The Big Jewish Summer Fete, a free festival of Jewish culture, took place on Sunday 30 June 2019 at Islington’s best-loved park, Highbury Fields. For one sunny afternoon this central park was buzzing with Klezmer music and Yiddish songs, demonstrating that the once-disappearing Jewish community of Islington is now growing stronger from year to year. With the participation of the wider Islington community, the event connected Jews and non-Jews of the borough, promoting community cohesion during a free, family day out.
For the third year running, The Big Jewish Summer Fete brought the whole community together in celebration of Jewish culture. The participants could take part in workshops on Kosher and learn how to write with a quill as well as test their knowledge of Judaism in the bespoke Escape Room, with questions varying from the number of Torah books or days of Chanukah, to what fish is kosher.
The Mayor of Islington said in her powerful speech:
‘I came to Islington as a refugee thirty years ago and I never thought I would stand on this stage as the Mayor of Islington. This event has brought together all children of Adam and Eve to celebrate Jewish culture and the diversity of the borough. Big thanks goes to the organisers.’
Rabbi Mendy Korer of Chabad Islington said:
‘We are excited to welcome everyone to our third year of the Summer Fete. The need for bringing the community together is only getting more and more important.’
With a variety of talks in the Jewish Speakers Corner and main stage acts, the event presents itself as a major annual cultural event in the borough. There were live performances by the London Klezmer Quartet, London Jewish Male Choir, and the London Jewish Youth Orchestra.
The Jewish Speakers' Corner featured a series of short talks on Judaism and Jewish culture: from stand-up comedy to Jewish ecology, through storytelling, to the ultimate guide to kosher and mezuzah. The speakers included the founder of Extinction Rebellion Jews Elinor Milne, London Beth Din’s Rabbinical Head of Shomrim Hillel Simon, contemporary poet Aviva Dautch and Hasidism academic Tali Loewenthal, and more.
Storyteller Vanessa Woolf performed a specially commissioned story on Rabbi Hayyim Jakob Falk, also known as The Baal Shem of London. A mysterious and magical real-life figure, Dr Falk lived in London around 1700. He was rumoured to have an alchemical laboratory on London Bridge where (they said!) he made a Golem from Thames Mud.
Other activities included free Krav Maga classes, Jewish object handling by Tzivos Hashem, arts & crafts by the Jewish Museum, kosher food stall by Penashe and kosher ice cream, and a jam-packed programme of hands-on workshops, carnival rides and entertainment.
A number of Islington organisations also hosted stalls and activities: Arsenal in the Community, Little Angel Theatre, North London Waste Authority, Stroke, Islington Libraries, Islington Pets, Access to Sports, and Highbury Police.
The event was organised by Chabad Islington and supported by the Shoresh Charitable Trust, Grahame Charitable Foundation, David Uri Memorial Trust, Blakemore Foundation, the Virgin Money Foundation and the Arsenal Foundation.