For those interested in Jewish heritage and history, a river cruise itinerary with a focus on Jewish Heritage is a unique way to explore many European cities.
Here are just a few of some included excursions you can experience in Europe onboard Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, designed to be cross-cultural “bridges of understanding” and show the spirit of the Jewish communities in these areas that are thriving today. Excursions will vary based on itinerary, travel dates, and cruise lines. Countries include Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, and the Netherlands.
Anyone who has read The Diary of Anne Frank knows what happened to Amsterdam’s Jews under the Nazis. But not everyone knows that the Jewish community began in the city when Sephardic Jews fled Spain and Portugal after 1492, a group of successful merchants and professionals who in turn sponsored Ashkenazi migrants fleeing Central Europe in the 17th century. Visit the Jewish Historical Museum, with its meticulous re-creation of the Great Synagogue, a compelling exhibit called “Friday Night” and lively children’s area, and the nearby Portuguese Synagogue, before strolling through the former Jewish Quarter (Rembrandt lived in this neighborhood, and he often asked his Jewish neighbors to pose for his Old Testament scenes; his house is now a museum and is one of the few original houses still standing in the area). Today’s Jewish community is largely centered in Amstelveen, where some 15,000 Jews live, work, and worship in one of the largest and most vibrant communities in Europe.
The Museum Judengasse outlines the history of Jews in Frankfurt and their relations with the Christian community through the centuries. It abuts the Jewish cemetery and the memorial to victims of the Shoah, listing the names of 12,000 Frankfurt Jews who died in death camps. The museum is named for the quarter-mile-long street where all of Frankfurt’s Jews were required to live between 1462 and 1811. Though none of the houses on Judengasse are still standing, you can see the foundations of some of them when you visit the Museum Judengasse.
Will you leave a pebble on the headstone of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg? The great medieval scholar was born in Worms and is buried there, in the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in Germany. In his day, Worms was one of three important centers of Jewish learning and trade in the Middle Ages, along with Mainz and Speyer, and was known as “little Jerusalem on the Rhine.” Rabbi Meir taught in Rothenburg for 25 years and died a prisoner in Alsace—and his reasons for refusing to allow anyone to ransom him were cited in discussions in 2011 when Israel exchanged 1027 Hamas prisoners for a single Israeli soldier. Today when you visit Worms’ ancient cemetery, with headstones dating to the 11th century, you’ll find a peaceful
place that bears testimony to the long history of Jews in the region. Your tour will also include the re-created 12th-century synagogue and mikveh, which were destroyed on Kristallnacht.
Join your local guide for a walking tour through the delightfully medieval town of Regensburg. Stroll over the Iron Bridge and onto the magnificent Stone Bridge, and pass by the architectural Gothic masterpiece of St. Peter’s Cathedral. Regensburg is the oldest documented settlement of Jewish people in Germany and your walk through the former Jewish Quarter (Neupfarrplatz) will introduce you to their enduring legacy here. See the Dani Karavan Monument memorializing the original Regensburg Synagogue and visit Oskar Schindler’s house. Make your way to the New Synagogue for a presentation about Jewish culture and history in Regensburg. Here, you’ll meet some of Regensburg’s Jewish citizens and walk with them to the nearby Café Fürstenhof for a chat over coffee and cake.
Situated amid Prague’s Old Town is the best-preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in all of Europe. The site of the former Jewish ghetto, the Jewish Quarter is home to the Jewish Museum in Prague, comprised of six synagogues, as well as the Jewish Ceremonial Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery. This area escaped destruction during the Holocaust by becoming the planned site of a Nazi museum, and consequently also housed stolen Jewish artifacts from all over Europe. Visit this district with your guide to see some of the oldest preserved Jewish monuments on the continent and learn about the community’s turbulent past.
Come away with even more profound respect and appreciation for the enduring strength, spirit, and resilience of the Jewish people. Explore itineraries here and get in touch to get started on your river cruise experience.