My husband and I are Modern Orthodox. And while the term ‘Modern Orthodox’ differs from peer to peer & from congregation to congregation, to us it means we are Shabbat & kosher observant but we partake in the secular world. I wear pants & only cover my hair for shul (synagogue). My husband opts to wear his kippah during Shabbat & holidays. And from time to time we eat at strictly vegan restaurants. Maybe we are Modern Orthodox rebels.
With the rise of anti-Semitic acts in the past several years, we are that much more vigilant when traveling. Please don’t misinterpret this as meaning we are ashamed of our Jewishness. If anything, we have become that much more proud as we have aged. But we are aware of the dangers that lurk amongst the shadows. And when we travel, we take some extra precautions. See below for a list of tips for the everyday Jewish traveler.
1. WEDDING BANDS & STREET JEWELRY ONLY
When we travel we wear only our wedding bands and leave the real stuff at home. While someone may be robbing our apartment with this new bit of information, we don’t want to attract any unwanted attraction that two lost New Yorker already draw. And I only bring what I called street jewelry with me. Those $5 finds at the corner of your street that are sold by someone shouting “Five dolla! Five dolla! Only five dolla!” That way, if I lose it or it gets stolen, I won’t be heartbroken. This also includes any “Jewish” jewelry I have like chai necklaces and hamsas.
One of my $5 street jewelry finds
When there isn’t a safe in the hotel room, we take our passports with us at all times. And we make sure that a family member has a copy on file if they get lost or stolen. While Israel has stopped entry visa stamps in your Passports, my husband still has a stamp from when he went back in 2010. And in my last passport, I had a visa from Israel. On one of my trips to Thailand, I was asked extra questions by security about my time in Israel, while my friends pranced on through security without a problem. Lesson to be learned – Depending on the country you are entering you may be asked extra questions. Always be polite and play dumb if needed.
3. CARRY-ON BAGS ONLY
What is a Jewish woman to do when her husband says no checked luggage? She drags her feet and pleads. But I saw the light after a while. No more waiting at luggage claim trying to find our checked black luggage amongst the other checked black luggage. Now we only take checked luggage for long stays (i.e. to date, only our honeymoon which was two weeks long). It also will save you money on the checked baggage fee!
Don’t over pack!
4. PRE-CHECK STATUS
My husband schlepped me to get Pre-Check clearance. I begrudgingly went voicing my feelings that this was going to be useless, useless I said! This is the only time I will admit it, but I was wrong. It has helped us bypass countless lines and avoid the crowds. And we get to keep our shoes on and laptops packed away!
5. CHECKING-IN TO FLIGHS
My husband is always on top of making sure we check-in to our flights before arriving at the airport. We know where we are going and it’s that much easier to accomplish our goal of getting to the gate with the least amount of stress possible.
6. BE AWARE OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT
When entering a Synagogue, Chabad, or Kosher restaurant, we are always on our guard taking in our surroundings. And while I may sound like a flight attendant, be aware of your exits. While we were in Athens for Shabbat we attended Beth Shalom Synagogue and found ourselves confronted with two guards in a guard booth asking for our passports. Lucky for us, I was carrying them with me which allowed us admittance to davening. Security is very different outside of America especially near Jewish synagogues. So be aware of your environment at all times.
Don’t even think about it!
7. EMERGENCY KIT
Man this has been a lifesaver. I religiously pack this pre-packed emergency kit every time we go away. And like the good Jewish mother-in-training I am, it has served me well for scraps, migraines and bloating. I have four of these that I keep stashed away and I always throw in my carry-on before we go.