07 June 2009

Philly 2009: Tour schedule now online

The annual Jewish genealogy conference is in a different city each year which provides unique opportunities to learn about diverse Jewish communities and access many resources. This year, Philadelphia hosts the 29th conference, from Sunday-Friday August 2-7.

Just posted on the Philly 2009 website are walking and bus tours. As is usual, tours are tentative and subject to minimum registrations; ticket purchase deadline is mid-July. The registration form is not yet available, but should be up very soon. The descriptions below will give you a good idea of what each will cover.

For more details on each tour, go to the online program. Under SESSION TOPIC, click SIGHTSEEING TOURS or CEMETERY VISITS, for detailed information on each tour.


Colonial Jewish Philadelphia
(9am-noon, Tuesday, August 4, $15)

Visit Congregation Mikveh Israel, founded in 1740; its cemetery (first Jewish cemetery in the US); Christ Church (with an especially close relationship with Mikveh Israel; and Elfreth's Alley, one of the oldest continuously inhabited residential streets in the country, dating back to the early 1700s and also a Jewish neighborhood during colonial times. (3 hours)

Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia
(9am-noon, Thursday, August 6, $15)

Home to scores of Jewish businesses, synagogues, religious schools, charitable and social agencies, and a thriving Yiddish theater, South Philadelphia was the heart of the city's Jewish immigrant community - numbering more than 100,000 - for two generations. Visits to Congregations Kesher Israel and B'nai Abraham, both founded in the late 19th century and still functioning today. (3 hours)

Eastern State Penitentiary
(4-6.30pm, Wednesday, August 5, $15)

“The world’s first true penitentiary, a prison designed to inspire penitence - or true regret - in the hearts of criminals” opened October 25, 1829, when it was considered the world's most expensive and high-tech prison. Visit the recently restored Alfred W. Fleisher Memorial Synagogue and view the related exhibit on Jewish life at the prison. (2-3 hours)

Tracing the Tribe's post about the synagogue restoration is here.

Recommendations: Wear comfortable closed walking shoes (no sandals) as floors are uneven. Dress "cool" as there is no a/c.


Notes for cemetery tours: Visits have been planned to provide opportunities to visit tombstones and do on-site research at hard-t0-reach cemeteries. A shuttle service will be provided between sites with return to the hotel, providing participants with 2-6 hours for visits. Participants should contact cemetery offices to get grave locations. Contact information for each cemetery is in the Resource Guide.

Visit Northeast Philadelphia Cemeteries
(9am-3pm, Sunday, August 2, $40)
(2-6 hours, shuttle) Included: Har Nebo, Montefiore and Roosevelt cemeteries.
Visit To Delaware County (PA) Cemeteries
(9am-3pm, Monday, August 3, $40)

(2-6 hours, shuttle) Included: Mt. Jacob, Mt. Lebanon, Mt. Sharon, Har Jehuda, Ohev Shalom and Har Zion.

Historic Jewish Cemeteries in Philadelphia
(8.30am-1pm, Thursday, August 6, $30)

Three Mikveh Israel cemeteries (founded 1841, 1895), Hebrew Mutual (1857; including veterans of Civil and Spanish American Wars) Adath Jeshurun (1863), Mt. Carmel (1896), East Cedar Hill (1874), and Gladwyne Jewish aka Har HaZeitim (1860). (5 hours, regular tour, not shuttle)

Back To The Future: A Historical Journey Through
Some Of Philadelphia's Historic Synagogues
(1-5.30pm, Monday, August 3, $40)

Visit Rodeph Shalom (oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the Western Hemisphere and one of the few in the Byzantine-Moorish architectural style, founded 1795), Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel (1847, first progressive congregation in the city and once the largest US congregation), Adath Jeshurun (a founding member of the Conservative United Synagogue of America, 1858), and Beth Sholom (Frank Lloyd Wright synagogue and a national historic site, 1954). Also, the only freestanding synagogue in the US located on hospital grounds (1901) is the Frank Synagogue at Einstein Medical Center. The structure was built in the 1st century CE Graeco-Roman style. (4 hours)

Drive Through South Philly
(1.30-5pm, Tuesday, August 4, $30)

South Philly was the focus of Jewish life for Eastern European immigrants arriving 1880-1920. Only blocks from the Philadelphia Immigrant Station - the second largest US processing venue - it welcomed 125,000 immigrant Jews into mainstream America. The tour will be led by South Philly native and docent Joseph Van Blunk, who served as the neighborhood's "Shabbes goy." A longshoreman and filmmaker, his “Echoes from A Ghost Minyan: The Jews of South Philadelphia” received national recognition and screened on PBS. (3 hours)

South Jersey Agricultural Colonies
(8.30am-4pm, Wednesday, August 5, $40)

Some Jewish leaders were convinced that congested urban East Coast cities were not good for the Eastern European immigrant Jews and promoted agriculture, paving the way for Jewish agricultural societies or colonies. The first colony was Alliance, founded 1882 and funded by HIAS. This tour will visit Alliance, the Baron de Hirsch colony at Vineland, which became a poultry and egg center, and Woodbine (1891), home to the Sam Azeez Museum which incorporates the 114-year-old Brotherhood Synagogue. (6.5 hours)

Check the complete conference program schedule at Philly 2009 and see how you can participate in some of these special tours.

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