THE MAZEL Tov festival - which means “good luck” in Hebrew - is the first festival of Jewish culture in Slovakia, and it took place between July 7 and 15 in the eastern Slovak city of Košice. The summer festival offered a taste of rich Jewish culture to a wider public, featuring guided tours, concerts, exhibitions, workshops, literary and film events, and lectures.
The first weekend was dedicated to tours of the once diverse and multi-cultural city, which contains numerous Jewish monuments and works of art. Two of such routes, led by tour guide Milan Kolcun, were referred to as Jewish Košice. Ján Gašpar presented an exhibition and lecture on historical Jewish personalities from Košice. On Monday, an exhibition opened with a concert by Mojše Band and trumpeter Frank London, with jazz saxophonist Paul Shapiro (both from New York). Other musicians performing at the festival were the Pressburger Klezmer Band (from Bratislava) and PaCoRa Trio. The first presented a workshop of Jewish dance, while Michal Paľko of Mojše Band, gave a workshop for musicians. The music at the festival focused on klezmer, which is the traditional Jewish music of Central and Eastern Europe.
Other events included a lecture on kosher wines with a tasting at Villa Cassa, an artistic workshop for children with art teacher Jana Bučková, the screening of the Czech movie Golet v údolí (Golet in the Valley), and a reading of short stories of Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, accompanied by a performance of the Kaschauer Klezmer Band, the only klezmer band in the city of Košice.
Although the Jewish minority has markedly enriched and influenced the history and life of Košice, most people in the city today have only a vague knowledge of its culture and religion. Jana Šargová, co-organiser of the festival, told the SITA newswire that she has long been interested in Jewish culture but felt there were a lack of opportunities to learn more about it. She added that she believes there are many people who would like to get to know it, and that the festival could quickly gain a wider audience in the eastern Slovak metropolis.
Organisers, Arthea Košice, strive to find more foreign partnerships for next year’s festival so that they can make it a truly international celebration of Jewish culture that could attract both local and foreign audiences and enrich Košice’s cultural experience.