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Drawing on Heritage

Jewish event will celebrate 4,500 years of traditions with music, food, seminars.


A great success in 1995, the Valley Jewish Festival is well on its way to becoming--you should excuse the expression--a tradition!

The Second Biennial Valley Jewish Festival will be held Sunday on the campus of Pierce College in Woodland Hills. According to festival spokesman Richard Macales, the local fest is "the largest outdoor gathering of its kind west of Chicago."

At least 35,000 people are expected to attend.

Sponsored by the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, the festival will feature food, entertainment, arts and crafts and an opportunity to interact with prominent rabbis on such topics as conversion to Judaism and women and Judaism.

More than 100 Jewish organizations will have booths at the festival, whose theme is "Traditions: Celebrating 4,500 Years of Jewish History."

Daylong entertainment will be part of the program, according to chairman Dan Shuster, a Woodland Hills businessman who also chaired the first festival.

Among the headliners will be: ESTA, a quartet of Israeli-born recording artists whose influences include Israeli folk music; Chicago's Maxwell Street Band, a leading klezmer group influenced by the traditional wind and string music of Eastern European Jewry; Judy Frankel, a Bay Area performer of Ladino, Sephardic and Mediterranean music, and Jewish comedian Ed Crasnick.

There will also be family-oriented entertainment throughout the day in an extensive children's park. The park will feature a moon bounce and other activities, as well as arts and crafts, including sessions on making a challah cover and a ceramic mezuza.

Children will also have an opportunity to learn more about nature and the environment, through the participation of Tree People and other groups. Local police and fire departments will be present to offer information on disaster preparedness and other topics.

Kosher food in all its unexpected variety will be part of the event, according to Macales. Eastern European favorites (including knishes), kosher gourmet, Mediterranean dishes (including falafel), Persian cuisine, and food traditional to Cuban, Argentine and Mexican Jews will be offered for sale, as will exotic coffees, smoothies and other drinks. Kosher hot dogs and hamburgers will also be available.

Macales pointed to two unusual features of the festival. Visitors will have access to a teleconference called "Talk to Washington and Jerusalem" that will feature government officials from both the United States and Israel discussing issues of common interest and concern. Visitors may also participate in daylong study sessions on provocative topics, including Jewish mysticism, led by distinguished rabbis.

"This is a rare opportunity for Jewish families and indeed anyone interested in Judaic heritage to spend a day celebrating all aspects of Jewish life," Macales said.


The Valley Jewish Festival will be held Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children, students and seniors, free to anyone under 2. For information, call the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, (818) 587-3205.

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