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29th Jewish Culture Festival: The Earth

Together we share the Earth, this land, this soil regardless of the faith (or lack of faith) that divides us. (…) Polin / Israel – the promised land, land which was taken away, land of milk and honey, land of blood and ashes, blessed land, damned land, God’s land, Satan’s land, human land, inhuman land, fertile land, barren land, land of mercy, land of hatred, land filled with fruit, land of stones and bones, hospitable land and lost land. Graveyard land. Recovered Land. Mother Earth. (…) This year, we are putting up our tent on the land of Kazimierz where the Ashkenazi civilization flourished for ages.

Janusz Makuch
founder and director of the JCF in Krakow

The Earth – one of the four elements, place that has created our identity, protecting the memory and creating the future – was the main theme or point of reference to most of 125 events of the main program of the 29th Jewish Culture Festival, including lectures, discussions, meetings, musical events, workshops, guided tours, artistic events and many more. Majority of them were held in the Festival Tent  – a space thet we created especially for the festival in the very heart of Kazimierz – at the intersection of Józefa and Wąska streets. 

29th Jewish Culture Festival was one of the most important edition on festival’s history of more than 30 years. It was thanks to the Tent that the festival was much more visible and present in the life of our city, it was a very clear and strong sign of Jewish identity of Kazimierz. 

Many festival guests and artists told us, never before in Krakow or elsewhere they experienced such inclusive project, that would be in such harmony not only with architecture but also identity of the place, being in the same time very active and vibrant venue for the festival events.  

Festival Tent

Why a tent? We were inspired by the history of “biblical” tents, starting from the one that Moses put up in the desert to talk to God face to face.

The tent, from the beginning of human history, has been inextricably connected with man’s existence. When the Jews, led by Moses, the forming the future nation of Israel, set out across the desert to their Promised Land, they lived in tents for forty years. To this day, not to forget it, when they celebrate one of the three pilgrim holidays, the Sukkot Festival, the Jews pray and eat in the so-called Sukkahs which are nothing more than a representation of these tents.

We put up our Tent of Meeting because we want to welcome all of you inside regardless of where you come from, what faith you profess, what your family language is.

We put up our Tent of Meeting in Kazimierz, saddened by the fact that it has become a tourist playground. It’s not a bad thing, but we don’t consent that it be treated like a zoo, a place of beer fun and electric cart safari. We wanted to clearly mark the Jewish identity of Kazimierz.

We wanted the festival to respond to your needs in this way.
B’ruhim Haba’im! – Blessed are those who come.

photo: Bartosz Dittmar, Edyta Dufaj, Pan Borsuk

A total of 59 different events took place in the Tent: from spectacular parties with street dances, likes during the concert of Mała Orkiestra Dancingowa or Abrāo, to private, personal talks under the artistic project by Anat Bosak and Meydad Eliyahu entitled Lost and Found. Cheder, the festival club, also opened in the Tent.


The series of festival lectures was inaugurated by Janusz Makuch with his presentation entitled My brother’s blood is calling out loud to me from the soil. This and other festival lectures showed various aspects of the relationship between the man and the earth: from archaeology (a series of lectures by Prof. Dan Bahat, IL), through the use of crops (a lecture and workshop by Tova Dickstein, IL), to conflicts about land and neighborhood problems (prof. Deborah Lipstadt, USA; Yosi Klein Halevi, IL; Prof. Jan Grabowski, CA).

photo: Edyta Dufaj

Polish and Israeli artists (Maya Kosover, Liron Turkenich, Michal Hadas, Monika Drożyńska and Roni Parnass) invited by Itai Mautner (IL) presented their own understanding and artistic interpretations of the word Earth/Makom. Rabbi Boaz Pash (IL) talked about the topos of the eternal wanderer, while the traveler and philosopher Marek Kamiński (PL) described what timshel was for him. This was complemented by an academic session organised by the Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University called Promised Land, Alien Land.

photo: Edyta Dufaj

For the fourth time, we have prepared a special festival Literary Programme together with the Krakow Festival Office, operator of the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature. Polish and foreign authors presented their books to the festival audience. They included Monika Sznajderman, Maciej Zaremba-Bielawski, Agata Maksimowska, Zośka Papużanka, Wit Szostak, Paweł Rogala and Tomer Gardi.

The literary discussions about the earth included Małgorzata Łukasiewicz, Stanisław Aleksander Nowak, Adam Robiński and Michał Książek, and the subject of the earth in the works of Amos Oz was discussed by Monika Frajczyk, Radosław Krzyżowski, Zuzanna Skolias and Krzysztof Zawadzki (illustrated by excerpts from the author’s books).

Most of the lectures and discussions that took place during the 29th JCF were recorded by us and can be heard in the original versions on our website (follow the link at the bottom of this article).



