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World Jewish Travel
November 26, 2021

The Jewish Story of Troyes

Troyes La Champagne, capital of the department of Aube, is a unique destination to explore once and again, 160 kilometers south-east of Paris and 120 kilometers from Reims. First on the list of things to see, is the fabulous collection of half-timbered houses which makes the town proud. They have received a glorious facelift, adorning them in a multitude of colours. Water, on which the town was established, has also taken centre stage again. The quays of the Seine are an eloquent testimony to this. Before winding through Paris, the river passes through the former capital of the Champagne counts, where it is infused with the spirit of moderation. [caption id="attachment_30844" align="alignnone" width="2051"] Troyes Tourism Office© A. Lallemand - Troyes La Champagne Tourisme-0781[/caption] The venerable town of Troyes dates back to antiquity. The region was populated by nomads during the lower Palaeolithic period, around 400,000 BC, and was settled around 5,000 BC. The first traces of permanent settlements date from the end of the 6th century AD. Greek and Latin authors wrote of the Gallic people Tricasses around the 5th and 4th centuries BC. It is estimated that in the first centuries AD, the city of Augustobona Tricassium (Troyes) had around 6,000 souls and a surface area of around 80 hectares, bordered on the north and south by marshes.  In the 12th century, Troyes experienced rapid commercial and financial expansion, as well as an incredible intellectual and cultural explosion. The Counts of Champagne helped the city to expand by stimulating the celebrated “Foires de Champagne” that attracted traders from around Europe, thanks in part to the fairs’ code of conduct, set up in 1137. In the time of the Counts of Champagne, while Troyes is famous for Chrétien de Troyes, it is also associated with two other key figures from the Middle Ages: Rashi and Saint Bernard de Clairvaux, whose names remain indelibly linked to the city of Troyes and the Aube département to this day. Both men were eminent thinkers and scholars who played a key role in their respective eras. At this time, Troyes was home to a large Jewish community. One of the city’s children would go on to become the world’s most famous Jew and an iconic figure in Judaism: Shlomo Ben Yitzhak, better known as Rashi (1040-1105).  The famous Troyen is best known for his extraordinary talent as an interpreter and commentator of the Bible and the Talmud. He founded a Talmudic School in his native city, which attracted students from far and wide, keen to learn more about his comments on the sacred texts. His teachings remain influential today, representing a model of openness and dialogue between cultures. Rashi’s works also provide an important insight into the French language during his era (the second half of the 11th century), when French remained a variant of the ancient Champenois dialect and was still in its infancy. The Rabbi translated difficult and technical terms from Biblical Hebrew into this burgeoning language. Just like Chrétien de Troyes, Rashi made a major contribution to the expansion of French-language literature in the central Middle Ages. [caption id="attachment_30846" align="alignnone" width="1000"] RashisHouseExhibition_Library_P5©J. Boitelet2017[/caption] Later, in the 16th century, the city was an artistic hotbed. Troyes is largely a 16th century city, with most of today’s buildings and layout dating from what locals call the “beautiful 16th century”. A reference to a prosperous period in the city’s history, when Troyes was a melting pot of artistic talent and creativity in fields as varied as sculpture, painting, tapestry, embroidery, goldsmithery and glasswork. Arts flourished with the famous Troyes Schools of Sculpture and Painting or the Master Glassmakers school. Their talent, already recognized in the 13th century, were to create marvelous works and make Troyes a “blessed town of stained glass”.  The saying goes that France is home to 80% of the world’s stained glass windows, that 80% of French stained glass windows are located north of the Loire, that 80% of the stained glass windows north of the Loire are in the Champagne region, and that 80% of the stained glass windows in the Champagne region are in the Aube département! A quick calculation would therefore suggest that around 40% of the planet’s stained glass windows can be found right here in Aube… Nowhere else in the world will you find the sheer number and quality of stained glass windows as you can here. Aube is home to some 9,000 sq. m of stained glass windows, from the majestic Troyes cathedral to the smallest village church! This priceless treasure is spread across some 200 religious buildings. No fewer than 1,042 listed windows come from the era known locally as the «beautiful 16th century» alone.  [caption id="attachment_30847" align="alignnone" width="2100"] Troyes City Center ©CulturistiQ[/caption] Troyes is also famous for its Renaissance mansions, opulent residences built in the Renaissance period: Hôtel Juvénal des Ursins, Hôtel Marisy, Hôtel Mauroy, Hôtel du Petit Louvre, Hôtel du Moïse, Hôtel des Angoiselles, Hôtel de Chapelaines, Hôtel de Vauluisant, Hôtel du Commandeur….  This pivotal era, spanning both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, has left a lasting legacy on Troyes as it is today. The city was ravaged by a great fire in 1524, but has been rebuilt to its original appearance, with buildings replacing their fire-damaged predecessors in exactly the same locations.  The 19th century saw Troyes undergo an economic and industrial transformation, driven by the hosiery industry. The “factory shops” were born in TROYES in the 1960s, to sell off local manufacturers’ ends of lines. At first only open to factory staff, little by little they were opened to the general public. Let’s remind ourselves of some of Troyes great brands such as Lacoste, Doré Doré or Petit Bateau! [caption id="attachment_30848" align="alignnone" width="1124"] Portail Institut Rachi Crédit ©CDT Aube Valentin COLIN[/caption] This legacy has bestowed upon Troyes its unique identity.  Today, the town is undergoing a significant transformation which began in 1970. This slow and patient restoration programme of the town’s heritage sites is coupled with the evolution of its economy. The modern city is a direct descendant of its medieval predecessor. This venerable city is now living through its fourth golden age. Troyes La Champagne is also full of historical and architectural gems. Explore and get astonished through its museum collections: History, Fine Arts, Modern Art, Hosiery, Apothecary, Archeology, Arts and popular traditions. The town is on a human scale, and the countryside is never far! Troyes Champagne Métropole now welcomes visitors passing through with pleasure. Troyes and its surroundings also benefit from multiple little greenery spots that are like many places where you can take a breath besides the frantic race of everyday life. The landscape reflects the local style, unless it is the other way around: modest in height, moderate in area, and accessible to all.  [caption id="attachment_30849" align="alignnone" width="2000"] Champagne Vinyards ©CDTAube[/caption]   Then there are the Champagne plains with endless farmland, the Grands Lacs de Champagne and the viticultural island of Montgueux, which surround the town. Or the completely different valleys of the Pays d’Othe, home to the vast and truly enchanting Chaource forest. The modest surroundings are a treasure chest for those who know where to look. In Troyes, Historic Capital of Champagne, the nearest vineyard is about ten kilometres away (Montgueux), so it would be a sacrilege to talk of gastronomy without mentioning the famous sparkling nectar of the region, Champagne! It is not well known that the Aube is the 2nd largest producing département of five of Champagne, after the Marne. The actual Champagne appellation vineyards planted and in production cover 6,500 hectares and supply a fifth of the production, with a potential of 50 million bottles, of which 6,3000,000 are produced by winegrowers and winemakers of the Aube. The 59 communes of the appellation are for the most part concentrated in the south of the département the length of the “Cotes des Bar” (from the Celtic “Bar”, meaning peak), between Bar-sur-Seine and Bar-sur-Aube, with a prolongation onto the slopes of Montgueux that overlook Troyes and, and to the northwest near Villenaxe-la-Grande. The Champagne Tourist Route has its own signposting system and the winegrowers there are ready with their welcome.  In that context, since 2019 Aube département has become part of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, which includes the Route of Jewish Heritage, as the cradle of a universally known recognized intangible Jewish heritage. In Aube département, the Rashi medieval Route of Champagne crosses two other prestigious European Routes: the Templars Route and the Cistercian Abbeys Route. To invigorate the territory, the Rashi Route proposes a combination of a cultural and tourist offering centered on the history of the ancient prestigious Jewish communities of Champagne. ©Texts by Troyes la Champagne Tourisme - ©Rashi Route information by CulturistiQ

