Monday, 25 Sep 2023 - 10 of Tishri, 5784

Berlin immersed in a kaleidoscope of Jewish culture

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By Oliver Bradley

A seemingly unlimited array of Jewish culture and creativity has been captivating the German capital this week. This week and next, Berlin is hosting a jam-packed calendar of visual, literary, performing artists – among the best that the Jewish world has to offer in classical music, rock, jazz, humor, fashion, books and fashion.

Monday night’s kickoff saw a concert of ambitious contemporary compositions imbued in religious connotations by Paul Ben-Haim, Betty Olivero and Sergei Rachmaninoff with a world-class performance by star conductor Lahav Shani and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, in the German capital’s landmark Philharmonie Hall. The concert was a highlight of the city’s annual, monthlong Musikfest summer series.

Less than 24 hours later, 2000 fans and guests crammed into Berlin’s Rykestrasse Synagogue for the opening ceremony of the city’s 36th annual Jüdische Kulturtage (Jewish Culture Days) which was rounded off by a performance of iconic Israeli singer-songwriter Aviv Geffen – a standard-bearer of the young Israeli peace-camp generation of the 1990s. Accompanied by his band, Geffen’s evening repertoire included classics such as “Machar” (“Tomorrow”) or “Or ha Yareach” (“Moonlight”).

Other concerts will follow in the coming days, including a performance by acclaimed Israel jazz singer Marina Maximilian and the Ukrainian gangsta-folk-klezmer band Kommuna Lux.

Wednesday saw Asaf Kobrovsk’s action-gangster-comedy “Hummus Full Trailer” open the 8th Germany edition of the Seret International Israeli Film and Television Festival, at Berlin’s legendary Babylon Cinema. Seret, a pan-German and pan-European festival in its own right, has renewed its cooperation with the Jewish Culture Days for the second year in a row – synergizing audience capacities and introducing even larger crowds to the world of Jewish culture and Israeli cinema. Seret’s co-founders, Odelia Haroush and Patty Hochmann began their passion of promoting Israel films 12 years ago in the UK. Over time, the festival expanded to Germany, the Netherlands, Chile and Argentina.

Eleven Israeli productions will be shown in Berlin. The festival will also include screenings in Hamburg and Cologne of feature films, documentaries and shorts by Israel’s best cinematic talents. Special focus will be given to a unique selection of shorts that were directed by students and independent filmmakers who have crossed boundaries in their difficult personal and public lives – curated by renown film theorist Nils Ferber.

Seret Festival guests will include film directors Maor Zaguri (“Virginity”), Iris Zaki (“Egypt, a Love Song”), and Liat Elkayam screenwriter (“Elik & Jimmy”).

A first, this year, is the inclusion of a fashion show as a part of the Jewish Culture Days. Culture Days director Avraham Toubiana, fascinated by the history of Berlin’s pre-war garment-industry, fulfilled his intention to bridge Berlin’s past as a leading center of the European fashion world – which was highly influenced by Jewish entrepreneurs and designers before the Nazis rise to power – with today’s vibrant and innovative fashion creations by today’s leading Jewish and Israeli designers. Thursday’s fashion show will highlight both Israeli designers and innovation-start-ups focused on producing ecologically sustainable fashion.

Re-Fresh Global, a Tel Aviv start-up based in the German capital is one example of how Jewish entrepreneurship in the fashion world is making an impact on contemporary Berlin. Fashion entrepreneurs Viktoria Kanar and Revital Nadiv – co-organizers of Thursday’s fashion show – founded Re-Fresh Global to counter the global problem of unsustainable textile waste. Their recycled textiles, which will be displayed at the show, have found new uses in various industries, including fashion, automotive and furniture.

Israeli style-icon Uriel Yekutiel will host the fashion show’s catwalk, introducing the creations and innovative trends of Doron Ashkenazi, Lubov Malikova, Chana Marelus, Yaniv Persy, a former right hand of John Galliano, and Sharon Tal, who had also been a designer for Alexander McQueen. Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, is also slated to walk the catwalk wearing a tailor-made outfit of recycled textiles.

A Culture Days highlight will also include a literature festival – literature being one of the essential elixirs of Jewish culture, in Germany and worldwide. In readings and talks, contemporary Germany-based authors such as Arnon Grünberg, Shelly Kupferberg, David Safier, Julya Rabinowich, Esther Schapira and Michel Friedman will discuss current positions on cultural and political questions by means of literary formats and non-fiction. Focus will be given on the east-west European experiences, literature for adults, and children’s books.

Finally, what would a festival of Jewish culture be without standup comedy. Mordechi “Modi” Rosenfeld, undoubtedly one of the most popular stand-up comedians in the U.S. today, will perform two sold out shows in Berlin during the festival.

The jam-packed kaleidoscope of Jewish culture will run until September 14.

Details and programmes:


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