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Food for peace: Gefilte Fest Dresden e.V.

Among the associations with a Jewish connection, Gefilte Fest Dresden e.V. is one of the younger and yet also one of the now better known in Dresden. Let's start with the beginnings: In 2011 I visited an event for young Jewish "leaders" in Sweden and came into contact with an idea of Michael Leventhal from London. He had been organizing Gefilte Fest London for a year or two at that time as a Jewish food festival with workshops, seminars, readings and much more. The idea immediately triggered a dream in me to have something similar take place in Dresden. Of course, the quickly recognizable difference was that there were almost as many Jews living in London as there were in all the German communities combined at the time. So both the selection of lecturers and the target group were for the most part Jewish. In contrast, a Jewish food festival in Dresden had to expect guests, the majority of whom would not be Jewish. But this contained another aspect that was very exciting for me.

The idea of a Jewish food festival with the possibility to cook and eat together, to talk shop and to exchange family stories opens a terrific opportunity. It would convey a vivid picture of a living culture in all its lively diversity; and in a realistic way completely without having to rely on historical interest, prior knowledge, or consternation. The Gefilte Fest Dresden (GFD) could open a sensual access to Jewish culture. This would also be a good idea because cooking and eating are not only important for all people, but also convey a variety of religious and everyday concepts, especially in Judaism. There is no holiday in Jewish families without a very special dish, which of course has many meanings - and everyone of course knows the interpretation that is really correct. Delicious! And delicious!

At that time I was in charge of the Jewish Music and Theater Week Dresden (JüWo) and found some people interested in my dream from London and Sweden. We started planning and initially had mainly young people, perhaps school classes from Dresden and the surrounding area, in mind as a possible target group. We hoped for a low-threshold impulse for exchange and interest. Integration into the JüWo program ensured both a platform for public relations and, above all, an annually changing theme - and the JüWo found us an enrichment.

In March 2015, the time had come. We founded with seven interested people an association that should carry and organize the food festival - the Gefilte Fest Dresden e.V. To our delight and surprise, we encountered a great interest and a lot of helpfulness in all the inquiries we made. Of all the options, the German Hygiene Museum Dresden (DHMD) was immediately willing to provide us with rooms for our festival. So we had received an accolade before we had even really got started. This encouraged us and we set about hosting the very first Gefilte Fest Dresden in the fall of 2015 and even Michael Leventhal from London came to our first food festival in Dresden with his family. Spoiler alert: It was a complete success and Michael was also thrilled. The many little mishaps of the first execution could all be solved and our way to more and more routine and knowledge about the organization had begun. The DHMD let us know with a smile that still after three days of airing our ingredients could be clearly sniffed ;-)

A question whether we should organize a GFD again next year somehow never really came up, we were all on fire. But at the same time it had become clear that with seven members we would not be able to manage such a big event again. We had to and could rely on a multitude of friends, helping hands, good souls and fans from 2016 on. At the beginning still with the support of the JüWo and then more and more on our own. By 2017, it was already clear that we had started a small tradition, and after just three years there were more than a few people who would have immediately lamented a lack of GFD at JüWo. We also realized that our original desired target group was not as easy to reach as we had imagined. It already started with the fact that schools - for insurance reasons - do not do field trips on Sunday, if it would only follow the initiative of a single teacher.

Already at the beginning of 2016 I came into contact with another idea that immediately excited me. This time it came from my own home in Milan and came from Miriam Camerini. She offered a good dinner in a restaurant with cultural contributions and religious explanation to celebrate the beginning of Shabbat. The Shabbat entrance is possibly the most iconographic of all family celebrations in Jewish families, mixing mutual enrichment, joy, relaxation, in short lively togetherness. So we created the "Special Shabbat", which would henceforth take place on the Friday evening before GFD. For this we invited one or more cooks (Italy, England, Israel etc.), who together with cooks from Dresden prepared a noble meal for us and our guests. The culinary international understanding in the kitchen was also a great concern for us. The celebration was then carried out with the ritual blessings and songs and framed with music or readings. The result was to be a wonderful, family-like setting in which being Jewish or not played no role in the shared enjoyment, and questions and answers just flew around.

Both events - the GFD and Special Shabbat - immediately became annual events and we were fortunate to always sell out. Over the years we have continued to evolve, trying new things and discarding others. In the meantime, many other requests have become one-time or recurring fixed dates in our annual calendar. And now, after more than seven years, the original vision of reaching young people is also becoming more central again. More and more often, we successfully participate with workshops or booths at events where a young audience shows up. This closes one of many circles and spurs us on to continue to communicate Jewish life, our culture, our customs and our reality through shared sensory experience, cooking together, tasting food and sharing recipes. In 2011, at the time of the first ideas, I had dreamed of exactly this, but now I am very grateful that many details of the dreams of that time have come true; with the help of the association members, the YüWo and many, many dedicated, voluntary and competent helping hands.

More information about the Gefilte Fest Dresden e.V.

2022 the 7th Gefilte Fest Dresden will take place on 9 October from 13-18h (admission from 12) at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden. Tickets can be purchased from September onwards via the GFD e.V. website. The 6th Special Shabbat will take place on 7 October 2022 at 8pm (admission from 7:30pm). The venue is not yet confirmed. More information (when it arrives) and also ticket can also be found on the GFD e.V. website. The 6th Special Shabbat will take place on 7 October 2022 at 8pm (admission from 7:30pm). The venue is not yet confirmed. More information (when it is there) and also ticket can also be found on the GFD e.V. website.

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