28th Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków: Zion

70 years ago the State of Israel was established. 100 years ago Poland regained its independence. In this way, the dream of the Poles and Jews about their own longed for country was fulfilled. The dream about Zion.

In the year of these two anniversaries, Zion was the subject of the 28th edition of the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow. In addition, this year’s JCF took place exactly 30 years from its first edition in 1988.

Zion was the inspiration or theme of almost all 260 events of the 28th Jewish Culture Festival


Zionism, the rise and development of the State of Israel were the topics of a series of lectures given by: Dr. Gadi Taub (IL), Prof. Dan Bahat (IL), Konstanty Gebert (PL), prof. Edwin Seroussi (IL), Ruth Calderon (IL) and Anna Azari, Ambassador of Israel in Poland. We devoted the second series of lectures to Jews in reborn Poland – both in the interwar period and after the Second World War. The speakers were: prof. Stanisław Krajewski, prof. Anna Landau-Czajka, Katarzyna Zimmerer, dr Michał Galas, prof. Jacek Leociak.

The 30th anniversary of the festival was the topic of the lecture entitled A dream come true: from Shtetl to Zion, given by the founder and director of the Jewish Culture Festival – Janusz Makuch.

The Literary Programme, prepared jointly with the Krakow Festival Office, operator of Krakow City of Literature UNESCO project, was for the third time an integral part of the Festival’s educational programme. This year, we hosted recognized and well-known Polish authors, including: Anna Bikont, Włodek Goldkorn, Mikołaj Grynberg, Małgorzata Czyńska and Marcin Wicha. 

Meetings for smaller audiences under the common name of Returns took place in an apartment that used to belong to Czesław Miłosz. The invited speakers included prof. Aleksander Fiut, Katarzyna Zimmerer and dr Michalina Kmiecik. Special workshop for children organized as apart of this programme, was inspired by our series of publication O_KAZ and was led by Ula Palusińska and Michał Mądracki.

recordings of lectures



Music is the distinguishing feature of the Jewish Culture Festival. Many projects have their Polish or even European opening at the festival, some of them are commissioned by us. What they have in common is one thing: they all show the trends in the contemporary Jewish culture in Israel and the Diaspora.

This year as usual the Tempel Synagogue was the main festival stage. It was there that the world premiere of The Dybbuk took place. This work had been commissioned by the JCF from a Polish-Jewish-Belarusian composer now living in the USA – Wlad Marhulets. The concert was performed by David Krakauer (US), to whom this piece was dedicated by the composer, and by Krakow string ensemble Pan Ton Quartet (PL).

The 28th JCF was officially inaugurated with the Cantors’ Concert, entitled Those who Trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. It featured two cantor brothers Yaakov Lemmer (US) and Shulem Lemmer (US) as well as Shlomo Seletski (IL); the Israeli choir The Bells Vocal Ensemble conducted by Yossi Schwartz and with the accompaniment of Menachem Bristowski (IL).

The music of Ashkenazi Jews on the synagogue stage was presented by Eleanor Reissa and Klezmer Brass Allstars (US) in a project Vilde Mekhaye, by Leopold Kozłowski and his students (PL), as well as by the brilliant Klezmer Orchestra of Sejny Theatre (PL) with guest appearance of Frank London, David Krakauer and Michael Alpert (US).

The music of the Mizrachi was presented by the Jerusalem East&West Orchestra conducted by Tom Cohen (IL) with the accompaniment of cantors Emil Zrihan (IL) and Moshe Louk (IL). There was also classical music of the highest rank played by the renowned Jerusalem Quartet (IL), as well as the best of contemporary Israeli funk by The Kutiman Orchestra.

Vilde Mekhaye concert performed by Eleanor Reissa and Klezmer Brass Allstars as well as concert by The Kutiman Orchestra were aired live by Radio Krakow – festival’s media partner. 

Cantors’ Concert was dedicated to Tad Taube – friend and supporter of the festival on the occasion of Doctorate Honoris Cause T. Taube received from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Concert by Jerusalem Orchestra East & West was held under the patronage of Kulczyk Foundation and dedicated to late Jan Kulczyk, whereas Małopolska Region was a patron of Leopold Kozłowski’s concert. 

For many years, an important part of the Jewish Culture Festival music programme has been the so-called new stage. In this concert series organised in Kazimierz clubs, theatres and pubs you can listen to what the contemporary Israeli club music sounds like, get to know different niche projects and musicians who although just starting their music career make an important contribution to what the contemporary Israeli music is like.

