YOM KIPPUR IN THE ART AND FOLKLORE OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES Through the Ages,  Prof. Shalom Sabar.

This lecture took place on September 14, 2021.

Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year, does not commemorate a historical event, rather emphasizing personal repentance, atonement, and charity. As every Jew knows well, the day is characterized by a heavy mood, intensive prayers, spending most of the day in the synagogue, and a day-long fast. However, the holiday was not always celebrated in this familiar manner and scholars even doubt when and how it was formed, and what were its characteristics in biblical and Second Temple times. In the Middle Ages, Jewish poets imbued new meanings in the Day of Atonement, and artists of the splendid Machzorim in Ashkenaz created innovatively striking iconography for these piyyutim. Special customs that developed in the course of time, such as the Kapparot and flagellation, attracted the attention of Christian Hebraists, who wished to highlight the"superstitions" of European Jews. Aside from such images, some curious objects and items of clothing were created for the holiday in different communities. The solemnity of the day drove 19th cent. leading the Jewish artists, Moritz Oppenheim and Maurycy Gottlieb in particular, to create monumental paintings that became familiar icons of the holiday. More critical points of view are presented in modern and Israeli art.  

​​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!  Shalom is a wealth of information and we thought it would be wonderful to have him lecture at this time on the art and folklore of Yom Kippur in Jewish communities.

THE SILK ROAD FROM ASIA MINOR TO CENTRAL ASIA: INCLUDING THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE, Jacob Shoshan.

This lecture took place on September 23, 2021.

Tracing the route which had connected East and West over the millennia, we'll visit many Jewish Communities. Some of them have thrived in Asia Minor, at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains and around the Caspian Sea for many centuries. They are not of Sephardi or Ashkenazi origin, and they present a unique kind of the Judaism. Let's hear their special story and learn about what has happened to them in the last few decades.

 

Our guide will be Jacob Shoshan. Born in Jerusalem, he is a licensed tour guide in Israel as well as a teacher and lecturer for The Tour Guide Colleges in Israel. He is also a Senior Tour Director and Lecturer for the Geographical Society, Israel. Jacob has visited 98 countries and led tours in 65 countries on all six continents and is fluent in 15 languages. He presents in-depth discussions on Jewish history, philosophy and culture and is deeply involved in Holocaust education.

PARIS – THE JEWISH VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE, Karen Reb Rudel.  This lecture took place on September 30, 2021.

Karen Rue Rudel will cover the history of the Jewish Community in Paris with stories from Holocaust survivors and their families, Rabbis, and Jewish friends in Paris. She will cover the history from the time when the Jewish community arrived in France until today with amazing photos of the past. We will explore the Old Jewish Quarter of Paris, the Marais as well as the Hotel de Sully, the oldest synagogue in Paris, the famous synagogue of Hector Guimard, the exterior of the Musée Carnavalet, the SHOAH Holocaust Memorial & Museum and much more.

Born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Karen Reb Rudel grew up with the aspiration to be a comedian, a musician, or both. She went on to study drama at Temple University in Philadelphia and played in a series of bands. From the age of 30 until she got married, Karen was back and forth between Paris and Philadelphia, working on musical projects and touring (including being the flautist and singer in a Reggae band in Paris). One day her parents came to visit her and Karen, having learned a lot about Paris, was showing them around when her mother exclaimed, “Karen, you would make a great tour guide!” That was the light bulb moment, and as the French say, voila! Paris has been Karen’s stomping ground for over 20 years, and her company is in a unique position to give you the historical background and underground cultural scoops that most walking tours leave out.

 

JEWISH ART UNDER ISLAM: THE ILLUSTRATED KETUBBAH AS MIRROR TO JEWISH LIFE IN IRAN AND AFGHANISTAN: BETWEEN EFFLORESCENCE AND PERSECUTION, Prof. Shalom Sabar. This lecture took place on October 13, 2021.

In the Jewish tradition, the joyous practice of decorating the ketubbah expresses the happiness and festivity of the marriage ceremony. Over the ages this creative Judaic art form became more and more sophisticated, reaching its height in Baroque Italy. The art of ketubbah took a different path among the Jews of Islam, who were actually the first to espouse and develop this custom as early as the 9th-10th centuries. Over the ages, Iran became the unequaled center of ketubbah illustration outside Italy and Europe. Despite the poverty and harsh conditions of Jewish life in Iran, the major communities, such as Teheran, Isfahan, Yazd, Shiraz, Hamadan, the Kurdish community of Sanandaj, and the sister community of Herat in Afghanistan, developed each their own typical style and meaningful motifs that enriched their ketubbot with colorful decorative designs influenced by Iranian arts and crafts, such as illuminated Koran manuscripts or the luxurious Persian carpets. The decorations embody at the same time the Jewish identity of the community and its position as a proud religious minority in a hostile environment. This is especially the case with the intriguing ketubbot of the holy city of Mashhad, where the Jews were forced to convert to Islam but continued to keep their unique Jewish traditions staunchly,

producing for each wedding two parallel marriage contracts, one Muslim for the public ceremony, and one Jewish for the secretive ritual held in the circle of the close family.

