Throwback Thursday . . . Wandering Jews in Dijon, France

Time for Throwback Thursday’s trip down memory lane.  Today our adventures take us to Dijon, France.  Follow us along this tale of new friends.

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As self proclaimed wandering Jews, we were, of course fascinated when we accidentally stumbled upon what appears to be the one and only local synagogue in Dijon.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were wandering the streets late Wednesday afternoon, when we wandered onto Rue de Synagogue and found the Synagogue of Dijon which was locked up tight. After doing some research on line we found no contact information other than their website. I sent an email asking permission to get a peak inside.

The reply I received from the website stated that the President of the congregation would get in touch with us and attempt to set up a visit. They also suggested that if nothing else can be arranged, we should attend Friday night services. They also gave us some good information regarding the local synagogue in Grenoble, our next destination.

Thursday morning we left our hotel in hopes of seeing a local wine cellar that had been closed during the same walk in which we found the synagogue. Many glasses of wine later, as well as the afternoon tour of Marsannay-la-Côte, we arrived back in our hotel looking for a little rest before dinner.

Before napping I checked my email and was disappointed to find no replies regarding our request for a tour of the synagogue. After reviewing all my new mail I did a quick perusal of my SPAM and was thrilled to find the following reply:


I’m the President of the Dijon congregation…

My office (I’m a doctor…) is very close to Place Darcy, please feel free to stop over this afternoon at the 13 rue Devosge.

We are having diner tonight at home with other Americans traveling in Burgundy those days.

If you are free tonight, please come over to my office and I’ll bring you over to our house in the outskirts of Dijon.


As it was now 7:45 pm (the email was sent mid day), I realized we must have missed our opportunity to join these friendly and generous folks for dinner. I began my reply email apologizing for not having responded sooner and stating that we had just returned to our room . . . yada, yada . . . and it was at this time that the phone rang.

Mike and I looked at each other with astonishment thinking “who could possibly be calling us”? This was my first encounter with Israel “Isy” Cemachovic, the President of the Synagogue of Dijon. We couldn’t imagine how he found us as we did not include any contact information in the email request, other than our email address. We later found out that he tracked us down through our earlier blog entry about Dijon where we mentioned our hotel. Looks like this “blog thing” has finally come in quite handy.

As there was no longer any need to send that email, I again apologized for not getting back to him. I explained that I had just received his email and was writing my reply as the phone rang. No worries he said. As it turns out we weren’t late at all and we were even appropriately dressed as it was all very casual. Isy very generously offered to pick us up at our hotel in 15 minutes. No nap for us!!

Isy, his wife Luna and their three boys live in Hauteville-Les-Dijon, about 6 km from the center of town. We drove up a windy road which led into the lovely small village with old stone houses. It looks like a small community where odds are everyone knows everyone.

We received such a warm welcome that you would think we had known them for years. We had brought some Costa Rican coffee to share a little bit ourselves with them.

Joining us for dinner was David, Shana, Emmanuelle and Zacharias, another American couple and their two children from California who house swapped with a family from Beaune. Also joining us was Jennifer and Marc, she is a Brooklyn transplant who has been married to Marc and has been living in France with her family since 1973. Rounding out our group was Johanna, a PhD student studying at the Sorbonne.

With all the eating and drinking we were planning on doing during this trip, a home cooked meal was never on the agenda. Homemade salads (tomato, cheese and olive; tzadiki; eggplant), pita and zatar breads, peas and carrots, rice, and fish balls were placed out for buffet dining. All to be washed down with French and Israeli wines. And all to be followed by desserts including cherry, quince and apple, and apricot pies.

The evening consisted of many stories with everyone getting to know a little bit about each other. And also a great deal of laughter (as everyone went around the table telling jokes as the after dinner entertainment). We really felt so at home with this group of strangers that we hope to now call our friends.

Yet another example of the kind and generous people we have met throughout France.


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