najaatThis past week I spent I enjoyed a taste of Spainish cuisine at “An Evening in Sefarad Spain,” hosted jointly by The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters and the New York Office of Spanish Tourism, at Congregation Shearith Israel (8 W. 70th St.). This was the perfect setting for such an event because Shearith Israel has a very special connection to the Jews of Spain. It is America’s oldest congregation and was founded 357 years ago by direct descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492.

While I wish I was actually on a tour bus seeing all of the beautiful architectural, historical and cultural Sephardic heritage in real time, the event at Shearith Israel made it feel as if I was there. The evening started with a visual presentation of the Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters followed by endless servings of paella prepared by Paella Masters to honor Orthodox Jewish dietary practices. There was also plenty of wine and sangria. I also had the opportunity to meet world-famous Chef Najaat Kaanache and taste an incredible dessert of pomegranate sorbet which she prepared on the spot. Now that my pallet was emersed in the tastes of Spain, I wanted to prepare a tour right from my very own computer.

Yes, I a mom that checks seraches out information via twitter, facebook, blogs, and pinterest. I was happy to discover that the Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters is online and ready for planning. The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters, www.redjuderias.org/rasgo is a non profit public association with the goal of protecting urbanistic, architectonical, historical, artistic and cultural Sephardic Heritage in Spain. Spain is going to great lengths to recover the heritage of their traditionally Jewish cities. It is their objective while in the United States to reconnect with Jewish communities, celebrate the shared heritage of Jews and Spaniards, and invite Jews and other world travelers to visit “Sefardic” sites. Not many people know that these are among the most beautiful travel destinations in Europe and once had vibrant Jewish communities.

The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters has spent over $26 million dollars in renovation projects in the last four years. “These are important parts of our cities’ heritage,” says Ferran Bel, Mayor of Tortosa and President of The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters. “And the rest of Spanish society is beginning to appreciate the endeavor.” Jewish legacy in Spanish cities is becoming a major attraction and the Network and Spanish government are offering special training programs for cultural guides and tour operators.

Imagine seeing the places where the medieval poets, philosophers, cabbalists and craftsmen once lived. Within The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters is and includes the towns of Segovia, Ávila, Barcelona, Besalú, Cáceres, Calahorra, Córdoba, Estella-Lizarra, Girona, Hervás, Jaén, León, Monforte de Lemos, Oviedo, Palma de Mallorca, Plasencia, Rivadavia, Tarazona, Toledo, Tortosa and Tudela). RASGO is creating and organizing tours in the Jewish quarter of all the cities of the Network. The acronym RASGO stands for the following elements:

  • Restaurants offering Sephardic style food.
  • Accommodation with charm in the Jewish quarters.
  • Signposting of the Jewish quarters with common elements.
  • Guides with special training with regards to Jewish culture.

One that sounds very interesting to me is the “Vineyards of Sefarad”, a new wine venture. While Spain, always budget conscience since the recession, certainly hopes their expenses will be recouped in new tourism revenues, there is a deep commitment to these projects as something essential to the history of their country. Says Bel, “the cities that our Network is currently restoring and recovering are an important part of of our heritage – not just the heritage of Spain’s Jews, the heritage of all Spaniards.”

The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters has a facebook page and is on twitter. Keep up with them and find out more about making a trip to Spain in the near future! The New York Office of Spanish Tourism is also on facebook and Twitter.

This was not a paid post. I was invited to an Evening in Sefarad Spain to learn more about the The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters.

While Spain, always budget conscience since the recession, certainly hopes their expenses will be recouped in new tourism revenues, there is a deep commitment to these projects as something essential to the history of their country. Says Bel, “the cities that our Network is currently restoring and recovering are an important part of of our heritage – not just the heritage of Spain’s Jews, the heritage of all Spaniards.”

The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters has a facebook page and is on twitter. Keep up with them and find out more about making a trip to Spain in the near future! The New York Office of Spanish Tourism is also on facebook and Twitter.

This was not a paid post. I was invited to an Evening in Sefarad Spain to learn more about the The Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters.