The Jews of
Spain
Mysticism, Music & Poetry
November 9–19, 2023

From the “Golden Age” of Spain to the present, the Sephardic community has made important contributions to Jewish, as well as Western, culture. Before the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, Spain was home to the world’s most vibrant Jewish culture—combining Hebrew and Arabic poetry, philosophy, science, and the Kabbalah.

Travel with us as we learn about the heritage, history, and mystical traditions of the Jews of northern Spain. We will explore the homeland of the Spanish Kabbalah, beginning in Barcelona, site of Gaudí’s exotic architecture and where Naḥmanides (Ramban) represented the Jewish community in the 13th-century disputation before King James of Aragon. In Barcelona, we will visit its important sites as well as enjoy a day’s outing to Girona, home to one of the most important kabbalistic schools in Europe. Other highlights of our journey will include viewing the recently discovered remnants of the Jewish community of Tarazona; studying the roots of medieval intolerance in Madrid and Ávila; and touring the surviving synagogues of Toledo.

Our accompanying scholar, Professor Ray Scheindlin, will address a wide variety of themes associated with Spanish Jewish history and culture.

Along the way, Professor Scheindlin will discuss such great personalities of Jewish and Spanish history as Naḥmanides, Judah Halevi, El Cid, and King Philip II. We will enjoy northern Spain’s stunning scenery; travel from Zaragoza to Madrid via Spain’s high-speed AVE train; visit world-class museums; and enjoy the readings of the great Spanish Hebrew poets.

Highlights

  • 10 nights of deluxe accommodations in Barcelona, Zaragoza, and Madrid  
  • Visits to Barcelona’s Jewish Museum, Aljafería Palace, La Seo Chapterhouse Tapestry Museum, Tarazona’s old Jewish Quarter, El Tránsito Synagogue and Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and the adjoining medieval palaces of the Picasso Museum with over 4,000 of his works
  • Walking tours: Barcelona’s Catalan architecture, Gothic Quarter, and former Jewish Quarter; Montjuic; “Old Toledo;” and Segovia’s Old Town
  • Special presentations by Dr. Ray Scheindlin, Ph.D., former Guggenheim fellow and world-renowned expert on Hebrew and Arabic cultures in Spain: “Naḥmanides and the Jewish Mystical Tradition,” “Abraham Ibn Ezra and Judah Halevi: Children of Tudela,” and “Toledo’s Jews: From Golden Age to Decline”
  • Day trip to Girona, birthplace of Naḥmanides and once the center of Jewish mysticism known as the Kabbalah

Itinerary

Thursday, November 9 | Barcelona

Check in to the 5-star Majestic Hotel—located just steps from Las Ramblas, situated on one of Barcelona’s most prestigious boulevards and renowned for its unique architecture and upscale boutiques. Rest and relax from our journey.

Evening: Overview by our accompanying scholar, Professor Ray Scheindlin, followed by orientation and an opportunity to get to know one another. Welcoming dinner at our hotel (included).

Friday, November 10 | Montjuic | Barcelona

Our day will start with a guided tour, led by Dominique Tomasov Blinder (architect and cofounder, Heritage Commission of the Jewish Communities of Catalonia), to Montjuic—said to be named for a Jewish cemetery once located on its hill. Return to Barcelona’s “Old City” for a walking tour through what was the Jewish Quarter in the Middle Ages and explore its small, unique Jewish Museum. Following a break for lunch (included), we will enjoy a walking tour through the historic Gothic Quarter, including a visit to the Picasso Museum for a private guided tour. This museum is housed in five adjoining medieval palaces and contains one of the most extensive collections of artworks by Pablo Picasso.

Evening: Festive Shabbat dinner at our hotel (included).

Saturday, November 11 | Barcelona

Morning: Free to relax, continue to explore Barcelona on our own, or attend Shabbat services at the Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona.

Afternoon: (optional) Walking tour, focusing on local Catalan architecture. Led by Dominique Tomasov Blinder, we will see examples of some of Barcelona’s best-known modernist architecture, including works by Antoni Gaudí.

Evening: Presentation by Professor Scheindlin, “Naḥmanides and the Jewish Mystical Tradition.” Dinner on our own: experience one of Barcelona’s fine restaurants.

Sunday, November 12 | Girona | Barcelona

Day trip to Girona, onetime center of Jewish mystics and kabbalists and birthplace of Naḥmanides—Rabbi (and physician) Moses ben Naḥman (known as the “Ramban”). In Girona, we will visit the Bonastruc ça Porta Center, which houses the Jewish Museum and Naḥmanides Center; the restored medieval Jewish Quarter; and the Alfama of Girona and its 11th-century cathedral. During the day, we will enjoy some free time in the area of Girona’s Ramblas. Lunch on our own.

Evening: (optional) Study group led by Professor Scheindlin for those interested in studying selected passages from Naḥmanides’ commentary on the Torah.

