It's Kool to Be Kosher in Poland: The Krakow Jewish Culture Festival
Richard. Z. Chesnoff
RAKOW Poland's parliament recently voted to uphold a controversial ban on ritual Jewish butchering -- an otherwise lucrative international enterprise for the export hungry nation.
That not withstanding, everything else Jewish seems to have become decidedly kosher in the Polish Republic. Seven decades after more than 90 percent of Poland's Jewish population of 3.6 million was slaughtered by the Nazis (with an occasional assist from a few local anti-Semites) everything from Jewish history to Jewish food to Jewish music to Jewish art has suddenly become Poland's in-thing.
These days Polish restaurants from Gdansk to Lodz offer their customers Jewish style dishes from "Yiddish fish"" (AKA "gefilte fish" to "Sabbath Stew" (AKA cholent). Theaters and clubs headline concerts of klezmer music, art galleries feature exhibits by pre-war Jewish painters and young Poles who've discovered they had a grandfather or an aunt with a touch of Jewish ancestry don't hide the facts as they used to, they rush to forge their own ties with renewing Jewish communities.
Still nowhere is Poland's new Jewish chic as high-spirited and accomplished as it is in the great southern Polish city of Krakow -- home of an annual Jewish Culture Festival just completing its 23rd successful year .
All but a handful of Krakow's important Jewish community died in nearby Auschwitz (remember "Schindler's List"?) or was simply murdered on its doorsteps by German troops. But miraculously Kazimierz, the city's centuries old Jewish quarter, like most of Krakow, physically survived.
And it is there, along its intertwined, cobble-stoned streets that musicians, dancers, actors and artists from around the world gather each summer to celebrate the richness of global Jewish culture.
There were dozens of daily workshops on arts and crafts, symposiums on Yiddish song and dance, lectures on Krakow history, and tens of concerts including one by Diwan Saz, a unique Jewish-Muslim group from Israel. There was even a hyper active session by Australian Rabbi Dovid Tsap who personally illustrated his specialized Ollies, Kickflips and other talents as a "spiritual skateboarder."
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