Klezmer Music and Memory at a Festival Celebrating Jewish Life in Poland

KRAKOW, Poland — There were lectures on the journey of Jews from shtetls in Poland to new homes in what would become Israel; workshops on chanting the Torah and cooking for Shabbat; exhibitions documenting the devastation brought by World War II; and debates about Jewish life in Poland today. Everywhere, there was music. Gentle lullabies and Yiddish folk songs, thumping Israeli hip-hop, and rousing celebratory tunes played by scores of Klezmer bands filled the ancient alleyways of Krakow, a Polish city that was once at the center of Jewish life in Europe. It was all part of the Jewish Culture Festival, a yearly event meant to celebrate the 1,000 years of Jewish life that had flourished in Poland before World War II, but had been erased by the Holocaust. Attracting about 30,000 visitors each summer and advertising itself as the largest Jewish festival in Europe, the event draws many Poles as well as internationally recognized performers.

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