Huge 48 Hour Kosher Cruise Sale

Kosherica is having a huge 48 Hour Sale on your choice of kosher summer cruises and kosher winter cruises. This sale ends on Thursday, May 26th @ 3:00 p.m.

Here are a few kosher vacation options for you to choose from:

July 3rd Alaska Cruise with Rabbi Weil - Book Today and Get a Free Window Upgrade

July 4th Greek Isles Cruise - Book 5 Cabins and Get a 6th Free

July 3rd and 10th Norwegian Fjords and Russia Cruise - Book Back to Back and Get 20% OFF!

July 10th Russia Baltic Cruise - Book 5 Cabins and Get a 6th Free

Dogsledding to Mincha: A Short Survey of Jewish Alaska

It’s all about fur.

Coats, to be precise.

Fur coats to keep out the chill of the brutal Russian winter.

That’s why there are Jews in Alaska.

In the early 1700s Russia’s population exploded. Its population of people, anyway. Its population of animals whose skins could be sewn into coats (and of course those famous Russian hats), declined. Severely. The Russians needed a new source of fur.

Explorers who had gone off to map the wildernesses at the far eastern edges of the Empire, had reported abundant populations of fur bearing animals there. Before long, adventurous capitalists who understood the laws of supply and demand went to work.

The Danish sea captain Vitus Bering, whose namesake Sea is about a thousand miles northwest of our present position, led the first Russian settlement expedition that established what would eventually become a permanent Russian presence in this far corner of North America. Jewish fur trappers were among his crew.

A little over a hundred years later the fur trade was enormous, increasingly international, and increasingly Jewish. Merchant companies, especially those whose dealings were on the territorial fringe of the Empire, were among the few commercial enterprises open to Jewish participation. One of the largest Alaskan fur ventures, the Russian-American Company, was managed throughout the 1850s by a man named Nikolai Rosenberg. But it wasn’t until 1885 that Jews settled permanently here. Robert Goldstein and his family set up a trading post in Juneau, and specialized in sable, beaver, and mink. Juneau's first mayor was Jewish, and the Goldstein Building, which still stands, was used for a time as the state's interim capital.

As the ninteenth century rolled along, Alaska’s own population began to explode. President Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward had purchased Alaska from the Czars in 1867. The price he paid -- $7.2 million, or less than 2 cents per acre -- was ridiculed in the continental US as a colossal waste of money, but the merchants of San Francisco, then the largest city in the American west, knew otherwise. Among them were many Jews who had toiled to build a thriving US trade with Russia, and who lobbied intensely for Seward to make the purchase. Their faith in the move was soon vindicated, as the succeeding decades saw discoveries of Alaska’s vast mineral wealth – mother lodes of gold, silver, copper, zinc, coal, and oil.

The Gold Rush was on.

Prospectors in search of their fortunes migrated north. 20,000 gold-rushers came to the Yukon in 1898 alone. Communities were born as tiny homesteads grew into villages, towns and cities. The institutions of civilized life came next – roads, schools, markets, places of worship. Dawson City, whose population today is just 1500, had 40,000 inhabitants in the early 1900s, making it the largest city in North America north of San Francisco. It was the site of the first significant Jewish institution in Alaska. Nearly 200 Jews had settled there. Thirty-six of them gathered for Rosh Hashanah in 1898, and celebrated the first organized Jewish worship in Alaska in the back of Charles Rosener’s General Store. Word spread around the territory, and soon the newly established Hebrew Congregation of Dawson had to rent the commodious Yukon Order of Pioneers Hall, in which they davened regularly. They founded a cemetery when a young Jewish prospector named Isaac Simons, who had come to Dawson all the way from New York, drowned, and his Alaskan fellow congregants honored him with a proper Jewish burial. That cemetery, Beit Chaiim, was restored and reconsecrated in 1998 as part of the ceremonies commemorating of the 100th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Jews have made a disproportionately large contribution to Alaskan history, as they have to every society and culture in which they’ve lived. Those furriers who accompanied Bering on his famous expedition were second in their influence only to the prominent Jews who came here to profit from the Gold Rush. Lewis Gerstle, a Jewish San Francisco merchant, founded the Alaska Commercial Company, and became a major provider of groceries and general merchandise for trappers, explorers and gold seekers. His steamboat line plied the Yukon River, providing one of the only reliable routes into and out of the territory. His venture capital funds financed an enormous percentage of Alaskan mining. Gerstle’s village stores became centers of community activities, serving as post offices, community halls, courtrooms, marriage parlors, funeral homes, and safe havens for travelers, as well as banks which could extend credit to trappers, miners, and fishermen. Gerstle got a river named after him; J.B. Gottstein, another Jewish retail merchant, named his company after himself, and to this day Gottstein’s remain’s one of Alaska’s largest firms.

In 1901, the Jews of Nome, who built the shipping and retailing industries of that city, formed the first Jewish charitable organization in Alaska, the Nome Hebrew Benevolent Society. At around the same time, Nome also gained notoriety for being the location of an establishment called The Dexter, a saloon run by the legendary OK Corrall gunfighter Wyatt Earp. Mrs. Wyatt Earp was an apparently beautiful young lady by the name of Josephine Sarah Marcus. Her German-Jewish parents moved the family from Brooklyn to San Francisco when Josephine was a child, and in her teen years she met the dashing deputy U.S. Marshal who would steal her heart. After the OK Corrall, Josephine and Wyatt Earp led a peripatetic existence that took them to Idaho, remote northern California, and eventually, to Nome where they opened their saloon. Later they moved south to Colma, California, near San Diego, where they are both buried in a Jewish cemetery.