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!  We thought this topic will be excellent since it’s an area we don’t travel to and via the various kettubot, we’ll be able to learn about these Jewish communities.

 

THE MEMORABLE HISTORY OF THE JEWS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller. This lecture took place on October 19, 2021

 

The Jews of England are the best documented national Jewish community in medieval Christendom. In 1066 when William the Conqueror, the new Norman king came to England he invited his Jews from his Norman possessions to settle there with him. Not only was he the most important conqueror and usurper in English history but he seems to have been the first medieval King who transported Jews with him to a new land. How ironic it is that just over two hundred years later, England was the first European land to exile its Jews  in 1290. Join me for a trip to medieval England, to encounter these Jews and their lives in the medieval period. We will travel to Canterbury, Cambridge,

Lincoln, London, Norwich, Oxford and York to visit their houses, their synagogue spaces and other public areas where important events happened.

 

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.Jews.

 

THE TREASURES OF THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY (OXFORD), Prof. Gary Rendsburg.  This lecture took place on Oct 27, 2021.

 

Simply stated, the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford has the greatest collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the world.  Star attractions include: Maimonides’s own handwritten copy of his Commentary on the Mishna; his personal copy (written by a trusted scribe) of his Mishneh Torah (Code of Jewish Law); and the Kennicott Bible, written in Spain in 1476, the crown jewel of all medieval Jewish manuscripts.The lecture will trace the history of the Judaica collection, starting with Thomas Bodley (1545–1613) himself, founder of the library, advisor to Queen Elizabeth, and accomplished Hebraist.  We also will discuss the remarkable work and distinguished careers of John Selden, Edward Pococke, and Robert Huntington, three important 17th English scholars, with the latter two having traveled widely in the Middle East, from their base in Aleppo. Gary Rendsburg has lived in Oxford and has conducted academic research at the Bodleian Library.  Join us as he brings the verve and culture of the library to life, with both serious history teaching and a pleasant dose of Anglophilia.

 

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.

 

TRAVEL THE SILK ROAD IN CHINA FROM THE TIEN SHAN MOUNTAINS TO THE ANCIENT CAPITAL OF KAIFENG: MEET THE JEWISH COMMUNITY WHICH HAS LIVED HERE FOR CENTURIES TO LEARN ABOUT THE OTHER JEWISH GROUPS IN CHINA TODAY, Jacob Shoshan.  This lecture took place on Nov 10, 2021.

We will enter China from the Western edge of this enormous country and will travel from the Taklamakan Desert to the Tien Shan Mountains. Jacob Shoshan will speak about the different ethnicities and religions as we enter the land of the Uyghurs and explore Xinjiang. In Tengrism, Khan Tengri is the lord of all spirits and the religion's supreme deity. In the lecture, Jacob will show us fascinating temples – Moslem, Christian, Buddhist – and Jewish! We will visit the Jewish community in Kaifeng and hear their amazing story. Jacob will speak about the fate of tens of thousands of Jews seeking shelter in Eastern China during the horrible years of the Holocaust. We wil also learn about the Jewish Republic tucked away at the far edges of Siberia, where everything is written in Yiddish!

 

Our guide will be Jacob Shoshan. Born in Jerusalem, he is a licensed tour guide in Israel as well as a teacher and lecturer for The Tour Guide Colleges in Israel. He is also a Senior Tour Director and Lecturer for the Geographical Society, Israel. Jacob has visited 98 countries and led tours in 65 countries on all six continents and is fluent in 15 languages. He presents in-depth discussions on Jewish history, philosophy and culture and is deeply involved in Holocaust education.

THE RISE, FALL AND RESURGENCE OF JEWISH LIFE IN ST. PETERSBURG/LENINGRAD, Jane Kempinsky.  This lecture took place on Nov 17, 2021.

