Yiddish Culture

encompasses the language, arts, and customs of 1,000 years of Jewish community life across Eastern Europe. The Holocaust destroyed Jewish life in most of these places, yet the past forty years have witnessed a revival of its artistic and cultural components such as klezmer music, song, food, calligraphy, paper cutting, film, and folklore, as well as short stories, poetry, and theater (in their original language and in translation). Klezmer dance, although almost lost, is being taught again and enjoyed at community celebrations and weddings. Yiddish culture enriches the lives of those involved. Many events appeal to all ages, bringing generations together. Yiddish culture connects many who are disconnected from other community offerings with the Jewish past and a future they may help create. Accessible to Jews and non-Jews alike, Yiddish culture provides something for everyone in interfaith families. As the heyday of Jewish life in Eastern Europe fades into the distant past, its artistic and cultural legacy will thrive as each generation learns, develops, and teaches it. The name KlezCalifornia is a nod to KlezKamp, the annual week-long gathering in the New York Catskills from 1985 to 2014, which spurred a revival of Yiddish culture and klezmer music, and inspired our local version.

Our Mission

KlezCalifornia was founded in 2003 to celebrate klezmer music and Yiddish culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our focus is on the cultural heritage of Eastern European Jewry, as embodied in its music, literature, and the arts. KlezCalifornia events enable people of all ages to engage actively and intensely with Yiddish culture — participating, not just watching others perform.

Our Vision

is of a San Francisco Bay Area where: 
  • Yiddish culture is part of the lives of an increasing number of individuals and families who engage in Yiddish language arts, klezmer music, Yiddish song and dance, and enjoy East European Jewish food.
  • Yiddish cultural activities are regularly part of community centers, synagogues, and ethnic/folk music and dance gatherings.
  • Klezmer music is presented regularly in community arts venues and considered one element of world music.
  • Yiddish cultural events attract people of all ages, from all parts of the region and many ethnic groups.
  • A growing number of people steeped in Yiddish culture are enthusiastically teaching it.
  • Bay Area Jews who do not find fulfillment through religious activities have meaningful Jewish experiences through encounter with culture.
  • Jewish youth are introduced to their Yiddish heritage throughout their cultural and religious education.
  • KlezCalifornia continues to play a significant role in building a vibrant region-wide community to promote and celebrate Yiddish culture.

Our Values and Assumptions

  • Yiddish culture will thrive when people actively participate, rather than exclusively observe professional performances as a passive audience.
  • Yiddish culture contributes to the rich cultural mix in the San Francisco Bay Area within the Jewish community and the broader community.
  • Yiddish culture can bring people closer to Jewish life and strengthen their Jewish identity and creativity.
  • Arts and artists benefit from interaction among cultures.
  • Yiddish culture is more appealing when promoted as fun and enjoyable rather than as something that “must” be participated in to keep the culture alive.

Our Strategies

  • Produce larger part-day to multi-day festivals.
  • Produce smaller ongoing and one-time events ("Tastes of Yiddish Culture") throughout the nine-county Bay Area.
  • Publicize related cultural events through the only email list reaching Bay Area residents interested in Yiddish culture (currently at 1400 subscribers).
  • Identify and link Yiddish culture bearers with each other and with the region’s creative communities.
  • Connect individuals with each other and with important Yiddish teachers and culture-bearers.
  • Identify and involve people already interested in Yiddish culture.
  • Bring together those interested in individual elements of Yiddish culture to appreciate it as a whole.
  • Attract people new to Yiddish culture through the performing arts.
  • Incorporate Yiddish culture into Jewish education programs for both youth and adults.
  • Encourage participation from both Jewish and non-Jewish people.