Photo by Pawel Mazur
Canada is home to less than three percent of the world’s Jewish population, but every other year, Jewish artists from around the world congregate in Toronto for the Ashkenaz Festival, which returns this year from August 31 to September 6 at the city’s Harbourfront Centre.
Each year the KlezKanada Summer Institute, held for a week in August in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal, reveals new surprises. This time around choreographer Steven Weintraub introduced a masquerade ball, so couples were dancing “Pas Despans” along with their bulgars and freilichs. Eight virtuoso musicians from The Other Europeans project, which examines Jewish and Roma musical relationships, put on a concert and taught some wonderful classes. And Hankus Netsky, founder of Boston’s Klezmer Conservatory Band, continued the summer collaboration between Klezkanada and the Discovery Project of the National Yiddish Book Center.
It’s Passover time, and a heady mix of liberation, freedom and matzah fills the air. While we recount the tale of the Children of Israel’s escape from Egypt, a strange inversion of this story unfolds in France. In this nightmare exodus, the Israelite (a non-Jewish klezmer clarinetist) flees Egypt (Moldova) and makes it to the Promised Land (France), only to face expulsion a decade later.