Getting away from home can be a great way to gain perspective. On a recent family trip to Europe, I was also reminded of how travel can reinforce connections to Judaism. The longest lines in Amsterdam were for tours of the Anne Frank House. The best meal we had in Paris was the falafel in the old Jewish section of town. The most powerful sight on a visit to Germany was the concentration camp at Dachau; many more visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin next to the Brandenburg Gate. Small brass memorial markers can also be found in the sidewalks outside various houses with the names of Jews who resided there before their deportation.
Jewish connection is also found in Jewish communities. I spent one Rosh Hashanah at an Orthodox synagogue in Geneva while on a business trip, another with a very small Reform congregation in Edinburgh. Both were different and familiar at the same time. One of our most memorable Passover seders occurred at the home of a young Hassidic rabbi and his wife outside of Niagara Falls, who welcomed sightseeing Jewish families with open arms.
The best thing about travel is coming home. Exploring Jewish history and culture around the world creates a profound sense of connection. It also provides a heightened sense of appreciation for all we do at Beth Am to nurture our own Jewish community – and a reminder to always welcome the stranger in our midst and to preserve our heritage for future generations.