Sunday, June 10, 2018 • 11:00am to 6:00pm • St. Paul Woods, Cook County Forest Preserve • Suggested Donation $5

History

Celebrating over 30 years of Jewish culture!

The Greater Chicago Jewish Festival is produced by the Jewish Production Organization for Cultural Events and Theater (P.O.C.E.T.), a non-profit corporation. The Jewish P.O.C.E.T. was organized in 1980 to create a production group for the Festival and Jewish theater.  The Steering Committee is comprised of professionals in the fields of art, music, theater, dance, radio, television, communications, community relations, education, engineering, finance, law and technology. Most important the Steering Committee was created from the beginning to represent the spectrum of the Jewish community; all denominations, all ages, families from all parts of Chicagoland.

The Festival had two artistic goals:

First, it was designed to provide a platform for local performers and fine artists.  We reached out to musicians and artists, especially those we met in the general community and asked them to consider working within Judaica.  Ceramists were encouraged to consider ritual objects such as candlesticks and spice boxes and musicians were invited into original Jewish song competitions.

Second, the Festival is designed and advertised to attract people from the greater Chicagoland community.  We seek to share Jewish culture to show our neighbors that the Jewish community does not just come together in times of crisis.  This is also an important message for our children.  We come together as a strong community to speak out, but also to celebrate Jewish life with food, dance, music, art and exchanging ideas.

Over the years, on the Festival stages, Theodore Bikel, Rabbi Joe Black, David Broza,  Debbie Friedman, Peter Himmelman, Maya Johanna, Lisa Loeb, Shuli Nathan, Maccabeats, Steven Page (of Bare Naked Ladies) and Peter Yarrow have all appeared.

The first Festival in 1980 was held indoors because of rain.  The parking lots and streets were jammed and the legacy of the longest-running Jewish festival in America began.  We took a few years to plan further and the second Festival was held in 1983.  It was held outdoors in a lakeshore park and thousands of people attended.  Since 1986, we have held the Festival biennially in every even-numbered year and 20,000 attend at our outdoor venue in the Cook County Forest Preserve. The outdoor showcase includes seven hours of continuous entertainment on four stages with music, dance, theater and storytelling.  In addition, the Festival has a family stage, a children’s activity area, an art fair, a Kosher food fair and an organization fair.

This largest Jewish cultural event in Chicago:

  • Brings together the best of the community’s professional and amateur singers, dancers and artists.
  • Demonstrates to Jewish children and the larger community that the Jewish community does not just gather in times of crisis.
  • Educates the Jewish community about its multi-faceted culture.
  • Reaches out to the general community to show the breadth and depth of the Jewish community.
  • Provides an avenue for Jewish artists and performers to develop and present their work and encouraging them to work on Jewish themes within their fields.
  • Encourages tolerance by bringing together the entire Jewish community to celebrate our culture, identity and diversity.. 

We call it the Heart and Soul of Jewish Chicago because, on this one special day, you can find everything that is Jewish in Chicago.  We create our own “town square” filled with the sights, sounds and tastes of a dynamic and creative community.

Debbie Friedman, 1981

Rabbi Joe Black as “Tiny Tov,” 1981