Providing kids with Jewish cultural experiences that will connect them to their roots

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

May 9, 2017 5:00:19 AM

Providing kids with Jewish cultural experiences can be challenging. You make an effort to connect your kids to their Jewish identity and roots at home.  Whether that’s through a Jewish education, Friday night dinners, preparing traditional Jewish foods, sending them to Jewish summer camp (and the list goes on), it’s part and parcel of American Jewish living.  But what about when you go on vacation?  Chances are, aside from the requisite trip to Israel, your kids haven’t connected to their roots and Jewish identity on a global level through travel.  But travel is the best way to connect to your roots.  We all come from somewhere and seeing the history behind the Jewish communities in different countries helps bring that idea to life.  That, in turn will help your kids grow into adulthood with the desire to remain connected, hold on to the things that they feel make them Jewish and pass those lessons about where they come from to their children.  And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? 

There are a million ways to go about this as the network of Diasporah Jews spreads far and wide.  Whether or not this is YOUR particular background, you can choose a country that is enjoyable all around so that you and your kids feel that you’re mixing ‘business’ with pleasure.  Spain is the origin of the Sephardic Jews and a must see for any family looking for a Jewish cultural experience that will connect them with their roots.  Take your family on an enriching vacation where together you will discover unique medieval towns oozing with inspiring Jewish history, all the while soaking in the Spanish Sun!  Here are my top destinations to rediscover the Jewry of Spain.

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Topics: jewish education, jewish travel

Top 10 Jewish News Sites to Follow

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

May 8, 2017 7:31:29 AM

In today’s world of fake news, it’s important to keep up to date with relevant Jewish news through reputable and trustworthy news sites.  There is an abundance of current affairs sites in English that will allow you to keep informed on all that is happening both in Israel, the Middle East and worldwide Jewry.  Here are the top 10 Jewish news sites to follow: 

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Topics: jewish education, jewish travel

Exposing your kids to Jewish food: what they need to know and love

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Apr 30, 2017 8:10:00 PM

It’s no secret that pretty much every Jewish tradition and holiday revolves around some sort of food consumption.  Jewish tradition does not exist without the somewhat bland yet oh so delicious foods that accompany it.   

You grew up on this food.  It was likely a staple in your childhood home.  The question is, how do you get these foods to become just as familiar and comforting to your children as it is for you?  Well, the easiest solution is to make it a staple in your household.  But that requires a lot of arduous cooking.  So instead, save these recipes for holidays and special occasions (I’ve provided a recipe for each so you can get to cooking if you’d like).  Make your children associate these wonderful tastes with a holiday they love and look forward to year after year.  Maybe even help them learn about other Jewish cultures by introducing foods popular in other countries or in other families of different Jewish backgrounds. Here are my top Jewish food staples and how to go about getting your little ones to savor them as much as you do.

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Topics: jewish education, jewish food

Educational travel for kids

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Apr 29, 2017 8:04:21 AM

Jewish tradition teaches us that we must instill in our children the lesson of giving to our community and those around us in need.  It’s a very basic part of what it means to be Jewish and an important part of a helping create a strong Jewish identity for your kids.  In today’s world of instant gratification and quick fixes, it’s hard to really shock our kids into being passionate about what they have and what they can give. It’s rare to find the opportunity in the daily hustle and bustle to take the time as a family to show our appreciation. That’s why I like to combine my family vacation with an extra component of educational travel for kids, in particular the lesson of Tikun Olam – the  Jewish acts of kindness designed to repair and protect our world.  

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Topics: jewish education, jewish travel

Cuba: people art and culture

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Mar 27, 2017 10:53:17 AM

Incredible rhythm and sound, beautiful beaches, vintage cars and a rich history just a few hours from the US…sounds tempting, right?  Cuba is an absolute must see destination.  It should definitely be on your bucket list.  

Our tour to Cuba is about immersing yourself in the people, art and culture of Cuba.  You’ll roam the streets of Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad, meet with important community activists, see the buzzing art scene, roll a cigar or two and slow it down with leisurely dinners on warm nights. 

