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.
Tomasz Cebulski, PhD, born in Kraków, graduated with his first master’s degree in International Relations from Jagiellonian University with a thesis on “Polish-Israeli Relations after 1989.” He received his second master’s degree in Middle and Far East studies with a thesis on “The Role of Holocaust Memory in Shaping Israeli Identity.” In October 2014, Tomasz received his PhD with his dissertation on “Political and International Aspects of the Functioning of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in the years 1980-2010.”
Tomasz is an experienced genealogist and licensed tour leader in Poland and Central Europe. He received a state guiding certificate for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and for Kraków and Galicia, including the Second World War Museum at Schindler’s Factory. In 2014, he entered into a partnership with the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. He directs POLIN TRAVEL, a Jewish genealogy and tour company he founded in the late 1990s.
Tomasz is the author of multiple articles on the history of Polish Jews, genealogy, and the politics of memory. He writes a regular column in the blog section of Times of Israel. He is active on social media, promoting historical and political analysis content on both his YouTube and Facebook channels.
Tomasz is the author of Auschwitz after Auschwitz: History, Memory, Politics, published in 2016. The book debates the dynamic of construction of Holocaust memory and provides insight into the Auschwitz Museum by analyzing the politics of commemoration and conflict resolution during the last three decades.
In 2020, Tomasz established a new visual project, Sky Heritage Pictures, to present historical sites from a drone vantage point. These films are used by museums, educational institutions, and for family genealogies. Some of these productions are available on the Sky Heritage Pictures YouTube channel. He also established the Teen Flying University to promote history education among Polish youth by exposing students to local sites of memory and involving them in maintaining these sites.
Dr. Maritza Corrales is a Cuban historian who has dedicated her life’s work to researching the history of Jews in Cuba. Born in 1948, she is a graduate of the University of Havana (1972) and lives in Havana. She has been a consulting scholar to numerous research and academic institutions in Cuba and has published numerous articles on the history of Cuban Jews. As the author of articles and books, including The Chosen Island, Corrales has lectured at universities in Israel, Spain, Mexico, and Cuba.
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.
Miriam Levinson’s passion for travel and history was inspired by listening to her father talk about those subjects from her earliest recollections. Since her teens, Miriam has traveled extensively, focusing on Jewish history and culture of different countries. Miriam has presented on Latin American Jewish migration to numerous audiences and organizations throughout the United States. For the past eighteen years, Miriam has designed, organized, and led hundreds of trips to her native land, Cuba. Her knowledge and understanding of Jewish Latin America and, primarily, Cuba add a truly distinctive dimension to her portrayal of these communities. Levinson’s unique personal knowledge and experiences of life in Cuba bring a new perspective. She is presently writing a book on her recollections of life in Cuba.
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.
Co-sponsor National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Trust Tours Educational Expert: John Meffert, consultant on Heritage Conservation Services, has a long tradition with the National Trust. He has served as the Director for our Southern Office and was the director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, the oldest nonprofit organization in the United States, responsible for preserving the historic resources of Charleston, SC. John has delighted many study tour groups with his lectures and insights on preservation and receives rave reviews as study leader.
Brad Pomerance currently serves as host and series producer of the award-winning television program Air Land & Sea, broadcasting weekly on the national basic cable network Jewish Life Television/JLTV. To produce this historically driven global travel series, Brad and his intrepid crew have journeyed to Barbados, Czech, Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Malta, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and more.
Brad and the Air Land & Sea team have been honored with multiple awards for their work, including “Best in Class/TV-Radio-Web” from the Religion Communicators Council, “Outstanding Religion Documentary” from the Religion News Association, and several Telly trophies.
The descendants of Polish Jews, Brad has visited Poland twice, traveling throughout the country to cover The March of the Living. Brad was also fortunate to visit his grandmother’s shtetl, where he met a Polish man who had been acquainted with Brad’s relatives, who sadly perished in the Holocaust.
Brad also hosts Uncovered in the Archives, a historically driven television series he developed for PBS-affiliate KVCR in Southern California. This award-winning program is currently in production for its second season.
Brad recently concluded a long run as host of Charter Local Edition, broadcast daily on the California Channel. He interviewed elected officials at all levels of government, from mayors to supervisors, from state legislators to members of the U.S. Congress, from governors to senators.
In addition to the honors received for his work on Air Land & Sea, Brad has received several awards for his work — both at JLTV and KVCR — from the American Psychological Association’s Society of Media Psychology, the Los Angeles Press Club, and the Society of American Archivists. Previously, Brad was honored with three Los Angeles-area Emmy nominations for his work at Local Edition and LA City View Channel 35. He is married to Tina Fuller Pomerance. They have two daughters. Ivy is attending Emory University and Paige is at the University of Michigan. You can follow Brad on Twitter @bradpomerance.
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.
Marta Nunez Sarmiento
Marta Nunez Sarmiento is a retired professor in the Department of Sociology and a researcher at the Center for Studies of International Migrations (CEMI) at the University of Havana. Her research concentrated on transition projects for Cuba, women and employment in Cuba, gender studies in Cuba, images of women in Cuban mass media, and images of Cuba in Cuban and foreign mass media. At the University of Havana, she taught courses related to methodology and methods of sociological research, gender studies, and contemporary Cuba. She served as a consultant for several agencies of the UN (1988-2003), the Association of Caribbean States (1999), and several NGOs.
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.
Ivančica Dvoržak Schrunk
Co-Sponsor Archaeological Institute of America
AIA Tours Lecturer: Ivančica (Vanča) Dvoržak Schrunk, who represents the Archaeological Institute of America, was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and teaches ancient history and archaeology at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). She has published numerous articles and has co-authored or co-edited several books, including two volumes on the excavations at Diocletian’s Palace in Split and a book on archaeology and history of Brijuni from prehistory to Tito. Vanča is past president of the Minnesota Society of the Archaeological Institute of America and is currently vice-president of the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota. In 2017 she was named one of the Croatian Women’s Network’s “Croatian Women of Influence.” She leads study abroad courses in Croatia and Italy, including Sicily, and for more than a decade she has involved her students and international volunteers in a collaborative archaeological project on the island of Sveti Klement (St. Clement), near Hvar. Vanča excavated in Diocletian’s Palace, where she met her husband, and since then they did archaeological work at several other Adriatic sites, as well as in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. She will share with the group her expertise in Roman maritime villas, island environments, and ancient Mediterranean networks.
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 Straedeis professor emeritus of contemporary history at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and Denmark’s leading scholar in Holocaust studies. He has worked extensively on the history of Nazi Germany, the October 1943 rescue (and deportation) of the Jews from Denmark, and the Holocaust in the areas that belonged to the Soviet Union at the time of the June 1941 German attack. His newest book, about the rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, will be published in 2024. Professor Straede has worked with the Museum of Jewish Heritage to create an exhibition for children and families on the Danish October 1943 events. He also operates a website on the Danish deportees to the Theresienstadt ghetto: www.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.