Rabbi Jack Dermer, Merrick Jewish Centre Dr. Isma H Chaudhry,...

Rabbi Jack Dermer, Merrick Jewish Centre Dr. Isma H Chaudhry, board of trustees chair, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury Bob Yugi Festa of Huntington, Zen practitioner Credit: Phil Schoenfeld; Islamic Center of Long Island; Barbara Festa

For some believers, a holiday from work and other daily responsibilities doesn’t mean a vacation from spirituality. This week’s clergy discuss travels that included visits to holy sites, meditation at sea and a reminder that one may find spirituality in surprising places.


Isma H. Chaudhry

Board of trustees co-chair, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury


A few years back, our family decided to go for umrah, a nonobligatory pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. It was an unconventional vacation for us, as our favorite places have generally been popular tourist destinations, such as the Caribbean.

This was the first vacation where we as a family indulged in in-depth discussions on faith and religion. We visited museums rich with Islamic history and Abrahamic culture. We performed the ritual of sai to commemorate the sacrifices of Hagar, Prophet Ishmael’s mother, and visited the holy sites that have inspired the faithful for centuries. We discussed the inspirations of various rituals, prayed together as a family, sat together in humility and awe, immersed in deep spirituality, looking at the Kaaba shrine inside the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

We discussed women’s rights, justice and equity in Islam as revealed in the holy Scriptures, the Quran and guided by the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. We walked the streets in the footsteps of the great prophets of the Abrahamic tradition.

We also shopped, went to restaurants and hiked the rocky trails. This was the first vacation, however, where despite doing everything together, our young children did not find us overbearing and annoying.


Rabbi Jack Dermer

Temple Beth Torah, Westbury


My wife and I were recently blessed to go on a trip to Ireland. Having spent so much time in Israel, we were happy to have a change of pace. While the land known for whiskey and bagpipes is quite different from the land of milk and honey, we are grateful for the wonderful friends we met along the way, and the opportunity to experience the Sabbath, not in synagogue as we usually do, but amid the green rolling hills and bleating sheep of rural western Ireland.

One of God’s promises to the patriarch Jacob in the Bible is the assurance, “I will be with you, wherever you go.” (Genesis 28:15) Jewish tradition points us to a recognition that God can be sought not only in the highest heavens, but in the depths of the human heart, wherever we may find ourselves.

When we hear the words “spiritual vacation,” we might imagine a yoga or meditation retreat, but the truth is, anywhere we remain open to experiencing the grandeur of God’s creation — in nature, in fascinating foreign cities, in the eyes of another person — we can make our travels spiritually enriching.

I pray that wherever you find yourself this summer, and whatever form your journey takes, you will seek opportunities for growth in appreciation, relaxation and discovery.


Bob Yugi Festa of Huntington

Zen practitioner


Buddhism is dedicated to ending dukkha (suffering or dissatisfaction) in one’s life. The Buddha taught that the way to do this is to practice the eightfold path to enlightenment, so the Buddhist practice is a spiritual formula of how one lives one’s life. It permeates one’s every thought and action.

In other words, there is no way to take a vacation that doesn’t have a faith component because you are living your faith 24/7.

I had a perfect example of this a number of years ago when I was on my first cruise. On the first day at sea, I decided it was a good time to sit in meditation using a stick of incense. I was sitting for five minutes, and there was a knock on the door. It was a crew member telling me that I could not smoke in the cabin. Apparently, shipboard fires are frowned upon, so there is a monitoring device in each cabin to detect smoke.

There were many cruises to follow, but I learned I could avoid the suffering of being embarrassed by a crew member knocking on my door if I meditated without incense.

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