Just few days after completing my bachelor’s degree in Tunisia, an incredible opportunity unfolded as the Jewish Culture Festival sent me packing to Krakow. Little did I know that this journey would introduce me to individuals from every continent, each bringing their unique perspectives and a shared eagerness to explore Krakow and the captivating tapestry of Jewish culture.
It was a melting pot of diverse backgrounds, where I had the privilege of connecting with people from different corners of the world, all united by a common curiosity and desire for cultural discovery. This extraordinary experience broadened my horizons, fostering an environment where we could exchange ideas, learn from one another, and celebrate the rich heritage of Jewish traditions in Kazimierz, my home for a month and a half. The festival provided a platform for meaningful connections and a deeper understanding of the Jewish culture, leaving an indelible mark on my personal and professional journey.
As I reflect on the conclusion of the festival, I am deeply proud of the unwavering commitment of our team, affectionately known as Machers. The collective excitement among us was palpable as we eagerly awaited the festival’s commencement. While some of us were intimately familiar with Krakow and anticipated our time in Poland, others embarked on their first adventure in the country like myself. During our free time, my fellow volunteers and I actively engaged in shared activities, whether it was exploring the vibrant city of Krakow, socializing at Cheder, or indulging in the delightful flavors of Polish cuisine.
Each volunteer brought different experiences, with some venturing into volunteering for the very first time, while others were seasoned Machers well-versed in the significance of our roles. Nevertheless, united by our shared enthusiasm, tolerance to one another leaving all stereotypes and politics behind, we were all eager to delve into the heart of Jewish culture in our second home, Kazimierz.
Exclusively this year, we, the volunteers, had the opportunity to participate in an intercultural event where we proudly showcased our own diverse cultures. It was a remarkable occasion that allowed each of us to share our traditions, customs, and heritage with one another. I was very thrilled to represent my Tunisian identity by bringing Tunisian harissa, dates, and wore traditional clothing to the event. Through engaging in interactive presentations, we fostered a deeper understanding and appreciation for the richness and uniqueness of each culture represented. This intercultural event not only strengthened the bonds among us volunteers but also created a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere where everyone felt valued and celebrated. It was a memorable experience that added an extra layer of depth and cultural exchange to our time together. I feel grateful for the opportunity to share a piece of my Tunisian heritage and to learn so much from the diverse array of cultures showcased by my fellow volunteers.
As Machers, we were not only volunteers but important individuals in the fullest sense of the word. Throughout the festival, people would recognize us and approach us with curiosity, eager to learn more about our grand event. Wearing our badges filled us with pride and honor, as they symbolized our dedication and commitment to making the festival a remarkable experience.
Being approached by attendees, who looked to us for information and guidance, was both humbling and rewarding. We gladly answered their questions, shared our experiences, and witnessed their excitement as they immersed themselves in the festivities. It was a testament to the impact we had as Machers, and it fueled our sense of purpose and pride in being a part of such a significant event.
The success of the festival this year was truly a testament to our collective efforts as volunteers, supported by our dedicated coordinators. Together, we poured our energy, skills, and passion into making the event a resounding success. We worked tirelessly to ensure the vibrancy and allure of the highly anticipated “Shalom on Szeroka Street” event, held at the heart of Kazimierz. It was a delight to witness people from diverse backgrounds and different parts of the world coming together to partake in our events most notably the big “Shalom on Szeroka Street”.
Reflecting on my time, I can’t help but express my delight, saying, “what a fun ride!”. This close-knit camaraderie further enriched our experiences and fostered a strong sense of unity among us volunteers and with our coordinators and mentors as well as we stumble upon each other in the streets of Kazimierz. The bonds we all formed and the memories we created together will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I am grateful for the lasting friendships made during this journey. Also working and mingling with locals added to my passion for languages led me to pick up some Polish words and expressions which gave me a taste of the language.
As a macher, I wholeheartedly embraced the spirit of Krakow and the festival, finding myself inspired and deeply rooted in my experience. The words of the festival’s director, Janusz Makuch, resonated with me on a profound level. His belief that the festival possesses a soul dedicated to spreading love, acceptance, and unity had a tremendous impact on me. It fueled my desire to come back to this endearing community that warmly welcomed us for a month and a half.
Carrying the torch of this meaningful mission, I understand the importance of passing down the festival’s message of love and acceptance “from a generation to a generation – מדור לדור.” In my heart, I hold the lasting impact of my time in Krakow, cherishing the memories and the bonds I forged. I eagerly await the opportunity to share the soulful essence of the festival with others in the future, spreading its message of love and acceptance far and wide.
The warmth and sense of belonging I experienced during my time in Krakow left an indelible mark on my heart, inspiring me to continue fostering a more inclusive and united world as I move forward with my life.