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The 9th Annual Greek Jewish Festival to take place on May 19, in NY

By on April 2, 2024

Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum (KKJ) is excited to announce it will host the ninth annual Greek Jewish Festival on Sunday May 19, 2024 from 12pm-6pm. 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 offers 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, Sephardic cooking demonstrations, 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 with new performers and community partners. KKJ is proud to collaborate with more than thirty different community organizations that include local, national, and international partners. Long-standing local partners include the Tenement Museum, the Museum at Eldridge Street, 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 Panepirotic Federation of America, Combat Antisemitism Movement, the University of Washington Sephardic Studies Program, and many other community institutions. New partners in 2024 include the National Hellenic Society, PJ Library, and renowned Chef Susan Barocas and the Savor Sephardic Music and Food Experience.

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, Cypriot, and other genres.

“As the only Greek Jewish Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, Kehila Kedosha Janina is thrilled to bring our community together to 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.”

“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.”
“We are very excited to share our rich culture from Epirus at this year’s Greek Jewish Festival” said John Katsimbaris, President of the Panepirotic Federation of America. “We are especially proud of Epirus’ rich art, food, and music, probably Europe’s oldest surviving folk music! This major multi-ethnic festival is sure to be a rewarding experience for all who join.”

“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-lined Lower East Side streets where our families first arrived as immigrants, and to remember what makes us so special.”

Kehila Kedosha Janina (the Holy Community of Janina) is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Romaniote Jews are a unique community of Greek-speaking Jews whose history in Greece dates back over 2,300 years to the time of Alexander the Great. The Romaniotes are historically distinct from the Sephardic Jews, who settled in Greece after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

The congregation was first organized in New York in 1906 by Greek-speaking Romaniote Jews from the city of Ioannina (sometimes spelled Janina) in Northwestern Greece. In the early twentieth century there were hundreds of other synagogues on the Lower East Side that served Ashkenazi Yiddish-speaking Jews or Sephardic Spanish-speaking Jews. Needing a place of their own where they could preserve their unique traditions, customs, liturgy, and language, property was purchased at 280 Broome Street and the congregation opened its doors to worship at its current location in 1927.

The synagogue is a designated New York City landmark and continues to hold services every Shabbat as well as all Jewish holidays. In 1997, a Museum was created within the synagogue to tell the story of the Greek Jewish community to a world that knew so little about them. The museum is open to the public every Sunday and serves as a repository for Romaniote and Sephardic history, both in Greece and on the Lower East Side. The museum hosts numerous educational programs including lectures, book signings, movie screenings, and concerts.

Today, KKJ is proud to be one of only a handful of active synagogues that remain on the Lower East Side.

For more information on the Greek Jewish Festival, their website is GreekJewishFestival.com

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