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July 20, 2013 2:28 pm

A European Vacation and a Renewed Joy in Judaism

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Marc Chagall's "The Fiddler." Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

I recently returned from a wonderful, amazingly enriching trip to Europe.

There is so much cultural beauty and greatness about Europe. From the breathtaking views to the museums, it is always a special experience. During my journey, I visited some of the places where famed artist Marc Chagall painted his works of art in the gorgeous city of St Paul De Vence in the South of France, and played chess from midnight until four in the morning on the middle of the croisette in Cannes with a group of Russian Jews who were wearing red strings from Jerusalem, and hamsa pendants.

One can see a spark of Jewish influence wherever one is in Europe. I ate kosher food at a great steakhouse with a proprietor who couldn’t speak English, Hebrew, or Russian – yet we weren’t surprised when he was patting our kids’ heads and pinching their cheeks – indeed, we the Jewish people are one big family.

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Sitting on the beach and playing with our kids refreshes us and reminds us of the purpose of family life. And indeed, how important and special Judaism is to that journey.

Here are some great quotes that reflect on Jewish contributions to arts, culture, and life:

“A few years ago, Tyrone Guthrie speculated that if Jews withdrew from the theatre, the institution ‘would collapse about next Thursday.’ Guthrie was no doubt assessing Jewish contributions at every level of show business from artistic, to administrators, to ‘angels.’ [i.e, philanthropists].” – Ellen Schiff

“Jewish women shaped the foundation of modern dance.” – Julia Foulke

“Jewish influence in the visual arts is a huge story.” – Stuart Plattner

“American Jews have made tremendous contributions in all aspects of general culture. In the professions, in music, in literature, in painting and sculpture, in the academic world, and in the area of science, Jews are often distinguished and in many instances pre-eminent.” – Milton Plesur

“If it be true that our people represent a high percentage of mental vigor, the distinction is probably due, in some measure, to the extremely important part which Talmud studies have played in the spiritual life of the race.” – Abraham Cahan

“Today, Jews enjoy every phase of the art world: as artists, dealers, collectors, critics, curators, consultants, and patrons. In fact, the contemporary art scene has a strong Jewish flavor. In some circles, the wheelers and dealers are referred to as the Jewish mafia since they command power, prestige, and most of all, money.” – Gerald Krefetz

“I argue that the Talmud is about the constant struggle to understand.” – Arthur Hertzberg

And indeed, a vacation is needed for everyone. Take it and feel better.

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