Jews from Five Countries Attend Festival in Bulgaria

Jews from five countries attended a Sephardi Jewish festival recently held in Bulgaria.

More than 150 participants from Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Yugoslavia attended Esperansa ’98, a four-day festival at the end of July that featured lectures, workshops, concerts, exhibitions and food tasting.

“Long into the night, songs and dances filled the terrace,” said one participant. “At one point, a drummer from Turkey, an accordionist from Bosnia- Herzegovina and a guitar player from Croatia played `Hava Nagila’ while a woman from Bulgaria led a group of dancers.”

The festival was organized by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the European Council of Jewish Communities and World Jewish Relief, in collaboration with Shalom, the organization of Bulgarian Jews.

“The purpose was to promote regional cooperation among Jewish Communities and to spark renewed expression of a shared Sephardi civilization,” JDC representative Yechiel Bar Chaim told JTA. “It surpassed our expectations.”

Among the events was the presentation of newly published Sephardi cookbooks, including recipes from Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Turkey.

“Through these recipes one can trace the rise and fall of empires, the ebb and flow of competing ideologies and the fortunes and misfortunes of war,” states the preface to one of them.

“One can also,” it said, “follow in and out of the kitchen the great themes of modern Jewish history: the dialogue between Jews and their surroundings; assimilation versus separateness; modernity as against tradition, sharp internal divisions among Jews and the recurring external threats to Jewish survival.”

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