Thursday, December 2, 2010

Budapest -- The Hanukkah Festival is on!

Tour guide Agi Antal leads a group to the Dohany St. synagogue in Budapest during the 2009 Hanukkah festival. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I'm back in Budapest for Hanukkah again -- I arrived last night and plunged right in to events in this year's Quarter6Quarter7 Hanukkah festival, which takes place in the city's downtown old Jewish quarter (the 6th and 7th Districts). I wrote about last year's festival for JTA and the New York Times online.

My train from Prague was too late to catch the concert I wanted to hear of Shkayach, a group that sings updated versions of Israeli and traditional Jewish songs. The group's singer, Flora Polnauer, also fronts hip-hop klezmer fusion groups -- and she chanted the Rosh Hashanah service this year for a Budapest reform congregation.

But I did manage to catch the concert by the Polish Klezmer Jazz group, the Bester Quartet.

And afterwards, I had a drink with the festival's organizer, Adam Schonberger, at "M"  restaurant -- which is serving special menus during the festival. Last night there was a Sephardic menu; I had the fish empanadas with a orange and black olive salad.

Adam told me that he is experimenting with the festival format this year. Instead of having concerts, performance, openings and other events for the full eight days of Hanukkah, as last year, the last four days are devoted to a film festival.

One of the innovations this year is a downloadable Jewish quarter tour guide app for smart phones -- more on this after I take a look at it. So far it's just in Hungarian, but an English version is coming.

As last year, though, more than 30 local venues and businesses in the 6th and 7th district are involved in the festival, hosting events or providing programs.

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