Birthplace of Ashkenazi Jewry

Alsace & the Rhineland

June 10 – 21, 2022

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Trip Leader

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.

Scholar in Residence

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.”

Trip Guide

Jo Ator, born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, has been living in Germany for almost 35 years—arriving in Frankfurt as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. In 2008, she and her husband, David, began a walking tour company called Frankfurt on Foot, offering daily tours of Frankfurt as well as a wide variety of private tours. One of Jo’s areas of expertise is Jewish-based tours, which include Jewish heritage in Frankfurt as well as the so-called SHUM* cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. Jo’s experience has included assisting the city of Frankfurt with its Return of Survivors/Families to Frankfurt program, and she was scheduled to do the same in 2020 and 2021 (both of which were canceled due to Covid). As owners and guides, Jo and David research all the itineraries of the tours that they lead and pride themselves in presenting accurate information in an entertaining style.

*SHUM is a Hebrew acronym for these three cities of central Germany. Often referred to as Jerusalem on the Rhine, the SHUM cities were important centers of Jewish learning dating back to medieval times.

Program Overview

The Jewish history of Alsace and the Rhineland is both tragic and triumphant. The area was the focus of the massacres of the First Crusade in 1096 as well as the center of a flourishing culture. Here Jews were oppressed and persecuted throughout the centuries. And here they thrived and created the foundation of Ashkenazi Jewish life.

Jews have lived in Frankfurt continuously for nearly 900 years, longer than in any other German city, but most likely since the court of Charlemagne, as well as when the Romans were there. They worked as merchants, bankers, politicians, philanthropists, artists, and scientists. Our trip will begin in Frankfurt, where we will learn about Mayer Amschel Rothschild (progenitor of the Rothschild dynasty), artist Moritz Oppenheim, and philosophers Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig. Moving on to Worms, we will visit the site of the yeshiva where the legendary “teacher of all Israel,” Rabbi Solomon Yitzchaki—known as Rashi—studied, the ancient (1034) synagogue, and the haunting medieval cemetery.

Traveling westward, we will go deeper into Alsace, home to a hundred Jewish settlements in the villages and towns surrounding Strasbourg. In these villages, almost all bereft of their Jewish population, are magnificent synagogues and museums that preserve the unique traditions of Ashkenaz. We will find Strasbourg to be vital and lively, filled with an array of Jewish communal institutions, including a synagogue that is a center for Ashkenazic as well as Sephardic Jews. Its historic city center was classified as a World Heritage Site, and it has functioned as a bridge between French and German culture and as a living testament to the possible coexistence of Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews.

We invite you to join us on this fascinating and informative exploration of the birthplace of Ashkenazi Jewry!

Tentative Daily Itinerary*

 
Friday, June 10 | Frankfurt

Arrive in Frankfurt and check in to the 5-star deluxe Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof Hotel—one of the premier hotels in Frankfurt. Rest and relax or explore the city.

Evening: Introduction by our scholar in residence, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, “The First Crusade and the Decimation of the Jewish Rhineland,” followed by an opportunity to get to know one another and opening Shabbat dinner at our hotel (included).

 
Frankfurt-Jewish-Holocaust-Memorial-Wall

Memorial wall at the Judengasse Museum.
Saturday, June 11 | Frankfurt

Morning: At leisure or attend services with the Frankfurt Jewish community.

Afternoon: A visit to the Städel Museum, a short walk from our hotel, for a private guided tour. This museum contains one of the most important art collections in Germany, including works by such Old Masters as Jan van Eyck, Rembrandt, and Botticelli; modern art by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Edgar Degas; and contemporary art by Francis Bacon, Yves Klein, and Jeff Wall. Notable Jewish artists’ works at the museum include paintings by Max Liebermann and Lotte Laserstein.

Evening lecture by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “Ashkenazic Pietists and Their Mystical-Ascetic Theology,” followed by dinner on our own.

 
Sunday, June 12 | Frankfurt

Morning visit to the nearby Judengasse Museum, which illustrates 300 years of the everyday life of Frankfurt’s Jews.

In 1987, when the city of Frankfurt began constructing a building for the public utilities company, workers uncovered the foundations of houses from the city’s former Jewish quarter, the Judengasse. After considerable protest, parts of the archaeological excavations were reconstructed and made accessible to the public as a museum, so that the museum, the old Jewish cemetery, and the memorial (the Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Wall) to the deported Jews of Frankfurt are now visible as a historical ensemble.

