption] It describes the history of making the synagogue’s stained glass windows and also discusses the extraordinarily rich symbolism portrayed — symbolism that the artist, Manó Róth, rendered in close consultation with Baumhorn and, especially, with Rabbi Löw, who “coined the visual program of the windows depicting the festive cycles of the Jewish year in the synagogue” and addressed even the smallest design details such as colors and patterns. One of the book’s aims, in fact, is to recognize Manó Róth as creator of the stained glass. [caption id="attachment_25816" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Stained glass windows with symbolic design in the Szeged synagogue[/caption] Manó was the younger brother of a more famous stained glass artist, Miksa Róth, who had commonly been thought to have designed the Szeged windows. The brothers were sons of an expert glassmaker in Budapest. The book provides evidence that Manó in fact was the artist, including a letter from Rabbi Löw which read: “Manó Róth, young glass painter from Budapest, exceedingly overcame the new and difficult challenges with artistic ambition and great success.” The book also includes a brief history of the construction of the synagogue, with a summary of the seven-page report in a contemporary Jewish newspaper of the inaugural ceremony, on May 19, 1903. Both the printed book and the downloadable PDF include exquisite photographs of the windows by János Rómer. In the hard copy book, the photos are printed on transparent sheets, to simulate stained glass.

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Connecting with WJT on social media is the best way to share your travel images, videos, and experience. If you visit a unique Jewish heritage site we want to know! So please tag us and share your travels with us whether you are dining at a local Jewish deli, attending a Jewish film festival, or visitng an old synagogue.


Did you know there are many delicious foods connected to Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year)? Here are a few:

🍞 Round-shaped Challah in honor of completing a full year cycle

🍎🍯 Apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year

🌱 Pomegranates so that we can have as many merits as there are seeds in this delicious fruit

🌳 A new fruit we have not tasted this past year, to symbolize how thankful we are to make it to this new year

What is your favorite Rosh Hashanah food?

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A trip to Haifa is not complete without a visit to the Baháʼí Gardens and Shrine. 🌼

Not only are the gardens and shrines magnificent, the 19 terraces have a perfect view of the glistening Mediterranean.

Pro-Tip 👉 Look up in advanced what free tours are available for your next trip!

🔗 Visit the link in our bio for the Haifa tourism eBook!

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What can you expect from a trip to the Dead Sea?

🌊 The seawater and mud help relieve inflammation and dry skin, so you get a spa treatment and swim all in one!

🌊 The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth! Something fun to check off your bucket list!

🌊 There's a lot more to explore than just the sea! The Dead Sea region offers luxury spas, hiking, and events year-round.

Plan your next trip to the Dead Sea through the link in our bio!

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How much do you know about the Temple period of Jerusalem?

The City of David has many virtual tours available to discover the archeology of the ancient city of Jerusalem!

The City of David virtual tours can be found on our site through the link in our bio!

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Learn Hebrew and discover Jerusalem all from the comfort of your own home!

The Jerusalem HebreWalks virtual tour takes visitors through the history of Jerusalem up until the modern day with an experienced Hebrew teacher.

This virtual tour can be found on our Virtual Tour library through the link in our bio!

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It's early fall, which means the atmosphere in Israel is filled with preparations for the Jewish New Year! 🍎🍯😋

Even at the Kotel, all walks of Jewish life are gathering for the special Selichot prayers held the month before Rosh Hashanah.

Visit our new blog through the link in our bio to learn more about this coming month's festivities.

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Have you seen some of this year's greatest films? 🍿

If not, you can see them at the Jerusalem Film Festival this August, along with work from local film-makers.

See the link in our bio for more events happening in Israel this August.

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Have you ever experienced Tisha B'Av in Jerusalem?

The annual Tisha B'av walk begins with the reading of Megillat Eicha which is commonly read on this day and ends with singing of Hatikvah. The path follows the historical Jerusalem sites and the participants have the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall.

See the link in our bio for more details on this event.

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Have you ever experienced the Klezmer Festival? 🎺

Once a year, free performances take over the streets of ancient Safed. It is a perfect way to experience the culture, architecture, artists quarter of Safed

See the link in our bio for details on this year's festival.

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