Jewish Communities in Unlikely Places
by Sheila Steinberg
Dateline: November 5, 2012
On a transatlantic cruise from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale this past fall, we were making a stop in Vigo, Spain, on the north coast of the Atlantic. Not caring for the offered shore excursions, and having just come off the Hadassah Centennial Convention, I contacted the Vigo Tourist Office about hiring a car to take us 30 miles east to the town of Ribadavia.
Why Ribadavia, you may ask? I noticed during my pre-cruise research that Vigo and Ribadavia were in the area of Spain called Galicia, as in "Galicianer Jews." I went on-line and found a great deal of information about the area, and Ribadavia was listed as the center of Sephardic Jewish life in the region before 1492. I read further that the town had a Sephardic Museum above its town hall! Who would have thought?
So we recruited 2 other Jewish couples we had met and took off in a Land Rover for parts unknown.
Our driver came prepared with a printed sheet for each couple, describing the history of Jewish life in Ribadavia. When we arrived, we found that the museum was closed due to water damage, BUT the entire town square and the major street leading off of it had been the Jewish Quarter 500 years ago.
Our proof? On the cobblestones beneath our feet was a brass plaque with the Hebrew letters "Shin, fe, hey (Sefah)." And on the wall of the first building, a mosaic mezzuzah still stood in bright relief on the doorpost. There were Jewish stars on the filigreed trimwork, and more mezzuzahs as we walked on.
Our guide had really done his homework, as he told us the history of the Quarter and the entire area. He showed us the original synagogue, shops owned by Jews, and then took us to the only "Kosher" bakery in Galicia, owned by an elderly woman who imports her ingredients from Israel and makes many middle-Eastern treats to sell.
If you would like to go on-line yourself, Google "Jewish Sightseeing in Ribadavia, Spain." There are a number of pictures and great information about the history of the area. I highly recommend a side-trip, whether you're on your own, or visiting by cruise-ship.
From Jewish Federations of North America, March 22, 2011
"On the Ground: The Jewish Community of Japan"
"The Japanese are a resilient people and I am one hundred percent confident they will bounce back from this and be stronger than they were before," said Philip Rosenfeld, the 47-year-old treasurer of the JCJ and owner of JapanQuestJourneys, a boutique firm that specializes in customized luxury journeys to Japan.
Within 24 hours of the crisis, the JCJ was at the center of relief efforts. Together with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Community is working with JEN, a Japanese NGO specializing in disaster relief work...
JEN is currently operating in the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures ... generally focusing on shelter reconstruction, support of the socially vulnerable and emergency supply distribution, as well as providing emergency supplies, including food, hygiene products, and other material needs in the affected areas.
The JCJ is mostly made up of American, European and Israeli Jews, has a thriving Sunday School, is open to all, and warmly embraces Jewish life in this part of Asia.
Asian Jewish Life and eJewish Philanthropy are partnering together, leveraging global contacts, to bring first-hand information on how the Jewish/Israeli world is responding on the ground in the aftrmath of the Japanese quake.
Did you know there are Jews still living in Baghdad?
The Synagogues of Spain.
Cordoba's Moorish-designed "Sinagoga"
Inside the Transito
El Transito Sinagoga,
To see more pictures and read more about Jewish sites in Spain today, please click on "Jewish Travel Hot Spots" under Education.
THE JEWS OF CHINA
The 3rd wave arrived beginning about 1938, as the Nazis began their campaign to eliminate the Jewish population of Europe. An excellent memoir, Ten Green Bottles by Vivian Jeannette Kaplan, recounts one family's story of their trek from Vienna to Shanghai.
The Levis JCC in Boca Raton recently hosted a wonderful photo and artifacts retrospective on the Shanghai experience. Naomi Terk, a native of China, whose family came in the 2nd wave of immigration, told of her upbringing as a "Chinese child," and a 30-minute documentary was presented on the Japanese emissary to Lithuania, C. Sugihara, who, in the late 1930's, signed over 1000 visas for Russian and Polish Jews to leave for the safety of the Orient. Every one of those people survived, and Mr. Sugihara was named to the Wall of the Righteous in Yad Vashem.
UGANDA'S JEWISH COMMUNITY IS EXPANDING!
The eastern Ugandan town of Mbale is home to a small Jewish community, known as Abayudaya, from the Luganda word for 'Jews.'
Click here to see a YouTube piece from Christine Amanpour of CNN about the last Jews of Baghdad.