Hundreds flock to rare celebration of Swiss Jewish culture

(JTA) — A festival in Lausanne celebrating the heritage of Switzerland’s trilingual Jewish community is drawing hundreds of people.

"The Festival of Jewish Cultures,” which runs through Jan. 31, is the first large-scale Jewish cultural event held in Lausanne, according to its co-organizer, Francine Brunschwig.

Like Switzerland itself, the country’s Jewish community of 20,000 is divided into French speakers, Italian speakers and German speakers.

“This language barrier presents difficulties for having cultural events for the whole community, except perhaps when it comes to music,” said Brunschwig, a member of the French-speaking Jewish community of Lausanne. 

With these differences in mind, the festival, funded in part by the Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities, offers a range of concerts, including Ladino, baroque and klezmer. The latter was represented by the Israeli quintet Oy Division.

Other programs include an exhibition on Jews in comic books on loan from France’s Fonds Social Juif Unifie (FSJU) and a screening of the comedy drama “Rashevski’s Tango,” by the German-born director Sam Garbarski, about a Holocaust survivor’s trip to Israel.

“One of the goals in having this festival is to expose non-Jews to Jewish culture, which some mistakenly think is limited to debating about Israel and circumcision,” Brunschwig said.

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