From Sofia to Salonika
Bulgaria, Macedonia &
Northern Greece
Jewish Gems of the Balkans
June 21-July 2, 2023

Overview

Jews have lived in the Balkans since Roman times, primarily Sephardic Jews who arrived following the expulsion from Spain in 1492. Over the next 500 years, Sephardic culture — songs, cuisine, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish language), customs, and folklore — defined the Jewish communities of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece.

Trace this rich tapestry of community and culture with us. In Sofia, we will meet with leading members of the Jewish community, visit its magnificent synagogue, enjoy day-long outings to Plovdiv and the Rila Monastery, and tour other sites of interest, including Bulgaria’s National Historical Museum and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. We continue to Skopje, capital of Macedonia, and see its Holocaust Memorial Center and the Beit Yaakov Synagogue in the Jewish community center. We will have ample time to stroll through the Oriental cobblestone streets of its old bazaar. In Thessaloniki, once dubbed the “Jerusalem of the Balkans” and known as Salonika until 1937, we will be hosted by the local Jewish community. We will visit the city’s two synagogues and the important Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. We will learn about the tragic fate of Salonika’s Jews during the Holocaust and see other important sites, including the Hagia Sofia Church and the tomb of Alexander the Great’s son, Philip II.

Throughout our stay in Bulgaria, we will enjoy lectures on the Jews of Bulgaria by scholar and guide Joseph Benatov. In Greece, our guide and expert will be Hella Kounio-Matalon, whose research has focused on the history of Jewish life in Macedonia and Salonika. During the course of our trip, we will experience spectacular countryside, enjoy deluxe accommodations, and have the opportunity to meet members of the local Jewish community.

Highlights

  •  11 nights of deluxe accommodations in Sofia, Skopje, and Thessaloniki
  • Tours of Bulgaria’s National Historical Museum, the Ethnological Museum, Museum Trakart, the Dimitar Peshev museum, the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia, the tomb of Philip II of Macedonia, and the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum
  • Walking tours of Sofia’s Old Town and Independence Square, Skopje’s old market, Thessaloniki’s synagogue, Old Market, and more — including the White Tower
  • Presentations and discussions with local scholars, including Joseph Benatov, director of the modern Hebrew language program and associate director of the Jewish studies program at the University of Pennsylvania
  • A visit to Barbouta, the preserved Jewish quarter of Veria dating back to the mid-1800s

Itinerary

Day-by-day schedule coming soon.

Traveling with you…

Joseph Benatov holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches Hebrew at all levels. He is originally from Bulgaria and a member of Sofia’s Jewish community. Dr. Benatov is the English translator of the contemporary Bulgarian novel Zift. He has also translated Israeli poetry, prose, and drama. His translations of plays by Hanoch Levin, Martin McDonagh, and Ethan Coen were all staged to wide acclaim in Bulgaria. Dr. Benatov has over 10 years’ experience leading travelers across Bulgaria, 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 has published on the fate of Bulgaria’s Jews during the Holocaust. His article on the topic appears in the anthology Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Post-Communist Europe (University of Nebraska Press).

Accommodations

Deluxe hotel accommodations are being arranged.

Details

Program cost: $5,950* includes:

  • 11 nights’ accommodations at deluxe hotels
  • Full breakfast daily; five lunches; six dinners
  • All group transportation via deluxe air-conditioned coach
  • All lectures, guided tours, museums and site entrance fees

*Per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement: $1300. Fees not included: gratuities: $165. Museum of Jewish Heritage membership for nonmembers: $54.

Secure your place

Book Now: use the link below to reach our easy online booking form.

By phone: 845-256-0197 Monday–Friday, 10am–4pm EST.

Payment Reserve your space with a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 per person. Final balance is due 120 days prior to departure.

Membership Tours offered by the Museum of Jewish Heritage are available to active members. The individual annual membership is $54 and will be collected at the time of final payment for any nonmembers. To see the list of benefits, visit the museum’s website.

Participation Tour sizes are limited to 26 participants unless otherwise noted. Trips entail considerable walking including over uneven terrain. Participants need to be in good health, be able to keep up with the group, be able to experience group and cultural differences with grace, and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Please let us know if you have any physical conditions that may require special attention while on tour.

Cancellations All cancellations must be received by Jewish Heritage Travel in writing. Cancellations received 120 days or more prior to departure: full refund less nonrefundable deposits, per person; 119–90 days prior to departure: 50% refund per person after nonrefundable deposits. 89–0 days before departure: no refund.

Trip Cancellation Insurance Jewish Heritage Travel strongly urges all participants to purchase travel insurance for coverage of losses necessitated by having to cancel due to illness or accident. For your convenience, we are providing a link to Allianz Global Assistance, which many past participants have used. Please use code ACCAM/Agency ID# F026815 or feel free to use your own insurance agent. When purchasing insurance, please consider the plans carefully to familiarize yourself with what is covered. In this context, do take note that most insurance companies generally will waive exclusion for preexisting conditions only if your application is received by them within 14 days from the date of your program registration. If you have a preexisting medical condition and are interested in taking trip insurance, you should do so either with Allianz or through your own insurance agent within 14 days of registration.

Changes All rights are reserved by Jewish Heritage Travel to make scholar substitutions and/or to modify the itinerary (including hotels) as needed. Every reasonable effort will be made to operate the program as planned; however, should unforeseen world events and conditions require the itinerary to be altered, Jewish Heritage Travel reserves the right to do so for the safety and best interest of the group. Any extra expenses incurred in this situation are the responsibility of the participant.

Disclaimer of Responsibility By registering for this program, participant specifically waives any and all claims of action against the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Heritage Travel office and their respective staffs for damages, loss, injury, accident, or death incurred by any person in connection with this tour. The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Heritage Travel office and their respective staffs assume no responsibility or liability in connection with the service of any train, vessel, carriage, aircraft, or other conveyance that may be used wholly or in part in the performance of their duty to the passengers. Neither will the Museum of Jewish Heritage or the Jewish Heritage Travel office or their staffs be responsible for any injury, death, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity through neglect or default of any company or person engaged in carrying out the purposes for which tickets, vouchers, or coupons are issued. No responsibility is accepted for losses or expenses due to sickness, viruses, weather, strikes, wars, and other causes. In the event it becomes necessary or advisable for any reason whatsoever to alter the itinerary or arrangements, including hotels or scholars, such alterations may be made without penalty. All rights reserved to require any participant to withdraw from the tour at his/her own expense when such an action is determined by the tour staff to be in the best interest of the participant’s health and safety and that of the group in general. Prices subject to change. Cost in effect at time of registration will be honored.

Registration