On Feb. 27, more than 2,000 community members braved the elements and battled downtown traffic (due to a marathon held at Centennial Park) to take part in celebrating Jewish life and culture at the annual Atlanta Jewish Life Festival at the Georgia Aquarium.
Guests were treated to awe-inspiring displays from the aquarium’s featured residents like mammoth sharks, massive stingrays and cute-and-cuddly penguins, as well as mouthwatering offerings of catered delicacies from local vendors.
“Usually, the AJT brings the community together right in our readers’ homes,” said publisher Michael Morris. “However, once a year we offer the opportunity to see what is in the paper live at the AJLF. This year, we had thousands come together to hear music performed by our own Jewish community, eat kosher food, spend time with loved ones, and learn about synagogues and Jewish social organizations firsthand.”
Families and friends congregated at decorated tables as they enjoyed their meals in the cleverly named “Nosh Pit”, featuring fresh and savory servings from Kosher Gourmet, Toco Grill, EB Catering Company, Cinnaholic and Keith’s Corner BBQ.
Everyone schmoozed while listening to a selection of Jewish Atlantan live performers like The Baal Shem Tones, SunMoonPie and As of Yet.
The youngest congregants, who spent most of their time pressed closely against the aquarium glass, riveted, and reveling in the sights, were entertained by roving artists, Ruby the Clown, strolling magician Magic & Mirth and musician Hannah Zale.
The Kids Zone, a crowd favorite, featured henna art, caricature artists, face painting and cotton candy made to order, right there in front of you by Cotton Cravings.
“The Cotton Cravings team could not have been happier and prouder, to once again be a part of the Jewish Life Festival,” said David Karsh, chief encouragement officer for Cotton Cravings.
The AJT hosted a Facebook Live video feed for about an hour during the middle of the festival, showcasing live music, face painting, delicious food and, of course, the aquarium’s highest-profile residents. The recorded video from the live feed can still be viewed on the AJT’s Facebook page.
Karsh said he felt a spiritual connection at the event, being surrounded by such an enveloping community celebrating Jewish life and culture even within the now-normalized social constraints of a pandemic.
“Our team truly approached this year’s festival with great anticipation,” Karsh said. “We’ve been so limited in our personal interactions over the past couple of years, something that deeply affected everyone, especially in what is normally a tight-knit and connected Jewish community.
“They say the current Jewish month of Adar is the most joyous of the entire calendar,” Karsh continued. “And to be there in the midst of this year’s festival and appreciate the moment of looking around in every direction to see countless smiling faces…it was easy to feel the special connection that we share on a spiritual level, whether or not we always realize it.”
Morris echoed Karsh’s sentiments regarding the community coming together to celebrate Jewish life on what could be the back end of a pandemic.
“For many of us, this was the first post-COVID opportunity to come together in person,” Morris said. “I think everyone could feel the excitement in the air. I think the festival is one of the most important things that the AJT does. Because COVID, we missed a year. But now, we are back to accomplishing our mission and I call this year’s program a success.”
A rousing success indeed…next year in Israel.
- