2021 LECTURES

JEWISH BULGARIA: A VIRTUAL SEPHARDIC JOURNEY, Dr. Joseph Benatov.  This lecture took place on Wednesday, January 6.

Join us for a dynamic interactive trip through Bulgaria’s rich Jewish heritage. Learn about notable moments and individuals from the rich and varied history of Jewish life in Bulgaria. Our virtual tour will make stops in Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s largest cities, and will take us inside the sumptuous Neo-Moorish Sofia synagogue. Other highlights along the way include the medieval capital, the grand Rila Monastery, and the mountain town of Samokov, home to the most affluent Sephardic dynasty – the Arie family. You will have a chance to learn about the history and culture of the Bulgarian Sephardi Jews.

Joseph Benatov holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches Hebrew. He is originally from Bulgaria and a member of Sofia’s Jewish community. Joseph has over 15 years of experience leading travelers across the Balkans, including UNESCO representatives, 92nd Street Y visitors, JDC board members, and Anti-Defamation League officials. He lectures regularly on the history of Jewish life in Bulgaria and on Balkan Sephardic culture.

THE SYNAGOGUES OF LITHUANIA AS MATERIAL REFLECTION OF JEWISH HISTORY, Dr. Vladimir Levin.

This lecture took place on Tuesday, January 12th.

Dr. Vladimir Levin is the Director of the Center for Jewish Art at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Born in St. Petersburg, he holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University. He authored From Revolution to War: Jewish Politics in Russia, 1907-1914 (in Hebrew, 2016) and co-edited Synagogues in Lithuania: A Catalogue (2010-2012). In 2017 he co-authored with Sergey Kravtsov the book Synagogue in Ukraine: Volhynia, and currently works on the book of Jewish heritage in Siberia with Anna Berezin. He also published c. 120 articles and essays about social and political aspects of modern Jewish history in Eastern Europe, synagogue architecture and ritual objects, Jewish religious Orthodoxy, Jewish-Muslim relations, Jews and Jewish politics in Lithuania, Russian architecture in the Holy Land, history of East-European Jewish communities etc. Dr. Levin headed numerous research expeditions to documents synagogues and other monuments of Jewish material culture in eastern and central Europe and lead several research projects in the field of Jewish Art, the most important of which is the creation of the Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art – the world’s largest digital depository of Jewish heritage (http://cja.huji.ac.il/browser.php).

A VISIT TO THE ROYAL TOMBS OF VERGINA, GREECE WITH ITS BREATHTAKING GOLD ARTIFACTS AND THE STORY WHICH CHANGED THE COURSE OF HISTORY, Kapi Panou (our guide in Greece).  This lecture took place on Tuesday, January 19th.

A visit to the museum at Vergina is a feast for the eyes and the mind.  The cluster of royal tombs (including that of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great and his grandson, Alexander IV) is protected by a tumulus-shaped shelter and is now the present Museum of the Royal Tombs of Aigai (modern name is Vergina). Today one can see the architectural buildings, wall paintings of the tombs and gorgeous gold artifacts. On one of our past tours to Greece, we visited this site which was really amazing!

Born in Salonica, Greece Kapi Panou is a highly qualified tour guide and member of the World Federation of Tourist Guides' Associations (WFTGA) Group of Lead Trainers. She has a long experience in group and private guiding all over Greece. A university graduate (Philosophical School) and, currently, a trainer in the School of Guides, Athens, she shares her knowledge and enthusiasm either with the most demanding "study" groups or the simple travellers who look for a comprehensive and thorough interpretation of the secrets of the Greek and Jewish heritage and contemporary life. She is always at the disposal of the "world" traveller who appreciates the "art of guiding."

 

TO THE BOOTH, TO THE GALLERY, JEWISH WOMEN AND THE VOTE, Rachel Kolsky (our guide in England).  This lecture took place on Tuesday, January 26th.

Discover the Jewish women committed to the campaign for votes for women and equal rights for synagogue membership. In Britain, the Jewish League for Women's Suffrage was the first organization to link Judaism with suffrage and with support from key members of the male Anglo- Jewish elite they succeeded in breaking down barriers to political and religious emancipation. The suffrage campaign was international and this talk also highlights co-operation across the continents and non-British suffragettes.

