Thousands of New Yorkers turned up for the fifth annual Greek Jewish Festival, which took place in NYC’s Lower East Side last weekend.
Hosted by Kehila Kedosha Janina, a nearly hundred-year-old synagogue on Broome Street which preserves a rare strain of Greek Judaism, the festival offered authentic kosher Greek foods and homemade Greek pastries, traditional Greek dancing and live Greek and Sephardic music. There was also an outdoor marketplace full of vendors, as well as arts and educational activities.
The festival is part of KKJ’s efforts — and those of Greek Jews around the world — to revitalize the heritage of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities.
And yet it is a novelty in its own right: A loud, proud, public celebration of a culture which was strangled and then nearly utterly destroyed in its home country. For Greek Jews who attended the festival on Sunday, it provoked nostalgia, hope and that peculiar feeling of knowing that in order to preserve a fading culture, you must change it.
KKJ’s congregation was founded in 1906, by immigrants from the historic Jewish hub of Ioannina, in western Greece.
It is widely known as the only synagogue in the Western hemisphere which carries on the Romaniote tradition, the ancient strand of Greek Judaism — neither Ashkenazic nor Sephardic — which is more than 2,300 years old, and predates the Diaspora from the ancient Israelite kingdoms in Israel.