AACI Travel Blog

Skip-Gen Travel

What is Skip-Gen Travel? It’s a popular new way to travel between Grandparents and grandchildren, leaving out the generation in the middle (get it? skip that generation skip-gen). I’ve seen this trend grow and grow over the years until last year in 2019 when it was an official “travel trend” this because it’s so easy for retired grandparents and children in school to take time off, but working parents may not have that luxury. It gives grandparents a time where they can bond with the grandchildren, offer them new experiences, and give their children a little break while they have all the fun. There’s no need to bring parents with because Bubbe and Zayde know how to handle their loved ones too. And I think I’ve already spelled out why parents are interested in this, they get a break from one or more children even for a week. Some of my friends were able to get the time off and decided to send the kids off with their parents anyways and take their own vacation. Everyone loved it. My nephew went with my mother on a trip to America and their relationship got so much better. At his Bar Mitzvah they used tons of photos for the slide show from that trip.  James Moses, president and CEO of Road Scholar may have said it best to Travel Age West‘s writer Emma Weissman saying “Parents have a different role in their children’s lives than grandparents do, and these grandparent-grandchild learning and travel adventures give the two generations the chance to experience the world together,” he said. “They can observe each other navigating the world in ways they never could at home, or with their parents in the middle.”  

Some grand parents out there may be concerned about finding activities that are suitable for active kids, can hold their interest and work well for the grandparents. For this we recommend having other kids and grandparents around, and letting us worry about the planning. When one of the AACI’s frequent travelers (we’ll call him R.C.) came to us with the idea we knew it was great way to help grandparents and grand kids build life long memories with out having to have the hassle of all that planning. If you have a grandchild that is going to soon Emertzah Hashem be Bar or Bat Mitzvah or has already become a Bnei Mitzvah look at our schedule for our Bnei Mitzvah and Grandparent London trip, we’ve built a wonderful trip sure to impress even the most grumpy preteen.

What do Jews and Italians have in common? 

Feb. 3, 2020

Food of course! We both love to eat. When I made my first trip to Italy a decade and a half ago eating cucina ebraica romana (Roman Jewish cuisine) was a top priority. I mean who goes to Italy and doesn’t eat the food? I had also grown up with a Sicilian uncle who repeatedly told me many of the signature Italian dishes that I loved were actually made by Roman Jews,

Noodles, Tagliatelle, Pasta, Raw“Eggplant Parmesan was invented by Roman Jews who couldn’t eat Veal Parmesan” was always one of his claims. And no dish is evokes the idea Jewish Roman Food more than Jewish Artichoke. The artichoke is deep fried in, usually, olive oil until it resembles the best tasting potato chip you’ve ever had, but with the richness of the olive oil and the complex almost creamy flavor of the artichoke balancing the olive oil. A squeeze of lemon and the dish is like heaven. Like so many other tourists in Italy I planned my days around which food I would be eating where and then tried to see the sites in between the meals. My most surprising encounter was actually at the Colosseum, I was walking around when one of the big muscled men who who walk around in Roman armor came over to me and said, “Shalom, Aich Korim Lach?” I nearly dropped the book I was holding. He thought I looked Jewish, and felt the best way to figure out if I was was to just talk to me in Hebrew. He was a Roman Jew earning money between a busy college schedule by playacting a gladiator in the Colosseum.Bernini'S Colonnade, St, Peter'S Square

So many foods from the Venice Ghetto, the Roman Ghetto, and Tuscan Jewish communities have made their way out into “Classic Italian Food” that most Italians couldn’t tell you which food is originally Italian Jewish. Either way the food in Italy is amazing, and we’ll be deeply exploring the food when we travel there in June-July of this year.

We’ll even have cooking class and Shabbat in Rome after eating our way through Tuscany. If you love food you should join us.