Rachel Kolsky was our wonderful guide on our tour to England last year. She is a popular prize-winning London Blue Badge Tourist Guide. Focusing on the 'human stories behind the buildings' Rachel's talks are known to be fun and informative filled with anecdotes past and present. From off-the-beaten track London and famous personalities to cinemas and shopping, memories of all aspects of London's rich and varied social history come flooding back. Before embarking on her career as Guide and Lecturer, Rachel, a qualified librarian, worked as an information professional in the financial services industry for over 25 years. Rachel has published five books including Jewish London (2012), Whitechapel in 50 Buildings (2016) and Women’s London (2018) and she is thrilled to have been a guest lecturer on cruises since 2009.

THE DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC OF ASHKENAZ JEWRY, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller.  This lecture took place on Wednesday, February 3rd.

Originally from London, Katherine Aron-Beller is lecturer of Jewish History in the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University and at Tel Aviv University. Her areas of expertise are medieval Jewish history, early modern Jewish-Christian relations, the early modern Inquisition and Anti-Semitism. In 2007-8 she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the George Washington University in Washington DC. At present she is a Visiting Scholar of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. She is the author of Jews on Trial: The Papal Inquisition in Modena 1598-1638 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), the co-editor of The Roman Inquisition: Centre versus Peripheries (Leiden: Brill, 2018) and many other articles on the Catholic Inquisition, anti-semitism and the Jews of Italy. She is now finishing a book called  "Christian Images and Jewish Desecrators: The History of an Allegation," 400-1700."    . Dr. Aron-Beller has been a scholar in residence on many trips with Jewish Historical Seminars including trips to Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily and Italy and the ones we were planning to Alsace and Provence.

 

A VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE: AMBER PALACE IN RAJASTHAN, INDIA, Vijay Singh Shekhawat (our guide in Jaipur, India). This lecture took place on Wednesday, February 10th.

Built in 1592, Amber Palace is located near Jaipur high on a hill and is one of the most well-known and visited sites in India. The palace has large ramparts, series of impressive gates and incredible architecture which is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic styles with beautiful inlaid and carved out decorations.  Vijay will guide us through the palace with its history and stories.

Vijay Singh was born and brought up in a very traditional extended Hindu family in Jaipur. Vijay had a typical arranged marriage twelve years ago and today has twins who are 10 years old. He studied law but was passionate about history and art. This passion and inclination towards the historical magnificence of this country drew him towards the tourism industry, specializing in customized tours for the last 16 years. Vijay was our wonderful guide in Jaipur on our past tours of India!

A UNIQUE TOUR OF THE KREMLIN IN MOSCOW WITH ITS HIDDEN TREASURES, Jane Kempinsky (our guide in Russia).  This lecture took place on Wednesday, February 17th.

We will begin our tour with a bird’s eye view.  We will stop at the famous Red Square and walk along the Kremlin walls.  Upon entering the Kremlin territory, we will find the most famous and less known sites, with some being the Great Kremlin Palace and its beautiful halls where presidents of Russia held official receptions as well the Terem Palace Palace, the medieval residence of the Russian Tsars which looks like it came out of Russian fairy tales.  We will also visit the world famous Armory Chamber and the Diamond Fund where the most precious crown jewels are exhibited.  Viewed will be unique crowns, dresses, thrones, carriages, the biggest and most precious diamond and of course the collection of the breathtaking Faberge Eggs. 

Jane Kempinski is a tour guide from St.Petersburg, Russia who has been giving tours for about 15 years already and is absolutely in love with her city and her job. She is Jewish, born and raised in Leningrad and then St.Petersburg. Her family has been living in St. Petersburg since the early 1920’s originating from the Pale of Settlement – Ukraine, Belorussia and Poland. Jane started specific Jewish Heritage tours of St.Petersburg and about 12 years ago started incorporating and interconnecting Russian and Jewish history and culture. Her idea is to show St.Petersburg from the Jewish prospective, giving one a taste of what it is to be a Jew living in Russia.

PURIM IN HISTORICAL AND VISUAL PERSPECTIVE AMONG JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN EUROPE AND THE LANDS OF ISLAM, Prof. Shalom Sabar.  This lecture took place on Wednesday, February 24th.

