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Westchester Jewish Council Hosts 47th Annual Jewish Music & Arts Festival

WJC Festival Stage set in front of the Kensico Dam.

On Sunday, August 20, The Westchester Jewish Council, in cooperation with Westchester County Parks, presented the 47th Annual Westchester Jewish Music & Arts Festival. Produced by Kenny Green, the day of music, eating, dancing and shopping was held in the park plaza of the historic Kensico Dam.

The musical entertainment included The Levins, a harmony-driven acoustic duo, and the Liz Queler Band, as well as Urban Garage, a program mentoring teen musicians in pop/rock with free monthly open mic and guided jam sessions in New York City. Kol Hazzanim’s Kumsitz featured Melissa Puius, Gaby Schvartz, Gil Erring, Anna May, Inés Kapustiansky and Lauren Phillips Fogelman. Israeli dance teacher Leng, a veteran of tri-state Hebrew schools and Yale’s Slifka Center, also performed.

The stage and seats were surrounded by over 40 exhibitors, including PJ Library-sponsored WonderSpark Puppets, juggling by Ned Gelfars and face painting. Vendors of Judaica and other art joined with county synagogues and other Jewish organizations. Westchester’s county government hosted several booths, including the Human Rights Commission, which is charged with fighting local antisemitism and other discrimination. Congressman Mike Lawler (NY-17) provided a booth for constituents.

Deputy Westchester County Executive Ken Jenkins (right) greeting festival-goers, with County Board of Legislators Chairman Vedat Gashi (center) and other elected officials.

The headline performer of the day was Neshama Carlebach, a winner and four-time nominee of the Independent Music Awards and winner of the Global Music Awards Silver Award for Outstanding Performance by a female vocalist. One of the best-selling Jewish artists in the world, with over 1 million records sold, Neshama has performed at many major Jewish music festivals. As a teenager, she performed alongside her father, the Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z”l. For this event, her two sons performed with her. Carlebach opened her performance with Adon Olam and also included some of her father’s well-known songs.

One of the vendors, who was also invited on stage to welcome attendees, was Art Shamsky, a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets and the first manager of the Israel Baseball League’s Modi’in Miracle team, said, “It is great to be here, I am willing to talk baseball forever. 1969 was a very special year. It’s 54 years. We’re still talking about the 1969 Mets, one of the best, most incredible teams ever to win a World Series.” New York State Assemblywoman Mary Jane Shimsky, stated, “We are having a great time celebrating Israel and Jewish heritage.”

Headliner Noa Carlebach (right) introducing her son Micah (far left) to perform on stage with her band.

Deputy Westchester County Executive Ken Jenkins began, “Shalom! County Executive Latimer was here earlier, and he promised that I was going to come. What happens is we try to trade off with each other so that we’re never at the same place exactly at the same time. For this Jewish Heritage Festival and to celebrate Israel, we are all glad to be here for a little bit.” Jenkins added, “I just want to make sure that we recognize these kinds of celebrations are so important for us in Westchester. We in Westchester (we always say Westchester starts with W-E) want to make sure we continue to recognize our similarities and celebrate our differences. That’s why it’s so important that we’re here this afternoon.“

Jenkins then introduced Vedat Gashi, chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and a great friend to Israel. “Afternoon everybody! Shalom! Honored to be here with you all. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to be here and to recognize the wonderful community here. The music has been fantastic. I feel bad interrupting it. I’m gonna get off the stage because the less I talk, the more we get to listen to the music. But I’d be remiss, as the first Muslim (county) legislator, to not recognize that next week is the Muslim Heritage Festival. I look forward to seeing you all back. Shalom again and thank you for letting me be a part of this event.”

New Rochelle’s Mikey Dubbs’ Frozen Custard is always a crowd favorite.

County Board Vice Chair Nancy Barr added, “I’m really happy to be here. I love these heritage celebrations. It’s so nice that we can have them again after the COVID hiatus. Westchester continues to be a super welcoming place for all of us. And even though, as Jews, we’ve had a little bit of issues more recently, it’s still a wonderful place to live for the 160,000 of us here in Westchester.” Westchester is one of the 10 counties in the country with the highest Jewish population.

County Legislator Erika Pierce noted, “I want to give a big thank you to Kenny Green, who’s not only behind the scenes today, but he has been working hard to keep klezmer alive and well in Westchester County.” Pierce added, “I know my kids learned klezmer from Kenny. We all love Kenny and, boy, do we love klezmer music.”

Wetschester/Rockland Congressman Mike Lawler’s office providing constituent services and information for attendees.

The Westchester Jewish Council sponsors and cooperates with government and many organizations to enhance and safeguard Jewish life in the county.

Judy Berger is the Jewish Link Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut community editor.

Jewish Miracle Met 1969 World Series baseball player Art Shamsky displaying his World Series ring and other memoribilia.
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