Travel with a focus on content differentiates our trips from other travel programs.
Each of our scholars are outstanding experts in their fields and play an active role in helping us design our journeys as well as accompanying us as we travel.
Through lively presentations, informal discussions, and accessibility all along the way, our scholars share their expertise and perspective on the Jewish history, culture, and traditions of the countries we travel to.
Carefully chosen for their proficiency and ability to impart their knowledge in a way participants can easily assimilate and grasp, they help us experience the richness — and complexity — of Jewish heritage in the places we visit.
Hepzibah Alon earned a master’s degree in English literature from Bar-Ilan University and a bachelor’s in English literature and linguistics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has been a teacher for 17 years, having taught high school and college in the U.S. and Israel. Currently teaching at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, she is also a program associate for Facing History and Ourselves, where she mentors teachers and provides professional development for Jewish day schools in the United States.
Moshe Ben Simon
Moshe Ben Simon was born and raised in Tel Aviv-Israel, in a Sephardic Jewish family. After his military service in the Israeli army, Moshe moved to Sicily where he studied Literature and Philosophy and earned a B.A. from the University of Messina with his final thesis, “Inquisition and ‘Jewish Herecy’ in Sicily in the Period Between Ferdinand the Catholic and Charles V.” For the past 25 years, he has worked and lived in Sicily as a tour guide, specializing in the Jewish history of the island. Moshe has guided and lectured for three previous tours for Jewish Heritage Travel — all to great acclaim. He is also the author of numerous articles related to Judaism and Jewish history of Sicily, including, among others, “La Presenza Ebraica in Sicilia : Fra Memoria ed Oblio” (“The Jewish Presence in Sicily: Between Memory and Oblivion”).
Joseph Benatov, PhD
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).
Yoram Bilu is a professor emeritus of anthropology and psychology at the Hebrew University. His research interests include the anthropology of religion (focusing on saint worship, messianism, and religious healing), culture and mental health, the sanctification of space in Israel, and Moroccan Jewish culture.
Professor Bilu served as the chair of the department of psychology and the head of the Authority for Doctoral Students, both at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and as the president of the Israeli Anthropological Association. He has been a visiting professor at several American Universities. In 2013, he received the Israel Prize (most prestigious award in Israel) in sociology and anthropology. In 2015 he was elected to the Israeli Academy of the Sciences. His publications include many articles in important journals and two books published in English: Without Bounds: The Life and Death of Rabbi Ya’aqov Wazana, Detroit: Wayne State University Press and The Saints’ Impresarios: Dreamers, Healers, and Holy Men in Israel’s Urban Periphery.
Conor Ellard has guided several prior Jewish Museum trips to Ireland. Steeped in the land’s history, politics and people, Conor has worked with Dr. Maidenbaum for many years, guiding and helping organize many programs to Ireland. Conor is a delight to travel with and, if asked, might agree to sing a ballad or two with his beautiful baritone voice.
Maria Ferreira, born and based in Lisbon, has been working as a national tour guide since 1988. She has also led tour groups throughout Europe, Asia, and the Far East. As a tour manager and guide, Maria has worked with people of different origins and with groups of different interests, including tours specializing in Jewish heritage in Portugal and Spain, as well as groups focusing on such diverse fields as architecture, art, and wine and food.
Over the years, Maria has frequently worked with Jewish groups and has observed, especially in the last few years, an exponential interest in the history and culture of the Jews of Portugal. She notes that, for her, born and raised in Portugal, “the Jewish heritage of Portugal is an invitation to unveil our own history and the influences of Judaism in Portuguese culture.”
We have worked with Maria on tours to Portugal and Spain for almost 20 years; it is a pleasure to have Maria as our tour manager and to be part of the team again!
Iddo Katz is an archeologist and tour guide licensed by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism. Iddo is a 7th-generation born Israeli who graduated from Bar-Ilan University with degrees in Land of Israel Studies, geography and biology. A former lecturer at the Schools of Tour Guides at Bar Ilan University, Iddo has also lectured widely throughout the United States and Israel and was the area manager on archaeological excavation sites, including a well-known site at Shiloh. Iddo also leads trips, and is accompanying scholar to other countries, including Spain, Portugal and Morocco among others.
