Prologue of the 30th Jewish Culture Festival

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  • Sunday, July 26, 2020, 12:00 AM - Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Hidden Light

This year’s party during the Shalom on Szeroka Street wasn’t to be. “Man plans and God laughs,” according to a Jewish proverb. But the organisers of the Jewish Culture Festival aren’t wringing their hands in despair – instead they are inviting us to join them for the Prologue!

According to Robert Gądek, vice-director of the Jewish Culture Festival, the decision to postpone the 30th anniversary festival was far from easy. As the news of the pandemic broke, the festival preparations were in full swing: the final touches were being put to the programme and artists, and production was about to start. “But we knew straight away that postponing the festival was the right thing to do,” he says. Director of the festival Janusz Makuch adds: “It was a decision forced by events – we had no other choice. We couldn’t change the fact that the threat of the pandemic was spreading like wildfire all over the world.”

As it happens, fire was to be the leitmotif of this year’s events, and it certainly burns bright in the hearts of the organisers. Since the announcement of the lockdown, they have been inviting loyal audiences to listen to concerts recorded in previous years, for example performances at the Tempel Synagogue. “All this so that we can experience music anew and enjoy it from the comfort of our homes,” says Julia Lorenc, one of the programme curators. If you’re after fresh sounds, the organisers have prepared playlists on music streaming platforms with staff from the Jewish Cultural Festival Society sharing their inspirations. Users of the festival’s Facebook page can follow the latest news and anecdotes, some of them dating back ten years or more and showing the ins and outs of past editions. The Cheder team regularly share favourite recipes and encourage viewers to experiment at home.

The Prologue of the 30th Jewish Culture Festival kicks off in June. Events last until the Hanukkah Festival of Light in December – one of the most beautiful Jewish symbols of hope. “We have prepared dozens of events, both online and in the real world. We promise that even without physical participation we’ll be able to create a genuine festival atmosphere. And we hope that we’ll be able to meet in our beloved Cheder Café for events later on in the year,” says Julia Lorenc.

On 26 June, the organisers host the opening party with a virtual performance by DJ BeatFoot from Israel. On 28 June, the inaugural concert of the Prologue features some of the most fascinating and important musicians from the festival’s long history: Frank London, David Krakauer, Shai Tsabari, Kutiman, Lola Marsh, Piyut Ensemble, Gili Yalo, Ori Alboher, Neta Elkayam and Shofar. “The inaugural concert presents tracks recorded especially for the festival all over the globe by artists and ensembles who have had close ties with the festival over the years. Many – such as Eyal Talmudi and David Krakauer – are regular guests in Kraków, presenting their latest projects and gaining growing numbers of fans. Just as Shalom brings together all ensembles who performed during the festival week, we decided to invite more artists from the festival’s 30-year history to create a unique concert available online,” says Robert Gądek.

And that’s just the start! Over the next six months we will hear a vast range of music performed by artists including Bastarda, the Klezmer Orchestra of the Sejny Theatre with David Krakauer, Frank London’s Brass Band, Jacaszek and Vox Varshe, Bester Quartet with the world premiere of their latest album, and the latest instalment of the Cracovian project MLDVA created especially for the Jewish Culture Festival a few years ago.

There will of course be traditional DJ parties, featuring artists including DJ Ludwik Zamenhof. The cult Teder Weekender will come in a brand-new format. “In July, we will present a virtual collaboration with the Tel Aviv-based collective and club Teder. The unique format means we’ll be able to join the party from our own homes!” stresses Julia Lorenc.

The organisers are also preparing a series of lectures, with guests including Rabbi Boaz Pash, Edwin Seroussi, Yossi Klein Halevi, Wojciech Pszoniak, Matti Friedman and Janusz Makuch, as well as music workshops with Jeff Warschauer, culinary workshops with Chris Gawlik and children’s workshops with Anna Gieracka. There will also be literary meetings prepared with the Krakow Festival Office, and poetry evenings. Depending on the latest social distancing advice, the organisers are hoping to hold walks and sightseeing tours, art projects (including those held by the MiPolin design duo and Olga Drenda and Agnieszka Pajączkowska) and events for seniors.

“Fire, light, flames and radiance all play an important role in Judaism, just like in our daily lives. Life will burn within us as long as we burn with the flames of passion and love. We, people united by the light of the festival, are also united by the flame of communal fascination and love of Jewish culture. It is a culture just as alive and changeable as the fire which first brought the Jewish Culture Festival thirty years ago and which has been shining a bright light on Jewish culture ever since. For me, it is an eternal light – Ner Tamid,” concludes Janusz Makuch.

Let us absorb this light which brings us hope that we will meet again for Shalom on Szeroka Street!

(Justyna Skalska, “Karnet” magazine)

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