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Culture

The 7th Annual Greek Jewish Festival Takes Place May 15

NEW YORK – Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum (KKJ) will host the seventh annual Greek Jewish Festival on Sunday, May 15, 12-6 PM. The festival will take place in front of KKJ’s landmark historic synagogue at 280 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 the Jews of Greece. The festival will offer a feast for the senses including 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.

In past years, the festival has attracted thousands of people, and more are expected this year as people are eager to come together and celebrate in person. KKJ is proud to collaborate with more than 30 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, Lower East Side History Month, and Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, among others. National partners include the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America, the American Sephardi Federation, the University of Washington Sephardic Studies Program, and many other community institutions. New partners in 2022 include the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), the Greek American Folklore Society, the Binghamton University Ladino Lab, and the Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative.

Live international performers will keep the music flowing and are guaranteed to get attendees up on their feet and dancing throughout the day. Melodies will span the Mediterranean and feature songs that cut across cultures and history, including Greek, Turkish, Ladino, Israeli, Pontic, and other genres.

The performance schedule includes the Elias Ladino Ensemble, a dance performance from the Greek American Folklore Society, the Noga Group featuring Avram Pengas, a belly dance performance by Layla Isis, Scott Wilson and Efendi, and Pontic Firebird.

“After being separated for the past two years, we are thrilled to bring our community back together in person and celebrate our phenomenal festival once again this year. Visitors will be guaranteed an afternoon of delight that celebrates the rich culture of Greek 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 has become our signature event of the year,” said Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director of KKJ. “I have seen the festival bring together extended families and friends, and this year is sure to reunite many more. Greek Jews have come from all over the country to  eat our traditional foods, dance to Greek music on the tenement-line Lower East Side streets where our families first arrived as immigrants, 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 Irving Barocas, President 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 feel so blessed to be able to share our culture and traditions at this year’s Greek Jewish Festival,” said Michelle Tsigaridas Weller, Communications Coordinator for the Greek American Folklore Society. “Enjoy our presentation, but more than that, please dance with us and feel the Kefi or spirit of euphoria that we feel when dancing in our circle. We hope to make our community proud by sharing the music and dance of our ancestors at this major international event.”

“Most people are fascinated and surprised to learn about the presence of Greek Jews on the Lower East Side,” said Lori Weissman, Director of Operations for the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy. “The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy (LESJC) has been proud to partner with KKJ since 1998 in educating and sharing the Jewish immigrant history of this iconic neighborhood known as the cradle of American Jewish civilization. Their annual Greek Jewish Festival is not to be missed! It is the best street festival around, attended by people from around the globe. You can dance, eat some delicious Greek delicacies, tour their lovingly restored sanctuary, see their museum, and talk to other local organizations as well. The LESJC is always thrilled to participate in this wonderful event highlighting the history of a unique community of Jewish people whose history in Greece dates back more than two thousand years. I hope to see you there!”

First launched in 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 from across the US and around the world. 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: www.GreekJewishFestival.com and on Facebook: https://bit.ly/3qL696h.

 

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