In the lecture we will explore the visual art and material culture created to enhance the Book of Esther in various Jewish communities throughout the ages. Emphasis will be placed on the earliest depiction discovered in the ancient synagogue of Dura Europus (3rd cent. CE), followed by the importance imbued in the story of Esther and Purim among Ashkenazi Jews of the Middle Ages. We will then examine the emergence of illustrated Esther scrolls in Renaissance and Baroque Italy - a Judaic art form that reached its artistic peak in 17th and 18th centuries. From Italy, the art of the scroll spread to other communities, especially the Netherlands, Germany, and eventually reached also the lands of Islam. In the last part of the lecture we will briefly deal with other beloved objects and traditions of Purim.

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!

FROM CÓRDOBA TO CARDAMON: THE WORLD OF THE CAIRO GENIZA, Prof. Gary Rendsburg.  This lecture took place on Tuesday, March 2nd.

During the 1890s the contents of the Cairo Geniza, the storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue built c. 900 in Fustat (Old Cairo), came to the attention of scholars in England and elsewhere.  The discoveries constituted nothing less than a revolution in the field of Jewish studies.  In the end, 300,000 documents (mostly in Hebrew, but in other languages as well) emerged from the dusty attic space, including old Torah Scroll sheets, bridal trousseau lists, records documenting the spice trade with India, Maimonides’s own drafts of his legal and philosophical works, and – perhaps most remarkably of all – the memoir of an Italian monk who had converted to Judaism.  In sum, every aspect of medieval Jewish life, from the sacred to the mundane, is revealed through our study of the always fascinating Cairo Geniza documents.

Gary A. Rendsburg serves as the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University.  His teaching and research focus on ‘all things ancient Israel’ – primarily language and literature, though also history and archaeology.  His secondary interests include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew manuscript tradition, and Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Prof. Rendsburg is the author of seven books and about 180 articles.  His most recent book is How the Bible Is Written (Hendrickson, 2019), with particular attention to the use of language to create literature.  In addition, he has produced two programs for the Great Courses program, one on ‘The Book of Genesis’ and one on ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls’. During his career, Prof. Rendsburg has served as visiting professor or visiting researcher at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Sydney, Hebrew University, UCLA, Colgate University, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

ROMA: A FRENCH STYLE MEXICAN NEIGHBORHOOD WHICH BECAME A SYRIAN JEWISH SETTLEMENT WITH ITS HISTORY AND PERSONAL STORIES, Monica Unikel Fasja.  This lecture took place on Tuesday, March 9th.

Roma, the Oscar-winning movie by Alfonso Cuarón that captivated the world, is set in the Mexican neighborhood of the same name. This lovely neighborhood was also the home of many Jewish families from the Arab countries. Syrian Jews from both Aleppo and Damascus arrived in Mexico City at the onset of the 20th century. They first settled at the Historic Center of the city, but around the 1930 they started moving to Colonia Roma, where they continued to practice their traditions amidst the French-style buildings. Middle Eastern grocery stores, religious and Zionist schools, synagogues and cafés, became characteristic of Syrian-Jewish-Mexican identity. Today, they are remembered with nostalgia.

Monica Unikel-Fasja found her passion in the streets of Historic Mexico City, where Jewish immigrants arrived and lived around a century ago. She has dedicated nearly half of her life to walk around those streets, narrating the testimonies and the stories of Jewish immigrants in the form of guided tours.Monica has also studied and published about the synagogues in Mexico, and she participated in the revitalization of an abandoned synagogue which today she runs as a cultural center. The cultural center, named Nidje Israel, and now known as Historic Synagogue opened in 2010, and since then it has served as an open space for all sorts of Jewish cultural activities and all kinds of people.

THE MEDICI SAGA: HOW COMMONERS BECAME ROYALTIES IN ITALY, Simona Conti. This lecture took place on Tuesday, March 16th.

 The name MEDICI is known across the world; recently a successful television series was shot and many more people did get familiar with this unique and powerful family that lived in Florence from the 13th to the 17th hundreds. Medici descendants are still living in Florence, although their role in the city life is no longer as predominant. But there was a time when they were able to turn a relatively minor town into the capital of European commerce and finance; when they interacted with popes and royalties; when they were able, thanks to their qualities (not always positive), to rise to the highest position in a town of commoners in one of the few Republics of that time in Europe. In my lecture I'll try to explain the mechanism that enabled such rise (and the relative fall). The aura of the Medici family is still floating in the streets of Florence and every single stone could tell you something about them.

