Every year for the past decade, the entire continent of Europe has spent the first post-vacation weekend in September celebrating 2,000 years of Jewish culture, from its most ancient aspects to its modern incarnations. There are bagels in Brussels, lectures in Lyon, concerts in Krakow, screenings in Sofia.
It’s the European Day of Jewish Culture: a grassroots, pan-cultural and pan-religious event whose aim is to recover and delve deeper into the richness of the continent’s Jewish heritage.
It’s fascinating to me how differently travelers can perceive the same place.
For Americans, Barcelona — Europe in general, for that matter — is a cultural destination. We come to tour the architecture of Gaudi, see the museums of Dali and Miro, walk through Catalonia’s ancient Jewish ghettos, and sample the molecular gastronomy for which the region is lately famous.
Located at the edge of the sparkling Aegean Sea is the wondrous jewel of a city called Izmir, once known as Smyrna by the Greeks. Not only is it Turkey’s third largest city and one of its major ports, it is also home to an incredible wealth of Jewish history.
The best souvenir I ever heard of was a giant wheel of cheese that my friend Era smuggled out of her native Albania.
This was not just any cheese. It was 20 pounds of stinky, sheep-milk kashkaval, the hard cheese found throughout the Balkans. And of course, such an item is virtually guaranteed to be on the U.S. Customs no-no list for importation; had they searched her luggage and found the wheel, it could have been quite the scene. But they didn’t, and Era was eating Albanian sheep cheese all year.
There was a time when a vacation in Argentina automatically meant Buenos Aires. The country’s capital city — home to tango, Latin America’s biggest Jewish community and a third of the Argentine population — was, for many North Americans, the only place on the tourism radar.
In the nicest possible way, very little ever changes on Martha’s Vineyard, an island of green cliffs and shingled cottages off the coast of Cape Cod.
For decades, the Vineyard week has followed a delightfully predictable schedule. Wednesday and Saturday mornings bring the farmer’s market at West Tisbury; everyone stocks up on local lettuce, beans and flowers for weekend dinners.
You hear a lot about Detroit these days, and not too much of it is positive. You hear about the travails of the long-struggling automobile industry, the staggering unemployment rate and the inexorable population decline. They're all related, of course, and together these facts tend to cement the image of a once-mighty metropolis now past its prime.
From Great Barrington to Williamstown, a summer jam-packed with arts, music, dance — and Jewish fare.
Special To The Jewish Week
You won’t see James Levine, Tanglewood’s storied music director, onstage at the arts festival this summer. But there are more famous faces than ever in the Berkshires, a favorite Jewish destination for serious culture when the temperature rises.
Amid these placid green hills in Western Massachusetts are world-class performers like Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Emanuel Ax, Leon Fleisher and Alisa Weilerstein, along with the Lar Lubovitch and Mark Morris dancers.
With more than 16 million visitors each year, Washington, D.C., is one the most popular travel destinations in the country, and for good reason: from monuments and museums, to parks and historical sites, it is a city with enough activities to keep most visitors happily occupied for days on end.