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World Jewish Travel
June 7, 2021


  Looking to tantalize your taste buds? Look no further! Israel’s Top 10 Ethnic Restaurants are sure to get your appetite going, whether you are looking for meal suggestions or just want to try something new this blog has something in it for everyone. From Persian delicacies in Tel Aviv, via eastern European feasts in Haifa to Moroccan meals in Beer Sheva, we recommend you try them all!   Ha’Sabich Shel Ovad, Givatayim At number 2 is Ha’Sabich Shel Ovad – or translated, THE Ovad’s Sabich. Whether the ‘The’ refers to owner Ovad or the sabich sandwich (pitta with aubergine, hard-boiled eggs, salads and tahnini), both are infamous and classically Israeli with a fresh, modern twist. Make the schlep to Givatayim and you won’t regret it; we’ll bet that this is the best sabich you’ll find across not only Israel but the middle east and the world. Kebab Emuna, Beer Sheva Since 1958, hidden away in Israel’s desert south, lies the legendary True Kebab. No, really – Kebab Emuna translated is ‘True Kebab’. Go for the Iraqi kebab; stay for the colorful and plentiful salads served alongside. And to tell people you’ve discovered the one, the only, the ‘True Kebab’. Azura, Jerusalem As the sun rises over Jerusalem, the smell of traditional Iraqi and Kurdish food escapes onto the street. If you’re craving homemade sofrita or kubbeh soup, both Iraqi-Kurdish delicacies, or just curious, this is your stop. Much like the other attractions in central Jerusalem, the food is unmissable and it’s best to arrive early to get a seat.   Maayan Ha'Bira, Haifa Haifa is famous for the Baha’i gardens, Elijah’s Cave and Maayan Habira. Whether you’re after a beer and a buzzing atmosphere or some of its famous chopped liver (so what if it’s better than your mom’s? We won’t tell), it’s the place to be. Make it a Tuesday night to hear some legendary live jazz. Café Glida Yonek, Haifa Or, if you’re after rival Eastern European Haifa-based cuisine, Café Glida Yonek’s Romanian kebabs (made with a closely guarded top secret recipe) are to die for, as are their various, carefully prepared steaks. Its authentic atmosphere will be a certain trip highlight. Salimi, Tel Aviv Take a break from the Tel Aviv market at Salimi, the Persian restaurant around the corner. Off the tourist track (no flashing cameras and Hawaiian shirts here, please) you’ll eat some of the most appetizing and carefully selected gourmet grilled food. Your best bet is the Sabzi, a rich, herb-based soup, or their famous gondi dish, also known as the Iranian matzoh ball. It’s just what you need to prepare for a second round of hard bargaining. Ha'Kosem, Tel Aviv Ah, falafel – similar to other items on our list, a trigger for heated debate amongst Israelis. Tel Aviv’s Eric Rosenthal – nicknamed ‘The Magician’, he’s just that good – has made traditional Israeli fare into a highly-regarded art form, starting with his infamous gourmet falafel. Not up for it? There’s also shawarma, sabich, and shakshuka to tempt you. Chacho, Netanya In a city well-known for its large French and Russian populations, it’s strange to think that at the top of our list is Netanya’s very own, erm, Libyan restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly – for over 40 years, the Vatori family have fed the European hordes their epic North African offerings, with sumptuous stews overnight on a kerosene stove, or freshly grilled meat with a side of couscous. Don’t like what’s on offer? Come back tomorrow – the menu changes frequently, keeping wannabe patrons on their toes. Yakuta, Beer Sheva Picky eaters – here’s one for you! Well, if you like North African food, that is. If you do, then Yakuta, in Beer Sheva, will personalize your dish to just the way you want it. Our pick is the delicious, authentically-Morrocan tagine, served in an earthenware pot. There’s also a huge menu, so there’s something for even the fussiest. Morris, Jerusalem Greek and Persian food is alive and well in the heart of Jerusalem at Morris, named after the owner who personally supervises the food being offered to his customers. There’s only the best on offer here – from a quick arak with friends, to classic, family-feeding Persian charcoaled grills. Whether it’s an entrecote steak, duck liver or skewered sweetbreads you’re craving, this is fusion cuisine at its finest.  

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World Jewish Travel
December 1, 2021

