Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Jewish travel writer extraordinaire Ben Frank featured

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

This post also appears on my En Route blog for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal

Ben G. Frank is one of the most prolific -- and well-traveled -- writers about Jewish sights, sites, communities, attractions and travels worldwide.

Huffington Post runs a lengthy interview/conversation with him, conducted by Bernard Starr, sparked Frank's most recent book, The Scattered Tribe: Traveling the Diaspora from Cuba to India to Tahiti & Beyond (Globe Pequot Press, 2011).

Frank's curiosity about this extraordinary phenomenon of the Diaspora sparked his mission to find and visit remote and isolated -- sometimes forgotten -- Jewish communities in surprising locations. As a travel writer with a passion for Jewish history, Ben Frank is the perfect person to have undertaken the task. He eventually visited 89 Jewish communities. I interviewed him to learn more about his fascinating journey.
When did you first get the urge to undertake this demanding adventure? Did you have concerns about the difficulties you might face in remote locations?
It all began in 1964 on a trip to Algeria. As a reporter/journalist, I was fascinated by the emigration of Jews from that war-torn country to France, where they were guaranteed the rights and privileges of French citizens, since, according to the Cremieux Decree, they too were French. When I landed I met with the last few Jewish residents in Algiers. They called themselves "le Dernier Carre," the last unit in Napoleon's army to stand in battle and defend themselves in the form of a square.
How did you find out about these scattered wandering Jews?
In the case of Algeria, I contacted organizations, such as the Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and others who follow and aid Jews in the Diaspora. I discovered that Jews were scattered globally, including concentrations in Asia and South America. Jews have lived in India, for instance, for 2,000 years and they are still there. With contacts and research tools, I located them. 

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