Jewish Shanghai

Jan 22, 2020
Walking around what’s left of the Jewish community of Shanghai it’s hard to remember that this was a thriving Jewish community since the 8th century and a refuge for more than 30,000 Jews during the holocaust. My cousin Max Goldshmidt escaped Germany and rode out the holocaust here before emigrating to New York.  The whole Mir yeshiva made it here thanks to the noble efforts of Chiune Sugihara. I heard it started with whispers, “there’s a place Jews can go without a visa” and a visa for a European Jew in the 1930’s was something very hard to obtain. Jews started trickling in in the mid 30’s joining the already established Sephardi Jewish community whose rich businesses had created trade routes and Russian Jews who had fled the pogroms. Before the war there were 7-8,000 Jews in Shanghai. Besides for having an established and wealthy Jewish community there was no history of antisemitic activity. 
What? A place where Jews had lived for centuries and there was no antisemitic activity? Is there another location like this on earth? I don’t think so.
Old Farm House, 1933 Building, Shanghai, Architecture
If you’ve never read an account of Jews who escaped Germany on a cruise liner to get to the Shanghai ghetto I encourage you to read one of these surreal memoirs. A lot of the Jews escaped after Kristallnacht. They knew they were escaping certain death, unlivable discrimination and Jews were being shot in the streets. Then they boarded a luxury cruise liner, spent three weeks feasting, dancing and attending other entertainments on the ship. The cruise would often stop in Egypt and a number of their group was sure to try and jump ship at that port in the hopes of getting to Israel. Most were caught. Then they arrived in Shanghai where they were packed into a ghetto without walls, conditions were poor but certainly better than in Germany. And because the only reason the Japanese agreed to put the Jews in a ghetto was Germany convinced them that the every German Jew in Shanghai had committed  anti-German activities and thus anti-Japanese activities and not because the Japanese believed in antisemitism. The Shanghai Jews were allowed to have Jewish schools, Jewish sport clubs, Jewish community centers. You can still see several of the Shuls, community centers and schools today. Indeed the Jews in Shanghai had a richer Jewish life than their brothers in ghettos in Europe. Additionally the Sephardi Jews and Russian Jews didn’t have to live in the ghetto and had complete freedom, many of them helped as many of the Jewish refugees as they could. They were very outnumbered. 
China, Shanghai, Architecture
What a lot of people don’t realize about this fascinating story is that the Japanese wear persecuting the local Chinese citizens and many of them identified with the Jews there. The Chinese people didn’t leave their properties in the ghetto, and while this made the ghetto more crowded then was planned it kept the Jews from being cut-off both economically and socially which really helped with the survival of the Jews. And neither the Japanese or the Chinese understood why the Germans are antisemitic. A story was told about the Amshinover Rebbi Shimon Sholom Kalish (the Mir yeshiva wasn’t the only yeshiva to be operating in Shanghai) that a Japanese military official ordered Reb Kalish to come before him with an important question. The stone faced official asked him why the Germans hate Jews so much and without missing a beat Reb Kalish replied to the translator, “Zugim weil wir senen orientalim—Tell him [the Germans hate us] because we are Orientals.” and the official broke into a small smile before returning to his serious facial expression. 
I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you enjoyed reading about the Shanghai Jewish community keep your eyes open for when we announce the next trip we have that will go there. Because we are busy planning a “Classic China”  trip which includes a trip to Shanghai
Here’s what a “Classic China” tour looks like:
and we currently have a trip going to other parts of China and Tibet:

Dohány Street Great Synagogue

Jan. 1, 2020

Soon we will be heading on our Danube River Cruise and Prague Adventure and while in Budapest we will be seeing the Dohány Street Great Synagogue ( בית הכנסת הגדול של בודפשט). I had a chance to see this stunning building a few years ago. What you should know is that this shul and others designed with it changed the public face of Judaism throughout the world, and this distinctive mix of styles are still used in many synagogues.

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It was designed by Ludwig Christian Friedrich (von) Förster in 1854 who also designed: The Kazinczy Street Synagogue of Miskolc, and The Leopoldstädter Tempel in Vienna. While some of his largest and most notable works were synagogues Förster held the strong belief that Jews had no distinct architectural style so he designed his buildings with “architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people, and in particular the Arabs”. The building was designed in the Moorish Revival style but has also mixed in Byzantine, Romantic and Gothic properties which makes the layout feel like a church this was atypical of synagogues during it’s construction. At the time of it’s design Gothic Revival was at it’s height and everything built in this period had at least some Gothic elements. 
The layout was designed to copy a basilica church with three isles (often used in churches to represent the holy trinity), two balconies and unusually an organ. It’s worth noting that in other synagogues that Förster designed rabbinic authorities spoke out against the design and inclusion of an organ. In every other synagogue his designed were altered. This was not done at Dohány synagogue. On either side of the entrance there are twin octagonal towers that are 43 meters (141 ft) height each topped with an onion domes. This is typical of Russian Architecture. A rose stained-glass window sits over the main entrance between the towers and provides much of the dramatic lighting the shul is known for. Dohány Street Great Synagogue is the largest working shul in Europe and one of the largest in the world with a capacity of 2,964 seats 1,492 for men and 1,472 for women. 
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The synagogue was bombed by the Hungarian pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party on February 3, 1939. The Arrow Cross Party gained power from October 15, 1944 until  March 28, 1945. During their short rule, ten to fifteen thousand civilians (many of whom were Jews and Romani) were murdered before Nazi’s even took them away. Later it was used as a base for German Radio and also as a stable before the end of World War II, the shul suffered some serious damage from bombing during the Nazi Occupation and especially during the Siege of Budapest. During the Communist era in Hungary, the damaged structure was finally allowed again to be a prayer house for the very small Jewish community in Budapest. Its painstakingly careful restoration and renovation started in 1991, financed by the state and by private donations, and was completed in 1998. 
Ludwig Förster designed many of the largest synagogues in Europe with no eye or feeling toward the actual uses, needs and histories of the people using them. While his synagogues didn’t look like other shuls at the time they greatly influenced how synagogues were built after with many synagogues around the world from Jerusalem to Manhattan to Pittsburgh still echoing the Moorish, Byzantine, Gothic and Romantic design principles he introduced to Jewish communities. He literally changed the public face of the Jewish people. For better or worse, it’s hard to say what impact these designs have had on the history of the Jewish people but this synagogue is the best example of that influence in existence today, and it was very awe inspiring to see such an important piece of Jewish history. You could say because he mixed many styles that became distinctive in synagogue design that he created the Jewish architectural style he claimed didn’t exist.
We hope you can join us in seeing this important piece of Jewish history in May 2020.
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