NEW YORK – Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum (KKJ) will host the fourth annual Greek Jewish Festival on Sunday, May 6 from 12-6 PM. The festival, a unique cross-cultural celebration, will take place in front of KKJ’s landmark historic synagogue on Broome Street between Allen Street and Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The Greek Jewish Festival celebrates and showcases the unique Romaniote and Sephardic heritage of Kehila Kedosha Janina. The festival will offer authentic kosher Greek foods and homemade Greek pastries; live Greek and Sephardic musical performances with four different bands; two different traditional dance performances; an outdoor marketplace full of vendors; arts and educational activities for kids; and much more. This is the only festival of its kind in the world.
More than 8,000 people attended the festival in 2017, and even more are expected this year. KKJ is proud to collaborate with more than thirty different community organizations that include local, national, and international partners. Long-standing local partners include the Tenement Museum; the Museum at Eldridge Street; the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy; and Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, among others. National partners include the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America; the American Sephardi Federation; and Sephardic communities from Seattle, Portland, Indianapolis, Miami, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. KKJ is also excited to welcome the Greek and Israeli tourism offices, as well as leaders from the Jewish Community of Athens, Greece.
International performers include the Stavros Theodorou Orchestra, Avram Pengas and the Noga Group, Vasilis Kostas, Trio Sefardi, the Hellenic Dancers of New Jersey, and Layla Isis.
“There’s no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than celebrating the culture and beauty of Romaniote and Sephardic Jews,” said Marvin Marcus, President of KKJ. “As a Lower East Side native, I grew up experiencing different cultures among neighbors, and the Greek Jewish Festival is our way of sharing our traditions with the broader Lower East Side and New York community.”
“The Greek Jewish Festival, now in its fourth year, has become one of our most successful ventures to date,” said Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director of KKJ. “I have seen the Festival act as an in-gathering of our community. Greek Jews have come from all over the country to eat our traditional foods, dance to Greek music on the streets of the Lower East Side in front of the tenements where our families once resided, and to remember what makes us so special.”
“No matter your ethnic, cultural, or religious background, there is something for you at our Greek Jewish Festival,” said Festival Director Andrew Marcus. “Join us and learn more about a community you may not have known existed, while enjoying our delicious foods and energetic music and dancing.”
“The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America is thrilled to continue to partner with KKJ,” said Rabbi Nissim Elnecave, Executive Director of the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America. “We are very proud of our heritage and this festival helps bring together our Sephardic and Romaniote communities in an incredible way. It is exciting to see the festival grow every year and we look forward to continuing the revitalization of our community.”
“We are proud to support our friends at Kehila Kedosha Janina and wish them great success at this wonderful gathering on the historic Lower East Side,” said Toula Xiradakis, President of the Parish Council of Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church.
“The Museum at Eldridge Street loves working with Kehila Kedosha Janina for this festival,” said Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Cultural Programs at the Museum at Eldridge Street. “The food, the music, the ‘hood – it’s always a beautiful day down here!”
First launched in May, 2015, the Greek Jewish Festival has quickly grown into an international event that brings together the Greek Jewish community as well as the broader Greek and Jewish communities. It is the newest and largest effort of KKJ to share the culture and traditions of this community in a major public way. The festival cuts across religious, cultural, age, and geographic lines. Situated within the historic immigrant neighborhood of the Lower East Side, the Greek Jewish Festival celebrates centuries of cultural exchange that occurred in Greece and the Balkans.
More information on the Greek Jewish Festival is available online at: www.GreekJewishFestival.com, on Facebook, and YouTube.
Kehila Kedosha Janina (the Holy Community of Janina) is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Romaniote Jews are a unique community of Greek-speaking Jews whose history in Greece dates back over 2,300 years to the time of Alexander the Great. The Romaniotes are historically distinct from the Sephardic Jews, who settled in Greece after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
The congregation was first organized in New York in 1906 by Greek-speaking Romaniote Jews from the city of Ioannina [sometimes spelled Janina] in Northwestern Greece. In the early twentieth century there were hundreds of other synagogues on the Lower East Side that served Ashkenazi Yiddish-speaking Jews or Sephardic Spanish-speaking Jews. Needing a place of their own where they could preserve their unique traditions, customs, liturgy, and language, property was purchased at 280 Broome Street and the congregation opened its doors to worship at its current location in 1927.
The synagogue is a designated New York City landmark and continues to hold services every Shabbat as well as all Jewish holidays. In 1997, a Museum was created within the synagogue to tell the story of the Greek Jewish community to a world that knew so little about them. The museum is open to the public every Sunday and serves as a repository for Romaniote and Sephardic history, both in Greece and on the Lower East Side. The museum hosts numerous educational programs including lectures, book signings, movie screenings, and concerts.
Today, KKJ is proud to be one of only a handful of active synagogues that remain on the Lower East Side.
For more information, visit www.kkjsm.org.