Diaspora Week: Tours showcase American Jewry in the streets of Jerusalem

Walking in the footsteps of American Jews: This Diaspora Week, walking tours in Jerusalem are being offered that highlight American Jewry.

 Running tour showcasing American Jewry. (photo credit: HANNAH TAYEB)
Running tour showcasing American Jewry.
(photo credit: HANNAH TAYEB)

Israel’s official Diaspora week will offer subsidized tours in Jerusalem that will tell the story of the American Jewish community. Diaspora Week, initiated by the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs, will offer a wide range of events for the Israeli public. One of these events is a series of walking and running tours that will show a clear connection between two of the world’s largest Jewish Communities: Israel and the United States.

“Zionism in Rehavia” is the title of these tours, given by tour guides of the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem. Sarah Perry of the Ben-Zvi Institute told The Jerusalem Post that “For the first time we are offering these unique tours that will tell the story of the American Jewish communities, through buildings and monuments across Israel’s capital.” Perry said that “we never did such tours, until we were asked to create these walking tours by the Ruderman Family Foundation. We are offering regular walking and running tours in Jerusalem, yet the spotlight will be pointed at American Jewry and its presence in the Jerusalem space,” Perry explained.

She added that “We will take the participants to seemingly standard neighborhoods, but will focus on American Jewry and Judaism’s three streams – that are represented beautifully in Jerusalem.”

These three-hour-long tours would normally cost NIS 90, but now cost only NIS 10. As mentioned, there are also running tours that according to Perry “are different from our average tours – where we walk but mainly hear lots of information. The running tours consist of a lot of running and a bit of information on each site.” The running tours are also three-hours long, during which the participants run about 7 km.

Some of the sites on the different tours include:

Route: Yad Ben-Zvi, Beit Hachalutzot (Female Pioneers House) and Hadassah Women, The National Institutions, Beit Levi Eshkol – on the late prime ministers Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol and other sites.

 Women at Beit Hechalutzot in Jerusalem, one of the stops in the tour. (credit: Yad Ben Zvi Archives) Women at Beit Hechalutzot in Jerusalem, one of the stops in the tour. (credit: Yad Ben Zvi Archives)

One of the tour guides, Yael Goodman told the Post that the most “surprising” site – regarding its connection to American Jews – is Mishkenot Sha’ananim (the first Jewish settlement built outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem across from Mount Zion). “Everyone talks about the fact that the site was built by British Jewish banker and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore but [it] was paid for by Judah Touro, a Jewish American from New Orleans,” Goodman said.

Other sites that she is expected to show participants in her tour are The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center for Conservative Judaism, the “American scene” in the neighborhood of Nachlaot and the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Goodman will be guiding a running tour, and she explained that “We run from site to site; stop to regulate breathing and explain short and precise explanations about the sites. We created these tours especially for Diaspora Week – therefore these are new tours.”

Shira Ruderman, Executive Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation said that “The relationship between Israelis and American Jewry has always been complex. The Americans, who see Israelis as exiled and sometimes too liberal. The purpose of the tours is to try to start breaking the ice and getting to know a little more about American Jewry and its extraordinary contribution to Israel. This familiarity is essential to Israel’s security a lot more than purchasing hundreds of tanks.”

Ruderman added that “As an Israeli living in these two worlds and as the director of the foundation, I decided that we need to serve as a bridge. This led, among other things, to the initiative of tours about American Jewry during Diaspora Week. I am especially proud of the tour following the life of Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah women’s movement and ‘Aliyat Hanoar,’ the heroine of my youth, who did the opposite route to mine – from the United States to Israel. I may be naive, but I have always believed that acquaintance dispels fears and prejudices and creates true friendship.”