Travel as ennobling -- an educational pursuit that broadens knowledge and sharpens perceptions -- is a 20th century concept, according to German-born scholar Martin Jacobs.
In earlier periods, and especially in antiquity, he continued, travel was far less grand, more practical and personal -- a series of encounters between people that elicited many different responses, both conscious and unconscious.
"While traveling," explained Jacobs, "you always encounter others, and you encounter yourself in unknown situations, and you need to respond. There is no choice except to engage with other people, due to a lack of linguistic skills or because you don't know the schedule or the road map. These are situations that force you to respond in different ways -- and also to reflect upon yourself."
And the study of travel as an academic pursuit? That's a newer phenomenon altogether, one that's taking place right here in Philadelphia.
Jacobs is one of three academics who put together "On the Road: Travel in Jewish History," this year's topic of study for the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Each year, the program invites scholars from around the world to analyze a particular aspect of Jewish culture from new perspectives.
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