Mysticism, Music and Poetry
The Jews of Northern

Spain

October 20 — October 30, 2022

N.Spain2022-Barcelona-Park-Guell

Traveling with You...

Scholar in Residence

Raymond P. Scheindlin, Ph.D. is Professor 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. His most recent book is The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi’s Pilgrimage.

Program Overview

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.

Tentative Daily Itinerary*

Thursday, October 20 | 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, October 21 | 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, October 22 | 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, October 23 | 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, October 24 | 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, October 25 | 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, October 26 | 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, October 27 | 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, October 28 | 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, October 29 | 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, October 30

Depart for home.

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

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.

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Accommodations

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

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Program Details

Program Cost: $6,950* (plus $54 Museum of Jewish Heritage fee for nonmembers)

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) 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 Jewish Heritage Travel). Balance in full is due 120 days prior to departure.

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.