Additionally, we will visit the Jewish Museum of Frankfurt, housed in what once was the “Rothschild Palais,” for a private guided tour.

Lunch on our own and the rest of the afternoon and evening free.

 
Monday, June 13 | Frankfurt

We will begin this morning with a tour of Frankfurt’s Altstadt (Old Town), where many historical buildings surround the square, including the city hall (Römer). Römerberg was reconstructed after World War II and gives visitors an idea of the beauty and character of the area from the time of the Middle Ages.

Following lunch on our own in Old Town, we will visit Isaak E. Lichtigfeld School—a state-recognized Jewish school with grades that run from primary school through university entry level. Although the Isaak E. Lichtigfeld is a Jewish school, it has been open to students of all beliefs since its founding in 1804. Today, approximately 480 boys and girls attend the school.

Evening lecture by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “The Napoleonic Sanhedrin and the Assimilation of French Jewry,” followed by dinner on our own.

 

Mainz Synagogue

The small Mainz synagogue, part of the post–World War II Mainz Jewish Community Center, is an architectural gem.
 
 
Tuesday, June 14 | Mainz

Today we will visit Mainz, hometown of the first printer of the Bible, Johann Gutenberg, and an important center of rabbinical scholarship during the Middle Ages. This attractive town on the Rhine was home to Rabbi Yaakov ben Moshe Moelin (1365–1427, known in rabbinic circles as the Maharil—acronym for our teacher, the Rabbi Yaakov Levi). The Maharil was spiritual leader of the Jews of Germany, Austria, and Bohemia and a leading authority on Jewish Law. The small Mainz synagogue, part of the post–World War II Mainz Jewish Community Center, is an architectural gem. Its ark contains three Torah scrolls that survived Kristallnacht. The Mainz Regional Museum, which we will visit, displays several 12th-century Jewish tombstones, including that of Gershom ben Judah (d. 1049), known to scholars of Judaism as Rabbeinu Gershom Me’Or Hagolah (Our Teacher Gershom the Light of the Exile). Rabbi Gershom (960–1040) is most famous in Jewish tradition for his rulings prohibiting polygamy. Additionally, in Mainz, we will visit Saint Stephen’s Church, which contains Germany’s only stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall. Lunch (included) along the way.

 

Gutenberg's House, Mainz

Home of Johannes Gutenberg (~1398–February 3, 1468), the inventor of a movable-type printing press, and maker of the first printed bible.

 

 
Wednesday, June 15 | Worms | Strasbourg

This morning, we will depart from Frankfurt for Worms, historically one of the leading centers of Jewish life in the Rhineland. Upon arrival in Worms, we will visit a synagogue that dates to the early 11th century; and Rashi House (today a museum, named after Rashi, Rabbi Solomon Yitzchaki, 11th-century author of the most important, comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and Torah), as well as the Worms Jewish cemetery, containing some of the oldest Jewish graves in Europe.

Following a break for lunch (included), we will depart for Strasbourg. The language is French, but the architecture, food, and wine are overwhelmingly German. Cities and towns all over Alsace have German names, while many are a French-German hybrid—understandable, since Alsace changed hands from French to German and back again many times. Dinner at our hotel (included).

 

Worms Jewish Cemetery

Worms’ Jewish cemetery, the oldest remaining Jewish cemetery in Europe.
 
 
Thursday, June 16 | Strasbourg

Strasbourg is home to some 16,000 Jews today, and during our stay, we will explore the province’s rich Jewish history. For example, the rue des Juifs (street of the Jews) is over 1,600 years old and was the Roman east–west road, the heart of the old Jewish quarter and one of Strasbourg’s oldest streets.

Our day will begin with a walking tour of La Petite France, the most picturesque district of old Strasbourg, a “haven of peace” in the heart of the Old City. Following lunch on our own in La Petite France, we will visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, containing statues of Synagoga and Ecclesia, as well as Jewish tombstones dating back to the 10th century in the Musée de l’Oeuvre nearby.

This afternoon, we will visit the Alsatian Museum of Strasbourg and enjoy a private guided tour. The museum provides a charming tour of old Strasbourg homes connected by wooden staircases and passageways and presents thousands of objects that illustrate rural life in Alsace in the 18th and 19th centuries, including rooms devoted to Judaism.

Evening lecture by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “Rashi and the Emergence of a Talmudic (or Jewish Learning) Culture in Ashkenaz,” followed by dinner on our own.

