Diaspora and Shabbat were main headlines of the 26th Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow.

One one hand, Diaspora is a reference to the image of the “Jew the Eternal Wanderer”, and on the other – an attempt to deal with the issue of refugees; with living outside our own country, community and a problem of keeping the identity.

Shabbat is the key element that keeps the Jews together and providing link to the eternal tradition, despite all circumstances. Shabbat is also an universal experience. It means being with yourself and for yourself, being together with your closest ones and for them.

Promo video by Studio Otwarte, music: Totemo, Time to Shine

Have a look at how Diaspora and Shabbat were presented during the 26th JCF.


Interactions between diaspora members and the minority, Israel as a country created by various diasporas, mechanisms within the diaspora were the topic of numerous lectures, presentations and debates during the festival. They were presented by Diana Pinto (IT), Krzysztof Czyżewski (PL), prof. Edwin Seroussi (IL), Michael Wex (CA), Israeli Ambassador in Poland Anna Azari (IL),  and Noa Argov (IL), who in a series of sound lectures presented unexpected links between diasporas as seen in the contemporary Israeli music. Panel discussion with Diana Pinto (IT), Krzysztof Czyżewski (PL), Konstanty Gebert (PL) and Maged Sahly (PL), moderated by Adam Szostkiewicz (PL), was the culmination of the Diaspora program at the 26th festival.

Series of film screenings under the title “Next Year in Jerusalem…” illustrated various aspects of Diaspora. In Kino Pod Baranami we presented 6 documentary films, including: Israeli Shanghai Ghetto, A Song of Loves – David Buzaglo, Romanian Aliyah Dada, American RE-EMERGING: The Jews of Nigeria, Australian On the Bank of the Tigris: The Hidden Story of Iraqi Music and Oscar-winnning Strangers No More

Diversity of diaspora was best illustrated and visible in festival musical program, which is described below.



This most important Jewish holiday, represents very universal values, that could be (and should be) applied to lives of people from various traditions and cultures. It is celebrated by the Jews in various ways, depending on religious and cultural background, as well as country of origin.

Our audience had a great chance to better understand the idea of Shabbat, to experience its uniqueness and universality and first of all  to gain in many cases first-in-a-lifetime Shabbat experience!

We hope many of them will take this experience back home with them and will adopt it to their lives, in order to find and cultivate a private space in this intense and anonymous contemporary world.

Monika and Stanisław Krajewski, as well as Konstanty Gebert, shared with our festival audience they personal understanding and experience with Shabbat, whereas Michael Wex (CA) during his presentations spoke about a role of Shabbat in Diaspora life.

To fully understand Shabbat and got prepared to it properly, we provided a series of Shabbat workshops: culinary workshops with Leah Koenig (USA), Shabbat songs with Jeff Warschauer (USA) and Cantor Benzion Miller (USA).

Since the majority of our audience is non-Jewish, we provided them a rare opportunity to participate in a Shabbat prayers and ceremonies: Kabbalat Shabbat, Havdala, Melave Malkah. In the former Chewra Tehilim beit ha midrash in Kazimierz we organized pop-up Shabbat dinner, that was prepared by Leah Koenig.

Children, who participated in festival workshops for children and youth, also had a chance to experience Shabbat lunch together with their parents and special guests: Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland and Janusz Makuch, Director of the Jewish Culture Festival.

photo: Michał Ramus

Musical diasporas

Music is the best illustration of cultural diversity among Jews, that is a result of centuries-long lives in diasporas. Festival venues (Tempel Synagogue, Cheder, numerous clubss in Kazimierz and Krakow) were filled with diverse sounds of Jewish music and proofed that Jewish culture not only absorbed many local elements to its ancient tradition, but also inspired those cultures in return.

Cantors’ Concert under the title By the Rivers of Babylon was an official inauguration of the 26th festival. This year, Cantors Benzion Miller, Yaakov Lemmer and Avraham Kirschenbaum, accompanied by the Choir of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem with Eli Yaffe, performed together with the best Krakow’s chamber orchestra Sinfonietta Cracovia.

Among many highlights, concert with  Kronos Quartet (US) was the most awaited musical event of the festival. The performed music of contemporary Jewish composers from various diasporas, including Steve Reich and Osvaldo Golijov. Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind by Golijov was performed by the quartet together with David Krakauer exactly 20 years after it was composed especially for these musicians.

Tempel Synagogue hosted also one of the most important Turkish singers Selda Bağcan with Israeli surf-rock band Boom Pam; Frank London with his recent ‘astro-Hungarian’ project The Glass House Orchestra; Daniel Kahn with The Brothers Nazaroff, as well as Leopold Kozłowski and his disciples.

Before the Shabbat, the synagogue hosted a special concert under the patronage of Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, dedicated to the memory of Jan Kulczyk, the most successful Polish businessmen and a great philanthropist. His daughter Dominika Kulczyk and her two children were present at the concert performed by Diwan Saz (IL) with three singers: a Christian Arab Lubna Salmeh, Rabbi Menachemem David and 14 years old Beduin Muhammad Gadir, known also as Hamudi.