Eugenia Koukoura, tourist guide and former lecturer in Thessaloniki, is fluent in eight languages, among them English, Turkish, Bulgarian, Spanish, Italian, and French. Eugenia is a writer and a historical show producer, including documentaries and more than 350 films. Many of her films focus on Byzantine art, mythology, and Greek history, from ancient to contemporary times. She has written 11 books about Alexander the Great, and her film Alexander the Great and Women was chosen by UNESCO to be shown at the festival for women of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Hella Kounio-Matalon was born in Thessaloniki. Both her parents are Holocaust survivors – her mother being a “hidden child” during the Nazi occupation in Greece, and her father a concentration camps survivor, who was in in Auschwitz and two other camps in Austria, for over two years from the age of 14.
Hella’s interest in local Jewish history has always been a passion. Because she is a child of Holocaust survivors, it led her to study the Holocaust and especially the Holocaust in Thessaloniki, where prior to the Holocaust Jews over half the population of the city (known in Jewish history as Salonika) but lost more than 96% of its Jewish population to the Holocaust. For the past five years, she has been leading tours of the Jewish sites of Thessaloniki, welcomed hundreds of visitors from all over the world and educating them about the rich cultural history of the Jews in Thessaloniki throughout the centuries. Additionally, Hella is an active member of the local Jewish Community and where she is an active participant on its various projects and committees.
Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Rabbi Amichai is a member of the Global Justice Fellowship of the American Jewish World Service, a founding member of the Jewish Emergent Network, a consultant to the Reboot Network, a member of the URJ Faculty Team and the Advisory Council of ORAM, an LGBT focused organization for refugees, asylum and migration. He was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Israel (2008-2009) and serves on the advisory committee of Faith House in Manhattan. Rabbi Amichai has been hailed as “an iconoclastic mystic” by Time Out New York, a “Judaic Pied Piper” by the Denver Westword, a “maverick spiritual leader” by The Times of Israel and “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world” by the Jewish Week. In 2016 The Forward named him one of the 32 “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in America. Rabbi Amichai hails from 37 generations of Rabbis, many of them in Poland.
Sid Leiman, Ph.D.
Sid Leiman, PhD, is professor emeritus of Jewish history and literature at Brooklyn College, and he teaches at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. He has taught at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford, as well as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Author of Rabbinic Responses to Modernity (2007) and The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture (1991), as well as hundreds of articles and numerous publications, Dr. Leiman has contributed entries to Encyclopaedia Britannica and Encyclopaedia Judaica. He frequently leads Jewish historical tours to Central and Eastern Europe.
Dr. Aryeh Maidenbaum
Aryeh Maidenbaum, PhD, with a strong background in history, psychology, and Jewish studies, has over 28 years’ experience in organizing and leading educational programs, including psychology seminars and conferences and travel programs focusing on Jewish culture and history. Director of the New York Center for Jungian Studies, he earned his doctorate from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is a former faculty member at New York University. Dr. Maidenbaum is a contributing author to Current Theories of Psychoanalysis and editor and contributor to Lingering Shadows: Jungians, Freudians, and Anti-Semitism and Jung and the Shadow of Anti-Semitism. Some of his other publications include Psychological Type, Job Change, and Personal Growth; The Search for Spirit in Jungian Psychology; “The Jungian Dilemma,” a chapter in the recently published book Psychiatry and Anti-Semitism; and “The Golem of Prague: An Archetype,” forthcoming in the journal Psychological Perspectives.
Lucy Rapoport, trip leader, has guided and accompanied many previous Jewish heritage tours, all to great acclaim. Born and schooled in England before moving to Italy as a young adult, Lucy is fluent in Italian, German, French, and Spanish and has been a tour manager for over twenty years. Specializing in Europe, she has accompanied previous Jewish groups to such places as Lithuania, Krakow, Prague, Berlin, Croatia, Spain, Romania, Serbia, France, northern and southern Italy, and Sicily. With Lucy’s attention to detail, knowledge of history, and considerable expertise in guiding groups, participants will be well served on this trip.
Raymond P. Scheindlin, Ph.D.
