Exploring our Jewish Heritage ... From Joy Katzen-Guthrie

These have been remarkable experiences ...

journeying new passages to remote areas of the globe to discover our unique Jewish heritage where we would never expect Jews to have thrived. It has shown us our creativity, our resilience, and our faith. This entirely new facet of my work has allowed me to explore these communities with you, to meet Jews throughout the world, to touch their lives and be touched by them and you. I have taken joy in these discoveries, in sharing the stories, photographs, and history of their lives with you, in creating Shabbat services with you, in expressing music and prayer throughout our journey for you, in seeking the Jewish soul of each place we visit as you have sought it.

Kabbalat Shabbat with Kehillat Beijing, July 2001

There is nothing else in the world like experiencing the beauty and culture of another culture through a Jewish perspective. These tours are absolutely extraordinary. They give us an opportunity to learn of other lives and experiences, share their world if ever so briefly, and bring their lives into our own hearts ... all while bringing our own unique experience as Jews into their world. There is in my opinion, no more meaningful way to travel as a Jew.

It became a tradition for us to share wine, challah (baked for us by Kehillat Beijing) and a shehechiyanu together on the Great Wall of China. When we began our Jewish Heritage Tours, starting in China with the wonderful support of Regent China Tours and its outstanding guides, we recited shehechiyanu at the Great Wall with our first group in June 2000. Since then we have shared the blessing and privilage of discovering our Jewish Heritage in communities across China.

Standing together in the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Dragon Pavillion of Kaifeng, we've discussed the role of the emperors in sustaining the Jewish communities of China. We have walked the streets of the Hongkou Ghetto of Shanghai, home to some 20,000 Jewish refugees of the Holocaust during the years of Nazi rule. We chanted Sh'ma together in the restored Ohel Rachel Synagogue of Shanghai, a beautiful creation of Victor Sassoon. We have strolled down South Torah Teaching Lane, once bordering Kaifeng's ancient synagogue, stood next to the stelae that once guarded the grounds of the synagogue complex, and talked of the Jewish community centuries past. We have recited Kaddish at the Memorial to the Stateless Refugees and Holocaust Victims in Shanghai, recited blessings in the peaceful gardens of Suzhou, shared Shabbat services with the Reconstructionist Kehillat Beijing and Chabad House of Beijing as well as the Jewish community of Shanghai, have created our own Shabbat services in Guilin and Yichang, have basked in the sacred beauty of havdallah by the Yangtze River, and have shared stories and experiences of Jews who traveled this exotic land, its Silk Road, port cities, mountains, valleys, rivers, deserts, and seas so far removed from the West.

I hope to share many more journeys with you. After six visits to China and increasing time spent in preparing these tours, I found it necessary to return to commitments to my music, teaching, writing, and speaking. The requests to serve as Scholar-In-Residence in tours worldwide increase each year, and I consider new possibiliites for future travels. As these opportunities arise, I will announce them to you. I continue to create private heritage tours to China for individuals, families, and groups of all sizes, and to serve as Tour Scholar-In-Residence as my schedule allows.

During the time I traveled through China, I have taken more than 45,000 photographs. They will appear increasingly in slide shows under the Tour Gallery pages of this site, along with future heritage tour photographs. My tour pages remain on the site for you to peruse and examine as an educational resource and as an adventure. May the coming years bring you many blessed journeys!


CHINA ... I continue to assist in the planning of private or group tours to China and am happy to help you create an itinerary for yourself, your family, or your group to travel when it is perfect for you. I do not have any planned visits to China myself at this time, but hope to return to see much more of the country with a small group visiting the northern and southern Silk Roads. Please e-mail me at joyfulnoise@earthlink.net if you have an interest in this kind of visit to China or if I may assist you in creating a personalized tour.

I look forward to traveling with you again.


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Contact Joy Katzen-Guthrie • Katzen and Guthrie Associates, Inc. • 727-785-4568  (Tampa Bay Area)  •  joyfulnoise@earthlink.net