RHINE RIVER CRUISE 2016
Land Tours Included In Your All-Inclusive River Cruise Holiday!
Regensburg – Wurzburg – Frankfurt – Mainz – Worms – Cologne – Amsterdam
There have been Jews in the Rhineland since the first centuries of the Common Era when they first sailed down the Rhine along with the Roman army. The earliest written account of Jewish life in the region is an edict signed in A.D. 321 by Emperor Constantine allowing Jews to be elected to the curia of Cologne. Vestiges of Jewish life along the banks of the river recall a history marked by extended periods of prosperity and cultural richness, cut short time and again by violence. Virtually intertwined with the vineyards that dot the region, scattered tombstones and a few reconstituted sanctuaries tell the story.
The name Ashkenaz was applied in the Middle Ages to Jews living along the Rhine River in northern France and western Germany, and the term became identified primarily with German customs and descendants of German Jews. The center of Ashkenazi Jews later spread to Poland-Lithuania.. From the mystical valleys and castles of the Rhine to Holland’s windmills, join Kosher River Cruises for an in-depth educational adventure as we explore millennia of Jewish history and heritage along the Rhine River.
As part of a Kosher River Cruise we add a unique educational program exploring the areas Jewish history and heritage plus Jewish Military History of The World Wars. On our tour we will be joined by retired Jewish military officers and historians who will provide a unique Jewish aspect to some of the major battles of World War I & II, including a special D-Day tribute during our visit to the famous battleground beaches of Normandy.
Regensburg was the seat of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire for 150 years. Like many other German Jewish communities, Regensburg, formerly known as Ratisbon, has a history of both prosperity and persecution. It was here that the mystical ascetic Hasidei Ashkenaz movement developed in the 17th century. Today the wonderfully preserved medieval center of Regensburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including structures dating back to Roman times.
Wurzburg’s Jewish history goes back to the aftermath of the First Crusade at the end of the 11th century. By the late 12th century, it had emerged as a center of German Jewish scholarship. Among the city’s prominent Jews at the time were Rabbi Eliezer ben Nathan of Mainz (known as the Ra’aven), a liturgical poet and one of the earliest Ashkenazi Tosafists, and his grandson, Rabbi Eliezer ben Rabbi Yoel HaLevi (the Ra’avyah), one of the greatest rabbinical authorities in Germany. Through the centuries, the community underwent periods of prosperity alternating with periods of persecutions. During the 1800s, Rabbi Seligmann Baer Bamberger, the Wurzburger Rav, ensured that the city would forever be remembered in Jewish history. In addition to his communal leadership and institution building, he opposed Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s call for Orthodox communities to secede from general Jewish communities in a controversy that still reverberates today.
The city is also known for the Würzburg’s Bishops’ Residenz, one of Germany’s largest and most ornate baroque palaces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Impressive Gothic and baroque architecture can be seen throughout the city.
It is hard to overstate the importance of the city of Worms in Jewish history. It was here that the fledgling Ashkenazi communities famously banned polygamy over a thousand years ago. Worms was home to a yeshiva where some of the greatest Jewish luminaries—including Rashi, the greatest of all Jewish commentators—studied and lived for many years before returning to his birthplace in Troyes, France. It is home to Germany’s oldest extant Jewish cemetery, a medieval synagogue, and a recently discovered mikva from over 800 years ago. Worms occupies an important place in general European history as well. Martin Luther was declared a heretic here in 1521, a pivotal moment in the birth of the Protestant Reformation.
Few Jewish communities used to surpass the one of Mainz in importance and tradition. During the Middle Ages being the major center of religious teaching, this importance can be traced back to a series of influential Rabbis, especially Gershom ben Judah (960 to 1040) whose teachings and legal decisions had impact on Judaism at large. His wisdom was deemed to be so large that he was given the name “הגולה מאור“ – ‘Light of Diaspora’. The new Jewish Community Center of Mainz attempts to draw out this tradition.
