Crazy Travel Photography and Story-Telling

Irene Shaland and Alex Shaland in Africa

Come to a Free In-Person Presentation “Crazy Travel Photography and Story-Telling”

Date and Time: June 24, 2021 at 7-8 PM EST

Presenters: Irene and Alex Shaland

Organized by: Cleveland Photo Fest

Where: 2731 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115, in the Bostwick Design Art Initiative Building

About the presentation:

Meet Irene and Alex Shaland, world travelers, book authors, travel writers, and camera swingers.  Alex swings the camera, Irene simply looks glamorous. Hear their stories of globe-trotting adventures-on-steroids researching, photographing, and writing about the countries and places they visit, people they meet, and nature and wildlife they deeply care about.

Why was this program titled “Crazy Travel Photography and Story-Telling”? As an example, who else but crazy Shalands would have crisscrossed the entire Indian subcontinent in 12 days pushing the shutter button and scribbling notes as fast as they could. After returning home, they produced two magazine articles, a chapter for Irene’s book, and several lectures. And they have been performing this stunt (research-travel-meet people and become friends-photograph and take notes-write, publish, present–repeat) for over 30 years. Almost 80 countries and counting.

Knowing Shalands’ “mode of operation” event sponsors asked Irene and Alex to share some unusual or “crazy” moments and images from some of their trips. This program will take you from the jaw-dropping architectural marvels of Singapore to insanely-creative street art of Melbourne, Australia; from African safaris in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Tanzania to the pyramids of Egypt; and from the streets and fields of Nepal to national parks in the USA.

About the presenters:

Irene Shaland’s art and travel articles, accompanied by Alex’s photographs, have appeared in over 20 publications and online sources including Holiday Magazine (France/U.K.), The Boston Forward, Tikkun, ZEEK, Diarna Digital Heritage Mapping, Hackwriters (U.K.), IMAGE Magazine, ROMAR Travel, and other journals printed in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Korea, and Kenya. Irene’s third book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” narrates little-known tales of Jewish communities in 10 countries over two millennia.

Suburbanites on Safari” is Alex’s first work devoted exclusively to Africa and African wildlife that, in addition to being informative and entertaining, aspires to support the effort to preserve and protect the animals with whom we humans share this planet.

Learn more about Alex Shaland.

Learn more about Irene Shaland.

Elvis Presley Was Jewish

Elvis Presley

By guest author:  Rabbi Barbara Aiello

This article is re-published with permission of its author Rabbi Barbara Aiello. Image curtesy of Rabbi Barbara Aiello.

“He passed away 40 years ago on August 16, 1977. On the Hebrew calendar the date was the second day in the Hebrew month of Elul, 5737.  Why a “yahrzeit” for Elvis? As unusual as it may seem, a little known fact about Elvis Presley is that, by the Jewish law of matrilineal descent, Elvis Presley was Jewish.

In her book, “Elvis and Gladys,” historian and biographer Elaine Dundy writes about Elvis Aron Presley’s Jewish heritage. Elvis’ great great maternal grandmother, Nancy Burdine was married to Abner Tackett. “Nancy was of particular interest to Gladys (Elvis’ mother) for her Jewish heritage as Gladys often recounted that Nancy had given her sons, Sidney and Jerome, Jewish names. Nancy and Abner (who some say was half-Jewish himself) had a daughter Martha who married White Mansell. Their daughter, nick-named Doll, was Elvis’ maternal grandmother.”

“Elvis’ grandparents had nine children, among them, a daughter, Gladys Love, who became mother to Elvis Presley. After his mother died, Elvis personally sought to design his beloved mother’s gravesite which included a Star of David on her tombstone. It was Elvis’ decision  to honor his Jewish heritage, something his mother was proud of and acknowledged to Elvis at a very early age.