As an American, travelling to Cuba hasn’t always been possible.  But thanks to some significant changes in U.S.Cuban relations, Cuba is now a doable destination.  While the relationship between the two countries is certainly warming up, there’s a feeling of urgency to visit this incredible country sooner rather than later. Some say the relations could change and travelling there could be harder in the future. Others say it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship and there’s just a few years left before foreign investment comes funneling in and Cuba becomes the next Miami and the unique idiosyncrasies of this country become a thing of the past.  Either way, now is the time to travel to Cuba to still catch what makes it so special.  

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Fun holiday ideas for your next vacation

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Mar 27, 2017 10:35:53 AM

Why would you be in search of a list of FUN holiday ideas?  Vacations are fun by definition (for the most part -unless you are dragged hiking for a week with a heavy backpack and no shower when your idea of connecting to nature is tending to the basil plant on your window sill, at best).  The very act of taking time off work, disconnecting a bit from routines and responsibilities, seeing beautiful places and eating good food is fun. But perhaps you’re amongst the lucky few who have seen and done it all and you’re now looking for a holiday idea that will be different and appeal to your senses.  Or, perhaps it’s just the opposite.  You rarely get the luxury of taking a vacation and so when you do, you want to go out with a bang. Either way, there are plenty of fun and different ideas for your next vacation. 

Here are a few I particularly like:

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Interesting places to visit around the world

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Mar 27, 2017 7:16:25 AM

You’ve probably come across list after list of the best places to visit around the world.  For the most part, those lists are repetitive and display more of the same.  While London, Paris and Rome are travel staples that have garnered popularity for good reason, when you have limited vacation days and an itch to see the world, a more creative list is required.  Curating a list of this nature and learning how to travel to a less common destination combines a few required characteristics: exoticism, luxury, culture, history and imagination. When you have a location that hits these, you have a location that is guaranteed to be a special experience you won’t forget.  

So, for your next vacation, opt for an interesting off the beaten path destination. Here’s my list (for more ideas of special places in the world, check out my post on 10 places to visit before you die).

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once in a lifetime travel destinations you must see at least once

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Mar 20, 2017 9:36:04 AM

Visit once, remember forever.


What makes a destination a once in a lifetime, can’t miss it, must do everything I can to see it kind of place?  It’s a mix of exotic flare, hear about it in the movies, read about it in books, will be etched in my mind forever and a bit of je ne sais quoi.

While these types of destinations don’t come a dime a dozen, the world has them in different shapes and sizes and it depends on how and where you want to travel.  The good thing about these types of places is that you can’t go wrong. Close your eyes and point to one on the list and you are guaranteed to have the trip that dreams are made of.  But if you want to put some thought into which of these once in a lifetime destinations you want to visit, you might ask yourself: if I were to tell my grandchildren one day of the adventures I’ve been on and the places I’ve seen, what would I want to share with them? If it stands the test of time, and these places always do, you can be sure you’ve chosen well For more inspiration on where to travel to iconic destinations, check out my post on “10 places to visit before you die”.

Visiting these destinations will make you want to capture every detail and keep it forever.  It’s the kind of trips you’ll want to reminisce about and share (or let’s be honest – brag about) with your friends and family.  For inspiration on ways that you can preserve your experiences, freeze them and snack on the later, here’s an article on creative ideas to make your travel memories last forever.  

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Unique vacation ideas to add to your bucket list

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Mar 6, 2017 9:14:44 AM

I believe in collecting experiences.  James Hamblin of The Atlantic writes about this extensively here.  “Looking back on purchases made, experiences make people happier than do possessions.”  When those experiences can be big and extraordinary, all the better.  When they are small and intimate, they leave their mark as well.  Traveling anywhere, from the most obvious choices like Paris and Rome to the more off the beaten path unique destinations most definitely contributes to the collection effort. 

If you’re looking for unique vacation ideas, here’s my list (for more ideas of special places in the world, check out my post on 10 places to visit before you die).

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How to create the ultimate adventure to do list

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo

Mar 6, 2017 7:52:11 AM

Vacations should be about escaping your routine, doing things that you wouldn’t normally do in your 9-5 daily life. Using that logic, and perhaps taking it to the extreme, your next trip should be all about adventures: Skydiving? Spending a week without your cell phone? Trying new foods? These are just some examples of adventures you could indulge in. The question really is, what do you define as an adventure? It’s all relative (and it doesn’t require an adrenaline rush). 

The following guidelines will help you create the ultimate adventure to do list.

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