Simona Conti was born in Florence, Italy,  in 1960 and received a degree in Foreign Languages (English and German) from the Superior School for Interpreters and Translators in 1982. She has been active in tourism since 1983. Simona’s first employment was as a tour director for an American travel agency, escorting groups throughout Italy.  She became an official guide in 1996, after having received a Masters. Up to the present time, Simona has guided thousands of visitors around her city, Florence which has included famous people like Japanese baseball player Hideki Matsui, film directors like Steven Spielberg, writers like Ken Follett, movie stars like Michael J. Fox and Sarah Jessica Parker, musicians like Dire Straits’ founder Mark Knopfler.  and actors like Jane Fonda. Currently Simona lives in the country with her husband, three dogs and five cats, on a farm property which they have painstakingly restored,  surrounded by 35 olive trees. Her part-time job is taking care of the vegetable garden and helping her husband with pruning and harvesting . In the Fall they pick their olives and have our own extra virgin olive oil made.   They have a daughter, Priscilla who became a medical doctor in Barcelona, Spain and lives currently in Florence, Italy, where she’s training as Psychiatrist.  Simona enjoys her chosen profession because it allows her to meet many different people and share with them the love for her beautiful city, Florence!

JEWISH LIFE IN IRAN UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE SHAH AND THE AYATOLLAH, Jacqueline Saper.  This lecture took place on Tuesday, March 23rd. 

Jaqueline Saper was born and raised in Tehran as the bicultural daughter of an Ashkenazi British mother and a Mizrachi Iranian father. Her comfortable childhood and adolescence ended at eighteen with the 1979 Iranian Revolution's civil unrest. The Shah was ousted, Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile, and Iran became an Islamic theocracy. Almost overnight, Saper went from wearing miniskirts to being forced to wear the hijab and hiding in the basement as Iraqi bombs fell over the city. She witnessed the Iranian Jewish community's mass emigration as most sought asylum abroad. In her case, Saper continued to live in the Islamic Republic for eight more years. She fled Iran with her husband and her two young children in 1987, a few days before her twenty-sixth birthday. Saper is one of the few Persian Jews of her generation to have lived before, during, and after the revolution in Iran. Jacqueline Saper recently published her memoir, From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Revolutionary Iran. (University of Nebraska Press—Potomac Books).

Jacqueline Saper is an author, speaker, columnist, and translator. Her memoir, From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Girl in Revolutionary Iran (University of Nebraska Press—Potomac Books, 2019), is the winner of the Chicago Writers Association 2020 Book of the Year Award for traditional nonfiction. The book is also a finalist for both the 2020 Clara Johnson Award, and the 2021 Feathered Quill Book Awards. Fluent in Farsi and English, Saper subtitled and translated the Alex and Ali movie, winner of the Frameline39 Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary. Her opinion columns and articles appear in national and international publications, including The Seattle Times, Foreign Policy News, The Jerusalem Post, Sun-Sentinel, and The Forward, Aish, and The Times of Israel, among others. She is the recipient of Oakton College's 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award.

THE SARAJEVO HAGGADAH: A MASTERPIECE OF JEWISH ART AND ITS INCREDIBLE JOURNEY FROM CATALONIA TO BOSNIA, Prof. Shalom Sabar.  This lecture took place on Wednesday, March 31.

Considered nowadays the most valuable and number one national art treasure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Sarajevo Haggadah is popularly known as the most beautiful Hebrew book ever produced. The famous illuminated Haggadah was created in the second quarter of the fourteenth century in one of the Jewish communities in the north-eastern part of the Kingdom of Aragon (Catalonia). The fascinating illuminations reflect the high cultural and artistic achievements of Sephardi Jewry at the time. The fate of the codex after the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492), until it reached eventually Sarajevo, where a member of the old local Sephardi community sold it in 1894 to the new National Museum that was established in the city a few years earlier, remains a mystery. A source of inspiration to modern artists and the subject of a suspense novel, the manuscript that was hidden from the public eye for many years continues to fascinate and capture the imagination of many. 