Elvis was born and grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi in a poor area called “The Pinch.”  The Pinch was home to what locals called the “rag trade,” the industry born of immigrants, mostly Jewish, who repaired and resold second hand clothing. Presley’s roots go back to the time when Jewish immigrants came to America and established the rag trade there.  In fact Elvis’ great great grandmother, Nancy Burdine descended from a family that emigrated from Lithuania, probably around the time of the American Revolution. That’s right. Elvis was a Litvak!

Elvis Aron was born a twin whose brother, Jesse Garon, passed away in infancy. A young cousin recalls a visit she made to the Presley home, where mourners sat on low chairs and where mirrors and pictures were covered in white. “It was years later,” says the cousin, “that I realized that these were Jewish traditions.”

Always aware of his Jewish heritage, Elvis Presley put his pride into action through numerous donations to the Memphis Jewish community.

Each year, for many years, Elvis gave $1,000 or more to each of fifty Memphis-area charities. Presley’s largest contributions were to the Memphis synagogues, the Jewish Federation, and the Memphis Jewish Community Center. Presley even funded several Jewish education programs as well – philanthropic endeavors that received little or no publicity.

Throughout his adult life, Presley reached out to those in need, often paying hospital bills for family members, friends and total strangers. His generosity even reached “The Pinch,” where he renovated the area where he grew up. Close friends report that Presley was adamant that his gifts remain anonymous – and was heard to say, “That’s the Jewish way.” –Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Aug. 16, 2017

Learn more about Rabbi Barbara and read more fascinating blog posts: https://www.rabbibarbara.com

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Free Virtual Lecture: Travels in Jewish History – Asia

angkor watt Cambodia

Adath Shalom Synagogue Presents
Irene Shaland’s Free Virtual Lecture:

Travels in Jewish History

Date: Thursday, May 6th, 2021   Time: 7:30 PM EST

Join this event on Zoom: 

https://zoom.us/j/3393948412?pwd=QjJiVW0yUUtuV01mS0NvUzlyOU9SUT09

Meeting ID: 339 394 8412

Passcode: Israel

For more information follow this link to the announcement on the Adath Shalom website: https://www.adathshalom.net/event/travels-in-jewish-history-india-china-myanmar-cambodia-and-more.html


     Travel with Irene Shaland to the continent of Asia in search of little-known Jewish histories. In China, learn the two-fold narrative: the Jews IN China and the Jews OF China while discovering the 2,000-year history of Jewish life there. What are the Jewish secrets of the Gobi Desert and the Silk Road? What do the most anti-Semitic of Russian Tsars and a Russian-Yiddish cultural enclave in the north of China have in common?

     In India, discover the most refined beauty and the deepest spirituality of this country while learning the little-known history of the oldest continuously living Jewish community in the world, its myths of origin, and the sense of identity. Hear fascinating stories about the synagogue near the tomb of a Persian emperor, Jewish atheist’s shrine in a mosque, India’s role in the Holocaust, and Muslim youths defending the synagogue of Mumbai.

     In Burma/Myanmar, you will be transported to the ancient land of rice fields and countless golden Buddhas and pagodas to discover the little-known narrative of the once-thriving Jewish community there, which was all but decimated during World War II. Understand why this small group of immigrants throughout their history in Asia became so successful commercially and powerful politically only to disappear to almost oblivion after the 1940s and 1960s. 

     In Cambodia, you will visit a small synagogue near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and discover what the Rabbi’s usual day looks like in the country of Angkor Wat.

Irene Shaland is the author of a multitude of magazine articles published in the US, Canada, South Africa, Kenya, the UK, and Israel. She regularly presents at conferences, museums, universities, special-interest group events, and other venues.

Irene’s last book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories” is available on Amazon.

