Jewish Culture Festival not for renowned artists only

The 17th Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow is being presented by the media as a string of concerts by prominent musicians from all over the world. This, however, is not an entirely fair evaluation. Perhaps, it would be more correct to state that a series of big-name concerts intersperse a line of events which allow us to go deeper and search for something more meaningful.
The first half of the 17th Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow has just finished. According to director Janusz Makuch, the aim of the festival is ?to make the audience realize the richness and variety of Jewish culture, and, at the same time, to show the links between its various genres ? art, music, and cuisine.?
During nine festival days, 29 concerts and 17 workshops and exhibitions are being offered. Included are paintings by Jerzy Duda Gracz; ?The Memory of this Moment from the Distance of Years,? an exhibition in Schindler?s Factory; and ?A World before Catastrophe. Krakow?s Jews between the Wars,? a sentimental photo exhibition that showcases the everyday life of Krakow?s Jewish citizens, opens from June 26 to October 28 at the International Cultural Center (MCK) in Rynek Glowny. 
The cost of this year?s festival is estimated at 2.4 mln zloty. According to Robert Gadek of the Festival Office, ?Almost half of this amount comes from state funds ? the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Krakow Municipality, and the Malopolska administrative district. The rest is covered by private supporters.?
Apart from great concerts and exhibitions, there are several dozen smaller events included in the Festival?s program – workshops, discussion and lectures, led by artists and teachers from Poland and abroad.  
 Monika Krajewska, in cooperation with Polish actress Etel Szyc, leads a cycle of children?s workshops devoted to the Jewish holiday Shavuot, which commemorates Israel receiving the Torah (Thursday-Friday 11:30 at Popper Synagogue, ul. Szeroka 16).
Ewa Gordon teaches not only the ornamental craft but also the mystical significance of Hebrew calligraphy (Thursday 15:00, ul. Kupa 18).
Several workshops are available for those who are interested in music.
Dance and klezmer music workshops are being held for amateur (Thursday-Friday 11:00, ul. Waska 7) and professional musicians (Thursday- Friday 13:30 ul. Waska 7).
Israeli drummer, Shlomo Bar, in cooperation with Iranian-born composer and ensemble leader Menashe Sasson, annually leads percussion workshops. Instructions in Sephardic rhythm trance, which has enchanted millions of people all over the world, are presented (Thursday-Friday 12:00, ul Miodowa 36).
Those interested in improving their singing skills will have a great opportunity to learn the Hassidic way of singing in Yiddish. These workshops are led by such famous musicians as the great U.S. cantors Benzion Miller and Jeff Warschauer (Thursday 15:30, ul. Waska 7).
 Scholarly research programs as well as linguistic workshops and lessons are also being offered: Yiddish with Dr. Przemysław Piekarski, Julia Makosz and Urszula Makosz; Hebrew with Maciej Tomal; and Polish for Foreigners with Blanka Gorecka. You can enroll in the workshops for Yiddish at 11:00 and Hebrew at 09:00 Thursday and Friday at ul. Kupa 18. Polish for Foreigners workshops take place at the Galicia Jewish Museum at ul. Dajwor 18. Although some of classes have already begun, organizers are still inviting enrollments.
Experts in various fields of science and scholarly research complete the language classes with discussions on difficult and often controversial topics. The participants will try to answer such as why we are currently facing a rebirth of anti-Semitism and how can we stop it, how we can work toward the revival of Jewish life in Europe, and what is the impact of the Holocaust on our contemporary world and how can we deal with it after three generations.
Just naming and describing these few events does not even begin to show how huge a task the preparation and celebration of this annual festival really is. All of the workshops and lectures, meetings, book promotions, and classes are, in fact, but a small attempt to reach an understanding of the essence and importance of Jewish culture.

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