Community and Culture

Building an Exchange of Culture and Creativity in Israel and Europe.

The Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow

Jerusalem Kugel on the Vistula


In 2017, The National Library of Israel participated for the first time in the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, where the theme of for their 27th year was "Jerusalem."


It was a Sunday afternoon in Kazimierz and Israeli chef and food writer Hedai Ofaimm was preparing a Jerusalem Kugel.  The oven in the hotel kitchen suddenly stopped working and Chef Ofaimm needed to find somewhere to cook the kugel overnight so it would be ready in time for “Avira DeKudsha - a journey of Taste, Smell and Sound of the City of Jerusalem,” the National Library of Israel's debut event at the festival.  The ever resourceful festival team came up with an unusual solution – the chef could make use of the kitchen of the 'Barka,' a boat moored on the Vistula, which also happened to be the Festival party venue 'Teder', hosting DJs from Israel and Poland. 



Imagine the scene created as Hedai and Festival volunteers (known as 'Machers'), carried a large pot of oily, sweet, peppery noodles through the streets of Kazimierz, echoing a time long past when Jewish children would run to the baker's oven to bring home the cholent (czulent) in time for the Shabbat meal.​


With the Kugel crisis resolved, the event began with festival goers hearing from Hedai as he told the story of the 1948 siege on Jerusalem and the resulting food shortages, whilst sampling Sfiga, an improvised Shabbat dish of stale bread and herbs. Participants savoured a special dish of herring seasoned with mint whilst listening to the narrative of, “The Tale of the Fish and the Rabbit,” and watched Hedai carve the glistening golden kugel to the story of “Gedalia and the Besht (Baal Shem Tov).”  Between each course, musical duo Hadas Kleinman and Aviv Bahar, enchanted the audience with a specially arranged soundtrack of Shabbat music from the NLI's music archives. Later that evening participants raised seven toasts - "Sheva Brachot (the seven blessings)," one for each day of the week - each served in seven NLI shot glasses,  with music to evoke the different communities who comprise the mosaic of the city of Jerusalem.

Yearning for Jerusalem 


The NLI also featured an exhibit at the Centre for Jewish Culture entitled, 'Yearning for Jerusalem,' a sound-video installation created by Emmanuel Witzthum and Arik Futterman. The exhibit included a fusion of prayers of longing for Jerusalem from the NLI's sound archives and illuminated manuscripts from our collections presented in an evocative, surround-sound setting that mesmerized visitors.


The Sofer Stam


In another illuminating event, the NLI brought Jerusalem Sofer Stam (Hebrew Scribe) and artist, Avraham Borshevsky to the JCC to demonstrate his work in 'kosher writing' where he also presented examples from the NLI's collection of manuscripts.


Bringing these events to Krakow, a centuries-old illustrious centre for Jewish life once known as 'The Jerusalem of Poland,’ just decades after its annihilation, and in the context of today's revitalised engagement with Jews and what it means to be Jewish in Poland,  was a complex undertaking and a powerful experience for all involved.