As Communism in Poland began to crack and crumble, a small group of people staged a festival in Krakow, celebrating aspects of Jewish culture. That was back in 1988, and what was then a fringe event has grown into today’s festival – featuring some 200 events and expected to attract many thousands of people, of all religions, cultures and nations.
To give some idea of the extent and importance of the festival, simply compare the rise in attendance. In that first year, about 100 people came; now, thanks to live TV broadcasts, parts of the festival are seen by close to half a million worldwide – on top of the crowds who flock to Krakow to get a live taste of proceedings.
Even those who are not familiar with the Krakow Festival of Jewish Culture will probably be aware of the massive open–air concert that takes place each year. Ulica Szeroka is turned into a carnival zone for the duration, as international bands play to massive crowds
for a show that is broadcast across Poland and beyond. This year, the finale concert will be on July 7, starting at 6pm and going on way into the night.
But the festival is about much more this. The organising committee has spent the past year – practically since the end of the 2011 festival – planning this year’s extravaganza; and they’ve come up with quite a programme.
Workshops, seminars, lectures, craft sessions, live music, dancing, heritage events… there is something on the programme for all. The events – like the festival itself – have an ethos of respect, tolerance and shared experience, so most will be presented either in several languages at once, or in individual versions. This ethos extends to access too, and many of the events are free to attend.
For a full programme, ticket information, news and more, visit the festival website at jewishfestival.pl
Here is a selection of just some of the highlights from the 2012 programme:
The Maccabees in Sport – Old Synagogue, ul. Szeroka 24, June 29, 2pm
Men and Women in the Traditional Jewish Home – National Museum, Al. 3 Maja 1, July 1, noon
Shtetl: The Roots of Jewish Villages – Klezmer Hois, ul. Szeroka 6, July 3, 8am
Ghetto Tour – Apteka pod Orlem, Pl. Bohaterow Getta 18, July 4, 12.30pm
Jewish Politics in Inter-War Poland – JCC, ul. Miodowa 24, July 6, 3pm
Les Illusions Perdues 1941–1942 – Galicia Museum, ul. Dajwor 18, June 30, 11.30am
Diaspora: Film Lecture – Centre for Jewish Culture, ul. Meiselsa 17, July 2, 4pm
Forty Shades of Grey – JCC, ul. Miodowa 24, July 4, 7pm
Finding Kalman – Galicia Museum, ul. Dajwor 18, July 4, noon
His People – Tempel Synagogue, ul. Miodowa 24, July 8, 8pm
Musical Shabbat – Galicia Jewish Museum, ul. Dajwor 18, June 29, 8.30pm
Swinging Ballroom Boat Party – Sobieski Boat, near Wawel, June 30, 8pm
Hassidic Music – Tempel Synagogue, ul. Miodowa 24, July 4, 10pm
Frank London and Friends – Alchemia, ul. Estery 5, July 5, midnight
Tea Dance Party – Plac Wolnica, July 6, 7pm
Crafts & Workshops
Jewish Cooking – Alrina boat, ul. Gazowa, July 1, 2.30pm
Jewish Paper Cutting – JCC, ul. Miodowa 24, July 2, 10.30am
Yiddish Singing – JCC, ul. Miodowa 24, July 4, 10am
Workshops for Children – Popper Synagogue, ul. Szeroka 16, July 4, 10.30am
Yemenite Jewellery – Alrina boat, ul. Gazowa, July 6, 3pm