Marcel Manson visited Poland for the first time in 1993 with his mother. She was a survivor of Krakow’s Kazmierz No 5 Jakuba Street where she grew up, the wartime ghetto in Podgorze, Plashov labour camp before surviving 7 weeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau and then ending up in her final camp at Lichgterwengen in Czechoslovakia. Marcel’s father was hidden on a farm in Stuzchine 2 hours east of Krakow near Tarnow. He was fortunate to find someone on that 1st visit who remembered his father and said 'the whole town knew where he was hiding and yet we did not give himn away'. This revelation made a profound impact on Marcel and he has since taken groups to Krakow each year to the annual Jewish Heritage Culture festival at the end of June. This is widely regarded as the best Jewish Festival in the world today for quality of music, lectures, films and other diverse events - click here for more and is a 10 day event that should be experienced by everyone either at the opening week-end that tends to be mainly chazanoth or at the festival conclusion which climaxes with a 7 hour mainly klezmer muisc experience.
Over the last decade, visits have been made to Prague, Budapest, Vilnius, Kovno, Riga, Bucharest, Kishenev, Bratislava, Warsaw, Vienna, Zagreb, Rome, Paris Strasbourg, Berlin, Lublin and Lvov Kiev and Odessa in the Ukraine, building up contacts for future trips to these important Central and Eastern European cities.
We introduced our clients to Morocco with the enigmatic guide Rafi Elmaleh and have a very successfuill programe that incorporates the imperial cities of Marrakesh, Essorioau, Rabat, Meknes & Fez in 5* accomodation with exquisite kosher food over 6 days celebrating Purim in Casablanca which is an absolute treat. We are seeking to intoduce Djerba into our programme when the time is right as this island makes for an incredible Jewish travel experience as does the wonderful city of Istanbul which is inreasingly becoming one of my favourit cities along with Porto, Lisbon and the fantastic Spanish cities of Toledo, Seville, Granada, Cordoba and concluding in Gibraltar.
It is vitally important to visit and pay homage and pray for the millions slaughtered in the death camps. Our trips to Poland do mainly focus on how Jews lived by learning and understanding how nearly 1,000 years of mainly peaceful co-existence created a deep and rich culture that flourished for many centuries. Our aim is to understand and walk the past, show and feel what was so horrifically destroyed, trace those echoes that still remain and hear from locals about their everyday experiences of being a Jew today in each destination. Fascinatingly in small ways this heritage is being reconstructed in growing small communities, with surprising interest from many locals whose interest and regeneration of Jewish cultural heritage must be applauded by us and encouraged.
Marcel Manson has set up JHTee as he has a passion for the lost Yiddish world of Eastern Europe. For instance in travelling through Ukraine and Northern Romania there are still old Yiddish speaking communities wihich will not be around in the near future so there is a need to go visit this lost stehtl world now before it disapears for ever. He sees a need for escorted trips to the former Jewish enclaves utilising the many budget airlines available and using the best guides in each specific place. Our children have the benefit of organised trips often at subsidised cost to Poland and elsewhere so it is our aim at JHTee to organise full packages with West End Travel to include flights and full ATOL protection.
We appreciate in these hard financial times there is a need to keep costs down so we always travel first to each destination city to find the best price Hotel conveniently near or in the Jewish quarter usually 3 star upwards and then try all the recommended guides till the most suitable is hired and organise trips so you see all the places of Jewish interest, allowing you to keep Shabbos and also some free time to visit other places of interest. A full group will always reduce the total cost for everyone allowing extras to be added to the agenda such as klezmer band entertainment after diner. So please encourage your friends to join us on these trips.
For instance our guide in the delightful little city of Zagreb was involved in the 40th anniversary celebration of the film Fiddler On The Roof shot just north of the city and they re-oponed the closed cinema in the town where they showed the film to the locals along with returning actors to the film set. We have asked Chaim Topol who lives in London to lead a group trip back for the next milestone anniversary celebration of the film.
Timing is all important when booking with these airlines, so book well in advance or when they announce their repeated special offers. This keeps the costs down to a minimum with hotel group rates negotiated to your benefit. Each group trip will be escorted and start with an acclimatization briefing, itinerary and questions with local experienced guides. We will show appropriate films on coach journeys. Kosher food will always be available and if not vegetarian is requested. Most destinations have very early morning flights recommended. Group tours will start 1 hour after arrival so those who wish a more relaxing trip can book scheduled flights the previous day with West End Travel and spend additional nights at the destination.
JHTee aim is to cover all areas of the World and India has now been included in our programme which incorporates Jewish India Bombay to Cochin for 11 days then a golden triangle add on for 8 days for those wishing to extend their trips. We plan to visit South America and hear Panama City like Berlin is the fastest growing Jewish city in that continent and of course the famous cities of Rio, Buenas Airies, Montevideo and Caracus.
China and the far east is on the horizon as are Carabean islands will be on the agenda such as the Dominican Republic and Aruba.
Please let us hear from you with towns countries and places you wish to visit so we can fit it in to a future itinerary.
Increasingly JHTee tours are concentrating trips in the Sephardic World where the Mizrachi culture celebrating Hiloula in the Isle of Djerba evert Lag B’Omer an experience everyone should make and a site to behold that will stay with you for ever.