Join this event on Zoom: 

https://zoom.us/j/3393948412?pwd=QjJiVW0yUUtuV01mS0NvUzlyOU9SUT09

Meeting ID: 339 394 8412

Passcode: Israel

For more information follow this link to the announcement on the Adath Shalom website: https://www.adathshalom.net/event/travels-in-jewish-history-india-china-myanmar-cambodia-and-more.html

Virtual Tour of Singapore

Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

A Few Words About Singapore

Take a quick virtual tour of Singapore. Often called “post-modern,” this city-state, energetic and cosmopolitan, proudly offers the highest quality of life. And this is true for everyone, whether they are residents or just came to visit.

Among many other aspects of life, Singapore is clean and well-organized. In addition, with no street crime,  it boasts a lack of unemployment and poverty. And if you talk to Singaporeans, you will find out that they cannot even imagine living anywhere else.

Singapore People

This miracle of Asia was built by immigrants from various corners of the world, and is called a nation of cultures. This city-state is a unique universe of tolerance and inclusiveness. However, it is not a melting pot but rather a mosaic of cultures.  As a result, this remarkable nation offers everyone an opportunity to build a peaceful and prosperous life.  So, among its citizens, you will find the Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Europeans. They Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jewish, or secular.

English is the main official language followed by Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. Religions include Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism. As of this writing, the population of Singapore is 5.8 million, of which approximately 74% are Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indians, and 4% other.vir

Singapore Location

Singapore is located at the end of the Malayan Peninsula between Malaysia and Indonesia. The Singapore Strait separates Singapore from Indonesia. The Straits of Johor are the boarder between Singapore and Malaysia. The state of Singapore consists of the main island and smaller surrounding islands. The mainland of Singapore measures 31mi from east to west and 27mi from north to south.

tual tour of Singapore

All images © Alex Shaland. All rights reserved.
Text © Irene Shaland. All rights reserved.

See more about Irene Shaland and Alex Shaland.

Enjoy our travel photography at Instagram Travel Photos.

Introducing Rabbi Barbara and Her Book: The Cat That Ate the Cannoli

Book cover of Rabbi Barbara's book The Cat That Ate the Cannoli

All quoted text and Images used with permission from the author, Rabbi Barbara Aiello.

“Discovering Rabbi Barbara and her book … turned a light on so many parts of my own family’s traditions, and opened my eyes to the anusim stories in my own grandparents from Calabria. I read it with tears the first time, and reread it with more tears, finding more details that I missed the first time. Thank you Rabbi Barbara! – Corbin”

Continue reading “Introducing Rabbi Barbara and Her Book: The Cat That Ate the Cannoli”

Meeting the Jewish Community of Mumbai India

Irene Shaland and guides inside the Mumbai Mogen David Synagogue

Excerpt from Irene Shaland’s book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories.”

Jews settled in Mumbai (Bombay) in the 18th century. First, the Baghdadi arrived in the 1730s. Then, the Bene Israel began migrating from the countryside into the city in the 1740s. Today, Mumbai has the largest Jewish community in India: 3,500 to 4,000 people, most of whom are the Bene Israel. We visited two of the city’s eight synagogues: Kenesseth Eliyahoo and Magen David. Both were built by the Sassons, the wealthiest family of the Baghdadi Jews. The elegant blue structure of the Magen David Synagogue was erected by David Sasson in 1861. Hanna and Eliyahoo were waiting for us inside.

Continue reading “Meeting the Jewish Community of Mumbai India”

Join us for a Free Virtual Lecture: Jews and Aborigines

Australian aboriginal man

Jews and Aborigines: Little-Known Stories from Australia

Presenter: Irene Shaland. Date: Tuesday, January 26th , 2021, 1:00 PM

This program is hosted by The Women of Fairmount Temple.    The event is FREE but a Registration is required.  To register: email Janice Hirshon at  jchirshon@gmail.com

Follow Irene Shaland on an exciting virtual trip to Australia to explore this country’s history, its land, and its people. Meet an Aboriginal man, William Cooper, a hero of his people’s human rights struggle and a brave defender of the Jews during World War II.

Continue reading “Join us for a Free Virtual Lecture: Jews and Aborigines”