July 15, 2007

Krakow Jewish Culture Festival

[Note: Travel and technical issues have prevented me from maintaining a regular blogging schedule, for which I apologize. Over the next week, I will be posting a number of entries related to the Museum's recent mission to Berlin and Poland with the hope that my delay in getting them out will not lessen their impact or interest.]

We were in Krakow for the final day of the Jewish Culture Festival – a remarkable event that brings together the best in Jewish music and culture. Janusz Makuch, the visionary behind the festival,started it more than seventeen years ago and succeeds each year in attracting the best and the brightest to what must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My wife and I were invited to experience the final concert (which was televised live on Polish television)from a rented apartment overlooking Szeroka Street which serves as center stage.

The Crowd on Szeroka Street

Our host was Sigmund Rolat, a great friend of the Museum’s, who has long-standing and intimate ties with Poland. Sigmund, whose birthday we celebrated, treated us not only to good food and a privileged perspective from which to view the concert, but also to the company of a range of interesting people, including Shevach Weiss, the former Israeli ambassador to Poland, and Theodore Bikel, who stopped by between performances.

Theodore Bikel

There are those who question the very concept of a Jewish Cultural Festival in Poland, a land that has lost almost all traces of Jewish life, but anyone who witnessed this final concert has to admit that music has the potential to transcend time and to move people in powerful ways. This festival is part of a larger phenomenon, which we witnessed in Poland, of the attempt by Poles and Jews to (re-)discover elements of their common history and culture. The new museum to be built in Warsaw, which will be devoted to Jewish life in Poland, is another example.

Janusz Makuch and me back stage

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