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30th Jewish Culture Festival | The Fire

Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.

Ecclesiastes, 11,7

33 years. We have come a long way. And what matters most of all: we are still on the way. Planning what will happen in a year, two, three or five is alien to me. Nostalgy for anything that is gone forever is also alien to me. Thus, I do not reproduce the life in small towns, known as “shtetls”, with a small market and a well in the middle. I have too much respect for the past to put it under the continual pressure of official memory. I cannot breathe the air of glassed museums and heritage parks full of artefacts. There are many places in Poland where they celebrate the things which no longer exist.

I was born under the rule of Princess Izabela Czartoryska, who had significant words “To the Future – from the Past”, carved on the portico of the first Polish museum. Thus I will never disown the past. Never. Yet, I look for the traces of the past, first of all where the raging streams and rivers of the living Jewish culture meet – in the Diaspora, which develops its own identity and which is rooted in the Yiddishkeit, and first and foremost in the very center of this world – in the Land of Israel.

The JCF, from its very start, have combined Jewish diversity, hosting in the Festival “Tent of Meeting” the most eminent representatives of all fields of learning and art. The essence of the Festival is thus the meeting of a human with another human within the space of living culture. There is more benefit in this than in illusory “dialogues” and occasional declarations.

Since the pandemic took over the world, the meetings have ceased. Virtual reality has as much in common with the real one as corner stones with kidney stones. There is no truth of the real presence in it. The only thing that we can do and have to is to take advantage of the technology in order to do give a sign of our existence, send an uninterrupted stream of words and sounds into space, hoping that this stream will reach those who are close to us in spite of the distance and that they will understand it. We have been overwhelmed by the dark uncertainty of tomorrow. The more we watch for the light, the darker it gets.

Flame, fire, light. One of the four elements of creation, in which the history and culture of the Jews have been written. Equally as metaphorical as real. And similarly as during the Prolog JCF, which has already been going on for six months, we will remain under its hidden light. Yet we will we also talk about the Earth, about the land of Diaspora, on which we step leaving a significant or unimportant trace of our presence, and of the Land of Israel, which has been hiding the proofs of human faith, pride, glory and fall.

All the civilizations, which claimed their right to be eternal, fell and passed. Jewish civilization has endured. And it still lasts. It is like “ner tamid” – the fire which burns but does not burn down; it is like eternal light in which good and evil, wisdom and stupidity are reflected. Our Festival exists thanks to that light. Please, come to its colorful circle. Bring your own light inside it. Please.

I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.

Ecclesiastes, 2,13

Janusz Makuch
founder and director
Jewish Culture Festival

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