Two artists from two different music extremes appeared in the Nowy Theatre: Noga Erez debuting in Poland is well-known on the electronic music scene of Tel Aviv and Victoria Hanna with a great and fully-formed stage personality. The latter’s concerts are basically performances that explore the hidden meanings of the language, they reach its sources, successfully combining rap and ancient Hebrew or Aramaic texts.

Hevre Club appeared on the musical map of the Festival for the first time. Yudko (IL) played his experimental electronic music there, and his concert was accompanied by 360° visualizations specially prepared for this concert by the Krakow collective ElektroMoon Vision (PL) and Kiritian Flux from Berlin. The second evening at Hevre was filled with pre-war tangos by Polish-Jewish composers brilliantly played by Warsaw’s Mała Orkiestra Dancingowa conducted by an Israeli, Noam Zylberberg.

At night, the festival life bustled at Alchemia. There were jam sessions with Abate Barihun (IL), Frank London (US), concert by Sefi Zisling Quartet (IL), a DJ party with Omri Smadar (IL) and Kixnare (PL) as well as a Teder after-party after the Shalom at Szeroka concert.

The River Wisła barge, Barka is already a permanent venue for the best DJ events at the festival and in Krakow. This year, together with the Tel Aviv Teder, we organized an opening party there, as well as Teder Weekender: Krakow Meets Tel Aviv which still tops the popularity ranking lists of club events in Krakow. The last concert of the 28th JCF took place in Cheder: Young Yosef from Tel Aviv took the audience to the iconic New York Studio 54 club.

The biggest highlight of the music programme was, like every year, Shalom at Szeroka - a concert lasting 7 hours with an audience of around 15,000, which not without reason, is sometimes called 'The Jewish Woodstock'.

The following artists appeared at the concert in the very heart of Jewish Kazimierz this year: Frank London, Eleanor Reissa and Klezmer Brass Allstars (US), The Kutiman Orchestra (IL), Jerusalem Orchestra East & West (IL) with Emil Zrihan and Moshe Louk (IL), Klezmer Orchestra of the Sejny Theatre (PL) with Frank London, Michael Alpert and David Krakauer (US), as well as the special invited guests: Abate Barihun with his band (IL) and Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki (PL). The concert, recorded and re-broadcast by TVP2, was announced by Janusz Makuch, director of JCF and Alicja Popiel of TVP Polish state-owned television station.

All festival concerts from the Tempel Synagogue as well as Shalom on Szeroka were streamed live in internet: on festival’s website as well as Facebook fanpage. 


Sambation is an artistic project which we co-created with the Israeli collective HaMiffal from Jerusalem especially for the 28th JCF.

A flat and courtyard of a town house at ul. św. Sebastiana 32 which belongs to the Bosak family (currently living in Israel), was turned into a space for the activities of artists from Israel who were to present the history of the place, its present and their own identity. The result were artistic installations, happenings, guided tours and meetings with artists, film screenings and workshops.

Sambation was operating only during the festival, but especially for the residents of the building, we left in the courtyard a beautiful bench and sculpture designed and made by Shmulik Twig and Shavit Yaron, as well as beautiful frescoes in the corridor of the building, created by Meydad Eliyahu.

Israeli artists who participated in the project included Ann Deych, Anat Bosak, Deborah Fischer, Gilli Levi, Itamar Hammerman, Kobi Vogman, Meydad Eliyahu, Michal Chevion, Michal Harada, Michael Cohen, Noa Arad Yairi, Neta Meisels, Shmulik Twig, Shavit Yaron, Tal Ben Hamo, Tal Harada, Yuval Yairi, artistic director: Meydad Eliyahu. 


One of the inspirations in this project was the river, or more precisely - the now disappeared arm of the river Wisła, which flowed in the place of today's ulica Dietla and which the artists associated with the mythical Sambation, the river across which the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were to shelter.

A non-existent river, as well as absent residents of the city, forgotten or untold stories about Kazimierz became the motives for two performative guided tours created especially for the 28th JCF. Łukasz Wojtysko, Magda Szpecht, Patrycja Kowańska and Martyna Wawrzyniak devised tours called How to walk around Kazimierz without seeing it at all? and Incarnation. How to see the unseen with the guides Lena Schimscheiner, Jan Sobolewski, Karol Kubasiewicz and Katarzyna Zawiślak-Dolny (popular Polish actors of the youngest generation) telling stories and acting out situations heard from the former and present inhabitants of Kazimierz.