Discussing St. Petersburg/ Leningrad’s Jewish community, Jane Kempinsky will speak about its life under the Soviet regime. She will speak about the anti-Semitism and anti-Zionisim as part of the state policy which resulted in a phenomena called "refusniks". Jane will share her personal story which perfectly illustrates the life of a Soviet Jewish family. Also covered in the lecture will be the modern day situation and see the changes of Jewish life and identity which took place recently. She will also walk us along the historical part of St. Petersburg which includes sites which are connected to the Jewish history. St. Petersburg as a former capital of Russian Empire perfectly illustrates connections between Russian and Jewish history.

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 perspective, giving one a taste of what it is to be a Jew living in Russia.

THE JEWISH JOURNEY IN THE DESERT: THEN AND NOW, Abraham Silver.  This lecture took place on Nov 24, 2021.

When we think of Jewish Space, we conjure up images of synagogues, or perhaps the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. But there is another Jewish Space, the desert. It is in the desert that the Jewish national consciousness is formed, and it is in the desert that the Torah was given to the Jewish People. It is the place of the formation of our identity and religion. And, as the backyard of the Land of Israel, it is the desert where we find sanctuary; where some of the greatest events that shaped the Jewish people happened, from Masada to Qumran. In Modern Times, the desert in Israel once again is helping define Jewish Space, from the concept of “making the desert bloom” being realized in modern desert agricultural settlements to using the desert to find new ways to fight climate change. This will be a journey through the backyard deserts of Israel, the Judean Desert and the Negev. We will visit sites and ideas that have defined the desert and a fundamental aspect of the Jewish Journey, then and now.

Abraham Silver was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After receiving a B.A. in History and Philosophy from S.U.N.Y. Binghamton, Abraham moved to Kibbutz Ketura, a socialist pioneering settlement in Israel’s Negev desert, where he spent nineteen years as a date farmer. Abraham completed an M.A. in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. His architectural emphasis is on the design of Jewish Space in Israeli and modern American Jewish architecture. In addition to practicing architecture, he is a licensed tour guide and senior Jewish/Israel educator. Abraham’s background has led him to a unique understanding of Tel Aviv as the most Jewish city in the world: its development, its architecture, its impact on the Jewish world and Jewish Identity and the implications for the global family of nations. He provides specialty tours of Tel Aviv. Abraham is also a lecturer on the Architecture of Jerusalem at Hebrew University. He is co-author of the book “Living the Dream: Israel at 50” as well as “Israel at 60: People, Places and History”, a three-volume set of DVDs. He is also co-founder of the Israel informational website, “Access Israel.” Abraham and his wife Elissa live in Tel Aviv with their two thirteen-year-old daughters, Shiri and Libi.

 

THE JEWS OF GREECE: ROMANIOTE AND SEPHARDIM, THE FUSION OF TRADITIONS, Dr. Eliezer Papo.  This lecture took place on Dec 1, 2021.

With the 1492 Expulsion, the heart and the mind of the Jewish people worldwide (namely: the most numerous and important medieval Jewry) collapsed. Sepharad - the center from which the instruction and the fashion were coming to the entire Jewish world, was now totally devastated. Most of the expelled Sepharadim opted for the Ottoman empire, many of them coming to the port of Salonica in the present day Greece. Here, in the Balkans, the Sephardic newcomers met with their Romaniote brethren. Within few generations, the two communities merged. It is popularly assumed that Sepharadim, coming from a more prominent center of intellectual life, have actually swallowed the local community. However, this assumption is only partially right. It’s true that linguistically, most of the descendants of the merged communities, switched to Ladino, leaving only a handful of Romaniote enclaves not touched by the Ladino (but deeply sephardized in many other aspects). At the same time, as this lecture hopes to show, the descendants of the Sephardic newcomers were romaniotised, switching their traditional focus on philosophy and argumentation to liturgy and mystical experience. This switch had to do a lot with the setting of the Ottoman (ex-Eastern Roman) Empire and was based on the experience and strategies of the local 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. Dr. Papo’s research centers on Hebrew/Jewish oral literatures, with specialization in the field of Sephardic literatures (oral and written, rabbinic and secular). His book And Thou Shall Jest with Your Son: Judeo-Spanish Parodies on the Passover Haggadah, received the prestigious Ben-Tzvi award. 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.

MICHELANGELO: AN INSIGHT TO HIS LIFE AND INCREDIBLE WORK (KNOWN AND UNKNOWN), Simona Conti.  This lecture took place on Dec 8, 2021.

Michelangelo Buonarroti is probably the most studied artist of all times and in part his fame is due to the aura of genius and "self made" artist that accompanies him. In this presentation we would like to show the human being, learning from the study of the classics as well as from his Florentine colleagues and competitors. A man working like a slave to please his demanding clients and to secure a decent life to his large, bloodsucking family. A man, whose life crossed almost an entire century, the Renaissance, one of the most stimulating times in art and culture.

