Jewish Food Festival will feature renowned klezmer band

Elmira festival re-creates New York City street market circa 1910

This year’s Jewish Food Festival, scheduled for Sunday, April 30, will feature three performances by the renowned Wholesale Klezmer Band, which came onto the national music scene when it played at Carnegie Hall for the hall’s 100th anniversary. It was also invited to play at President Bill Clinton’s inaugural celebrations.

The band, together since 1982, has a repertoire encompassing traditional Yiddish folk songs, music for dance, and original compositions. In addition to enjoying the gastronomic delights of the various food booths, those attending the Jewish Food Festival will be able to hear the band in three 30-minute sets during the Festival.

The performances are included in admission to the Jewish Food Festival, and performance times will be posted at the door. Band members will also play between sets as they stroll through the crowd. Their appearance is made possible in part with public funds from NYSCA’s Decentralization Program, administered regionally through the Arts Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.

The Jewish Food Festival, now in its ninth year, takes the form of a street market modeled on the fabled Hester Street, the old Jewish immigrant neighborhood on the Lower East Side 

of New York City. The foods planned for the festival range from well-known favorites such as matzo ball soup, deli sandwiches, and chopped liver to harder-to-find specialties such as knishes, potato latkes (pancakes), and Middle Eastern street food.   

The bakery stand will have rugelach (cinnamon-flavored pastries), mandelbrot (sweet almond bread, similar to biscotti), babka (chocolate-filled yeast cake), challah (braided egg bread that traditional Jewish cooks serve at every Sabbath dinner), and chocolate-dipped macaroons.

In authentic New York style, egg creams—which contain neither eggs nor cream—will be made to order at the beverage stand. All cooked foods are being prepared on the premises by volunteers.

While the band or the food itself is more than enough reason to attend, the setting adds to the experience. The interior becomes a complete turn-of-the-century street scene, with market stands, strolling Klezmer musicians, lamp posts, and even laundry hanging overhead. Volunteers from the local Jewish community, in costumes typical of the early 20th century, will sell each type of food from a separate market stand. Café tables under market umbrellas offer places to eat, and there will be additional seating in a tent on the lawn.

The Jewish Food Festival takes place on Sunday, April 30, at Congregation Kol Ami, 1008 West Water Street in West Elmira, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tickets are available at Gerould’s Hoffman Street, South Main, and Horseheads; and at Connor’s Mercantile and Market Street Apothecary in Corning; or call (607) 734-8122.  Tickets are $12.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door, and include 3 food tickets.  Children 12 and under may enter at no charge. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.twintiersjewishcommunity.com, and will be available at the door.  Call (607) 734-8122 for additional information.

The band consists of Yosi (Joe) Kurland (vocals and fiddle), David Tasgal (clarinet and fiddle), Christina Crowder (accordion), Michael Suter (bass), Brian Bender (Trombone), and Peggy Davis (flute and vocals). They specialize in making Klezmer music accessible to everyone through their translations, stories, explanations and visual aides and, of course the universal language of music that speaks to your feet and makes them want to dance.