1. Kraków, Poland Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter)
Most of Kraków’s Jewish community lived here before World War II, and it’s the location of Oskar Schindler’s factory (now a museum) as well as the filming site for Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. Since the 1990s, a Jewish revival has spurred the renovation of synagogues and cemeteries and seen a rise in Jewish-themed establishments and a klezmer music scene. It’s also the place for hipster nightlife.
2. Sarajevo, Bosnia Synagogue and Haggadah
“Sarajevo’s old synagogue is a beautiful structure filled with a well-presented museum,” Cameron says. “It’s also striking because it sits just a few steps away from the city’s main Catholic and Eastern Orthodox cathedrals and its primary mosque — embodying the ecumenical spirit of Sarajevo before the wars of the 1990s.” Visit the Sarajevo Haggadah, the 14th-century Spanish illuminated manuscript, on display (by appointment) at the recently reopened National Museum.
3. Morocco Casablanca and Fez
Morocco’s Jewish history runs deep, and it has “a charming community that is flourishing despite its limited numbers,” Michael says. In Casablanca, don’t miss the Temple Beth-El Synagogue and the Moroccan Jewish Museum — the only in the Arab world. In Fez, see the Ibn Danan synagogue (one of the oldest in the country still intact), and tour the mellah (Jewish quarter) and cemetery, where many “saints” rest.
4. St. Petersburg, Russia Grand Choral Synagogue
The center of the Refusenik movement and a center of Jewish life, St. Petersburg houses sites of interest to lovers of art and music, like the Academy of Fine Arts, where Marc Chagall studied. “Saint Petersburg is intellectually and culturally dynamic, with most activities concentrated at the very large YESOD–Jewish Home,” Michael says. Plus, “The city is gorgeous.” Don’t miss the exquisite Grand Choral Synagogue, one of Europe’s oldest.
5. Cairo, EgyptBen Ezra Synagogue
Jews settled in Cairo as early as the seventh century, and in 882 bought a church from the Coptic Christians. The stunning Ben Ezra Synagogue — where Maimonides prayed, and the site of the Cairo Genizah — was restored in 1892 and remains a popular place for Jewish tourists who choose to venture into Egypt.
6. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Congregation Beracha v’Shalom v’Gemilut Hasidim
Considered the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the Americas, the building went up in 1803, burned down twice, and was torn down once before the final version was erected in 1833. Founded by Spanish and Portuguese Jews, the congregation opted for Reform affiliation in 1947. On the National Register of Historic Places, the synagogue has unique sand-covered floors.
7. Prague, Czech Republic Jewish Quarter
“This is usually considered the best-presented, most accessible Jewish site in Europe, with several gorgeous former synagogues that have been turned into museums,” Cameron says. Look up at the synagogue attic window into the space where the legendary Golem is said to have been hidden.
Local travel gurus weigh in with some of their favorite Jewish sites.
Cameron Hewitt is the content manager for Rick Steves’ Europe. He has coauthored guidebooks, led Rick Steves tours of Europe, and written travel articles and scripts. He lives in Seattle.
Michael Novick is the executive director of strategic development for the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee. He has traveled around the Jewish world and is based in Bellevue.