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More than just a klezmer festival: Seattle Yiddish Fest brings 

leading Yiddish culture-bearers to Seattle March 6-10.

Celebrating the myriad forms of Yiddish culture that developed over centuries of European Jewish life, SYF brings it home to our community with workshops, performances, lectures and an art exhibit.

Seattle’s festival of Yiddish music, art and culture returns for its fourth edition March 6-10.  Both in-person and virtual, the festival features workshops, lectures, performances, jam sessions and more in instrumental music, song, visual art and language/culture. Connecting some of the world’s most respected carriers of this tradition with the growing local community of Yiddish culture-makers, language learners, allies and advocates of this culture, SYF offers a unique opportunity to spend a weekend immersed in this diasporic Jewish culture which in recent years has experienced a global wave of revitalization.

This year’s incredible faculty features some of the world's most sought-after Yiddish culture-bearers. Toronto-based translator, author, teacher and comedian Michael Wex is one of the language’s international treasure keepers, from his songs, which have been recorded by the Klezmatics, Holly Near and others, to his books, including New York Times best-seller Born to Kvetch. National Heritage Fellow Ethel Raim jumpstarted the Balkan singing movement in the 1960s with her band the Pennywhistlers, and is champion of traditional music and culture over the world. Returning in the last decade to the Yiddish songs she learned half a century ago, she has become the matriarch of a growing international cadre of young ballad singers making waves in the Yiddish world. 

Artist Benny Ferdman’s work unites Ashkenazi symbology with connections to both his parents’ Eastern European homelands and his current surroundings in Los Angeles, urging us to reclaim our wonder and reposition ourselves in relation to homeland, community and the intersection of the human, natural and supernatural. 

Trumpeter Susan Hoffman-Watts’ family has played klezmer in Philadelphia for four generations and in Ukraine long before that. Latvian accordionist and multi-instrumentalist Ilya Shneyveys, now based in Brooklyn, has built a strong reputation as musical director of Yiddish rock band Forshpil and performing with klezmer luminaries Frank London and Michael Winograd. Vancouver’s Faith Jones has done incredible work translating and highlighting the contributions of female Yiddish poets and fighting for the recognition their compelling work deserves, while Minneapolis-based percussionist, culture worker and song-slinger Sarah Larsson has worked passionately to enlarge her work with Yiddish culture to connect with the myriad non-Jewish Eastern European communities in the Midwest. 

Festival founder/director Craig Judelman is a Seattle native who began playing klezmer in the late 90s, before studying in New York and falling into the center of both the old-time American folk scene and the Yiddish music community. Currently living in Berlin, he is devoted to studying both old musical style and the culture and history that surround it, working closely with legendary artists such as the Klezmatics’ Lorin Sklamberg and Michael Alpert, with whom he recently released the album In Der Heym / Down Home. He started Seattle Yiddish Fest to bring international treasures of Yiddish culture back to his hometown, making their wisdom, experience and rootedness accessible to the community that shaped him.

This year SYF received funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, enabling it to expand its cultural sessions designed for folks who don’t sing/play/dance in public but want to learn more about Yiddishkeyt, regardless of Jewish identity. In these times when the Jewish community is more polarized than ever by the horrific events in Israel/Palestine, celebrating Yiddishness offers a safe space for all political sides, Jews and non-Jews, young and old, to join together in understanding and expressing a culture that developed as unwaveringly Jewish, but always in relation to its European neighbors.

The festival kicks off with an unmissable evening with author Michael Wex, followed by SYF’s first-ever art show, featuring the work of Benny Ferdman. Then we continue with a whole weekend of workshops and lectures, a local klezmer band showcase and wrapping up with our faculty concert at the Royal Room.

All admission is sliding scale, with some content streaming for online participants. Find out more and reserve tickets now at:

Files to download

Festival Press Release

Art Show Press Release

Festival Poster

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Festival Flyer

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Benny Ferdman's Art
Download permission given for images for promotional and journalistic use only - all images copyright Benny Ferdman 2023

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