A great way to understand and explore Jewish history in Europe is to go on Jewish tours by river cruises around the continent. A river cruise will bring you to both known and unknown sites that you normally can't visit on an ocean cruise.
Many river cruises have all-inclusive excursions and land tours. But if you want to go out on your own, here are the top 3 most famous destination that will make your outdoor exploration more memorable.
The only reform synagogue in Portugal that is open to b'nei-anussim called Ohel Jacob Synagogue can be seen in Lisbon. This historic place was officially recognized in 1913 and has brought the Lisbon Jews together.
The history of Jews in Spain and Portugal go back two thousand years ago, and is directly related to the Sephardi Jews. Back then, even though the Jews were not recognized as a community, they were successful in settling and growing prosperous. Today they can speak, read and write not only Hebrew, but Arabic, English and a Jewish-Hispanic-Moroccan language called Haketia.
In Lisbon, you will be introduced to prominent and brilliant Jews who became influential because of their social and political ranks.
You will also hear the great tales of Crypto-Jews who were able to arrive in Portugal secretly after escaping persecution.
You will see the famous inscription that was discovered by Archaeologists from Jena University. The inscriptions on a stone revealed that Jewish people reside in Portugal as early as 390 CE
Since the 1960's, evidence of the Jewish community can no longer be seen. However, during the Roman and Renaissance periods, Arles was a major Jewish hub due to its location. In fact, the Jews had established an Arabic-Hebrew-Latin translation center in Arles.
However the growth and development of Jewish community in Arles ceased in the 15th century. Finally they were banished in the 1940s and did not return.
Right now, Arles is known for its important Roman remnants and listed as UNESCO Heritage Site. Arles is also famous for the impressionist painter Van Gogh lived for a year, yet produced over 300 paintings and drawings. Arles is also the home of one of the most respected vineyards like Domaine de la Vallongue and Domaine de Valdition.
Visiting Arles is like looking back at how the Jews lived made an influence in the history of France. Moreover, most kosher river cruises offer kosher winery tour tasting in Arles as well.
Venice has one of the most important European Jewish Communities.
Most Jews established themselves in Venice after escaping from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497. The English word "ghetto" derived from the Venetian Ghetto or Jews living in slum areas. The Venetian Ghetto was also one of the oldest Jewish quarters in the world, dating for almost 500 years.
Aside from the Ghetto, another known spot for Jewish touring in is Venice is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a historic storehouse that became a luxury department store. Before, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi is a German merchant's community that had affected how Catholic Church saw the Jews.
Go for Kosher River Cruises
These places are guaranteed to make your Jewish tour more memorable and worth it. It would be better if you book a kosher river cruise because it is more likely that you can have one of the places mentioned above as part of your itinerary.