Music is the trademark of the Jewish Culture Festival. Many projects have their Polish or even European premiere on the festival stage, some of them are composed especially for us. They have one thing in common: they show where the contemporary Jewish culture is heading in Israel and in the Diaspora.

photo: Michał Ramus

The Tempel Synagogue is the main music scene of each edition of the Jewish Culture Festival. Traditionally, the series of concerts this year was again inaugurated by the Cantors’ Concert, Sing to the Lord, all land (PS 96). The concert was performed by three cantors, Avraham Kirshenbaum (IL), Israel Rand (IL) and a German cantor debuting on the Polish stage, Yoni Rose. They performed together with the excellent Krakow orchestra Sinfonietta Cracovia conducted by Maestro Elli Jaffe (IL) accompanied by Eytan Sobol (IL). The producer of this concert commissioned by the 29th JCF was Yosi Notkowitz (Halleluyah Productions, IL).

The saxophonist Eyal Talmudi (known for his cooperation with Balkan Beat Box, Kutiman and Oy Division), valued by the festival audience, has made two projects especially for the 29th JCF.

The first focused on one of Israel’s last true klezmer, the Moldovan accordionist Emil Kroitor, and the second on the legend and veritable diva of Jewish Moroccan music, Raymonde Abecassis.

The art of singing the piyut (Middle Ages Jewish religious compositions), little-known in Poland, was presented by Yair Harel’s The Piyut Ensemble.

Klezmer music was obviously an absolute must: on Friday evening it was performed by Michael Winograd (US) with his band The Honorable Mentshn (US/DE), and on Sunday a homage to the Last Klezmer of Galicja, Leopold Kozłowski, who passed away last spring, was paid by a special concert by his students and friends.

The Cantors’ Concert was dedicated to Tad Taube – a friend and donor of the festival. Michael Winograd & The Honorable Mentshn concert was held under the auspices of Kulczyk Foundation and was in memory of Jan Kulczyk, while patronage over the concert ‘In Homage to Leopold Kozłowski’ was assumed by Małopolska Region authorities.

For many years, an important part of the JCF music programme is the so-called new stage and this is where you can hear the voices of the youngest generation of Jewish musicians from Israel and the Diaspora.

photo: Bartosz Dittmar, Michał Ramus

Thanks to the JCF Tent, we also acquired new space for concerts. It was there that we inaugurated the 29th JCF with a concert of the Brazilian-Israeli musician Abrão. The next evening saw a huge Tango Milonga in Kazimierz with Mała Orkiestra Dancingowa, thanks to which several hundred people danced not only in the tent, but also on the adjacent streets.

The tent also hosted the Airis Quartet from Krakow as part of the concert series Classics at Noon, there was a hip-hop before-party, Aneta Hudzik and Anna Prokop from OFF Radio Krakow broadcast live their Kocyk programme, and the Krakow-based MLDVA band established in 2013 for the JCF and their concert with Çinar Timur (TR) ended this year’s edition of the Jewish Culture Festival.

In Alchemia pub you could listen to the most avant-garde Jewish sounds. Uzi Navon & The Experiences took you on a journey in time to the big-beat era, the pub also hosted the stars of Israeli hip-hop (including Atar Mayner, Dor 3, Eden Derso) during the Hip-Hop Night, this is also where traditional Midnite Sessions took place.

The Hevre Club was the place of the Shabbat Party that Deborah Strauss, Sanne Moricke and Jeff Warschauer prepared together with the participants of the music workshop from the 29th JCF.

Cult DJ parties, organised jointly with Teder.fm (including Teder Weekender: Krakow meets Tel Aviv, recognised as the best summer party in the city), appeared twice on board of the Barka river barge club. Visualisations for Barka and Alchemia were by the Krakow collective Elektro Moon Vision.

Ola Bilińska, considered the best singer of Yiddish songs, made a project commissioned by JCF and Taube Philathropies called The Name’s Bajgelman, which consists of songs arranged by the artist and composed by the Bajgelman brothers in pre-war Łódź. The daughter of Chaim, one of the brothers, whose name is Riva Berelson and who now lives in California was the special guest of this concert, which took place at the Galicja Jewish Museum.



Also The Songs of Love and Loss were written especially for the JCF. The Israeli composer Emmanuel Witzthum arranged his work for two string quartets and electronic instruments. The bands specially set up for the project, one consisting of Polish musicians, the other of German players, gave two concerts. The first one was held in Berlin at the end of May 2019, and the second in the Krakow club Hevre. In both concerts, the musicians were accompanied by visualisations created live by Thomas Köner (DE). The patron of the project was the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.

