Jewish Albania, Montenegro, and Corfu (Greece)
A Jewish Heritage Tour
27 May–7 June, 2024 & Summer 2025
11 night || 12 days
Travel program led by Dr. Joseph Benatov of the University of Pennsylvania
In 1648, a 22-year-old charismatic Sephardic rabbi by the name of Sabbatai Tsevi proclaimed himself the messiah. He was egged on in his messianic project by Nathan of Gaza, his self-appointed prophet. When in 1666 Sabbetai Tsevi was brought in front of the sultan in Adrianople and threatened with death, he chose to convert to Islam. Six years later, Tsevi was banished to the Ulcinj fortress, where he spent the last four years of his life. The picturesque waterfront town of Ulcinj is located on the southern coast of Montenegro, and the story of the 17th-century false messiah is the most recognizable moment in the country’s Jewish history. Part of Montenegro’s Sabbatian aura is an unresolved mystery surrounding the location of Tsevi’s grave, with two different sites in Ulcinj vying for the title.
In neighboring Albania, the Muslim code of honor Besa was the driving force behind Albanian Muslims’ valiant determination to protect local Jews during WWII. As a result, over 2000 Jews survived the Holocaust, and some 75 Albanians were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Amongst them were Muslim families from the towns of Shkodra, Berat, Tirana, and Gjirokaster, all stops along our itinerary.
Our Jewish tour of Montenegro, Albania, and Corfu (Greece) will allow you to discover the hidden treasures of this fascinating region. Your adventure starts in the stunning bay of Kotor, surrounded by the imposing mountains of Montenegro. Kotor is Montenegro’s undisputed crowning jewel, combining medieval fortification walls, Venetian alleyways, clocktowers, piazzas, and cathedrals. Our land-and-water exploration of the Kotor Bay (Boka) will take us to idyllic Baroque town of Perast, the pristine islets of Our Lady of the Rocks and St. George. Other Montenegro highlights include the mountainous winding serpentine road – with spectacular panoramic views of the bay; the coastal town of Budva, the fortified Stari Bar, the Crnojevica River gorge, the quaint Njegushi village, and much more.
As a strategic trading port, Kotor was also home to a Jewish community. Jewish tombstones bear the names of Finzi, Tedeschi, Winkler, Herzer, Linenberger, Valenzin, and Tolentino.
The Albanian portion of our journey includes vibrant Shkodra, an old city located on the eponymous lake. We will also make a stop in Kruje, Albania’s first capital, before arriving in the present-day vibrant capital city of Tirana. Further along our route lies Berat, an architectural gem, which was also home to a Sephardic Jewish community. Equally impressive is the Ottoman architecture of Gjirokaster, huddled below its imposing castle. Both Berat and Gjirokaster have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. In southern Albania, the coastal town of Saranda is home to the well-preserved foundations of a 5th-century synagogue.
A short speedboat ride through the Ionian Sea will take us to the island of Corfu, one of the most spectacular Greek islands. The Scuola Greca synagogue, dating back to the 1600s, is one of the most impressive synagogues in Greece and the meeting point for the small Jewish community living on the island today. Corfu Town exudes elegant Venetian grace across its narrow streets, flanked with historic buildings, churches, galleries, and tevernas. The historic port, its 14th-century fort, and the idyllic natural surroundings make Corfu an unforgettable experience.
As usual, we will also devote special attention to the regional cuisine and wines of all three countries, so expect some truly memorably culinary adventures. From stuffed cabbage leaves and kachamak (polenta) in Montenegro, to byrek (stuffed filo pastries), fergese (peppers, feta, and tomatoes stew) and the delicious shendetlie walnut and honey cake in Albania – to sofrito, pastitsada, savoro, bianco, and tsigareli in Corfu, your eyes, mind, and palate will all be on a roller-coaster ride.
LAND PRICE: $3880 per person in double room
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $760
For a detailed itinerary, contact Joseph: firstname.lastname@example.org ♦ 267-970-1817 ♦ or fill out our contact form.