Klezmer in Krakow

Feature

Friday, October 10, 2008

For 18 years, the historic Jewish quarter of Krakow has been home to a Jewish cultural festival -- nine days of dancing, lectures, and concerts. 25,000 people attend, most of them Poles with no Jewish family. Stephanie Rowden wondered what Jewish culture can mean in a place where it has been absent for 60 years. She produced the story as part of a public art project in Krakow.

    Music Playlist
  1. Rejoicing
    Artist: The Strauss/Warschauer Duo
    Album: Klezmer Conservatory Band, A Taste of Paradise
    Label: Rounder Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Gate #46
    Artist: Erik Friedlander
    Album: 50 Gates of Understanding
    Label:
  3. Oy Gewald a Ganef
    Artist: Oy Division
    Album: Oy Division!
    Label: levontin 7

Contributors:

Stephanie Rowden

Comments [6]

Norman Jacobs from UK

It might seem odd to some re the interest, even the embrace of Jewish culture in Jewish-extinguished Central Europe or--as one commentator writes--the fondness in the United States for American Native Indian culture.

At the same time, we could ask the question whether the supposedly objective critical perspective on these particular forms of identification is really so detached? Is not the focus, pivoting around issues of justification and sincerity, not an assumption based on the idea of "ownership" of one or another particular identity? Also, why is identification with Latin American culture-- quite prevalent in the West-- seemingly less open to criticism than these issues? In other words, when is the assimilation of culture truly either legitimate or illegitimate? Or is culture, in fact, universal?

Nov. 27 2008 07:12 PM
Hank Greenspan from Ann Arbor, MI USA

I should have added this. The Kaz. festival is only one facet of (mostly young) Poles et. al. attempts to reimagine Polish Jewry. My sense is that many of the more profound such engagements are happening outside of Krakow.

Nov. 26 2008 09:14 PM
Hank Greenspan from Ann Arbor, MI USA

I understand one is supposed to have a "nuanced" response to this phenomenon.

To me, all this is pretty much the same as the way so many Anglo Americans get heavily (and sincerely) into Native American culture. In one respect, it is moving and sincere. In another respect, it is pathetic.

Gilgul? To me, more like Custer doing the Ghost Dance.

Nov. 26 2008 08:27 PM
Adam Cohen from Ann Arbor, MI

Your piece transported me and in such a brief time, it touched upon the complex aspects of this festival.
Thank you once again for opening all of my senses to a new experience.

Oct. 27 2008 11:15 PM
Ruth Ellen Gruber

Anyone who wants to learn more about this phenomenon in the context of Europe (and particularly east-central Europe) as a whole will find my book, "Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe," published in 2002 by University of California Press, to be of interest.

The Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow was founded in 1988 -- so it's been going on for 20 years. It is one of many, many festivals and other Jewish cultural events in European countries where few if any Jews live today.

The "Please Respond" project that Stephanie and Erica and Hannah put together was an extremely valuable contribution to understanding how this phenomenon is evolving -- because it IS evolving, and will continue to do so.

Oct. 16 2008 01:53 PM
Paulina from Silver Spring, MD

I just wanted to express my "thanks" to you guys for producing this story. THANK YOU!

Oct. 11 2008 01:55 PM

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