Odessa’s Jewish history is a fascinating story to tell. Opportunities provided by the fast growing city and port both for the poor Jews from the shtetls and rich Galicia Jews were plentiful. In hundred years Odessa boasted Jewish bankers and traders, architects and doctors. The city became home to the Jewish intellectuals, housed the Haskalah movement and Odessa’s Palestine Committee. The “Star in Exile” to a Jew in the Russian Empire during the first half of the nineteenth century, Odessa evolved into the “Gates of Zion” several decades later.
Sylvester Stallone, Sydney Pollack, David Copperfield, Kirk Douglas, Steven Spielberg, Sigmund Freud, Bob Dylan, Boris Pasternak – these are just a few celebrity names, whose family roots are connected with Odessa.
How did Odessa become the third largest city in terms of Jewish population in the world by the end of the XlX century? What made the Jews in Russian Empire and Odessa escape the country at the first decade of the XX century? On this 2.5-hour walking tour we’ll talk about the “Golden Age” of Odessa’s Jewish community:
“Lebn vi Got in Odes!” went a traditional Yiddish phrase. “Live like God in Odessa”. Indeed, a 19th century Odessa in Isaac Babel’s words was a “star in exile” for a Jewish person. Why was it so?
The nineteenth-century Odessa
Odessa’s Jewish heritage comes as no surprise to most of the city’s guests. But even those, who have heard of “Little Odessa” in New York’s Long Island and are well aware of the numbers of the “Soviet Jews” in Israel, whose roots are firmly imprinted to Odessa, get genuinely surprised when they see this house on an inconspicuous two-block lane in Odessa’s historic quarter.
Since I am frequently asked about the reasons of Odessa Walks’ expansion into Bulgarian and Romanian coastline, I’ve decided to come clean and share with you my vision behind this move:).
When I launched Odessa Walks in a Ukrainian city and port of Odessa back in 2011, I thought of focusing solely on Odessa (hence the company name) and doing something fun and different than just a standard general observation tour around Odessa’s historic city center. By exploring off the beaten path routes, digging little known exciting facts and stories about the must-see sights, developing food tasting and cultural tours (an excellent way to dive deep into the lifestyle, traditions and cuisine of a destination!) and recruiting guides who are not only experts in their field but have interesting personalities, our team aimed at going beyond the traditional tour routes to bring lifetime experiences to our guests.
Walking thru Odessa\’s historic area with Cunard\’s QE travelers. Food & Culture Tour. September 2013