Monday, November 13 | Zaragoza

Depart for Zaragoza, arriving in time for lunch (included) and a tour of historical Zaragoza and Cathedral Square. This afternoon, we will visit Aljafería Palace, an 11th-century Arab palace and now home to the Aragonese Parliament, as well as the La Seo Chapterhouse Tapestry Museum. Located in the cathedral La Seo, this museum is home to a major collection of tapestries, one of the most important of its kind in the world.

Late afternoon: Check in to the deluxe NH Hotel in Zaragoza, our home for the next two nights. Rest and relax before dinner (included).

Tuesday, November 14 | Zaragoza | Tudela | Tarazona

We will begin by exploring nearby Tudela, famous in Jewish history as the home of Benjamin of Tudela, one of the most important chroniclers of 12th-century Jewish communities around the world. A detailed diary of his travels provides us with one of the most important legacies of 12th-century Jewish life around the Mediterranean basin. Describing the Jewish communities of such places as Baghdad, Alexandria, Aleppo, and Tyre, his contribution to Jewish history is monumental. Following lunch on our own, we will continue to Tarazona for visits to the old Jewish Quarter and the “Hanging Houses”; a recently discovered synagogue; and the Tarazona cathedral archives, where we will have the opportunity to see fascinating, recently discovered, Hebrew documents from medieval Spain.

Evening: Presentation by Professor Scheindlin, “Abraham Ibn Ezra and Judah Halevi: Children of Tudela,” followed by dinner on our own.

Wednesday, November 15 | Madrid

This morning, we depart Zaragoza via Spain’s AVE high-speed train, arriving in Madrid less than 90 minutes later. We will have time for a short overview tour of the city before breaking for lunch on our own near the Plaza Mayor, as well as a guided tour of one of Madrid’s finest art museums. Later this afternoon, we will check in to the superbly located 5-star Relais & Châteaux Hotel Orfila, with time to rest and relax.

Evening: Free; dinner on our own.

Thursday, November 16 | Madrid | Toledo

Early morning presentation by Professor Scheindlin, “Toledo’s Jews: From Golden Age to Decline,” before we proceed on a day trip to Toledo. For centuries, the political, spiritual, and intellectual capital of Old Castile, Toledo was referred to as the “Second Jerusalem.” Walking through “Old Toledo” (once the center of medieval Spanish Jewry), we will visit Santa María la Blanca, originally a thriving synagogue and impressively decorated in a Moorish-Jewish style. Other sites of interest we will visit in Toledo include the El Tránsito Synagogue and Museum. Built in 1357 as an annex to the palace of Samuel ha-Levi, treasurer to King Peter of Castile, this historic synagogue now serves as a Sephardi museum. From Toledo, we will return to Madrid in time for dinner.

Evening: Free; dinner on our own.

Friday, November 17 | Madrid | Segovia

Early this morning, we will drive to the charming city of Segovia, at one time a major center of Sephardic Jewry. We will walk through its picturesque Old Town and see its historic aqueduct, a symbol of Segovia and one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts, before proceeding to Ávila, once a thriving Jewish community that was home to Rabbi Moses de León (author of the Zohar) and birthplace of Teresa of Ávila (whose grandfather was a converso).

Evening: Festive Shabbat dinner (included) at our hotel.

Saturday, November 18 | Madrid

Morning: Free to rest and relax, or visit sites of personal interest.
Afternoon: Private guided tour of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
Evening: Closing meeting, followed by festive dinner (included).

Sunday, November 19

Depart for home.

*Please Note: Daily schedule may be modified subject to weather or unanticipated changes.

 

Traveling with you…

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.

Accommodations

Barcelona: Majestic Hotel & Spa The 5-star Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona, which forms part of the central city’s urban landscape, is surrounded by masterpieces of modernist architecture by Antoni Gaudí. Situated in the heart of Modernist Barcelona, Majestic Hotel & Spa’s unsurpassable location makes it an ideal location for our time in Barcelona.
Zaragoza: Hotel NH Collection Originally designed by Madrid architect Antonio Rubio in 1929, this hotel was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII. It later became known as “the house of the famous”—and with good reason: Ava Gardner and Walt Disney are among the Hollywood elite who stayed here. For Ernest Hemingway, it was a home away from home, and King Juan Carlos I lived here in his early days as a cadet: he always stayed in room 105.

Madrid: Hotel Orfila

Housed in a small 19th-century palace in a residential area in the cultural center of Madrid, this hotel is an ideal choice. A 10-minute walk will find guests at the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, or Reina Sofía museums. The Relais & Châteaux Hotel Orfila has spacious guest rooms, facing either the street or a private garden. Warm colors, English wallpapers, and the highest-quality fabrics create a cozy ambience for guests.

Details

Program Cost: $6,950* includes:

  • 10 nights’ accommodations at deluxe hotels*
  • Full breakfast daily; two lunches; five dinners
  • Entrance fees to all museums and sites on itinerary
  • All group transportation via deluxe air-conditioned coach
  • Group speed train from Zaragoza to Madrid

*Per person, double occupancy; single supplement: $1,550.
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