Tour the Jewish World from the Social Distance of your Sofa
Last summer, when I was preparing the series of blogs about touring Jewish Canada, I had the intention to do a Winter version, highlighting Jewish travel to do while staying warm and cozy indoors. Winter has passed, but instead, while you stay safe, stir-crazy and healthy indoors, I invite you to visit some awesome Jewish places virtually. I’m sure there are many, many more, but this is a good jumping-off point.
I’ve tried to estimate how much time you can expect to spend on a given site. Much will depend on where your interests lie. Please let us know what you think.
You could get lost here all day
An hour or two, give or take
Less than an hour
JEWISH ARTS AND CULTURE
Google Arts and Culture (https://artsandculture.google.com/explore)
This is an amazing collection for anything Arts and Culture. For Jewish sites, search for Jewish or Jews or Israel. There’s so much to
see here that it defies being broken down. Suffice it to say under “Jewish”, there are 14 Museum views, 10,336 individual items, 81 stories (which are online exhibits), 25 collections, and 1 Theme (the Holocaust). You could definitely while away a full day here.
JEWISH COMMUNITIES AROUND THE WORLD – PAST AND PRESENT
The Jewish Virtual Library (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/virtual-jewish-history-tours) offers what they call “Virtual Jewish History Tours” – be forewarned that this is for those who like to read. There are detailed histories of many Jewish communities. Many articles end with links to current Jewish organizations in the country. Begin with the World Map or select a continent and explore from there.
In its own words, “JewishGen KehilaLinks (https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/) (formerly "ShtetLinks") is a project facilitating web pages commemorating the places where Jews have lived. KehilaLinks provides the opportunity for anyone with an interest in a place to create web pages about that community. These web pages may contain information, pictures, databases, and links to other sources providing data about that place.” There are an almost overwhelming number of communities to visit or learn about. Because it’s crowd-sourced, the depth of detail and the number or quality of images vary. You can spend a whole day exploring here, too!:
Jewish Heritage Europe (https://jewish-heritage-europe.eu/) is a comprehensive site for all of Jewish Europe. Each individual country has links to museums, memorials and cultural institutions, where you may fin d links to virtual tours or to museum exhibits.
It's through this site that I stumbled on the Jewish Catacombs of Italy, (https://jewish-heritage-europe.eu/2019/10/17/italy-more-on-the-jewish-catacombs/) dating from the 4th Century. Even if you don’t want to spend time looking around, you don’t want to miss this. Don’t forget to use full screen view.
Unione delle Comunita Ebraiche Italiane (Union of Italian Jewish Communities) (http://ucei.it/virtual-tour/) offers a directory of a number of Jewish virtual tours of museums, synagogues, and cemeteries in 11 communities in Italy.
Past, Present and memory: rediscovering Jewish Lviv (https://lia.lvivcenter.org/en/storymaps/jewish-lviv/) is set up as a virtual walking tour. A map indicates stops on the way, and at each stop there are images and text, and sometimes video as well.
The Morroccan Jewish story in 360 (https://einatmorocco.wixsite.com/morocco360) is just what it says – and so much more. Breathtaking 360 tours of Jewish places in Morrocco. As with any 360-degree photos or tours, make sure to use full screen mode for the best effect!
Some of these exhibits are rich with pictures of their collections; some are text-heavy, and some are immersive tours of their facilities or specific exhibits. For the 360 degree or virtual tours, make sure you tour in full screen mode to get the most out of the experience. I'm rating them all with the hourglass, because they're museums; you'll probably want to linger.
The Saint John Jewish Historical Museum has four virtual exhibits; you’ll find links at the bottom of the Events and Exhibits page. They are mainly picture-based, with explanatory text.
The Museum of Jewish Montreal offers virtual tours. Under Collections, click on Virtual Exhibits, then Virtual Tours – audio with pictures. It features audio recordings, which are also transcribed, accompanying pictures.
The Jewish Museum of New York offers pictures of many of their artifacts, with commentary.
The Jewish Museum of Florida is currently building a virtual tour, but there are lots of pictures of its exhibits now; simply click on the name of the exhibit. http://jmof.fiu.edu/
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem has had a lot of its exhibits available to view online. It’s front page now says, “Museum is closed. Come on in”, as it transitions to a more virtual museum over the pandemic. https://www.imj.org.il/en/events/museum-closed-come
The Jewish Online Museum is New Zealand’s first Jewish museum and claims to be first online Jewish museum in the world as well. You can browse by media type and keyword. It’s organized around five themes: History, Lives, Arts, Faith, and Holocaust https://www.jewishonlinemuseum.net/.
Enjoy your exploration