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(Palm Harbor, FL) The eyes of the planet look to the Pacific Rim and specifically China as never before. It is as if all roads lead to this land of mystery and opportunity with its 5,000-year-old history to its 56 nationalities. People the world over have journeyed to experience the wonder of this ancient culture and its connection to our lives. As the Chinese people reach out to discover Western values and style, our own society is learning of the multi-faceted allure of the Chinese culture. Herbal medicine, acupuncture, Feng Shui and Tai Chi have become commonplace. It is not surprising then, that China is projected to be the #1 travel destination in the world within the next two decades.

What many do not know, however, is the fascinating history of the Jews in China and the centuries-long relationship between these two remarkable peoples that celebrates common cultural and philosophical themes and harmonious co-existence. "Jews have thrived in China since the 7th century," says Palm Harbor recording artist Joy Katzen-Guthrie, "and it was the Chinese who alone welcomed Jewish refugees from Europe during the Holocaust with no visa or paperwork, saving some 18,000 lives before all escape routes to China were closed."

Katzen-Guthrie, who serves as Cantorial Soloist with Florida synagogues and is a writer, performer and recording artist of Judaic music and spiritual music of all faiths, has created the China Jewish Heritage Tour at the request of Stephen Levin, Marketing Director for Regent China Tours in the U.S. and China. A historian on Jewish music worldwide, Katzen-Guthrie conducts extensive research for her recordings and her performances, interweaving music and history in her programs. She has developed this tour to explore Jewish history in China as well as traditional Chinese history and the commonality between both cultures. The Heritage Tour - Exploring Jewish History in China will take place June 7 - 21, 2000, featuring a fully guided 14-day tour visiting some of China's most historic cities (Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Shanghai, Suzhou).

The tour will include Shanghai and the estates of the Jews who built much of the city in the early part of the century: the newly-restored Ohel-Rahel synagogue - still the largest synagogue in Asia, the world-renowned Peace Hotel built by Iraqi Jew Victor Sassoon and the historic Hongkou Ghetto which sheltered 30,000 Jews during the Holocaust. Participants will learn of Jews who traveled the ancient Silk Road from Persia, Bombay, Baghdad and Cairo and will visit Buddhist, Confucian and Tibetan temples to explore Jewish commonality with the values and faiths of the ancient Chinese. The first Shabbat (Sabbath) service and dinner will be spent with the Jewish community in Beijing. On the second, participants will have an opportunity to join Katzen-Guthrie in creating their own poetic/musical Shabbat service by the Li River in Guilin, one of the most picturesque locations in China. Shechiyanu - a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to experience a special moment or blessing - will be recited and wine and challah (bread) shared on the Great Wall of China. Participants will also visit Suzhou, known as the Venice of the Orient for its lovely ancient canals and streaming gardens, to explore the connection of the Chinese with their land, a feeling that Jews share deeply.

"There have been other Jewish visits to China for study and there have been a handful of other tours that explore Chinese Jewish history," says Katzen-Guthrie. "But I wanted this tour to be a particularly meaningful spiritual experience as well." Having sung as a full-time cantorial soloist with Reform and Conservative synagogues as well as churches and other religious organizations for ten years, she felt uniquely suited to creating a special Shabbat service for this tour. The first Sabbath, which is Shavuot (the Jewish Festival of Weeks) will be spent with the Jewish community in Beijing. "It is fitting that we will share Shavuot with the Beijing community. Shavuot celebrates the first fruits of the harvest - our connection with land which is so vital to life for the Chinese, as well as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai - an act of freedom and redemption, so much a part of the experience of the Jews sheltered in China during the Holocaust," she says.

On the second weekend, Katzen-Guthrie scheduled a visit to Guilin - one of the most beautiful and unusual environments in the world - to allow the group to have an outdoor Shabbat service by the Li River. "I wanted to give us an opportunity to create something all our own, as Jewish refugees might have done in centuries past," she says. Katzen-Guthrie will prepare a service that combines traditional elements of the Conservative and Reform service with meditation, a practice that is becoming more and more commonplace among younger congregations that seek a spiritual commonality with Buddhist and metaphysical rituals and values. She will also invite tour participants to create or read poetry, chant or sing, or even dance as part of the service. "We will have been in China one week at that point," she says. "I believe all of us will share deep feelings of commonality with the Chinese and their ancient faiths by then. My hope is that some of us on the tour will be inspired to share those feelings as part of the service."

The tour will also take in traditional Chinese beauty, history and landscape - including the awesome splendor of the Forbidden City, the ancient Terracotta Warriors, a cruise on Kunming Lake with a visit to the Summer Palace, the Panda Garden, Temple of Heaven, tranquil Ming Dynasty Tombs, Tibetan Lama Temple, Tiananmen Square, Cloisonn¨¦ Art Works, Pearl Market, Wild Goose Pagoda, Buddhist Temple of Old Xi'an, Li River cruise, Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Hill, the magnificent and picturesque beauty of Yangshuo, Old Shanghai Town, world-renowned Shanghai Museum, night cruise of the Huangpu River and performances by Chinese Acrobats and Tang Dynasty Show.

The 14-day tour is $2,595 and includes three meals a day, all tours, guides, sights, travel including three domestic flights within China and the international flight to/from China, three cruises within China and two theatrical productions. Only an $11 departure tax (which must be paid at the airport in Chinese currency) and tips for guides, as well as domestic airfare (an additional $80) are not covered by the price.

In addition, Regent China Tours is offering the Free Trip Program. For each person a participant brings, a discount of $100 will be provided from the ticket price. Ten participants will bring a discount of $1,500 and 15 participants will provide that person with a free trip. Only one incentive can be provided per person, so the discount applies to someone directly brought to the tour. If the second person brings additional people, those individuals would be credited to the second person. The absolute deadline for the incentive program is April 30th.

Katzen-Guthrie will feature two China Preview meetings at her home in Palm Harbor (Tampa Bay area) to discuss the tour as well as show a pictorial, talk about Jewish history in China and answer any questions, along with representatives from Regent China Tours. The first will be Sunday, April 2nd, 3 p.m. The second will be Monday, April 24th, 7 p.m., both at 2487 Indian Trails, East in Palm Harbor. Directions are available from Katzen-Guthrie by e-mail, phone, or on her website, where viewers may take a complete and stunning walk-through of the tour at The site features photos and detailed information about the tour as well as Jewish history in China and numerous links to Chinese-Jewish history and information on the internet.

Anyone interested in a future tour may contact Katzen-Guthrie, who is now in the planning stages for a follow-up visit that will feature an entirely different itinerary, as well as additional tours featuring this program.

Information packets are available by calling Joy at (727) 785-4568 or 1-800-354-1302, or Steve Levin at Regent China Tours at 1-888-515-1885.

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