‘Greek Jewish Festival’ to Celebrate Heritage and Community on Broome Street Next Month

Posted on: April 15th, 2015 at 9:31 am by
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For a neighborhood that figures prominently into the DNA of American Jewry, only pockets of this past remain on the Lower East Side. Yes, there are still a few active synagogues and yeshivas, but Judaica shops and Kosher businesses are pretty much non-existent at this point. So with Lower East Side History Month just two weeks out, one particular event hopes to rejuvinate the connection to this rich history.

The inaugural Greek Jewish Festival on Broome Street, which just launched its official website.

As reported in January, the landmark Kehila Kedosha Janina is planning the event outside its doors for for May 31 (Sunday). Sponsored by the 87-year-old tenement synagogue, the Greek Jewish Festival promises a celebration of “the unique heritage of this historic community through traditional food, music, and community groups.” That includes live Greek, Sephardic, and Israeli music alongside traditional Romaniote and Sephardic foods. All food options are Kosher (dairy).

In addition to the music, there will be a makeshift “marketplace” for neighborhood vendors, plus a variety of activities for children. Participants include a healthy mix of local food favorites and community organizations. The Tenement Museum, Yonah Schimmels Knishes, Pickle Guys, Babycakes, and more are all aboard.

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Kehila Kedosha Janina on Broome St.

“It’s a new way [for us] to engage and keep the community thriving,” organizer Andrew Marcus tells us. If everything goes well, we can probably expect the event to become an annual affair.

It’s also worth noting the rich partnership with Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church on Forsyth Street, which is one of the festival sponsors. Decades ago, members of the synagogue sent their children to the church for Greek lessons. Many of those youngsters, now grown, still maintain relationships from that time. The perfect example of community.

Kehila Kedosha Janina began in 1907 when families from the Greek town of Janina (Ioannina) organized a congregation. The current facility was not erected until 1927, and is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. It remains one of the only Jewish congregations in the neighborhood with an active minyan (prayer) on Saturday mornings. The building received landmark status in 2004, and underwent a major renovation two years later.

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