Raymond P. Scheindlin, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Medieval Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a former Guggenheim Fellow. Dr. Scheindlin’s main field of research is the encounter of Hebrew and Arabic cultures in Spain, especially as embodied in the poetry of the two traditions. His books on medieval Hebrew poetry — Wine, Women, and Death: Medieval Hebrew Poems on the Good Life, dealing with secular poetry; and The Gazelle: Medieval Hebrew Poems on God, Israel, and the Soul — reflect both the academic and the literary aspects of his career. He is the author of a widely-used textbook, A Short History of the Jewish People, and co-editor of The Literature of Al-Andalus and The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi’s Pilgrimage. His most recent book is Vulture in a Cage: Poems by Solomon Ibn Gabirol.
Dahlia Scheindlin, PhD, is a leading public opinion and strategic consultant based in Tel Aviv. With over 20 years’ experience as an academic and international political and strategic consultant, Dr. Scheindlin conducts extensive research and policy analysis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, democracy, and religious identity in Israel. She earned her doctorate in political science from Tel Aviv University and is cohost of The Tel Aviv Review podcast. Currently, she works for a wide range of local and international organizations dealing with Israeli-Palestinian conflict issues, human rights, peacemaking, democracy, religious identity, and internal social issues.
Chaim Seidler-Feller recently celebrated his 40th year of working with students and faculty as the executive director of the Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA. Currently director emeritus, he also serves as director of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals. An ordained rabbi, he also completed a master’s degree in rabbinic literature. Chaim has been a lecturer in the Departments of Sociology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. He is also a faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute, North America, and of the Wexner Heritage Foundation and was rabbinic consultant to Barbra Streisand during the making of the film Yentl. The International Hillel Center has granted Chaim the Hillel Professional Recognition Award “for blending the love of Jewish tradition with the modern intellectual approach of the university.”
Deborah Starr is Professor of Modern Arabic and Hebrew Literature and Film in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Cornell University. She received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan. She writes and teaches about identity and intercommunal exchange in the modern Middle East, with a focus on the Jews of Egypt. She is the author of Togo Mizrahi and the Making of Egyptian Cinema (University of California Press, 2020) and Remembering Cosmopolitan Egypt: Literature, Culture, and Empire (Routledge, 2009). She is also the co-editor, with Sasson Somekh, of Mongrels or Marvels: The Levantine Writings of Jacqueline Shohet Kahano (Stanford University Press, 2011). Her research and teaching interests include cosmopolitanism, postcolonial studies, minorities of the Middle East, film, and urban studies.
Therkel Straede is a professor of contemporary history at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and one of the world’s leading experts on the October 1943 rescue (and deportation) of the Jews from Denmark. His newest book, about the rescuers of WWII, will be published in 2023 on the 80th anniversary of the German assault on Denmark’s Jews. Professor Straede is currently working with the Museum of Jewish Heritage to create an exhibition on the families and children saved by the Danish government. He also operates a website on the Danish deportees of the Theresienstadt ghetto: danskejoederitheresienstadt.org. Straede received a Congressional Citation of Honor from the United States House of Representatives for his achievements in Holocaust research and education.
Marcin Wodziński is a professor of Jewish history and literature and head of the Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Wrocław. His academic interests range from the social history of Jews in the 19th century to the history of Jews in Silesia and Jewish material culture, especially the history of Hasidism and Haskalah. His publications include more than 100 articles in Polish, English, Hebrew, French, and Czech, nine books authored and one coauthored, and six volumes coedited.
His publications include: Hebrew Inscriptions in Silesia from the 13th to 18th Centuries (1996); Bibliography on the History of Silesian Jewry II (2004); Haskalah and Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland (2005); The Polish Kingdom Authority Against Hasidism (2008); Hasidism and Politics (2013). Wodziński is the editor of the Makor Academic Series / Sources of Austeria Publishing, Bibliotheca Judaica Series at the University of Wrocław Press, editor-in-chief of “Studia Judaica.”
Maciek Zabierowski is head of Learning at the Auschwitz Jewish Center, a role he has held since 2006. He designs and runs workshops on Jewish history in Poland, the Holocaust, and human rights for Polish and European students of all ages and Polish law-enforcement officers. Zabierowski received a master’s degree in history in 2006 from the Jagellonian University. In 2012, he was featured as a scholar for Facing History and Ourselves’ Holocaust and Human Behavior international seminar. He is also a licensed tour guide in Kraków, specializing in Jewish walking tours.