The Jewish community of Fairbanks was founded with the arrival of Lithuanian Jew Robert Bloom in 1904. Bloom ran a general store in town, and was a leader of the Fairbanks Jewish Community for nearly half a century. Earlier a member of the pioneering Hebrew Congregation of Dawson, he became the Yukon's first lay rabbi. He was also a member of an advisory group that helped establish the first US military base in Alaska, and he was a founder of what would later become the University of Alaska. Bloom’s wife, Jessie Spiro Bloom, met her husband while he was on holiday in Dublin. She left Ireland with her new husband in 1912 to settle in Fairbanks and soon became an active member of the community. A woman's suffrage advocate during her student years in London, she helped the women of Fairbanks organize to win the vote in 1913. Later, while raising four daughters, she established the first kindergarten in Fairbanks and the first Girl Scout troop in Alaska. Together, the Blooms were very active in conservation efforts, supporting the movement to set aside Alaskan land for wilderness preserves. The Blooms also served as unofficial chaplains for Jewish servicemen stationed in Alaska during World War II.

The war years saw one of the stranger episodes in the Alaskan Jewish saga. As the number of European Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany neared crisis levels, a handful of American government officials, frustrated with the rigidity of the country’s strict immigration quotas, began to search for solutions. FDR’s Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, and New York Congressman Charles Buckley, came up with an extraordinary one. They sought to allow a certain number of refugees to settle in sparsely-populated Alaska, then still a territory and not yet a State. Roosevelt resisted at first, as did many Americans, some on anti-Semitic grounds, and others opposed to any measure that would increase competition for scarce jobs by bringing foreign workers into the depressed U.S. economy. Alaskans also opposed the plan for a variety of reasons, from provincial xenophobia to worry about the cost of absorbing so many new citizens.

While America debated the issue, the leader of the Jewish community in the town of Neustadt, Germany wrote Washington in 1939 in an urgent application for immigration to Alaska. One day after his letter arrived at the Department of the Interior, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. In March, 1940, Roosevelt answered the Neustadt letter, saying that the Alaska immigration plan was still being considered. And it was. Congress debated the proposal in May, 1940, and it collapsed in subcommittee, unable to attract sufficient votes for passage. The Jews of Neustadt perished in the Holocaust, but their letters petitioning Roosevelt remain in the National Archive, a testament to one of the darker moments of American Jewish history.

Alaska’s Jewish population waned as the war raged on, falling below 100 in 1940. The following year, Jewish military chaplains arrived to minister to soldiers stationed in the territory, becoming the first ordained rabbis to officiate here. After the war the GI Bill swelled Alaska’s population, and brought new Jews to the most remote towns and biggest cities. The first mayor of Anchorage was David Leopold, who was followed in that capacity some years later by another Jew, Zachary Loussac. Former territorial governor Ernest Gruening was elected one of Alaska's two senators when the territory gained statehood in 1959. In 1964, Jay A. Rabinowitz was named to the Alaska Supreme Court. Even some Alaskan mountains (Ripinski, Neuberger, and Applebaum) are named after Jewish pioneers.

Since 1970, the state’s Jewish population has grown steadily, fed mostly by Jews moving north from California, Oregon, and Washington. A 1995 survey, the most recent completed, counted a Jewish population of approximately 3,000 in the state, or about six-tenths of one percent of the state's population. But Chabad statistics indicate a presence of some 6,000 Jews, or approximately 1% of the total state's population. Eighty-one percent of Alaska's Jews live in its three largest cities -- Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, and fully half of Alaska's Jews live in Anchorage.

Although one might assume that the remoteness of Alaska might foster a disinterest in Judaism, or that a Jewish life would be difficult to sustain here, statistics indicate that the Alaskan Jewish community is surprisingly robust. A recent study showed that fully 42 percent of Alaskan Jews belong to synagogues, compared with 27 percent in the continental US. Most of the Jews here are between the ages of 25 and 62, married, and highly educated. Some 53% of Alaskan Jews are women. The intermarriage rate in Alaska is high. Only 6% of Alaska's Jewish community was born here.

Anchorage boasts a Reform synagogue and a Chabad House, and Fairbanks has a lay-run Reform synagogue. Jewish cemeteries are now established in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Anchorage is also home to chapters of Hadassah and the Anti-Defamation League, and an active outreach program to Jewish communities in Siberia. Kosher food is available at supermarkets in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and in more remote locations, is shipped frozen from Seattle. In addition, the Anchorage Lubavitch rabbi maintains a mikvah. Alaska does not yet have a formal partnership with Israel; nevertheless, during the 1990s the state exported nearly $25 million in goods to Israel, which now ranks as Alaska's 35th leading trade partner.

Alaska’s state nick name is “The Last Frontier,” and as we’ll continue to discover this week, the name is apt, certainly from the point of view of American Jewry, at least. But its remoteness and isolation notwithstanding, the state’s beauty and natural bounty, not to mention the hardiness and determination of its inhabitants, justify another phrase often applied to this remarkable place. That phrase, the state’s official motto, may well have been on the lips of those first Jews leaving Russia in search of fur nearly three hundred years ago, and I leave you with it today: “North to the Future.”

Kosherica Passover Resorts Program for 2012

Join Kosherica this Passover 2012 for the most incredible Pesach holiday.  PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach, Florida.The PGA National Resort and Spa is a AAA 4-Diamond world-class luxury resort that has recently undergone a gorgeous $65 million renovation. Catering by Prestige caterers. The whole hotel is Kosher for Passover 2012.

PGA National Resort and Spa Passover Program for 2001 (Palm Beach, Florida) 4/18/2012
Publish Post

Take A Cruise... On Us!

It's always time for a much needed vacation. You work hard and now WE would like to treat you to a relaxing Kosher Summer Cruise. Visit us on Facebbok and get full details: