This is a great resource for Denmark-bound travelers, especially those interested in history and Judaica: VisitDenmark's website now has a Jewish Heritage online guide, www.visitdenmark.com/Jewish, providing historical background, useful facts and suggestions for things to do and places to see— including a Top Five list. The online guide also provides a comprehensive primer on the history of the Jews in Denmark from the first refugees in the 17th century, to the waves of immigrants who passed through the country during the 20th century, and as recently as the Polish Jews who arrived during the 1970's.
Denmark's Jewish community, the oldest in Scandinavia, dates back to the 1600s when King Christian IV founded the city of Glückstadt on the River Elbe near Hamburg (now in Germany, but then under Danish rule) as a safe haven for Sephardic Jewish merchants from Spain, Portugal and North Africa.
Susanne Nordenbaek, director of VisitDenmark, said that she developed the idea for the site when she realized there was a market for Jewish travel in Denmark. "We know, and have known, about interest in Jewish history from American travelers," she told Travel Agent. The company had an old brochure for people interested in that angle of travel, but it hadn't been updated in years. "We thought, 'Why not update that and get more info online?'...We want to make this more accessible."
They also decided to add ideas for Jewish-themed tours of the cities that let visitors decide how immersed they want to be. "It's more like inspiration for people, so they can pick and choose," Nordenbaek said.
If the new site generates a lot of interest, she added, VisitDenmark will ask tour operators to create more Jewish-themed tours of the country. For now, the site simply suggests ideas and recommends places to visit, and the tours can added onto another program. "We're leaving it up to the tourists themselves," she said. "They might do this with a city break or as part of a cruise vacation."
Some sites and sights to see:
* The Danish Jewish Museum (designed by architect Daniel Libeskind) is the logical starting point for any Jewish heritage tour, providing an evocative overview of Jewish history in Denmark from the days of Christian IV to the present.
* The Judaica collection at The Royal Library most likely started as a royal collection in the 16th or 17th century, and now contains more than 36,000 works including a 14th-century illuminated manuscript of Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed and the private archives of former Chief Rabbi David Simonsen.
* The Museum of Danish Resistance chronicles the story of the Danish Resistance to the Nazi occupation of Denmark from 1940 to 1945.
* Copenhagen's Round Tower has a perplexing Hebrew inscription on its face; part of a rebus created by Christian IV. Next to the Round Tower is Trinitatis Church, where the Torah scrolls from the Great Synagogue were hidden-and miraculously kept undamaged-from October 1943 to June 1945 during the Nazi occupation of Denmark.
* Copenhagen's Great Synagogue was re-consecrated in June 1945 when the Torah scrolls were returned to the ark.
Visitors can also connect with Jewish Copenhagen, a tour company that offers guided itineraries on foot or by car in and around Copenhagen.
For more information about Denmark's Jewish heritage, visit www.VisitDenmark.com/Jewish.