Sure. Come to New York, spend your money on fancy dinners and Broadway shows and visits to the Statue of Liberty.
But maybe you can take a little time out of your busy schedule for The Jewish Museum or the Eldridge Street Synagogue?
The above probably won’t be part of a major Jewish tourism campaign that is taking shape after nearly a decade of planning.
But with help from the mayor and City Council, the city’s visitor’s bureau may soon be pushing a Jewish Heritage and History Tour that highlights landmark sites, from old synagogues and museums to the birthplaces of celebrities like Woody Allen and Art Garfunkel.
“This is a long-term effort that could be a great economic benefit for the city, as well as the [Jewish destinations], which could use more traffic,” said Howard Teich, an activist who serves on the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Jewish Heritage committee. On board is Fran Reiter, a former president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani. On Monday, Teich and Reiter met at City Hall with City Council members, including Jewish Caucus Chair Mike Nelson (D-Brooklyn), a key supporter, and representatives of four borough presidents. Also present were officials of the Center for Jewish History and Museum of Jewish Heritage – institutions that can serve as tour facilitators. They discussed strategy and previewed a map of Jewish sites of interest, to debut in May, funded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn. A Web site is also under discussion.
It’s a dream of more than 10 years for Teich, who tried to set up a similar effort under Giuliani. NYC & Company, formerly the convention and visitors bureau, has been supportive of the effort, and the New York Board of Rabbis will distribute the maps in schools and synagogues.
A key challenge: How to lure visitors from Manhattan to the other boroughs.“You have to create destinations,” advised Reiter, who is now a consultant. While visiting the site in Queens where the United Nations recognized Israel in 1948 might seem appealing, she noted, there is no way to experience that history on arrival. (The site is now part of the Queens Museum). The highlighted sites must be interactive, she said. “The worst thing you can do is pull someone to a destination and then disappoint them.”
The group will consult with current tour operators and do a study to find out how many Jewish tourists currently visit the city, and how they spend their time.