History of the Jewish Music & Cultural Festival formerly KlezFest
14 years ago Sid Lipton and Mimi Weiner had the idea that Central New York needed a Jewish Festival. There was an Irish Fest, a Greek Fest, and Italian Fest; there were the Jazz and Blues music festivals, and even a Food Festival down in Clinton Square. Sid and Mimi wanted a Jewish Festival that had all these elements: great music, delicious ethnic foods, and lots of Jewish spirit.
The main focus of the early festivals was to bring in great klezmer bands. Klezmer originated in medieval Eastern Europe and came to America with the immigrants at the beginning of the last century. In the ‘70’s, a revival in klazmer sparked an international fervor, which took this music to five continents. For the first years, the festival took place in Armory Square, moved to the larger Clinton Square in 2002, and now can be experienced at the Jewish Community Center in Dewitt.
At the JCC, there is an indoor and an outdoor stage. Besides featuring classic klezmer, the Jewish Music & Cultural Festival includes Ladino (the music of Spanish-speaking Jews), the chanted melodies of the synagogue, melodies of the Yiddish theater , and contemporary Jewish music. Varieties of Jewish foods and of ethnic crafts and art are for sale. A Kids’ Tent with directors help the children fashion their own crafts.
Seven years ago, the festival celebrated the 350 years that Jews have been in America; five years ago the festival celebrated Israel@60, and last year we celebrated our Bar Mitzvah, 13 years in CNY! This year the theme is Tradition! This istruly a Jewish festival for the whole community.