According to Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, former chief rabbi of Japan and leading authority on the Jewish experience in Asia, “Jewish traditions can help travelers stay healthy in exotic locales.”
Rabbi Tokayer, author of The Fugu Plan, the story of Japan’s ‘unsung Schindler’, and Pepper, Silk & Ivory, the unknown Jewish experience in the Far East, has organized tours to exotic Jewish communities throughout the world since 1983. One of the most remarkable achievements is that not one traveler in the past 36 years has ever become ill or missed a single sightseeing tour because of illness or discomfort due to the food.
The trips are ideal for travelers who are Kosher and Sabbath observant. To keep Kosher in distant places, the tours visit Jewish Centers which usually have a Kosher restaurant. In addition, in places that have no Jewish Center or synagogue, the groups become vegetarian. “That is one of the secrets to our success,” says the Rabbi. Buddhist and Hindu vegetarian restaurants in Asia not only provide a taste of the region. they serve no ‘life’.
“Buddhist and Hindu vegetarian restaurants serve no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or even milk,” says the Rabbi. Peking duck is made of wheat gluten, walnuts and honey, and shark fin soup consists of mushrooms and tofu. “The dishes look, taste and smell genuine,” he adds. “The roast beef will even have ‘veins’ and ‘sinews’ in each slice but are 100% vegetarian.”
“Another lesson of the Jewish experience is the concept of the Sabbath, or Shabbat,” adds the Rabbi. Travelers, especially to distant lands, frequently face the problem of fatigue and reach the point of diminishing returns. “By observing the Sabbath day, the group has the opportunity to rest and reflect on what’s past and prepare for the future. Travelers are given a chance to recharge the body’s batteries so that the following days of touring will be as fulfilling as the previous ones.”
Over the years, fascinating guest speakers and friends of Rabbi Tokayer have visited the groups at their hotel, on Shabbat. “It’s a great opportunity to experience an aspect of the countries no ordinary visitor ever sees,” states the Rabbi. “And since we don’t travel on Saturdays, the guest speakers come to us. Our tours offer a Jewish perspective to the people, places and history of the Far East.”
In 2020, our jewisheyes™ tours include India My 2nd Home led by Prof. Nathan Katz and Southeast Asia led by Rabbi Rachel Safman. The tours help support the endangered remote Jewish communities on the periphery of the Diaspora through our not-for-profit Foundation for Remote Jewish Communities.
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