Celebrate KlezFest 2023 on September 10

For over two decades, KlezFest has been Central New York’s annual celebration of Jewish music, culture and community.  Performers, kosher food and dancing create a family-friendly festival. It started out in Armory Square and then moved “home” to the JCC front lawn, where it has been a fixture of early fall fun for many years.

Klezmer is a Hebrew word, a combination of the words “kley” (vessel) and “zemer” (melody) that referred to musical instruments in ancient times. It became colloquially attached to Jewish folk musicians sometime in the Middle Ages.  Jewish musicians (klezmorim) developed their own unique style out of a variety of local musical styles, including Russian dances, Chassidic drinking songs and Hungarian Roma bravado.   Because of this, a klezmer concert is a true variety show.

KlezFest 2023 will be held on September 10 from noon to 4 pm at the Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center of Syracuse.  Open to the public at no charge, it will feature three sterling acts.  Opening will be the Keyna Hora Klezmer Band, Central New York’s own klezmorim.  The band has been in existence for over a quarter of a century, and most of its current members have played together for a decade.  They love what they do, they love klezmer music and they love KlezFest.  That love shines through every performance.

Second on the program is Joanie Leeds.  Leeds won first place in the USA Songwriting Competition, an Independent Music Award, a GOLD Parents’ Choice Award, NAPPA GOLD Award, Family Choice Award and is a John Lennon Songwriting Competition finalist and International Songwriting Competition finalist. She has performed at venues nationwide including Lollapalooza, Clearwater Festival, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Wolftrap and Levitt Pavilion. She has been featured in The New York Times, People Magazine, Parents Magazine, Billboard and The Washington Post. 

Leeds is an SU graduate and is delighted to be returning to Central New York.  Her music has been played on many radio stations and rose to #1 on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live.  Her album, “All the Ladies,” was a Grammy®️ award winner. The songs that Leeds performs reflect the sense that life is a joyful adventure. Joanie believes that when she performs for children, they transform themselves into amazing creatures of joy, forgetting how to hold back. Seeing the kids get in touch with their true selves gives Joanie a sense of fulfillment that far surpasses playing for adults on the club circuit. 

Third on the program is Brooklyn clarinetist Michael Winograd who has been called the top klezmer clarinetist of his generation.  Winograd has recorded and performed with SoCalled, Budowitz, Frank London, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band. He has led workshops and performed near and far, with highlighted performances in Reunion Island, the Dawson City Music Festival (Yukon), the Winnipeg and Calgary Folk Festivals, the Klezmore Festival in Vienna and Carnegie Hall in New York City. He has taught klezmer music at the Paris Klezmer Week, KlezKanada and Living Traditions KlezKamp. In his spare time ,he produces records, composes music and plays synthesizer in the Brooklyn-based metal band Yiddish Princess.

While it’s mostly about the music, KlezFest is also a celebration of the Jewish community.  All of Central New York’s Jewish organizations will have booths at the event to share their offerings.  There will be artist and artisan vendor booths and a Kids Tent with arts and crafts.  Dancing is certain to erupt spontaneously.  And, of course, there is the food.  Kosher corned beef sandwiches and knishes are the big draw.

KlezFest is a collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Central New York, the Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center and CNY Arts.  Additional support comes from Price Chopper, the Pomeranz, Shankman, Martin Charitable Trust and the Slutzger Foundation.  But it would not be possible without the additional support of dozens of Very Important Program Sponsors (VIPS) whose donations keep the festival solvent.  Anyone who wishes to be one of the VIPS is welcome to make a donation of at least $118 on the Federation website, (VIPS get a free sandwich, and drinks and dessert in the VIPS tent.)

Thank you to everyone who joined us for KlezFest 2023!