April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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Experience Kosher Iceland and See Hashem’s Hand at Work

Chanukah in Iceland with Chabad.

Iceland is described as the land of fire and ice, the land of 10,000 waterfalls, the island of the Vikings, of volcanoes, and of indescribable beauty with dramatic landscapes. Iceland is also defined by geysers, hot springs and lava fields. It is a Nordic island country located between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between North America and Europe. Reykjavik, the capital, is the world’s most northerly capital and it is here that two-thirds of Iceland’s population lives.

Jews have lived in Iceland for more than 100 years. The first Jews came from Denmark and Eastern Europe to do business in Iceland. Today there are an estimated 500 Jews in Iceland and, like the general population, most Jews live in the capital area, although there are also Jews living in towns around the country. Iceland is home to Jews from countries all around the globe, many coming to Iceland for the quality of life and beautiful nature.

For the kosher Jewish visitor, Iceland offers interesting options. One is the Chabad House of Iceland, which is always available to help with navigating the visitor’s needs for kosher meals, sightseeing, tours, minyan times, car rentals, emergency and medical services and more. Soon the Jewish community will have even more to offer.

David and Adina Lebor, Lebor Tours

“There has never been a shul, mikvah or Jewish center in the history of Iceland, and that is about to change,” said Rabbi Avraham Feldman, chief rabbi of Iceland.

“It was my wife, Mushky, who had the idea to start the Chabad House in Iceland,” he said. Mushky was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden, and she heard about the Jews of Iceland.

“Our first visit to Reykjavik was in 2017 when we had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful Icelandic Jews,” the rabbi continued. “After spending some time in the country, we felt that this was a place where we can be’ezras Hashem make a difference and give the local Jews the opportunity to experience Yidishkeit in a beautiful way.”

Commenting on the kosher food in Iceland, Rabbi Feldman said: “Iceland is famous for its fish. The most popular fish, salmon and cod, are both kosher. There are many kosher products available in regular supermarkets around the country. Over the years we have compiled a list of a few hundred products, which is how The Kosher List of Iceland, available on our website, was born. We also have kosher wine available at Vinbudin, the state alcohol chain, and at two bars in the Reykjavik area. At the Chabad House, we have kosher chicken and meat, which we import from France.”

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.

When touring Iceland, one may discover some unusual sites. “There is a building in the city center with a Star of David at the top. Many people say that this building was built by a Jewish Danish merchant in the early 1900s as his place of business and residence,” Rabbi Feldman told The Jewish Link.

“Iceland has incredibly beautiful nature,” he continued. “At every turn, you can see the greatness of Hashem’s creation. There are hot springs, northern lights, waterfalls and even volcanic eruptions. I had the opportunity to make the bracha Shekocho Ugvuraso Malei Olam at a volcano a few years back. A volcanic eruption is an amazing window into the power and strength of Hashem.”

One option for the kosher Jewish visitor to experience the magic of Iceland is The Lebor Tours Iceland Land Tour, with David and Adina Lebor. David has been a rebbe in Yeshivat Shaalvim in Israel for the last 40 years and has been involved in glatt kosher touring for the last 25 years. To ensure the highest level of kashrut, accommodations and tours, David and Adina operate a glatt kosher hotel experience in Iceland. Together with Avi Fein of Gaya Tours, Lebor Tours, now entering its third year, offers an all-inclusive tour with high-quality cuisine in the Berjaya Natura Hotel in Reykjavik. They accommodate 100 people each week for four weeks in July and August.

Ice Chair in the Perlan Museum.

Lebor Tours has its own separate kitchen, catering, 24-hour tea room, and main dining room of the hotel. This is unique because, as David explained, “In Iceland, no hotel will let you come in and take over their kitchen. Having separate kitchen facilities in the same hotel for the entire period enables us to make kosher food on a very high level and on the highest level of kashrut.”

The tour enables the visitor to enjoy glatt kosher food in an upscale setting. The kashrut is mehadrin min hamehadrin, serving glatt kosher meat, cholov Yisrael and pat Yisrael, under the strictest rabbinical supervision.

“Everything we serve, including the bread and pastries, is prepared fresh in our kitchen in our hotel. As of now, there is no place to purchase kosher bread in Iceland,” said David.

On their first trip to Iceland, David said, “my wife, Adina, and myself survived on tuna fish and peanut butter. A kosher hotel experience is a different world.”

Guests on the tour also have their own shul with regular minyanim, three times a day.

Icelandic sheep.

“Every day there is a 10-hour tour, including Friday because Shabbos comes in late in Iceland,” said David. A new feature this year is “Mini-Iceland,” a three or four-day tour for visitors who are in Iceland for only a short time. On this tour, the visitor gets to experience the Icelandic landscape of waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, boiling sulfur and mud pots. The visitor might also see puffins and maybe whales. Tours are in English and include short, easy hikes. On Shabbat, there is davening, three delicious Shabbat meals with zemirot and divrei Torah, shiurim and mini-lectures, and a walking tour with guides David and Adina Lebor.

“Iceland is the safest country in the world for the last 20 years and rated as the safest country for travel in 2024. There is almost no crime,” said David.

“Seeing Iceland is seeing Hashem at work,” he added. “It is so out-of-this-world different and beautiful. Not what people normally see; it’s inspiring. My goal is not just for our guests to have a great time, but also to be inspired. A good tour of Iceland can actually make you a better Jew.”

Rabbi Feldman of Chabad House of Iceland.

Both Rabbi Feldman and David Lebor agree: Iceland is so beautiful, that if you want to see Hashem’s hand everywhere, you must visit.

For more information, contact Rabbi Avraham Feldman at jewishiceland.com/contact. Contact David Lebor at Lebortours.com

Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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