Jewish Festival returning to Oak Park

he Jewish Festival features traditional music.
he Jewish Festival features traditional music.

Festival season has arrived at Oak Park and this Sunday visitors can get a taste of Jewish culture from America back to Europe and Israel with the one-day Santa Barbara Jewish Festival.

It is a chance to celebrate a worldwide heritage on a day near to another anniversary, the 66th year of Israel’s independence.

Sabrina Toye puts her message in a crack in the wall during a teaching event at last year's Jewish Festival.CARMEN SMYTH/NEWS-PRESS FILE PHOTOS
Sabrina Toye puts her message in a crack in the wall during a teaching event at last year’s Jewish Festival.


The Jewish Federation of Santa Barbara, in its 40th year, organizes and hosts the festival, and Executive Director is enthusiastic about Sunday’s events.

He makes sure to underline the festival’s aims: “This is a Jewish festival about Jewish culture, heritage, Jewish organizations in town, Jewish food and art, Judaica in all shapes and form, Jewish dance and song, and the opportunity to learn about a couple of local Jewish organizations. It is not specifically the Israel festival. There’s a nuance there.”

What visitors will see are plenty of food vendors, gift merchants and music and dance.

The headliners for Sunday are the Moshav Band, the American/Israeli rock group that relocated to Los Angeles and has been mixing traditional Jewish music with alt-rock, folk, funk and reggae.

Before the Moshav Band, music fans can check out the Ventura Klezmer Band, the Temple Band and choirs of Congregation B’nai B’rith, Yiddish folk music from Lorraine Klein, Sephardic Jewish music ensemble Flor de Kanela, and acoustic folk group Kalinka.

In terms of food, several food trucks will be on hand. The Georgia Smokehouse offers its “Shalom Y’all” truck; Sabada Catering serves up chicken kabob; UCSB Chabad’s Jerusalem Kosher Cafe will prepare falafel lunch plates; Imlak’esh Organics will be whipping up smoothies, salads and vegan cuisine; and gourmet hot dogs and sausages will be available at the Kosher Palate Food Truck.

Even McConnell’s ice cream is kosher for what looks like a hot Sunday.

The Sisterhood of Congregation B’nai B’rith will sell homemade mandel brot and their own cookbooks, while the Hadassah Hummus Bar is preparing plenty of hummus.

“There are more vendors and food than we’ve ever had,” Mr. Rassler says.

The festival kicks off at 11 a.m. with more serious matters, commemorating Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance, Israel’s Memorial Day, honoring fallen soldiers and victims of political violence and terrorism. There will be a minute of silence at the beginning.

Rabbi Gross-Schaefer will speak and educate, as will several public officials, and Israeli consulate officer Chanel Melamed. Also speaking will be Jason Raede, who served in the Israel Defense Forces.

A large crowd attends the 2013 Jewish Festival.
A large crowd attends the 2013 Jewish Festival.

The dance stage features traditional Israeli dance and a demonstration of krav maga, a form of self-defense.

Also new for the festival is the “Six Million Coins Project,” launched in collaboration with the Mt. Sinai Foundation.

Each coin represents one life lost in the Holocaust, and through charity boxes, donations will be collected in November’s Kristallnacht observance and then spent helping Santa Barbara’s surviving members of the Holocaust.

“This is a population that is aging and went through something that we cannot imagine,’ says Mr. Rassler. “And they still need assistance. These funds go towards that.”

The Mt. Sinai Foundation will have a booth with a reading of the names who passed in the Holocaust. Santa Barbara will be joining in for the first time, recording the reading of the names for a later national broadcast.

The South Coast has four congregations and synagogs, and three different organizations serving students at both UCSB and SBCC.

And the Festival attracts between 5,000 to 7,000 visitors every year.

“They’re coming to learn, to taste, to see, maybe to buy some gifts or try some foods, or learn a new dance or just learn about the culture of another culture. And to sit around on beautiful day and enjoy the wine and beer garden,” Mr. Rassler says.

The Santa Barbara Jewish Festival runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Oak Park. For more information, visit or call 957-1115.

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