Like in the past years, Anna Kiesell and dr Agnieszka Legutko gave the festival audience the opportunity to see the most important Jewish monuments and to find out about the history of Kazimierz, Podgórze and the Old Town in the course of their guided walking tours: Jewish Life in Kazimierz and Podgórze, Jewish Krakow, The Synagogues and Houses of Prayer of Kazimierz, the Former Jewish Ghetto in Podgórze, Jewish Cemeteries. All these guided tours had their Polish and English language versions. There was also a special walking tour in Yiddish Kuzmir – Yerushalayim in Pojln with A. Legutko, and in English In the footsteps of the rabbis at the Remuh Cemetery with Edgar Gluck, the Chief Rabbi of Galicia.


The heart of each edition of the Festival are the workshops - by participating in them you get the opportunity to have your own Jewish experience.

Since our festival is a long lasting educational project, some workshops (like for example klezmer music, Yiddish singing, open meetings) are held every year almost since the very beginning of the festival. Besides them, there were specially prepared workshops for young people, an interactive Yiddish language workshop for children, as well as a ‘Yiddish corner’ for adults.

Series of cooking workshops with one of the best chefs from Israel, the owner of the award-winning restaurant Eucalyptus, Moshe Basson was one of the most popular workshop series at the festival. The participants of the workshop called From the Bible onto Your Plate learned how to make the dishes which the Bible mentions.

For gourmets we also prepared a Shabbat Dinner and a Shabbat Breakfast in Cheder: the specials prepared by Sabina Francuz and the Cheder crew were a pretext to celebrate the most important Jewish holiday, the Shabbat.


Our Machers, i.e. festival volunteers, also prepared a special festival programme for Senior Citizens, which was a continuation of the all-year round project they run under the auspices of the festival. Older participants of the festival could attend theatre workshops, Israeli dance workshops, Ornaments of the Jewish Home workshop, Jewish art workshop, play a field game or visit a Jewish cemetery.

more information about Workshops for Seniors project


For establishing and developing the Jewish Culture Festival over the past three decades, Janusz Makuch was recognized with a title Friend of Israel, granted to one person from each country of the world to commemorate Israel’s anniversary.

Special diploma, accompanied by a personal letter to Janusz Makuch from Reuvena Rivlina, President of the State of Israel was handed out by Anna Azari, Israeli Ambassador in Poland.

The award ceremony, which was kept secret until very last moment, took place during Shalom on Szeroka concert, in front of an international audience of 15,000 persons.

more information about the recognition


In the opinion of all the participants of this year's edition of the Jewish Culture Festival, it was not only a perfect culmination of 30 years of the festival's presence in Krakow, but also an important event celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel and the rebirth of independent Poland.

Below you will find short videos documenting 28th Jewish Culture Festival almost day by day – they were created by Mateusz Miszczyński and Jakub Słabek.


118 events in the accompanying programme of the 28th Jewish Culture Festival were prepared by our partners: JCC Krakow, Jewish Galicia Museum, Or Chadasz Association of Progressive Jews in Krakow, Department of Judaism of the Jagiellonian University, Polaron, Galeria LueLue and Dydo Poster Gallery.


Full list of sponsors and partners could be found here.

Immersion - a film about the festival

Mateusz Miszczyński and Jakub Słabek, after a series of day-by-day video reports from the festival, created also a film that tells about festival experience. About immersion in history and contemporary Jewish life and culture that is experienced by all festival guests, as well as by Kazimierz, a Jewish quarter of Krakow.



number of program events
events in the main program
accompanying events
artists, lecturers, instructors
accreditted journalists
media infomration
people watched live streaming of the concert on FB and festival website
people watched Shalom on Szeroka Street in Polish Television
54 520
users of the festival website
229 381
views of the festival website
15 978 / 15 720
likes / followers of the festival FB fanpage
2 905 328
views of clips on festival YouTube channel
4 433
subscribers of festival YouTube channel
1 179
followers on Instagram


Visual identification of the festival was created by Studio Otwarte.
Photo: Bartosz Dittmar, Szymon Makuch, Michał Ramus
Video documentation: Mateusz Miszczyński, Jakub Słabek
Live online streaming: AJC TV
Recordings of lectures: Zbigniew Grzywacz
Promo video: Studio Otwarte


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