Planning a Jewish family break? Try a traumatising trip to Paris!

Israel is out of reach as a holiday destination for most American Jews. Alternatives include pensioner-packed Miami or the French capital.


Paris Eiffel tower France travel landmark traveling

August 17, 2023 11:19

At this time of year, one is either on holiday or feeling annoyed with those who are. I’ve spent the past month hearing from every Jewish friend I have about how great their recent trip with their kids to Israel was.

Their great-aunt has an amazing apartment in Tel Aviv, yeah? With a great view of the beach? And just around the corner from the coolest market/restaurant/club (delete according to demographic)?

This is annoying on multiple levels. First, and most pressingly, I have yet to go on any holiday this summer, because I am apparently the only person in this country feeling the cost-of-living crisis. Second, I do not have a great-aunt with a beach-view apartment.

I have a great-aunt with a view of her local Whole Foods in Suburbia, USA, but that is less tempting. And finally, it gives me guilt because I never went on family holidays to Israel as a kid. Ever.

Partly this is because I grew up in New York and going to Israel from NYC is like flying to Thailand from London, ie not something any sensible parent would choose to do with small kids. And so my parents didn’t.

Also, it genuinely would never have occurred to them to do so. Yes, we had and have cousins who live there, but the idea of schlepping us to Israel would have been a Jew too far for my very Reform parents.

We belonged to a synagogue; my father did not own a yarmulke. That should give you the measure of my parents’ Jewiness.

Nonetheless, when I look back on my childhood, I can see that we had some very Jew-ish family vacations.

The classic image of a Jewish-American vacation is going to the Catskills, as immortalised in Dirty Dancing.

Because Jews, still, weren’t allowed in certain country clubs and hotels in 1940s America, they headed to specifically Jewish hotels in the Catskills — known as the Jewish Alps or the Borscht Belt — where future comedic greats like Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers and Milton Berle were the in-house entertainment.

Alas, by the time I was born, the Borscht Belt was no more, so instead, I went on the classic 1980s Jewish-American holidays:

1. Visiting the grandparents in Miami
The ultimate Jewish-American holiday. As far as I can tell, between 1960 and 1990, Miami was almost entirely made up of former Holocaust refugees who, after raising their kids in New York or Chicago, enjoyed the good life by playing bridge under a striped umbrella on Miami Beach. For Jews, there is no afterlife — heaven is Miami.

2. Taking the kids to Europe and traumatising them
Israel is very far from New York, but France isn’t so bad.

So why not take the kids to Paris and show them the sites where Jewish children were rounded up and carted away to their deaths?

For bonus points, find some distant relatives there who survived the camps and have them tell their stories, giving your children lifelong recurring nightmares.

3. Celebrating Christmas with the cousins
Yeah, I said it: Christmas. Few things are more Jewish than driving 15 hours across the country, Dad screaming at Mom for getting you lost again because there was no Google Maps in 1987, to sing Christmas carols with your cousins Josh, Rebecca and Seth.

Sure, your grandparents hate it, and someone (your grandmother) always passive aggressively puts out the menorah.

But holidays are all about making happy memories for the kids, right?

August 17, 2023 11:19

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