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!

 

THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF HOW BULGARIA’S JEWS SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST AND VIRTUAL TRAVEL THROUGH NORTH MACEDONIA, Dr. Joseph Benatov (This lecture will not be recorded) This lecture took place on Wednesday, April 7.

Why was Bulgaria able to protect its 50,000 Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust, while deporting to their death nearly 11,400 Greek and Yugoslav (Macedonian) Jews? We will discuss this complicated WWII history and note some of the most prominent Bulgarian politicians, clergymen, and intellectuals who stood up for their Jewish countrymen.  Take a virtual stroll through the two main historic centers of Jewish life in North Macedonia – Skopje and Bitola (Monastir). We will also make a stop in Ohrid, North Macedonia’s most captivating city-on-a-lake. Our final destination will be Jaffa, Israel, where large numbers of Bulgarian Jews settled between 1948 and 1952.

Joseph Benatov holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches Hebrew. He is originally from Bulgaria and a member of Sofia’s Jewish community. Joseph has over 15 years of experience leading travelers across the Balkans, including UNESCO representatives, 92nd Street Y visitors, JDC board members, and Anti-Defamation League officials. He lectures regularly on the history of Jewish life in Bulgaria and on Balkan Sephardic culture.

THE UNKNOWN WORLD OF JEWISH ARTISTS OF RUSSIA, Jane Kempinski.  This lecture took place on Tuesday, April 13.

Whenever we speak about Jewish Art in Russia we think of Marc Chagall.  But he is not the only one. Late 19th and early 20th centuries gave us quite a few of talented Jews who were looking to find their own unique style in classical and modern art. Jewish artists in Russia worked and created unique masterpieces in every artistic style from realism to avant-garde. We are going to see some of their best works and speak about their views over the phenomena of "Jewish art" and the "Jewish artist". 

Jane Kempinski is a tour guide from St.Petersburg, Russia who has been giving tours for about 15 years already and is absolutely in love with her city and her job. She is Jewish, born and raised in Leningrad and then St.Petersburg. Her family has been living in St. Petersburg since the early 1920’s originating from the Pale of Settlement – Ukraine, Belorussia and Poland. Jane started specific Jewish Heritage tours of St.Petersburg and about 12 years ago started incorporating and interconnecting Russian and Jewish history and culture. Her idea is to show St.Petersburg from the Jewish prospective, giving one a taste of what it is to be a Jew living in Russia.

A JOURNEY OF JEWISH KRAKOW WITH ITS HISTORY, SITES AND STORIES OF FAMOUS FIGURES, Monika Prylińska and Tomasz Klimek.  This lecture took place on Tuesday, April 20th.

Monika Prylinska holds a PhD in Geography at the University of Lodz and MA degrees in Judaic Studies and Polish Philology at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. She is a university lecturer, licensed city guide of Krakow, tour leader and writer. Her teaching and research focus on Jewish culture in Poland, the anti-discrimination policy of democratic societies and non-fiction literature. For over ten years, Dr Prylinska has worked with Jewish groups in Poland and has run Jewish educational workshops for Polish students and adults. She cooperated as a guide and educator with the Polin Jewish Museum in Warsaw. Currently, she participates in oral history workshops of second generation Jewish writer and psychologist Mikołaj Grynberg and studies Gestalt psychology.

Tomasz Klimek holds an MA in management from the Technical University in Kraków. He is also a scholarship holder at the University of Rochester, USA. Additionally, he completed training in Jewish culture organized by professors of Judaic studies at the Galicja Museum in Krakow. For fifteen years, as a guide of Krakow and tour leader, he has been working with Jewish groups in Poland, implementing tailor-made cultural programs, searching for Jewish roots and organizing meetings with Polish Righteous Among the Nations. Tomasz also conducts workshops on Jewish culture and history for Polish teenagers, students and adults increasing among them awareness and richness of Jewish heritage.

 

THE POPES AND THE JEWS: AN AMBIVALENT RELATIONSHIP, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller.  This lecture took place on Wednesday, April 28th.

