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The 5th Festival of Jewish Culture 'Singer's Warsaw'

The 5th Festival of Jewish Culture "Singer's Warsaw" will be held on September 6-14, 2008. The Festival preserves the memory of prewar Jewish Warsaw, which these days is known mainly from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories and novels. Each year, superb representatives of Jewish culture from all over the world come to the Polish capital. Many of them have their roots in Warsaw: their parents and grandparents were born there; they have Polish surnames. They seem to be very happy to travel back into history to the reality of Singer. They are keen o¬n sharing the stories of their ancestors and the stories told by their current neighbors in Israel, the United States and Europe.

The 100th anniversary of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s birthday was the reason to organize the first edition of the Festival of Jewish Culture in Warsaw in 2004. This city was not chosen accidentally – the Nobel prizewinner was born near here and grew up in Warsaw. This city had a special place in his heart throughout his entire life. Isaac Bashevis Singer loved Warsaw as much as he loved the Yiddish language, which was spoken in Warsaw by o¬ne third of its prewar citizens. Although he immigrated to the United States, he did not stop writing in Yiddish; his works were translated into English from Yiddish. It was aptly commented by American writer Kevin Horwarth that “Singer did not stop writing in Yiddish, just as if he had never left Warsaw”.

The aim of the Festival's organizers – the Shalom Foundation – is to reconstruct the prewar atmosphere in Warsaw in order to present the annihilated world of the Polish Jews. “Every single street in Warsaw used to be an independent town” – wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer in the New York daily newspaper Forwerts. Próżna Street becomes such an “independent town” each year, during the days of the festival.

Along Próżna Street the organizers prepare Jewish cafés, quaint shops and workshops. An old bookstore and a newspaper office in which Singer worked in New York before the war are constructed. Each year they erect a wine bar and a bakery. Everyone can come inside, and have a look at collected odds and ends in use at the beginning of the 20th century. There are lots of souvenirs to be bought from street vendors and many home-made tidbits to be tasted. Many characteristic figures appear in the streets during the festival: Hassidics, merchants, painters, shoemakers, tailors, printers, blacksmiths, barrel organ players, entertainers, florists. All of them contributed to making Warsaw uniquely colorful. During the festival, just as in the past, o¬ne can hear klezmer music, chants from synagogues, as well as well-known traditional Jewish songs, in the heart of the Polish capital. The past reality is revived by many exhibitions and plays, artists’ installations, scientific sessions, and meetings with writers and Jewish artists. Yiddish culture returns through prewar films, song and dance workshops, paper cutting, ceramics as well as Hebrew calligraphy, lectures and discussion groups.

Click here for the Festival program.

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