Off-musical program was presented in most popular Krakow’s clubs: Forum Przestrzenie, Alchemia and of course in festival’s club – Cheder. Riff Cohen (IL), Ola Bilińska (PL) with her project Libelid, Totemo (IL), Ouzo Bazooka (IL), The Unternationale (USA/DE), MLDVA & Çınar Timur (PL/TR), as well as Polish and Israeli DJs: Khen Elmalech, David Pearl and Kfjatek showed the most contemporary face of Jewish music.

Barka – recognized as the best dance club in Krakow – just as in previous years, was a head quarter of the cult Tel-Aviv based project Teder. Best Israeli DJs performed series of parties under the title Teder Weekender that was already called the best dancing event of the summer!

Klezmer Small Stars is a project created especially for the festival. For the first time in festival’s history, alumni of klezmer music workshops, performed with their teachers and other great klezmer musicians, including Deborah Strauss, Sanne Morricke, Jeff Warschauer and Frank London.

Shalom on Szeroka Street – 7-hours long open-air concert of Jewish music, called by many Jewish Woodstock – was definitely a great culmination of this year musical program. Almost 20,000 people from many countries of the world listened to Jewish musicians from all around the Diaspora and Israel, including The Apples – a special guest of the concert.

video recording and realization of the concert in the Tempel Synagogue: AJC TV
video recording and realization of the Shalom on Szeroka Street concert: National Institute for Audiovisual Arts and Polish Television TVP2


26th JCF – playlist on YouTube


Beyond Diaspora and Shabbat

In the festival program one could also find events that were not related to the main themes of this edition.




Klezmer music workshops, Jewish dance workshops, open meetings, Jewish art workshops as well as various guided tours to Kazimierz, Podgórze and Kraków, were accompanied by the series of literary meetings and workshops organized together with the Krakow Festival Office and its program Kraków – UNESCO City of Literature. In this series we hosted most recognized and appreciated contemporary Polish authors: Jarosław Mikołajewski, Łukasz Orbitowski, Marta Masada, Magdalena Kicińska, Witold Bereś and Krzysztof Burnetko.

In former Jewish School in Kazimierz, that now houses art department of the Pedagogical University of Krakow, students of this school together with students of the Beit Berl College in Tel  Aviv created a series of artistic interventions under the title Tangents that aimed to deal with the past and present of this school.

Center for Jewish Culture housed two other festival exhibitions: Burning – presentation of Jewish paper cuttings by Monika Krajewska and Invisible Bridge – a multimedia exhibition by Borderland Foundation.  

Yiddish Sunday was a headline of the last day of the 26th festival. Agnieszka Legutko and Anna Rozenfeld led a series of language and culture workshops for children and adults, Yiddish schmooze for those, who speak mame-loshn and towards the end of the day they took us on a tour of Kazimierz in Yiddish. Almost for sure it was the first Yiddish tour of Kazimierz in post-war history of our quarter! Only during the festival!




Mi Polin – a duo of contemporary Jewish designers, known all around the globe – took our audiences to a tour of Kazimierz in search of the traces of mezuzot. On the following day one could design and create one’s own mezuzah during workshop session with Mi Polin.


Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company: If At All

photos: Michał Ramus

This leading contemporary dance group has developed its unique language and style, that have been an inspiration for similar groups all over the world. After many years of absence, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company returned to Krakow on festival’s invitation wit their recent performance If At All by Rami Be’er.  

Most of those, who attended and were lucky enough to find a space in overcrowded concert hall of the ICE Congress Center in Krakow, agreed that this performance was the best imaginable finale of the 26th edition of the Jewish Culture Festival and will remind in their minds as the definite highlight of this edition.

Accompanying events

For many years already, the main festival program prepared by our Jewish Culture Festival Society is enriched with numerous accompanying events, presenting creativity of the local Jewish community.


accompanying events of the 26th festival


Accompanying events are organized by our partners: JCC Krakow, Galicia Jewish Museum and Beit Krakow.


Jewish Culture Festival Awards

Annual Festival Award 'Voice of Joy and Deliverance' was awarded to Karolina Jakoweńko. Cantor Benzion Miller was awarded with the Special Festival Award in the 50th year of his cantor carrier.

photo: Jerzy Bergander

The Irena Sendlerowa Memorial Award

During the special concert on Friday evening, Shana Penn, Executive Director of the Taube Foundation awarded Prof. Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska with The Irena Sendlerowa Memorial Award.


see video of the award ceremony


Janusz Makuch, founder and director of the Jewish Culture Festival is the recipient of first Irena Sendlerowa Memorial Award in 2008. The list of awardees includes (among others): Dr Jan Kulczyk, Krzysztof Czyżewski, Małgorzata Niezabitowska, Prof. Maria Janion, Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

Festival summary

photos: Michał Ramus, Michalina Pieczonka, Szymon Makuch


Festival in numbers

number of festival events
events in the main program
acccompanying events
artists, lecturers, instructors
30 000
accredited journalists
media reports
20 000
persons watched Shalo m on Szeroka concert in TVP2
11 922
likes on Facebook
111 241
views at the festival website
1 118
persons watched Shalom on Szeroka live streaming at ninateka.pl
24 461
persons watched live streaming of the concerts from the Tempel Synagogue
854 710
views of festival videos on YouTube
1 434
subscribers on YouTube
followers on Instagram
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