The history of the Jews of Mainz though, has also witnessed a different side. In almost no other city have Jews been persecuted so often throughout history, and have still time and again attempted to build up a Jewish community as in this so seemingly serene city of Mainz. Since the first mention of Jews in ‘Magenza’ around the year 900 the communities have been eradicated in a tragic regularity. And still, a few years later Jews found the courage to settle again in Mainz. Thus, almost paradigmatically Mainz embodies hope, learning and an unshakable belief in a future, and at the same time the destruction of Jewish culture and people over more than one millennium
Each year on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, our feelings of dread reach their crescendo during the recitation of Unetaneh Tokefr: On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by famine and who by thirst… But Repentance, Prayer, and Charity annul the severe Decree… According to legend, this prayer was composed in Mainz by the otherwise unknown martyr Rabbi Amnon. Whether or not the story is true, it reflects Mainz’s status as an ancient and pious Jewish community that suffered horribly at the hands of Christian persecutors.
Jews have lived in Frankfurt continuously for nearly 900 years, longer than in any other German city. They worked as merchants, bankers, politicians, philanthropists, artists and scientists. Today it is one of the largest and fastest growing Jewish communities in Germany with over 7,200 members. The first documented mention of Jews in Frankfurt can be traced back to the middle of the 12th century.
Over the centuries Frankfurt developed into a center of Jewish learning, with famous rabbis whose legal authority was respected far beyond the confines of the community. Jewish merchants and money handlers played an important role in the economic development of the city. In the 19th century Frankfurt became the cradle of new Jewish movements: Reform Judaism and Neo-Orthodoxy. Today the Jewish community is culturally and socially well established, enriching city life through the Jewish Adult Education Center (Jüdische Volkshochschule), the Jewish Cultural Festival and a wide variety of events, museums and institutions.
Founded as a Roman colony in the first century of the Common Era, it wasn’t long before Cologne had a Jewish community. That community soon reached its peak of 20,000 just before World War II. Like other cities along the Rhine, Cologne was part of the cradle of Ashkenazi Jewry, producing rabbis and liturgists during the first part of the second millennium. In the nineteenth century, it was home to several leading early Zionist thinkers such as Moses Hess, Nahum Sokolow, and Max Bodenheimer. Cologne has everything from Roman ruins to the Dom, Germany’s largest cathedral and a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Without a doubt, Amsterdam is one of the capitals of world culture, and its emergence cannot be divorced from the mark left on it by its Jewish citizens. During the 16th century, Amsterdam was under Spanish rule, though it was far more religiously tolerant than the Iberian lands, where the Inquisition was still in full force. . As a result, Holland became an attractive destination for Spanish and Portuguese crypto-Jews, as they could live openly Jewish lives here (or question Jewish dogma, as Baruch Spinoza, Jewish Amsterdam’s prodigal son, did). During the 17th century, now free of Spanish domination, Amsterdam became the wealthiest city in the world as a center of global trade and mercantilism. Some see the founding of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 as the moment that the stock exchange was invented. Later in the 1600s, Jews fleeing massacres in Poland and the Ukraine set up an Ashkenazi community in Amsterdam, making it one of the few Western European cities with both Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities. Known as the city of Rembrandt and the Venice of the North, Amsterdam will also always be known as the city of Anne Frank, after the teenage diarist was murdered, along with the vast majority of the city’s Jews, during the Holocaust.
*Tour will be a combination of both Jewish and secular sites.
* Please note mooring and casting off times are only guidelines. We reserve the right to make changes to the itineraries and excursion programs. Due to unforeseen circumstances such as low or high water or a defective ship sections of the river can be closed to traffic. In such cases the ship-owner reserves the right to transport guests along that section by bus, accommodate them in hotels and /or change the course of that part of the journey. In some circumstances it may be necessary to transfer to another ship. These situations are rare but do happen from time to time and are all part of riverboat vacations. There’s nothing anyone can do to control Mother Nature.
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