Singer's Warsaw


The 4th festival of Jewish Culture is in full swing in the Polish capital. It is yet another festival presenting the Jewish culture and tradition in Poland after the Krakow Jewish Festival held in summer. The Warsaw event is entitled- Singer's Warsaw.

Agnieszka Bielawska reports

A concert of the famous cantor Joseph Malovany in the Warsaw synagogue opened the 4th Jewish Culture Festival on September 2nd, the International Day of Jewish Culture. The concert performed together with 20 cantors from Moscow attracted the attention of Varsovians to the extent that the synagogue was packed full and those who did not squeeze in had to watch the performance on wide screens set near the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw in the vicinity of the Prozna street, the enclave of pre war Jewish culture in Warsaw. For the 8day long festival the Prozna street is transferred to its pre war looks- a bakery with bagels is set up, kiosks and stands with food and home utensils and a replica of a pre war wine house. The name of the Festival is not accidental says Miriam Gonczarska from the Hebrew section of Polish radio's External Services:

'Singer used to live in Warsaw and used to live near the place where the festival is actually held, near Prozna street. so it is really the same neighborhood. Also it is very important to notice that he is a Polish writer as much as he is Jewish writer. He is Jewish writer that writes about Poland that Poles remember, Polish and Jewish culture are connected to each other. And because they are so connected it is hard even to say if its Jewish culture, Polish culture inside the Jewish culture or Jewish culture inside the Polish culture.'

Singer's Warsaw will resound with music, dance, theatre and film shows. Yiddish language workshops and meetings with Jewish cuisine. But music is the leading theme of the festival from concerts' of cantors, through Klezmer, folk music and that of great composers as well as interpretations by jazz musicians and modern groups fascinated by Jewish music. Miriam Gonczarska says the Warsaw Festival is an important event reminding of the long presence of Jewish culture and tradition in Poland, though she adds , for the time being it is a meeting with the past.

'The idea is to really bring close the memories that citizens of Warsaw have. I personally do not know if this is pure Jewish culture , but it is definitely the way Polish people remember Jewish culture. The music, the Klezmer music It brings back something that used to be part of the town, part of the culture. Obviously the festival mainly brings back 19th century and beginning of 20th century culture to a modern city. The question is what kind of culture we would like to present to the Warsaw public. Maybe pop music, maybe completely modern art so that people could see how culture evolved. But on the other hand 19th century is what people remembered that was present in Warsaw and that is missing. We have some natural continuity , but we cannot even imagine what direction would the culture evolve if there was no WW II.'

The organisers try to present as much as they can during the 8 days. Prayers will also be said during the festival. On Friday evening the Shabbat Shalom, the welcoming of Shabbat will be held, celebrated by the Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich. Golda Tencer the chairwoman of the Shalom Foundation, the organiser of the Warsaw Festival, says it will be the second Shabbat Shalom in the history of the festival:

'Last year we welcomed Shabbat for the first time during the festival and it was a memorable evening. We expected only a handful of people and it turned out there was some 800 participating. Tables were laid with white linen, all the plates ready and we started celebrating. It was a deeply moving evening to see so many people listening and taking part in our tradition.'

Teresa Wrońska, the music director at the Jewish Theatre  points that the final concert of the Festival, on September 9th, will be an outstanding event:

'The concert is a review of the presence and intertwining of the many cultures in one place , in a Jewish town, where Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish and Russian elements are linked in expressing love, everyday life, trade happiness and despair because every sentiment and every walk of life was described by music.'

The final concert on Prozna street will feature well known artists from the USA, Canada, Poland and Israel.