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Must-Visit Kibbutzim in Israel

Posted by Gil Travel on June 4, 2018

Kibbutzim are pioneering establishments, and the kibbutz movement is one of the most iconic in modern Israel’s history. Kibbutz is the Hebrew word for gathering, a notion that is extremely important to Israelis. The origin of kibbutzim is mostly agricultural. Many young immigrants from Eastern Europe that came from the early 1900’s toiled to cultivate the swamp land and make it habitable. As many came with socialist beliefs, they created entire communes. These were organized around agriculture and the idea that all property, including the fruit of their work, should belong to the community as a whole. That is why the results of their labor were equally shared by all members. From the 1970s, many kibbutzim were privatised. Today, kibbutzim export agricultural goods, cut diamonds, and drip irrigation equipment. Some offer tours, and others provide an authentic kibbutz experience with their living and work programmes.

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Topics: Israel Travel, Jewish Heritage

3 important Jewish sites to visit in Warsaw

Posted by Gil Travel on March 29, 2018

Jewish communities called Poland their home for more than a millennium. Once known as Paradisus Iudaeorum (Latin for “Paradise of the Jews”), Poland was home to the largest Jewish community in the world. 1772, however, brought The First Partition of Poland, religious conflicts, and the persecution of Jews.

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Topics: Jewish Heritage, World Travel

3 Beautiful Synagogues in Israel

Posted by Gil Travel on March 20, 2018

Israel has a myriad of interesting and educational sites, all included in tours to Israel for travellers to enjoy, so choosing just a few can be difficult. Still, if one wishes to see Israel’s edifices of great architectural and historical importance, one must visit the synagogues.

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Topics: Israel Travel, Jewish Heritage

Jewish life in Portugal throughout history and today

Posted by Gil Travel on December 31, 2017

Throughout history, the Jewish people have gone through successful and wealthy periods, but desperate times as well. Until 1496 there had been 150 Jewish communities in Portugal, each one having its own worship places and institutions. But that year brought an end to their communities, forceful conversion to Christianity and expulsion from Portugal. Many religious sites, walls, carvings and gates were destroyed, but Judaism in Portugal didn’t completely vanish; its traces remained in inscriptions, historic markers, place names and local tales.

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Topics: Jewish Heritage, Senior Travel

The best way to teach your children about the Hebrew Calendar

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo on July 3, 2017

 The Hebrew calendar is like a window into the Jewish way of life. The pillars of the calendar are the high holidays, the building blocks are the days, marked by daily commandments upon every Jewish man and woman to comply with, and the weeks, marked by the Sabbath. Teaching your children about the Jewish calendar is a way to teach them about the Jewish way of life.

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Topics: Jewish Heritage

10 practical ways to lead a Jewish life in America

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo on June 25, 2017

Jewish life in America has thrived, particularly since the influx of Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century, has thrived and remains an important part of the American fabric.  These large and established communities created all of the necessary infrastructure to be able to lead a Jewish life in America from Jewish day schools to synagogues to non-profit organizations to kosher supermarkets and more.

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Topics: Jewish Heritage

5 brilliant ways to teach your children about Jewish symbols

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo on June 14, 2017

From the prevalent to the obscure, Jewish symbols are a part of the historic and religious expression of the Jewish religion. From the day you step foot in a Synagogue, attend Hebrew Sunday school or attend a Jewish day school, those symbols will be there, expressed in varying manifestations. Even those of us with limited exposure to Judaism can probably list the major ones.  As Jews, we aren’t allowed to express our God or biblical characters in any physical/visual/artistic way.  It’s instead these Jewish symbols that provide us a way to remember, to connect and to see who we are on a regular basis.

As Jews, we too have the duty to teach our children about who we are.  Sometimes, it’s through these symbols that they can easily connect and remember.  The question is, how do we go about teaching our children about these symbols and what they mean to us?  The first step is in identifying the ones you want to teach.  There are symbols that we use all year round and symbols that we connect to various important holidays.  There are many symbols, certainly more than can be covered in one article. 

Here are my top 5 Jewish symbols that you can start by focusing on.

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Topics: Jewish Heritage

What your children must know about the Jewish holidays

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo on May 29, 2017

The Jewish holidays are an important element of establishing a basic Jewish identity and understanding for your kids.  They (and you) might relate to the religious component, or the family traditions, or the food.  Whatever that connection is, the important thing is that there is one.  Jews are hard wired to pass lessons and traditions down from generation to generation.  If a holiday tradition was a staple in your household, you may be grappling with how to get these traditions to become just as familiar and comforting to your children as they are for you.  But, not everyone grew up in an observant home.  You may have the desire to include Jewish holidays and traditions in your home but lack the know-how.

Discussing the religious components of the Jewish holidays is a book unto itself.  There’s knowing the major holidays, understand what they represent in the Jewish calendar and their biblical significance, understanding the rabbinical interpretations and the laws around each of these holidays, discussing the denominational differences of how they’re observed and more.  Instead, I’ll cover 3 areas that are common to every Jewish holiday and can be focused on even if you haven’t a clue about the rest: food, tradition and symbols and family. They’re bound more to traditions and an easy first step into acknowledging these holidays in your home and teaching your kids about them.

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Topics: Jewish Heritage

How to turn your kids into a Jewish Mensch

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo on May 11, 2017

As parents, we are constantly trying to inspire our kids and guide them into being the best possible human beings they can be. Along the way we are challenged by them, disconnected and often disputed - all from a place of unconditional love (obviously). In today’s day and age (and this is when I start to sound like my own mother) the question is how do we turn our kids into the mensch we envisioned standing before us on their coming of age, while keeping our cool as we dodge toys and cars being thrown at our face… This is my guide to how to turn your kid into a Jewish Mensch before he or she turns Bar/Bat mitzvah!

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Topics: Jewish Heritage

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

Posted by Jessica Swiatlo on May 9, 2017

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 Heritage