Talk at the IAJGS conference
Over the past 3 decades, I’ve helped pioneer the (re)discovery and documentation of Jewish heritage sites in East-Central Europe and championed them as travel destinations. My talk will reflect on the changes I’ve witnessed since the first edition of my book “Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe” came out in 1992. Back then, almost all Jewish heritage sites in the region were places of “dark tourism.” Often ruined, dilapidated, and abandoned. Very few people even knew “what was there.” Since then, there’s been a revolution. Ruins still abound, but hundreds of sites have been restored/rediscovered and many are now full-fledged tourist attractions. I will examine these changes, focusing on certain places and certain specific facets, such as restored synagogues and cemeteries, and new Jewish heritage routes, but also reflecting on issues such as the commodification of Jewish culture and growth of a commercial Jewish heritage tourism industry.