Weimar in the summertime

Weimar in the summertime

Joanne Palmer

Scenes from last summer’s festival.
Scenes from last summer’s festival.

There is something ironic — maybe post-ironic — about having a Yiddish program in Weimar.

Until 1933, when the Nazis took over the city, art flourished there — music, literature, visual art, architecture. It was vibrant, freethinking, exciting — everything the Nazis hated, and tried and failed to destroy. It gave its name to the Weimar Republic, that between-the-wars flowering of cutting-edge culture.

Then the Nazis came, and there was darkness.

A2-L-The-dance-band-at-Yiddish-Summer-Weimar,-photo;-Felikss-LivschitsNow, the city has come alive again; for the last 18 years it’s been home to the festival of Yiddish culture called Yiddish Summer Weimar. It has “introduced and reintroduced thousands of participants and visitors to the artistic and anthropological scientific and social dimensions of Yiddish culture through imaginative exploration of the past, and a trenchant engagement with the present, in order to further the development and celebrate Yiddish as a language, life-style, and art form, in the 21st century and beyond,” its press release reads.

The festival, from July 12 to August 15, offers workshops, lecture series, and concerts in, on, and about Yiddish; its long history has seen some of the biggest names in Jewish music perform there.

It also is looking at the various diaspora groups that have come together in Israel — Moroccan, Iraqi, Ethiopian and other smaller Mizrachi groups each hold onto their own traditions even as they are woven into the larger ribbon of Jewish life. This year, the Summer Weimar Festival will look at how that works, and will promote conversations among those groups and between those groups and the larger Jewish world.

A3-L-Dancing-at-Yiddish-Summer-Weimar,-photo;-Felikss_LivschitsHope for the future, hope for our children, will be embodied in performances by Kadya, is a collaboration between the Arab-Jewish “Voices of Peace” girls’ choir from Jaffa and the Weimar “Schola Cantorum.” When they perform, Arab-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children will sing with German children; they’ll be joined by an Arab-Jewish orchestra from Haifa.

As full of events as the entire festival is, everything is ramped up on Festival Week, August 2 through 6, when workshops, mini-workshops, all-night concerts, lectures, a brand-new Israeli documentary film series, and other emotionally and intellectual engaging experiences come together.

Keep Yiddish alive in Germany, the organizers urge. It’s more than ironic. It’s more than post-ironic. It’s a tribute to the past and an invitation to the future.

There’s lots more information about Yiddish Summer Weimar online — in English! — at yiddishsummer.eu.

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