 
Friday, June 17 | Strasbourg

Full-day excursion to Baden-Baden, including a visit to its synagogue and meeting with Rabbi Daniel Naftali, followed by a walking tour of Baden-Baden.

Afternoon: (optional) Tour of the Frieder Burda Museum, designed by renowned New York celebrity architect Richard Meier, is a sparkling jewel in Baden-Baden. Its architecture and design, renowned for natural light and elegant layout, are truly unique—much like the collection itself, which contains several old masterpieces. Or, those who prefer can explore Baden-Baden on their own for shopping or spend an afternoon at one of Baden-Baden’s renowned spas. Lunch on our own.

Evening: Shabbat dinner at our hotel (included).

 
Strasbourg Alsace Petit France

Strasbourg, as with much of Alsace, brims with contrasts between French and German influences.
 
 
Saturday, June 18 | Strasbourg

Morning: At leisure or attend services with the Jewish community of Strasbourg.

Afternoon: Free to visit sites of personal interest and/or explore Strasbourg on our own.

Evening lecture by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “A Jewish Revival in Early 20th-Century Germany: Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and the Frankfurt Jewish Lehrhaus,” followed by dinner on our own.

 
Sunday, June 19 | Colmar | Strasbourg

We will spend this morning visiting Colmar, with its painted and carved old houses. Colmar is one of the loveliest towns in Alsace. Here, we will tour the Musée Bartholdi (architect and sculptor of the Statue of Liberty), as well as view the famous Isenheim triptych altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald, located in the Musée Unterlinden. Lunch on our own in Colmar before returning to Strasbourg. Remainder of the day free.

Evening: Free; dinner on our own.

 
Obernai Synagogue

This arched doorway, once the entrance to a synagogue that dates back to 1454, is among the traces of the old Jewish community.
 
 
Monday, June 20 | Struthof | Benfeld | Obernai

We will begin today by traveling south to Struthof, where we will visit the European Centre on Resistance and Deportation. Site of the former Natzweiler-Struthof camp, it is an important place of remembrance for all those murdered by the Nazis. After lunch (included) along the way, we will pass through the smaller towns of Benfeld and Obernai (a fascinating tourist town where traces of the old Jewish community can still be seen) and, time permitting, view one or both towns’ charming and historic synagogues.

Evening: Closing festive dinner (included).

 
Tuesday, June 21

Depart for home.

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

Accommodations



 
Frankfurt: Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof

In the heart of the financial district and the historic city center, this hotel has been welcoming since 1876. The Main Tower, Römer, and Paulskirche are only a few steps away, and the central station is a 15-minute walk. There is a chic breakfast eatery, an acclaimed French restaurant, and a charming brasserie with a terrace, along with a cozy bar offering afternoon tea. Other amenities include a gym, plush spa, and barbershop.

 


 
Strasbourg: Régent Petite France

On the banks of the River Ill and in the heart of La Petite France district, this refined spa hotel is a 10-minute walk from Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. Its serene rooms, some with exposed beams and river views, are all unique in shape and style. Within the hotel is a sleek restaurant and chic champagne bar with terrace. Other amenities include a sauna, hammam, and terrace with a hot tub.

 
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Deluxe Accommodations

Travel in comfort. We stay at deluxe hotels with fine amenities. Accommodations for this trip listed below the itinerary.

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Program Details

Program Cost: $6,980* (plus $54 Museum of Jewish Heritage fee for nonmembers). Includes:

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

*Per-person, double occupancy; single supplement ($1,500) and gratuities ($165) additional.

To reserve your place, please complete the registration form and submit with a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 per person (payable to the Jewish Heritage Travel Program). Balance in full is due by February 10, 2022.

Please note: If Covid restrictions cause us to postpone this trip, your deposit will be credited toward your choice of any 2022 or 2023 Jewish Heritage Travel program.

Participation

We require that all participants provide proof of Covid vaccination to participate in any Jewish Heritage Travel program.

Limited to 26 participants, the program will entail considerable walking, including uneven terrain. Participants need to be in active, good health, able to keep up with the group, ready to travel and experience group and cultural differences with grace. If you have any questions, or need help with your travel plans, please call the Jewish Heritage Travel Office at 845-256-0197.

Help with Travel Arrangements

One of the services we provide, at no additional charge, is to help with your travel arrangements. Our knowledgeable and patient staff can assist you in making your travel plans — including booking reservations that are available from the various airlines.