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! 

SEPHARDIC JEWS IN AMSTERDAM’S GOLDEN AGE: A VISUAL TOUR, Dr. Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld.  This tour took place on Dec 145, 2021.

Since the end of the sixteenth century, refugees from the Iberian Peninsula, former New-Christians, started to settle down in the eastern part of Amsterdam. There, in the relatively tolerant environment of the young Dutch Republic, they returned as so called New Jews to the faith of their forefathers setting up a Jewish community that quickly gained world renown for its wealth and benevolence. Via a historic and visual tour through this neighborhood, their story will be told including new research highlighting gender, material culture and social life. Moreover, the tour will expand into findings from the newest archaeological digs in the Jewish neighborhood, which was on show in the Jewish Museum of Amsterdam.

Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld earned her PhD in Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She specializes in European Jewish History of the early modern period, concentrating particularly on social and cultural aspects of the Sephardi community of early modern Amsterdam about which she published widely. Once a curator of the Jewish Museum, she is at present an independent scholar, living in Amsterdam. As such she has been teaching at the department of Jewish Studies of the University of Amsterdam, while she also works as a senior fellow at the Zentrum für Jüdische Studien in Berlin. Besides, she is involved in different research projects, acting as an academic advisor to the Jewish Museum. Moreover, she guides different M.A. and Ph.D. students and post-Docs, in the Netherlands and abroad. Her book Poverty and Welfare among the Portuguese Jews of Early Modern Amsterdam (Oxford: Littman 2012) won in the United States, the National Jewish Book Award of 2012 in the category of Sephardi Culture. Over the years, together with the late Professor Yom Tov Assis and with Prof. Shalom Sabar, Tirtsah assisted by leading Jewish Historical Seminar Tours throughout the Netherlands.

 

THE FASCINATING STORY OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL JEWISH FAMILIES OF PARIS AROUND THE PARC MONCEAU 1870-1935, Danielle Malka.  This lecture took place on Dec 22, 2021.

 

The 19th century was a golden age for the Jews in France. After 400 years when the Jews were not allowed to live and work in the greatest part of the country, a vote in 1792 during the Revolution, grants them the same rights as any French citizen. From all over Europe and even the Ottoman Empire, throughout the century, the poorest fleeing poverty and the pogroms, sometimes stopping on their way to America, and the richest wanting to settle their banks and businesses to participate in the innovations and booming of the country, will arrive in Paris.

Among them are the Rothschilds, the Pereires, the Camondos, the Ephrussis. We will discover how they interacted, why some of them chose to live by the Parc Monceau, a new area, and what their new interests in the arts brought to their lives and to France.

 

Our guide, Danielle Lifshitz Malka was born and bred in Paris. She has been a licensed tour guide for about 15 years now, after working in Paris and London as a journalist and then an English teacher. Her wish is to share with you her love and enthusiasm for Paris and that your tours should be informative, enjoyable, accompanied with anecdotes and cultural hints to make the places surprising and memorable.

THE VISUAL IMAGE OF THE JEW IN CATHOLIC EUROPE, Dr. Kathy Aron-Beller. This lecture took place on Dec 28, 2021.

 

The power of the visual image is now recognized by both historians and art historians, as a major influence on human conduct, not only in the Middle Ages, but also in later periods. In the medieval period, the function and production of images underwent a profound and permanent change. The great edifices of the cathedrals, for example rising over the cities – the new centers of power in Western Europe were filled with a vastly expanded number of representations. I think we sometimes forget how any artistic creations were very much controlled by the Church, at least until the Renaissance. Art served as the book of the illiterate and allowed the church to disseminate Christian knowledge and belief among the masses.  Dr. Aron-Beller will argue that this type of Christian art sought to discredit the “outmoded beliefs” of Judaism, among other things. We will survey the areas where Jews were associated derogatorily with Christian teachings and learn how to recognize a Jew in Christian depictions of Jews. Images include those of Judas Iscariot, the Golden Calf, the circumcision and the Passion. Then we will survey the various types of iconographic stereotypes in Christian art such as Ecclesia and Synagoga, and the Judensau explicitly created to present a derogatory statement against Jews and anti-Judaism. We will confirm that much image making in the Middle Ages is not only about clearly articulated symbolic programs but rather about distortion, the concealment of intended meaning, and misinterpretation, modes of experience we are all too familiar with today.

 

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.