Originally from London, Katherine Aron-Beller is lecturer of Jewish History in the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University and at Tel Aviv University. Her areas of expertise are medieval Jewish history, early modern Jewish-Christian relations, the early modern Inquisition and Anti-Semitism. In 2007-8 she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the George Washington University in Washington DC. At present she is a Visiting Scholar of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. She is the author of Jews on Trial: The Papal Inquisition in Modena 1598-1638 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), the co-editor of The Roman Inquisition: Centre versus Peripheries (Leiden: Brill, 2018) and many other articles on the Catholic Inquisition, anti-semitism and the Jews of Italy. She is now finishing a book called "Christian Images and Jewish Desecrators: The History of an Allegation," 400-1700." Dr. Aron-Beller has been a scholar in residence on many trips with Jewish Historical Seminars including trips to Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily and Italy and the ones we were planning to Alsace and Provence.

FROM THE INDEPENDENT CITY OF DUBROVNIK TO VENETIAN PORT OF SPLIT: THE JEWS OF THE EASTERN ADRIATIC COAST THOUGHOUT THE CENTURIES, Dr. Eliezer Papo, This lecture took place on May 5.

The lecture will explore the rich history of the Jews of Dalmatia (the region of the Eastern Adriatic coast, today in Croatia), from the early Christian era until today. It will focus mainly on two rival port cities: Split and Dubrovnik/Ragusa and the role the two respective Jewish communities played in this rivalry. With the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, in 1492, the influx of Sephardic expulses to both cities reshaped totally the original Jewish communities of Dubrovnik and Split. While the Dubrovnik synagogue was established by the Romaniote community in the 14th century, and was later taken over by the Sephardim, the present-day synagogue of Split was established in the early-16th century by Sephardic new-comers which settled in the northwest quarter of Split. There they established their synagogue, right next to the western wall of Diocletian’s Imperial Palace (the Torah actually sits inside the Roman wall).  The lecture will be accompanied by vivid visual materials from historic sites in the beautiful cities of Split and Dubrovnik, illustrating the two-millennial heritage of Dalmatian Jews.

Dr. Eliezer Papo is senior lecturer at the Hebrew Literature Department at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, a Chairman of the Moshe David Gaon Center for Ladino Culture at the same University and the chief-editor of El Prezente – Journal for Sephardic Studies (scientific journal published by the Gaon Center). Dr. Papo also serves as the President of Sefarad – Society for Sephardic Studies, an international professional association of scientist in the field of Sephardic studies. He is a member of the Israeli National Academy for Ladino and serves also as a representative of the Israeli Academia in the Council of the National Authority for Ladino Culture, where he is also a member of the executive board. Besides a B.A. in law (University of Sarajevo), M.A. in Jewish languages and literatures (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and a Ph.D. in Hebrew literature (BGU), Dr Papo also holds a degree in rabbinics (Midrash Sepharadi in Jerusalem). Since 1997, he serves as the non-residential rabbi of the Jewish community of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most importantly, Eliezer has been our Scholar in Residence with a number of our tours to the Balkans, Morocco and Greece.  

THE JEWS OF GIBRALTAR, ON HER MAJESTY’S SERVICE, Moisés Hassán-Amsélem.  This lecture took place on

May 12.

The Jewish presence in Gibraltar dates back to the 14th century when it was still part of the Nashrid kingdom of Granada. After the decree of expulsion was signed in 1492, many Jews fled to North Africa. When the British captured Gibraltar in 1704, Jewish merchants from Tetouan, Morocco were encouraged to come to Gibraltar with provisions. Their counterparts from Leghorn (Italy), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and London (England) also settled in Gibraltar. As a result, by the time of the negotiation of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, there was already a significant Jewish population in Gibraltar. In 1805, they constituted half of the inhabitants of Gibraltar, even creating a newspaper in Ladino, “Cronica Israelita”. In 1878, Gibraltar had more than 1,500 Jews. In the 20th century, these numbers declined rapidly notably following the evacuation of civilian populations during World War II and the Spanish blockade ordered by Franco. The arrival of Rabbi Pacifici in 1957 changed this tendency and an increase in the Jewish population was seen during the 70’s. Rabbi Ron Hassid became Chief Rabbi in 1984 and numbers keep growing. Today, there are around 800 Jews in Gibraltar today, constituting 2% of the population. They maintain a full Jewish life and there are 4 synagogues as well as a Jewish day school and 2 kosher restaurants.

