From the “Golden Age” of Spain to the present, the Sephardic community has made important contributions to both Jewish and Western cultures. 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 Gaudi’s exotic architecture and where Nahmanides/“Rambam,” who represented the Jewish community in the 13th century Disputation before King James of Aragon). The trip continues 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 Avila; 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. During the course of our trip, Professor Scheindlin will discuss such great personalities of Jewish and Spanish history as Nahmanides/“Ramban,” Ibn Gabirol, El Cid, King Philip II, and Judah Halevi. Along the way, we will visit world class museums, enjoy readings of the great Spanish Hebrew poets, and hear a live recital of Sephardic songs by guest artist, mezzo-soprano Janice Meyerson.
Check into the 5 star Majestic Hotel — located just steps from Las Ramblas and situated on one of Barcelona’s most prestigious boulevards, known for its famous 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).
Our day will start with a guided tour led by Dominique Tomasov Blinder (Architect and Co-Founder, 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) a walking tour through the historic Gothic Quarter will also include a visit to the Picasso Museum for a private guided tour. The Museum is housed in five adjoining medieval palaces and contains one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.
Evening: Festive Shabbat dinner at our hotel (included).
Morning: Free to relax, continue to explore Barcelona on our own, or attend Shabbat services at the Communidad 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 architecture of the period – including works by Antoni Gaudi.
Evening: Presentation by Professor Scheindlin, “Nahmanides and the Jewish Mystical Tradition,” and musical performance by Janice Meyerson, followed by (optional) night out at one of Barcelona’s fine restaurants.
Day trip to Girona, one time center of Jewish mystics and Kabbalists and birthplace of Nahmanides — Rabbi (and physician) Moses ben Nachman, known as the “Ramban.” In Girona, we will visit the Bonastruc ca Porta Center, which houses the Jewish Museum and Nahmanides Center; the restored medieval Jewish Quarter; Alfama of Girona and Girona’s medieval, 11th century Cathedral. During the course of the day, we will enjoy some free time in the area of Girona’s Ramblas and have lunch on our own.
Evening: (optional) Study group led by Ray Scheindlin for those interested in studying selected passages from Nahmanides commentary on the Torah.
Depart for Zaragoza, arriving in time for lunch (included) and a tour of historical Zaragoza and Cathedral Square. This afternoon, we will visit Aljaferia Palace, an 11th century Arab palace and now home to the Aragonese Parliament, and the La Seo Chapterhouse Tapestry Museum. Located in La Seo Cathedral, the museum is home to a major collection of tapestries, considered to be one of the most important of its kind in the world.
Late afternoon: Check in to the deluxe Hotel Palafox in Zaragoza- our home for the next two nights. Rest and relax before dinner (included).
We will begin today by exploring nearby Tudela, famous in Jewish history as the home of Benjamín de Tudela, one of the most important chroniclers of 12th century Jewish communities around the world. A detailed diary of his travels, Benjamin of Tudela’s chronicles provide 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, among others, 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. At the archives, we will have the opportunity to see fascinating, recently discovered Hebrew documents from medieval Spain.
Evening presentation by Professor Scheindlin on “Abraham Ibn Ezra and Judah Halevi: Children of Tudela,” followed by dinner on our own.
This morning, we depart Zaragoza for Madrid via Spain’s AVE high-speed train, and we will arrive in time for a short overview tour of the city, lunch on our own near the Plaza Mayor, and 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 & Chateau Hotel Orfila with time to rest and relax before dinner on our own.
Early morning presentation by Professor Scheindlin on “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 affectionately referred to as the “Second Jerusalem.” Walking through “Old Toledo” (the center of medieval Spanish Jewry), we will visit Santa Maria la Blanca, once a thriving synagogue and impressively decorated in Moorish-Jewish style. Other sites of interest we will visit in Toledo include the El Transito Synagogue and Museum. Return to Madrid in time for dinner on our own.
Early this morning, we will drive to the charming city of Segovia, at one time considered the center of Sephardic Jewry. Here, we will walk through the picturesque Old Town of Segovia before proceeding to Avila, once a thriving Jewish community that was home to Rabbi Moses de Leon (author of the Zohar) and birthplace of Theresa of Avila (whose grandfather was a “Converso”).
Evening: Festive Shabbat dinner (included) at our hotel.
Morning free to rest and relax, or visit sites of personal interest.
Afternoon: (optional) Private guided tour of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum or continue exploring Madrid on our own. This evening, a closing meeting, followed by a musical performance by Janice Meyerson and dinner (included).
Depart for U.S.
Majestic Hotel & Spa, Barcelona
The 5-star Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona which forms part of the central city’s urban landscape is surrounded by the masterpieces of modernist architecture by Antoní Gaudí. Situated in the heart of Modernist Barcelona, Majestic Hotel & Spa’s unsurpassable location makes it an ideal location for our time in Barcelona. The hotel is equipped with air conditioning, and wireless high speed, complimentary, internet, among other services.