Monday, April 22, 2019 -
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The world’s Jewish narrative



Many Jewish travelers like to veer away from the typical tourist itineraries in their destinations to check out a local synagogue or Jewish museum.

In addition to broadening their view of their host country, the visit to a Jewish site can make the Jewish tourist feel at home in a strange place.

Veteran traveler Irene Shaland goes well beyond checking out a synagogue or cemetery in a foreign country.

Shaland and her husband Alex, who have visited more than 60 countries, are constantly in search of what she calls the “Jewish narrative” wherever it may exist in this world.

IJN readers should be familiar with Shaland’s in-depth stories of worldwide Jewish communities — past and present — through her travel articles which have appeared in L’Chaim® the past few years.

Shaland has gathered and edited these and other Jewish travel articles in her book The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories.

These are not your usual travelogues with recommendations of where to stay or eat, but rather investigations of the evidence of Jewish communities which once thrived — and in some cases, still do — in some of the world’s most exotic, romantic or just plain unlikely locations.

She takes the reader on a fascinating journey, from Europe to Asia to Africa.

The fate of the brilliant Jewish community of Vienna annihilated during the Holocaust shines a disturbing light on the stories and the current rise of anti-Semitism in Scandinavia and throughout Europe.

Two-millenia-old tales of little-known Jewish communities of India and China, which never knew religious persecution, reveal happy chapters in the history of the Jewish Diaspora filled with so many tragic events.

Striking stories of the uplfiting revival of Judaism in Sicily and Sardinia after 500 years of the expulsion of the Jews from these islands signal some optimism for the future.

Shaland explores the Jewish communities or the reminders of a Jewish past in Austria, Czech Republic, India, China, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Sicily, Sardinia, Africa and the former Soviet Union.

She takes the reader to the Jewish sites such as active and former synagogues, museums, cemeteries, former Jewish ghettoes and even churches built where thriving synagogues once stood.

Whenever possible, she seeks out members of the contemporary Jewish community, and shares their stories and struggles to maintain their Judaism and preserve their heritage.

The author’s stories are brought to life with photographs by her husband Alex who captures the faces, buildings, monuments and streetscapes of worldwide Jewry.

The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories is available from

Larry Hankin may be reached at

Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Larry Hankin

IJN Associate Editor |

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