Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tips for Jewish Tourists

The following addresses Jewish tourists of all denominations.

Going to Europe? Great! Good for you. You surely deserve a break. Here are a few useful tips. Please do not let anything get to you, it has already gotten to us. All that follows is based on actual facts.

1. Planning trips in advance is a great idea. Planning them 10 months in advance is a bit over the top, but hey, it’s your life. Mapping out your itinerary is commendable. Calling people at 4:30 AM in August to inquire about Kosher facilities for your February trip is strongly discouraged. Remember, there is a world outside Brooklyn and it has different time zones. Your evening is our [very, very] early morning and we’re tired. Thank you.

Some of you like to jump on a plane with no prior notice and land in exoticlandia with your backpack, ready to conquer a strange land with your globally renowned charm and wit and powerful dollar.
Ah the sweet spontaneity of youth. It’s great, you know, but please try not to call us 2 hours before the Seder, looking for a host for yourself and your five giggling JAPS friends. We love guests and so do other families, but food and table space are limited. We love you and care for you and you’re special because you’ve come ALL-THE-WAY-FROM-AMERICA! but there are hundreds of people just like you. We’d know, they call us all the time. And guess what, I came from America too but I still have to peel mountains of potatoes.

Rabbis have families.
Gasp! I know!
So if you’re stuck in the airport and have nowhere to go (whaddya mean, nowhere to go? Play tourist!) think twice before ringing our bell at 7:30 am because you need a place to daven. First of all, there are shuls. Second, sometimes the rabbi’s children come home for Pesach and some of them may be sleeping in the living room, so where do you want to don teffilin, in the kitchen? And that bell is annoyingly loud. Grumble.

The needs of the local community often come before the needs of the tourist. Sorry, that’s the reality. We’ll gladly advise you, but we can’t baby-sit you.

We will gladly answer questions about shul hours and locations, mikveh, kosher food, phone numbers of rabbis in adjacent cities. However, we cannot understand why someone would ask a rabbi for hotel recommendations and sightseeing tips. We have a typed list of hotels and youth hostels, but we can’t give you the exact rates, vacancies and cross streets. Nor could we spend the day on the phone explaining how to get to all the tourist spots. Call information, or look it up on the internet. One more thing: I don’t know if the main synagogue is north or south of your hotel. Cities here are a jumble of short streets and alleys and we don‘t carry a compass. You will find no North and South on street names. We won’t hang up on you if you ask all these strange questions, but think twice before doing so and buy a guidebook. Pretty please.

Don’t ask stupid questions.

Relatives and close friends get the special treatment of course, but if you are my father’s cousin’s neighbour’s teacher’s friend don’t expect us to move one of the kids to the sofa in order to accommodate you. The frum world has grown and we just cannot operate that way anymore. You’re welcome to come over for a meal or two or three, but we need our sleep too.

Kosher food is either nonexistent or expensive. When planning your trip, try to obtain a list of available foods in the countries you will be visiting (e.g. certain brands of Tuna fish) and bring some non-perishables like instant soups and pastas.

Taking pictures of/at famous spots: cool. Taking pictures without knowing what you’re looking at= not cool. Did you make the trip just so you could tell your friends you’ve been here, or do you actually want to learn something?

At the Shabbos tables, tourists often like to discuss the peculiarities of the country they are visiting. That’s perfectly fine, but please stop wrinkling your nose and proclaiming how ‘strange’ everything is. It’s not strange, it’s different. You can’t expect the whole world to look like Israel or America. And don’t expect to understand the natives. You’re here to have fun, don’t give us a thorough analysis of our country based on the work of a NYT correspondent. He died in in 1992. Yes, we read English. But we eat with our hands to entertain you and give you something to write home about.

Euros are expensive.

If you’re too broke to afford a Youth Hostel, don’t travel.

Don’t commit embarrassing indiscretions. The Jewish world is a small one. You know what I'm talking about.

There are many decent tourists whom we enjoy helping out. This tirade was obviously directed at the more demanding and troublesome visitors. Just remember that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your trip, and all will be fine.



Anonymous j-ranter said...

Great entry!!!! You should post in on Tiyul Talk!

12:00 PM  

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