KRAKOW – A foreigner visiting Krakow these days could easily think he had
arrived in Tel Aviv by mistake.
Israeli music concerts, Israeli movies,
lectures on Israel, Israeli cooking workshops, Israeli dance and more such
activities are taking place these days in the southern Polish
Running from June 28 to July 7, this is the 25th year that the city
has hosted the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow. The first post-World War II
festival of its kind in the country, its aim is to bring back the memory of
Poland’s Jews and their contribution to the nation’s culture.
concert of the 2013 event took place on Saturday evening.
people, including a group of students from Chicago who came to Poland especially
for the festival, attended a concert of the Israeli group Monti Fiori, which
performed its “Mediterranean-style Italian songs” on a boat, the Sobieski, on
the Vistula River.
Polish and foreign guests enjoyed the performance as
they cruised the river. When the group’s lead singer, Itamar Fintzi, said that
they come from Tel Aviv, the crowd cheered loudly.
Dorota Tekielska, 26,
from Krakow, said, “I really enjoyed the concert. It was very interesting for me
to see that Jewish culture is rich and can bring different voices. Many people
connect Jewish music only with Klezmer, but here we saw that Israeli groups can
also play Italian songs.”
Over the next 10 days, thousands of locals and
tourists from all over Poland will attend the wide variety of events. Just like
every year, the festival will close with the “Shalom on Szeroka Street” concert,
which brings together thousands of people for an open-air party in the heart of
Krakow’s old Jewish quarter. The view of thousands of Poles dancing on the
streets to the sounds of hassidic music, or listening excitedly to “Yiddishe
Mama,” is nothing less than amazing.
Among the performers this year are
Radio Trip, a DJ and production duet from Tel Aviv’s Mexico’s DeLeon, a band
that combines contemporary rock with traditional Sephardic music; and The
Wiktoria Adamczyk is one of the 80 volunteers who will
help guests at the festival. She is a student in Jewish studies at the
Jagiellonian University in Krakow and said that Israel and Jewish culture are
her biggest love.
“My dream is to join the IDF. I love Israeli music, my
favorite song is “The Most Beautiful Girl at Kindergarten” [“Hayalda Hachi Yafa
B’gan”] by Yehudit Ravitz, and I volunteer every year to help introduce Jewish
culture to Poles. I think that the Jewish culture is fascinating and has so much
One of the most popular events every year is a Jewish cooking
Malka Kafka, the owner of a kosher catering firm in Warsaw,
will come to Krakow to teach the locals how to prepare Jewish food from
different parts of the world. Every year, cooking enthusiasts from across Poland
arrive to learn how to prepare gefilte fish, kibbe, humous and other traditional
Israeli and Jewish dishes.
Janusz Makuch, 53, is the man behind the
festival. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, he explained how it all
“I was born in a city called Pulawy [in the Lublin province]. I
was never taught in school about Jews. When I was 14 years old, I met a famous
professor in a book shop. We started talking and he asked me if I know that half
of the population in Pulawy before World War II was Jewish. That was the turning
point of my life.
“I started to be interested and learned about the
Jewish history of my town and about Jewish traditions and culture. When I moved
to Krakow to study at the university, I met with a group of friends who were
also interested in Jewish culture, and one evening we decided to start a small
Jewish festival in Krakow.”
Makuch and his friends started collecting
films on Israel, invited a number of bands that played traditional Jewish music
and, in 1988, the first festival got under way.
Makuch said that he never
imagined the festival would become such a hit from the start.
edition of the festival took place in the tiny Mikro movie theater and consisted
of a series of lectures and film screenings. We thought that maybe a few people
would come, but the cinema was packed. We couldn’t believe it.”
the festival took place every two year, but then the Polish culture minister
offered Makuch and his friends financial support from the government so that it
could become an annual event. Today, the festival’s budget is $1 million, most
of it contributed by Jewish organizations around the world and the Polish
With almost 30,000 participants annually, it claims to be the
largest and most diverse exhibition of what is important and creative in the
contemporary Jewish world.
“Shalom on Szeroka Street” is firmly
established as the biggest Jewish concert stage in the world. The event has
taken on cult status for Jewish music fans. During the seven-hour televised
event, Jewish musicians present the complete landscape of Jewish music as
thousands dance on the streets.
Another significant event takes place
every year at the Jewish Galicia Museum in Krakow during the festival.
1998, American lawyer Micahel H. Traison initiated “Preserving Memory” to honor
Poles involved in saving the heritage of Polish Jews and in Polish-Jewish
dialogue. In the past 15 years, the Israeli ambassador has honored Poles for
their contribution to saveguarding Jewish heritage.
This award has been
given to more than 150 laureates to date.