Swiss Franconia, Germany, Jewish Heritage tour

Franconia, The region north of Nuremberg and not too far away from Frankfurt is a very beautiful landscape with rich Jewish heritage.

We visited it on our research trip for unique itineraries in Germany for Jewish Traveler.

The Jewish industrialist Ignaz Bing, once the world leading producer of toys and inventor of the electric toy train, developed the beautiful valley of Wiesent for vacation of Jewish people in the first years of 20th century.
You can still see his mansion at Streitberg and the famous Bing cave he explored and illuminated by electric light. Between the hills and rocks you can follow the traces of theformer Judenwege, the paths used by Jewish peddlers for centuries. 

Most travelers concentrate on the tragic past of German Jews and visit cemeteries and concentration camps. This is a must to do. However, sites like this which tell the story of Jewish communities who lived here for centuries before the holocaust are often missed. I believe we must celebrate Jewish life in Germany. You see that Nazis are gone (well almost) but Jewish life flourishes once again , monuments and synagogues are restored and vibrant Jewish communities with immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Israel are continue to practice their religion.

We strongly recommend that Jews come and see what real contemporary Germany is all about.

Trip report

Just like in Eastern Europe, during medieval times, the Jews in Germany were only allowed to live in certain areas. Because of this, you will see a concentration of Jews in certain villages of Franconia.Today we are meeting with my colleague Michael and his driver Dieter for a day exploration. The driver by the way is also the guide with the title "Dr". He is retired chemist and guiding is his second career. We are working on a new itinerary for the Jewish travelers. Instead of regular Jewish, war, holocaust sites in Munich and Nurnberg, this time we will be exploring Jewish Franconia.

First we went to Tüchersfeld and saw the castle where the Jewish settlement was and how they lived. There w

ere 15 small, houses within the castle. They all lived in the same area, and shared bread baking stove and mikweh. Jewish children however happily coexisted with gentiles. One man wrote in his stories how he was invited by the priest to ring the bell (since he was notallowed to be an altar boy). Jews could not own land in 1600 and only can do trading.

After visiting this this settlement, we went to a small town which was developed by Jewish industrialist and philanthropist Ignatz Bing. He employed villagers and provided water and electricity in late 1800. It was a rarity at that time. In addition to his toy business (mechanical train toys), he also discovered a natural cave and developed it for tourism. He was one of the first tourism organizers in Germany. The cave is now a natural attraction and many people come to visit. That part of Franconia along with nearby Bamberg and Wurzburg is very beautiful. It is a great place to spend even a week there. We inspected a nice 4* hotels owned by the same man , and he assured us he will take care best care of our future clients. Besides hotels, the owner has a great restaurant at a hotel where local people come to eat. We had lunch there and it was very good.

Next stop was a small town of Buttenheim which is the birth place of Levy Strauss. He was born to a large family in poverty and the rest is history. Strauss lived in small house which is now a fascinating museum. The audio guide in English is included. The lady who worked there, was very enthusiastic especially when she found out we were from the USA. 

She said the museum was created on private donations. Interesting enough that Levy Strauss Corp did not participate in the creation of this museum. (It looks like the company is not interested in associating authentic American product like jeans with a Jew from Germany). The lady in the museum showed us statistics of visitors and most visitors come from the US and China.

Next we went to a small town of Ermreuth where there is a newly restored synagogue. Their small Jewish community lived here in the 18th and 19th century. It was destroyed during the Krystallnacht in 1938 and the Jews left. After the war, there was an effort to restore the synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. At the time of restoration in the 1990's, the 16th-19th century artifacts were discovered hidden in the attic. Now the museum is a part of the synagogue. The Jews do not live in Emreuth anymore, but the synagogue is used for music, religious and cultural events to promote peace and interfaith cooperation. 

The woman who takes taking care of the synagogue, Dr. Rajaa Nader, is a Christian from Syria. She is married to a German and lives nearby. Nadler is very well versed in the Judaism and the history of the synagogue. She said it is her project to bring peace between different faiths. She explained symbols of the restoration and architecture, based on Kabbala. Sometimes the schools bring students to study the war and holocaust at the museum. Jewish communities conduct events. There are also art exhibits, many of them by Jewish artists.

For more information, see http://www.neunkirchen-am-brand.de/index.php?page=...

Last year at this time, we visited Berlin. The city and it's people amazed us. This year, in a small village of Franconia, we see a synagogue meticulously restored by the German government and donations throughout the world, lovingly and enthusiastically maintained by a Syrian woman. 

It was really an eye opening day for us and we are forever grateful to Michael for bringing us there. He said it was encouraging to say a prayer in the synagogue to breath life into it since services are not often provided there. He thoughtfully brought a prayer book with him and beautifully sang 2 prayers. Here we are sitting in German synagogue listening to familiar prayer songs. 

We were told they would be happy to open the synagogue for bar- and bat- mitzvahs, or weddings, or just for a service, and it is possible to find a rabbi to lead the service. 

It was a great day for us. I am hoping to bring my clients who are looking for their German roots and heritage.

Suggested Itinerary Customizable per each client

Jewish Franconia 

Highlights of Jewish Heritage in the Franconian Switzerland  

7 day program is ideal for learning about German-Jewish history and relaxing in a beautiful 4 star hotel in the heart of Franconian Swiss.

Day 1.  Excursion to Museum of Franconian Swiss in the former Judenburg of Tüchersfeld with 18th century synagogue and interesting exhibition of former rural life in Franconia. 

Day 2 Excursion to town of Fürth, the Jerusalem of Franconia, once home town of one of the largest Jewish population in Germany. We will visit the beautiful Jewish Museum, the unique medieval Jewish cemetery and see the house where Henry Kissinger spent his youth. 

Day 3 Excursion to Buttenheim, birth place of Levi Strauss the inventor of the jeans. You will see the humble rooms where he lived together with his mother and his brothers before emigrating to the states. An extraordinary exhibition tells the amazing Jewish-German-American success story. In the afternoon we follow the ancient Judenweg to the beautiful Jewish cemetery of Heiligenstadt. 

Day 4 Full day at Nuremberg. We will explore the medieval town and see the famous hall f the Nuremberg trails. At the former party rally area, we will visit the very interesting exhibition about Hitler´s success as a demagogue of the masses and the organizing of propaganda. Here Leni Rieffenstahl made here movie Triumph of the Will. 

Day 5. In the morning we visit Streitberg. Ignaz Bing built his mansion here and discovered the famous Bing cave, one of the largest and surely the most beautiful in southern Germany.  In the afternoon we go to Ermreuth, a small village which one of the largest synagogues in Franconia build in 1822. The synagogue has been carefully restored and is ready to be used for services. You only need to bring your rabbi with you to conduct the service. 

Day 6.  Full day excursion to Bamberg, a very beautiful town with a very old Jewish history. You can still see the medieval prayer house, follow a special guided tour to the places of Jewish history or join the Jewish Community for Shabbat in their new and beautiful Community Center with synagogue, mikwe and meeting rooms. A hotel within walking distance to the Community Center for Shabbat Observant travelers can be arranged. 

Day 7 In the morning visit of the baroque synagogue of Schnaittach with a very interesting exhibition of former Jewish life in the countryside (in the former rooms of the rabbi and the chazan). In the afternoon, possibility of a very romantic walking tour through the valley of Pottenstein, a path often used by Jewishpeddlers in the 19th century. 

Day 8.  Departure or extend your stay in Munich or Frankfurt. Prices on request for individuals and private groups.