As every year, the highlight of the music programme was the concert entitled Shalom at Szeroka. In the course of 7 hours, over 15,000 people had the opportunity to listen to a variety of Jewish music from Israel and the Diaspora.

During the Shalom on Szeroka Street concert, the stage in front of the oldest synagogue in Poland hosted Michael Winograd & The Honorable Mentshn (US / DE), Uzi Navon & The Acquintances (IL) and Sinfonietta Cracovia (PL), The Piyut Ensemble (IL), Raymonde & The Europeans (IL), Emil Kroitor & The Trans-Moldavian Express (IL), Mała Orkiestra Dancingowa (PL). The concertw as hosted by Alicja Popiel (TVP Kraków) and Janusz Makuch (founder and director of JCF), and produced in cooperation with the Polish Television Station.

Festival concerts from the Tempel synagogue, the concerts of Emmanuel Witzthum, Ola Bilińska and Shalom at Szeroka were broadcast live on the festival website, as well as on Facebook and YouTube. Recordings of these concerts may be seen on YouTube and on our website (follow the link at the bottom of this article).


A comprehensive and personal experience of contemporary Jewish culture remains most crucial for the Jewish Culture Festival. That is why we pay such great importance to the workshop and guided tour programme during each edition of the Festival.

photo: Bartosz Dittmar, Edyta Dufaj, Szymon Makuch

In addition to the continuation of workshops from previous festival editions (Yiddish singing with Jeff Warschauer, klezmer music workshops with Deborah Strauss and Sanne Moricke, or Open Meetings with Anna Dodziuk and Tanna Jakubowicz-Mount), this year we introduced several new proposals: workshops of biblical flavours with Tova Dickstein (IL), sand animation workshops for teenagers with Agnieszka Wozowicz and Beata Miligan (PL), piyut singing workshops with Yair Harel (IL), cooking workshops with Daria Kołecka (PL), Torah singing and reading workshops with Marlena Fuerstman ( IL), as well as coffee brewing with Janusz Makuch and crochet skullcap workshops with the Polaron Foundation.

Sightseeing tours give a better understanding of Kazimierz where Jewish culture developed for centuries. In the course of festival walking tours, you could experience space from different perspectives and at different historical moments.

Thanks to Anna Kiesell and Agnieszka Legutko, at the 29th JCF you could learn about and visit all the synagogues of Kazimierz, during the walking tour called Jewish life in Kazimierz and Podgórze, you had the opportunity to find about the most important secular and cultural places in both these districts of our city, but you could also face the painful aspect of Jewish history in Krakow by visiting the area of the former ghetto.

Anna Baryła and Adam Schorin helped discover the remains of the concentration camp in Krakow’s Płaszów.

Anna Kiesell also led a walking tour called Jewish Krakow, showing traces of Jewish presence in the Old Town, and Monika Krajewska walking around the Remuh cemetery explained the symbols on the matzevot.

Two walking tours were made especially for the festival. A Portrait of Kazimierz by Marta Świetlik and Natalia Giemza was connected with photography workshops in Cheder held during the year and it showed places related to various personalities of contemporary Kazimierz: rabbis, activists, but also craftsmen.

Incarnation. How to see the Unseen was a project by Patrycja Kowańska and Marta Wawrzyniak who looked at the contemporary Kazimierz through their performance.


Our festival volunteers – The Machers – once again prepared a special festival edition of their year-round project Pracownia Seniora (Workshops for seniors).

The senior inhabitants of Krakow and guests from other cities (and countries) could take part in the Loesje creative writing workshops with Bartłomiej Paluch, workshops of Jewish art called In Heaven and on Earth with Monika Krajewska, cooking workshops with Krzysztof Gawlik, coffee brewing workshops with Andrzej Gruszczyński, Israeli dance workshops with Marzena Dudziuk-Koluch and meditations with Piotr Płaneta from the Joga Centrum.

photo Bartosz Dittmar


123 events in the accompanying programme of the 29th Jewish Culture Festival were organised by our partners: JCC Krakow, Galicja Jewish Museum, Or Chadasz Association of Progressive Jews in Krakow, The Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University, Polaron Foundation, Shefter Gallery and Czulent Jewish Association.

Sponsors of 29th JCF

Click on the image above to get the full list of sponsors, partners and supporters of the festival. 


events during 29th JCF
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Visual identification of the 29th JCF and promo video were created by Studio Otwarte.
Photo documentation: Bartosz Dittmar, Edyta Dufaj, Szymon Makuch, Michał Ramus
Video documentation: Mateusz Miszczyński, Jakub Słabek
Social media: Michalina Pieczonka
Design of the Festival Tent: Marta Staszków, Dorota Wiśniewska
Technical realization of JCF: Agencja Artystyczna Duo Marek Suszkiewicz, Maciej Fryc FS Audio

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