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Greek Jewish Synagogue Hosts First-Ever Festival on Lower East Side

By Lisha Arino | May 1, 2015 3:30pm
 Kehila Kedosha Janina, an 88-year-old synagogue, will host the neighborhood's first-ever Greek Jewish Festival on May 30.
Kehila Kedosha Janina, an 88-year-old synagogue, will host the neighborhood's first-ever Greek Jewish Festival on May 30.
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Andrew Marcus

LOWER EAST SIDE — After worshipping inside its tiny Broome Street synagogue for 88 years, the congregants of Kehila Kedosha Janina are taking their Greek Jewish history to the streets.

The historic synagogue, which first opened in 1927, will host the neighborhood’s first-ever Greek Jewish Festival on Broome Street between Allen and Eldridge streets on May 31 from noon to 6 p.m., said Andrew Marcus, the event’s director.

Highlights include kosher Mediterranean food, live music and an outdoor market that features local vendors like the Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, the Pickle Guys and Erin McKenna’s Bakery, Marcus said.

There will also be activities for children provided by the Museum at Eldridge Street and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The event, Marcus added, is part of LES History Month, a series of cultural events hosted by dozens of arts and community groups in the Lower East Side and East Village.

“It’s going to be a great festival, not only for our Greek Jewish community but for the surrounding neighborhood and the entire city,” he said.

Marcus said the festival was a way for the historic synagogue to share its history while engaging the community, which has changed drastically since it opened more than 80 years ago to serve the Romaniote Jewish population that settled in the area.

The Jewish sect settled in Greece more than 2,000 years ago and adopted the country’s customs and culture, while continuing to worship in Hebrew, Marcus said. Members of the group immigrated to New York in search of economic opportunities at the turn of the century.

The synagogue, which was landmarked in 2004, continues to holds services and also has a small museum dedicated to Romaniote Jewish history, Marcus said.

The Greek Jewish Festival joins a number of other street fairs and parades in the Lower East Side and East Village this month, including:

St. George’s Ukrainian Festival, May 15-17. Now in its 39th year, the annual fair hosted by St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church, will feature traditional foods and dances, as well as music and artwork along East Seventh Street between Second and Third Avenues.

Dance Parade and Festival, May 16. Tens of thousands of dancers are expected to shimmy, shake and sashay from Union Square to Tompkins Square Park in the ninth annual Dance Parade and Festival. The park will include choreographed performances, workshops and a free dance area where visitors can let loose.

The Loisaida Festival, May 24. The three-day festival's main event, an outdoor fair and parade on Avenue C that pays tribute to the neighborhood's Latino history, will include live music, theatrical events and kid-friendly activities.

IDEAS CITY Festival, May 30. After two days of lectures, panel discussions and art events, the New Museum’s IDEAS CITY Festival will cap its event with a free outdoor street fair featuring more than 100 cultural and community groups. Highlights of the fair, which will take place in Sara D. Roosevelt Park and the surrounding area, include a hands-on bacteria-printing workshop and a “Mayan Ball Game Tournament,” which meshes an ancient Mesoamerican sport with street basketball.

Essex Street Market 75th Birthday Block Party, May 30. The historic market will cap its month-long 75th anniversary events and Lower East Side History Month with a block party on Essex Street, featuring its vendors as well as chefs from LES restaurants Café Katja and Spur Tree. The party will include DJs, live music, games and giveaways.