Nitza Spiro Hebrew Studies

Registered Charity No 1070926


"It is an interesting phenomenon", says Nitza Spiro, director of the Spiro Ark, "that even Jews whose level of observance is low or virtually non existent are attracted to Jewish sights of a historical nature or show interest in local Jews. Jewish travellers discover within themselves a keen interest and a sense of identification which often even surprises themselves.

"Is it perhaps a proof of Jung's theory that each subconscious is a blend of the personal experience and the inherited one from ancestors; the collective identity.

The collective identity which Jung refers to is common to the Jewish psyche; a historical people who have a common Jewish past, present and collective destiny.
The story of the Exodus, for example, which a child celebrates from a very early age. Again, festivals teaches him that there are repeated patterns in Jewish history, wherever they may live and in any generation persecution is followed by miraculous survival. This simple formula imprints on the young mind the notion that he or she is a member of a fortunate people overcoming constant threats, surviving against all odds and coming out stronger for it -- as individuals and as a people."

The Spiros have already organized 52 such trips around the world focusing on Jewish history and contemporary life. They have just returned with a group from Tuscany. Many tourists have visited and studied the natural beauty of this region; its superb wines, olive oil, medieval towns and villages, its treasures of art, crafts and music. By adding the Jewish focus, including at times even a bit of Jewish gossip to lighten up the tour provides a different experience.

How many people who love opera know for example that Sybil Seligman, wife of a London banker was the 'closest' person to the composer Puccini. His friendship with her is documented in many letters exchanged between them. As a member of the intellectual Jewish elite she was versed in literature and thus was able to help Puccini in choosing his librettos. She often stayed in his beautiful villa where her portrait is now hanging in a pride of place.

On a more serious note, an example of a historical experience and there are always some the tour of Pitigliano where one is struck by the breath-taking view is built into the rocks of the hillside. Visiting this walled city built like a citadel explains why Jews chose to live there; it felt safe. While entering the historical Jewish sites of this town like the beautifully restored synagogue, Mikvah, Matza bakery and wine cellars, one is transported magically to Jewish life centuries ago, yet finding the similarities to Jewish traditional life today anywhere in the world. Kosher wine of quality is still being produced there!!

Such well researched and guided trips after experiences unavailable to people travelling individually. For example between the Jewish cemetery in Pisa next to the leaning tower and the tower itself is a very old stone wall. If you walk past it you would not notice a thing. Yet if your eye is guided by the expert you will find some 25 Jewish names carved by primitive methods in Hebrew into several stones in the wall. A peculiar discovery; apparently the poor of the community could not afford a tombstone so their families carved their names deeply into the stones of the public path just to give them a memorial. Ironically, some of the inscriptions of the expensive tomb stones within the cemetery itself have been erased by the natural elements but if you know where and what to look for the memory of those poor Jews is safely preserved.

At the Spiro Ark there are many tours in the pipeline. Apart from the sights, you are guaranteed to have a group of like minded interesting and interested people with whom you can share your newly acquired experiences and thoughts freely and without reserve.

Many tours are available for you to join: Romania, Argentina, Vienna, Spain, Portugal. Hebrew Ulpan for families with children 7 and over + other shorter trips to fascinating Jewish places in the UK such as Jewish Oxford, the Cambridge Genizah, Bletchley Park and many more.