Moisés Hassán-Amselém, born in Seville of Moroccan and Algerian heritage, is an honorary lecturer on Holocaust-Shoa Studies and Antisemitism at the University "Pablo de Olavide" in Seville, Spain. Raised in a very traditional Sephardic family, he was an exchange student in California during his senior year in High School. After his graduation, Moises returned back to Spain and attended the University of Seville, obtaining a law degree in 1995. However, and after several years working in many different fields (Telecom industry, legal consultancy, scrap metal industry….) he decided to make a completely career change and focus on Jewish studies and mainly in the history of the Jews in Spain and the Sephardic diaspora. In addition to his role at the University "Pablo de Olavide", Moisés is also involved in informal Jewish education and lectures all over about these topics.

SHAVUOT IN HISTORICAL AND VISUAL PERSPECTIVE AMONG JEWISH COMMUNITIES, WEST AND EAST,

Prof. Shalom Sabar.  This lecture was on May 19th.

The three Pilgrimage Festivals (in Hebrew Shalosh Regalim) – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, are considered in Jewish tradition as milestones in the formation and the early history of Israel.

However, while Passover and Sukkot have a historical event attached to them and each is celebrated over seven days (eight in the Diaspora), no specific event is associated with Shavuot and it lasts only one day (two in the Diaspora). Moreover, the date of the holiday is curiously not mentioned directly in the Bible, and in the past, it had no home rituals such as the Seder or the Sukkah. The rabbis of old, nonetheless, fixed the date for the holiday and gave it an important historical meaning - the Giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Based on this association, this formative event in Jewish history became the central in Jewish art as well, along with some fascinating customs that developed in the folkways of Jewish communities, West and East. In the lecture, we will discuss the meaning and development of some of these customs as they are reflected in Jewish visual culture since the Middle Ages. We will discover topics such as the symbolic imagery and ketubbot created for the mystical wedding between God and Israel, the first day of school and learning Torah, symbolic marriages (and divorces!) of children on Shavuot, decorating the synagogues and homes with green branches, roizalakh and shavuoslakh, baking special challot and even conducting water fights.

Shalom Sabar is a Professor Emeritus of the Dept of Art History and Jewish Folklore of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalom has been our amazing scholar in residence on many of our tours throughout many years. Shalom has introduced us all to the wonderful culture, art and folklore of so many Jewish communities throughout the world. His wonderful enthusiasm has rubbed off on everyone who listens to him!

A VIRTUAL TOUR OF SALONIKA – A BRIDGE OF THREE CULTURES: GREEK, JEWISH AND OTTOMAN,  Kapi Panao.  This lecture was on May 26th.

 

Quick changes and dramatic contrasts in a city of many stories, innumerable treasures, splendid monuments and a non-stop heartbeat since antiquity. This is the essence of Thessaloniki which bears the name of Alexander’s sister.  In the course of history, Thessaloniki has hosted Romans being built on their Egnatia road, Jews as their “Madre di Israel”, Crusaders and Venetians as a “valuable crossroad”, Ottomans as a “must have city”; last but not least, Thessaloniki had always been the Byzantine empire’s second city. Having been a safe shelter for immigrants and refugees, the city formed a multicultural, cosmopolitan character. The Jewish presence in Thessaloniki counts 21 centuries, since throughout history, Jews from the Mediterranean and central Europe were arriving and settling here, in groups. Starting with ancient Jews from Alexandria the ancestors of Romaniote Greek Jews, then Ashkenazim Jews from Hungary and Germany, followed by Jews from Provence, Italy and Sicily; last but not least, the 20.000 Sephardim Jews who arrived after having been expelled from Spain.  And against calamity and disasters Thessaloniki still embraces proudly its diverse landmarks: the ancient forum, the roman arches and palace, the unique byzantine churches, Jewish synagogues and monuments, the traditional upper town, the Ottoman structures, all within its medieval walls: an open-air museum! Different cultural routes intersect in a city built on a crossroads between East and West.

