For the past year, we have been unable to gather in large numbers in order to make new memories and celebrate life. As we slowly return to life in a post-pandemic world, we are able to rekindle one of the long forgotten staples of summer, the festival. Below are five Jewish cultural festivals happening this June around the globe that celebrate the diversity of Jewish culture and Jewish history. If you’re in the area, or able to travel this summer, consider this is your official invitation to attend.
June 24th-July 3rd
The Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow has celebrated the diversity of Jewish cultural life since 1988. Today, the festival focuses on celebrating the contemporary dynamic world of Jewish life both within Israel and the diaspora. Patrons can attend all night jam sessions and concerts in the main tent, sip mint tea and eat hummus at the festival café, or partake in any of the other numerous workshops, lectures, discussions, guided tours, and art exhibitions. This year’s main festival project, “Kumzits,” focuses on eight public art projects in Kazimierz, the historical Jewish quarter of Krakow; this project is a collaborative effort between artists in Berlin, Jerusalem and Krakow.
For those who enjoy taking in the sounds of jazz while wrapped in the ambiance of art, the Jerusalem Jazz Festival is your scene. The festival began as a joint collaboration between the Israel Festival and the Israel Museum to create a dialogue between art, music, and festival visitors. The festival is held in the sculpture garden of the Israel Museum and the artist’s original compositions are inspired by the artworks found in the museum. This festival engages its audience in a visual and audible feast for the soul. This year the festival will feature solely Israeli musicians from a wide array of contemporary styles that fuse Jazz with other musical traditions from classical to hip-hop.
Since its debut in 1993, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival has sought to exhibit the diversity and contributions of Jewish culture through film. Their selection represent a wide scope of Jewish cultural identity, innovation, and achievement. The 2021 selections include Israeli Academy Award Winners, groundbreaking documentaries about marrying against one’s sexual orientation in Orthodoxy, ethnographic retrospectives, and even the first Torah to make it to outer space. Unfortunately, this year’s festival will not be in person but rather virtual so you need not be in the Toronto area to attend; just go to their website and sign up!
The 5th annual Sababa Music Festival will be taking place this summer in Bethel, New York, just down the road from the site of the legendary Woodstock music festival. This event is the ultimate Shabbat weekend uniting Jews of all denominations and backgrounds from the tri-state area in a celebration of Jewish culture and tradition. The itinerary includes camping, bonfires, morning yoga, minyanim, and a headlining performance by the world-renown Israeli born international music ensemble, Yemen Blues. This festival combines the great outdoors with Jewish music, culture, and religion, a must for anyone trying to experience their own Jewish version of Woodstock.
Le Festival des Cultures Juives, held in Paris, is the premier festival for international Jewish culture in France. After the long year of separation between families due to the pandemic, this year the festival was curated around the concept of family entitled “Airs de Famille” (Family Resemblances). Memory, heritage, and the transmission of culture are key pillars in each event and exhibition. There are twenty events that festival patrons can attend including film screenings, poetry readings, tours, and concerts, as well as conferences and debates on a wide variety of Jewish cultural traditions from around the world.
These festivals gather together people from all walks of life to absorb and commemorate the Jewish experience, past, present, and future. In addition to a good time one can expect to learn a great deal about the diversity of Jewish life and appreciate the wide spectrum of culture that is Am Yisrael. Whatever your preference, be it dancing the night away with a beer in your hand in Kazimierz, joining the havdalah drum circle at Sababa Fest, catching a Jazz trio at the Israel Museum, or taking in a documentary about a space Torah these festivals will certainly deliver.