Spain's Top 10 Must See Jewish Quarters

Whether you’re out sun-seeking or sightseeing, Spain has more to offer than just good food and good weather. Home to the original ‘Sephardim’ (‘Spanish Jews’ in Hebrew), Spain is rich with stories and evidence of its Jewish population’s history and culture, right up to the community’s 1492 Expulsion. So wherever you find yourself roaming the country or exploring the city, there’s always something new and unexpected to discover: synagogues built like mosques and converted to churches or statues of Jewish celebrities, Spain has it all, with some breathtakingly beautiful views. Barcelona Barcelona – city of Dali, Gaudi and good food. But did you know that Barcelona’s ‘Aljama’, the Jewish community, was one of the largest of medieval Spain, comprising 10% of the city’s population? After the 1391 attack on the city and 1492 expulsion, all that’s left of Barcelona’s magnificent Jewish heritage is the layout of its streets. For some light-hearted relief, the Barcelona Jewish film festival and European Day of Jewish Culture celebrations take place in the city on the first Sunday of September. And of course, check out the Jewish Call! Girona - Catalan Jewish Museum, the Centre Bonastruc ça Porta And now to Spain’s very far East – Girona. Girona’s beauty – the hilly Capuchins to the east of the river Onyar; the modern town on the plains of the west – is breathtaking and varied. Nowadays, Girona is a popular day trip for tourists from Barcelona. Its Jewish past, dating from the late 9th century, isn’t completely obvious at first glance; for that, you have to dig a little deeper. Take a visit to the Centre Bonastruc ça Porta – the Jewish Museum, within the boundaries of the Jewish ‘Call’ (quarter) and the site of Girona’s last synagogue–details all areas of medieval Spanish-Jewish life, including the most famous Jewish Gironan of all, the celebrated Talmudist Nahmanides.   Toledo Toledo, close to Madrid, is the city of walls, silk, and swords and one of the most important Jewish cities of medieval Europe. Other than the famous ‘Escuela de Traductores’ (School of Translators), the Jewish quarter (‘Juderia’)’s two remaining synagogues (out of Toldeo’s original ten) are unmissable. The Sinagoga del Transito is a two-in-one attraction - built in 1366, nowadays it contains the Museo Sefardi, detailing medieval Jewish life in Toledo. The Sinagoga of Santa María la Blanca also has an interesting story – permission to build it was granted when the King was in love with a Jewish woman. It was later converted into a church. The path of true love never did run smooth… Segovia The undulated shape and seven gates of the Segovian Jewish quarter set it apart from the rest of the city. Segovia’s Jewish history is what might best be termed ‘hidden’. There’s a hotel on the site of a famed converso rabbi’s house. Large arches stand, without their gates. Where there were once three synagogues, two dedicated Talmud schools, a Jewish hospital, cemetery, butcher, ovens, and baths, there are now a collection of generic buildings with some lovely scenery and views – the community was forced to liquidate their assets at the time of the expulsion. Happily, within the quarter is the Jewish Quarter Educational center, which is also the former home of an illustrious descendant of converted Jews. Oviedo- Asturias. Known as the ‘Capital of Paradise’, unfortunately, nothing original of Oviedo’s Jewish heritage remains in the old Jewish quarter. The city is, however, skilled at commemorating what used to be there. There are many things to ‘not’ see in Oviedo: wander over to the Campoamor Theatre and look for ghosts –below your feet is what used to be the Jewish cemetery, memorialized by a plaque on the side of the theatre. In Juan XXIII Square, a lonely plaque on a pharmacy tells readers that they are in the historic Jewish quarter. Most excitingly, perhaps, just east of the theatre is the commemorative statue of Woody Allen. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. And no, we don’t see the connection either. Cordoba The city of Cordoba plays a pivotal role in the history of Jewish scholarship in Spain. Its achievements made it one of the most known centers of Talmud in the Jewish world. During the 10th century, Cordoba’s Jewish community was as wealthy as it was learned. Of course, like many other Medieval Jewish communities, the Jews of Cordoba lived in their own quarter known as the Juderia. What remains of the Jewish people of Cordoba is a far cry from the once great community that existed during its heyday. However, the city has made a distinct effort to conserve what has managed to remain. In 1985, the Great Synagogue on Calle de los Judios was recognized as a national heritage site. There is also a small museum dedicated to pre-expulsion Jewish life. Seville The history of Jews in Seville goes all the way back to the days of King David and the First Temple. In fact, some of the more prominent Spanish Jewish families of Seville claim to be descendants of the great king. The Jewish community of Seville was one of four major communities during Spain’s period of Muslim rule. They served in every facet of society from the common street vendor and merchant all the way to the members of the high court. Seville was an exception to the rule in almost every way for Jewish life. After the Christians reclaimed Spain, they built a second larger Jewish quarter that ran all the way from the Carmona Gate to the city wall.  At one time it housed Spain’s largest Jewish community. This quarter is now known today as the Barrio de Santa Cruz.     Palma Located in the Southwest of Mallorca, the port city of Palma has an extensive and well-known Jewish history. Palma’s Jewish quarter tells the story of both a thriving and persecuted community. Specifically pertaining to the history of Conversos and a major massacre that occurred there in 1391. There are traces of all this and more within the narrow alleyways and high walls of the former Jewish quarter. Secret synagogues and hidden Hebrew letters are etched into the stone. Today, a population known as Chuetas, the descendants of medieval Palma Jewry, is working to conserve and revive the history of the Jews of Mallorca almost 600 years later.     Avila Out of the numerous Jewish communities in Spain, the Juderia of Avila plays a special role in the history of Spanish Jewish rights. The Jews of Sevilla were not subjected to a great deal of discriminatory behaviors unlike their brothers in other cities.  They served the city as being distributors of fine clothing and other textiles. However, despite this good fortune, the Jewish quarter itself had not stood the test of time. There are few traces of this community but what has been remembered through documents and records has been identified and preserved. The building where the Rebbe’s house once stood has since been converted into a hotel. However, the latest victory has been the unearthing of the local medieval Jewish cemetery just outside the 11th century walls of the city!  Madrid Like most Jewish communities in Spain, their time to thrive came under Muslim leadership in the 10th century. Few traces remain of Jewish history but thanks to the records of Madrid’s historians, the outline of two historic Jewish quarters has since been located. The first quarter was evacuated after the Black Plague and the community was relocated to a new Juderia. The La Almudena Cathedral currently stands in its place. Of the several historic Jewish quarters in Spain Madrid has seen the most regrowth of modern Jewish life. Since 2008 the city of Madrid has celebrated the Hanukkah Festival of Lights, a festive day full of homage paying to Madrid’s past and the present Jewish community. The entire ceremony is a prime example of the new-found good faith and commitment to the future of Spain’s Jewish community.      