 

Born in Salonica, Greece Kapi Panou is a highly qualified tour guide and member of the World Federation of Tourist Guides' Associations (WFTGA) Group of Lead Trainers. She has a long experience in group and private guiding all over Greece. A university graduate (Philosophical School) and, currently, a trainer in the School of Guides, Athens, she shares her knowledge and enthusiasm either with the most demanding "study" groups or the simple travellers who look for a comprehensive and thorough interpretation of the secrets of the Greek and Jewish heritage and contemporary life. She is always at the disposal of the "world" traveller who appreciates the "art of guiding."

JEWS IN ARABIA: TO YEMEN AND BACK, Prof. Gary Rendsburg.  This lecture was on June 2nd.

 

The least known Jewish community in the ancient world is the network of Jews who populated the Arabian Peninsula during the years between the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the rise of Islam during the 7th century C.E. Nonetheless, a significant amount of material written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Arabic, and South Arabian – much of it discovered only within the past several decades – illuminates these Jewish communities.

Jews lived in oases in northern Arabia, they lived as Jewish tribes in and around Medina, and they even formed the basis of a Jewish kingdom in Yemen – while the wealthiest among them arranged for their burials in the land of Israel, notwithstanding the great distances involved. The narrative reminds us how time and again the historian of Judaism needs to have the broadest cultural and geographical horizons.

 

Gary A. Rendsburg serves as the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University. His teaching and research focus on ‘all things ancient Israel’ – primarily language and literature, though also history and archaeology. His secondary interests include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew manuscript tradition, and Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Prof. Rendsburg is the author of seven books and about 180 articles. His most recent book is How the Bible Is Written (Hendrickson, 2019), with particular attention to the use of language to create literature. In addition, he has produced two programs for the Great Courses program, one on ‘The Book of Genesis’ and one on ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls’. During his career, Prof. Rendsburg has served as visiting professor or visiting researcher at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Sydney, Hebrew University, UCLA, Colgate University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

THE JEWS AND THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller. This lecture was on June 15th.

What does the term Renaissance really mean to the Jews of the time and to a historian of Jewish history? By the early sixteenth century, European Jews lived in peace only in Italy. Was this status related to the Renaissance? We will examine the internal structure of the Jewish community and the seeming selective adoption of Renaissance culture as integral expressions of Jewish cultural identity. 

Originally from London, Katherine Aron-Beller is lecturer of Jewish History in the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University and at Tel Aviv University. Her areas of expertise are medieval Jewish history, early modern Jewish-Christian relations, the early modern Inquisition and Anti-Semitism. In 2007-8 she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the George Washington University in Washington DC. At present she is a Visiting Scholar of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. She is the author of Jews on Trial: The Papal Inquisition in Modena 1598-1638 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011), the co-editor of The Roman Inquisition: Centre versus Peripheries (Leiden: Brill, 2018) and many other articles on the Catholic Inquisition, anti-semitism and the Jews of Italy. She is now finishing a book called "Christian Images and Jewish Desecrators: The History of an Allegation," 400-1700." Dr. Aron-Beller has been a scholar in residence on many trips with Jewish Historical Seminars including trips to Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily and Italy and the ones we were planning to Alsace and Provence.

 

THE UNDERGROUND ARTISTIC TREASURES IN THE METROS OF MOSCOW AND ST. PETERSBURG, Jane Kempinsky.  This lecture was on June 16.

Moscow and St.Petersburg subways are known as underground Soviet palaces and museums. This is where one can find 72 bronze sculptures decorating one station, giant mosaics on the walls, ceilings representing happiness and friendship of Soviet people, grand glass columns, multi-colored stain-glass windows and much more. And next to these beautiful stations visited by millions people a day there are empty and secret ones - a parallel metro system built especially for the country leaders. 

Jane Kempinski is a tour guide from St.Petersburg, Russia who has been giving tours for about 15 years already and is absolutely in love with her city and her job. She is Jewish, born and raised in Leningrad and then St.Petersburg. Her family has been living in St. Petersburg since the early 1920’s originating from the Pale of Settlement – Ukraine, Belorussia and Poland. Jane started specific Jewish Heritage tours of St.Petersburg and about 12 years ago started incorporating and interconnecting Russian and Jewish history and culture. Her idea is to show St.Petersburg from the Jewish prospective, giving one a taste of what it is to be a Jew living in Russia.