As in many countries, Jewish people have had a presence in Estonia for hundreds of years. Historical archives reveal that Jews first arrived in Estonia in the 14th century. However, it was not until the 20th century that the Jewish community of Estonia, a small country that borders Russia and Latvia, encountered a series of important turning points.
There are many things that make the north African country of Tunisia unique. One of these, historically speaking, is that it was the only Arab nation in the whole world to come under German occupation during WWII. This means that as in many European countries, the Jews of Tunisia were forced into labor, their property was confiscated, and they were required to wear the Star of David. Many were deported; many others were executed.
The cherished annual celebration that is marked with turkey and pumpkin pie is unique to the United States of America. However, the concept of a holiday that is designed to give thanks and celebrate with family is one that is recognized in several different countries. In fact, many cultures around the world have been giving thanks since ancient times. Here is how different countries around the world celebrate Thanksgiving:
New York musician and musicologist Alexander Gelfand once wrote an article entitled, “Tango: Not Jewish, But Not 100% Not Jewish.” How can this be said about one of the most quintessential and well-loved symbols of the country of Argentina? Tango is not exactly known as having Jewish roots. However, like many things within Argentina’s history, it is not without Jewish influence.
The Jewish Chronicle Online recently reported that Jerusalem has been named among the top ten tourist destination cities in the Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. For those who have visited amazing sites such as the Western Wall and the City of David, this may come as no surprise. But are you surprised to learn that Siem Reap, Cambodia also ranks among the top ten? Many people are, because Cambodia is still a country that is often misunderstood.
What many people know of Cambodia is the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979, which was led by Solath Sar, who is also known as Pol Pot. Pol Pot wanted to make Cambodia into an agrarian society, forcing city dwellers to move to the countryside to work on farms, essentially as slave laborers. In addition to forced slave labor, the people of Cambodia were deprived of proper nutrition, medicine, and health care. The result was that millions of Cambodians perished. Many died of malaria, which could have been relatively easily treated at this time. However in the conditions they were forced to live and work, and with no treatment, it spread quickly and killed many. Hundreds of Cambodians were taken to a secret prison is Phnom Penh, where they tortured and interrogated, and eventually put to death. Due to the rule of the Khmer Rouge regime, about 21% of the total population, or approximately 2.5 million Cambodians, died.
As Jews, how can we not feel empathy towards the Cambodians for their suffering? We can feel nothing but compassion and understanding for their hardships. We know that today, each Cambodian has a personal story about how his or her family was touched by the genocide, and the survival stories are deeply haunting. The Cambodian peoples have experienced their own holocaust. Yet much like the Jewish people, today their persecutors have fallen, and they are able to stand proudly.
By visiting Cambodia today, it is hard to believe that the country was once the victim of such a cruel regime. Everywhere, you find yourself surrounded by a magical sense of intrigue that is unique to Cambodia.
In Siem Reap, you can visit the nearby temples of Angkor, which was the capital of the Khmer Empire from 882 to 1350 AD. In 1992, Angkor was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. At this time, it underwent a considerable number of restoration projects, so that today visitors can witness Angkor, and namely its chief temple called Angkor Wat, in all of its glory. The building of Angkor Wat itself is considered to be the world’s largest religious building- and remember, that’s just one building of many! The whole area of Angkor is stunningly expansive and ornate, and displays its own unique type of architecture. You’ll see decorative towers, shaped like lotus buds, climbing towards the sky, and gigantic expanses of murals, carved walls, and moats. Overall, the effect is quite stunning. To get a look at what Angkor Wat, the cherished symbol of Cambodia, watch this short video clip.
You may also be surprised to learn that in Cambodia, you will find a Chabad Jewish Center. Their building is located in Phnom Penh, and they host a variety of events, including synagogue services and adult education. They also hold holiday celebrations, such as this Chanukah party in Siem Reap. Browse around Chabad Cambodia’s site while you are there. I always find it fascinating to learn about Jewish culture in some of the far corners of the world- where we may least expect to find it!
The Jewish community in Finland is not one that is particularly large. Today, the Jewish community is comprised of a total of about 1,500 individuals out of a total population of about 5 million people. Despite its small size, however, the community is one that has its own interesting history and characteristics.
There are a few different places in this world that, when asked, I consider to be “home.” Among them are the New York and Panama. But sometimes there is a difference between what your heart calls home and what your head calls home. Today, I am happy to call the city of Chashmonaim, Israel home; home to both my head and my heart.
For those who choose to keep kosher, doing so at home does not present nearly the challenge of trying to keep a kosher diet while traveling. Still, there is no reason that you cannot keep Kosher while on vacation. Yes, it will require a little extra planning, but it can be done. Below are some tips to make it a little easier.
If traveling by plane on a flight on which food will be served, be sure to tell the reservationist about your dietary requirements at the time you book the flight. As soon as you see your tickets, be sure to check that the special request has been printed on them.
Kosher and other specialty meals are almost always prepared only upon request. If not ordered ahead of time, it is highly unlikely you will be able to order such a meal while in flight.
Specialty Travel Services
One way to avoid the hassle of finding kosher meals on each leg of your journey is to book your vacation through a travel service that specializes in handling Jewish travelers. Such travel services will usually include arranging for kosher meals throughout your trip.
In the Foil
If you are eating a hot meal at a restaurant, ask the server to have your food cooked in aluminum foil and that it be served to you in the same foil in which it was cooked.
Check the Seal
While ordering a baked potato (to be served in foil as suggested above) seems like a great way to eat Kosher, be sure that you check the butter for hechser. When in doubt about any food, ask to check the label.
Fridge in the Room
When staying at a hotel, some find it is far easier to keep a stash of acceptable foods rather than trying to eat out for every meal. When booking your hotel reservation, be sure to ask for a room with a refrigerator. That way it will be easier to keep a stash of foods to hold you over during the times when finding a kosher meal is proving to be difficult.
Obviously, you do not want to eat a lot of junk food. However, when you are away, stocking up on snacks at the airport or at a local convenience store may be your only option. Some are surprised to find how many of the snacks in stores are Kosher.
Kosher Restaurant Websites
Another great tool for Jewish travelers are websites that list kosher restaurants in various locations. You can type in where you will be staying and a list of kosher restaurants will pop up. What could make keeping Kosher easier than finding a list of Kosher restaurants?
Some travelers pack cans of meat because finding kosher meat in a strange place can prove challenging. Others just determine to eliminate meat from their diet during the time that they are away.
Keeping kosher while traveling is not that difficult. With a little thought and planning you will be able to enjoy eating out during your vacation while still keeping kosher.