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June 22, 2021

6 Iconic Sites That Celebrate Jewish American Heritage

With 7.6 million Jews currently living in America, it is no wonder that the country must be filled with Jewish culture, heritage, and history. Jews have contributed to American society throughout the colonial period, the height of 20th century immigration, and continue to thrive today.  While there are endless locations in the United States that serve delicious matzo-ball soup or celebrate Jewish culture, in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, we are sharing 6 Iconic Sites that Celebrate Jewish American Heritage.  Lower East Side Tenement Museum Have you ever wondered about what life was like for immigrants in the 20th century? Experience if for yourself at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum! Located at 97 and 103 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, the museum is truly a National Historic Site. The Museum's two historical tenement buildings were home to an estimated 15,000 people, from over 20 nations, between 1863 and 2011. This museum depicts the lives of the previous immigrant tenants and includes restored apartments and shops open daily for public tours, a documentary film, tours with costumed interpreters portraying the building's former residents, tastings of their communities' typical foods, and neighborhood walks. The museum also has an extensive collection of educational programs promoting tolerance and historical perspective on the immigrant experience.   Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island  Built in 1763, Touro Synagogue, in Newport, Rhode Island, is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States. It also happens to be the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era, and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America. In 1946, it was declared a National Historic Site. The first congregation was made up of Sephardic Jews, who are believed to have come via the West Indies, where they participated in the triangular trade along with Dutch and English settlements.  Today, the Touro Synagogue offers prayer services on the Sabbath and is open to visitors through tours. The synagogue also offers exhibits and education about Jewish life in Colonial America.  Katz’s Delicatessen, New York's Lower East Side Katz's Delicatessen, originally named Iceland Brothers in name of the founders, opened in 1888. Only in 1910 was the deli officially bought out and renamed. This delicatessen served the Lower East side throughout the earlier part of the twentieth century, a time when the area was home to millions of newly immigrated families. At the time, Katz’s was a focal point for congregating. Today, the now famous spread on the delectable sandwiches, platters, and meats at Katz's brings thousands of visitors from around the world weekly. The deli prides itself on having the best cuts of beef and other fine foods and are also free of chemicals or additives. The deli's finished products can take up to 30 days to cure, unlike commercially prepared corned beef that is often pressure-injected in just 36 hours. Sherith Israel, San Francisco, California Established during America’s Gold Rush period, Congregation Sherith Israel is one of the oldest synagogues in the United States. It’s history began in 1849 when young, Jewish pioneers from around the world gathered for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. Despite the lack of a building, rabbi, or Torah, the pioneers worshiped together again during Passover and the High Holy Days in 1850. They also formed societies to aid the needy and bought land for a cemetery. In 1851, the permanent congregation was built.  Today, Sherith Israel is a congregation widely known for its innovative approach to worship and lifecycle celebrations and is part of the movement of Reform Judaism. It’s historic sanctuary building is one of San Francisco's most prominent architectural landmarks and attracts visitors from all over the world. [caption id="attachment_22869" align="alignnone" width="640"] Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum founded in 1976. Professor Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University led the development of the core exhibit for the museum. The museum collections include over 30,000 objects that range from the Colonial period to the present day.  Exhibits at the museum focus on the lives and experiences of Jews in America. There have also been past exhibitions centering on famous Jewish-Americans, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Leonard Bernstein.  [caption id="attachment_22868" align="alignnone" width="640"] Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Canter’s Deli, Los Angeles, California After moving from its original location that was founded in 1931, Canter's Deli is a Jewish-style delicatessen in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, California. It has been frequented by many notable movie stars and celebrities. The restaurant has continued to serve traditional food items, including: lox and bagels, corned beef, matzoh ball soup, and challah bread. Canter's has remained open 24/7, except on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Note: Canter's Deli is not certified kosher, as it is open on Saturdays and offers many non-kosher menu items. [caption id="attachment_22867" align="alignnone" width="640"] ChildofMidnight at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]  

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