The Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków is an annual cultural event organized since 1988 in the once Jewish district of Kazimierz, one of the most well-known quarters of Cracow. This year will be extra special, since it marks the event’s 30th Jubilee.
The main goal of the festival is to educate people about Jewish culture, history and religion which flourished in Poland before the Holocaust. It also aims to familiarize them with modern Jewish culture developing mostly in the United States and Israel.
And, of course, the festival was also made to provide entertainment.
In 1988, one year before the official end of communism in Poland, Janusz Makuch and Krzysztof Gierat, two avid enthusiasts of Jewish history and culture, organized a series of events presenting the Jew’s past in Poland and Jewish contribution to the country’s development.
For the first time after WWII, the Jewish theme became again a part of a cultural and social discourse – in an entirely positive context. For many years before that, all things Jewish in Poland were a taboo. Before the Holocaust, Poland was home to a largest Jewish community numbering over three Million. Many were killed during the Holocaust. Tens of thousands were expelled from the country in 1968 and were not a part of the social memory in Poland.
The first festival started changing that and began an important process of regaining the Jewish identity in modern Poland. From a small local event, the festival has grown to one of the most important cultural events of not only the city, but also the entire country. Tens of thousands come to every year to listen, watch, dance to and enjoy hundreds of participants. The Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow is one of the best known, recognized and appreciated by both artists and audience cultural events from Poland.
Every year the Festival features almost 300 events during 10 days. 30,000 participants from many countries of the entire globe take part in workshops, lectures, discussions, and guided tours. They also have various musical events from concerts to DJ parties and jam sessions. 150 artists, instructors and lecturers share their experience with the audience.
Each festival is held in late June or early July for nine days, from Saturday to Sunday. During that time, concerts, exhibitions, plays, lectures, workshops, and tours are organized. The two most important concerts are: the inaugural concert on the first Sunday, and the final concert on the last Saturday of the festival.
The former usually takes place in one of seven synagogues of Kazimierz and features cantoral music. The latter is always held outdoors in Ulica Szeroka, the main street of the Jewish part of Kazimierz. It features klezmer music. In between there are many more concerts, usually with some variations of klezmer music.
“We are so thrilled to hold the 30th anniversary of the festival. When we started with a few semi-underground lectures and cultural event thirty years ago, we would have never thought how the whole thing will become popular,” says Janusz Makuch. “However, we are sure of one thing: Truth and authenticity are the core values for us. And that is what we think is behind the success. Everyone is welcome at the upcoming festival in June!”
For those who would like more information on the Krakow Jewish Festival or are intestered in a kosher tour during the festival, feel free to contact Kosher River Cruise at www.kosherrivercruise.com.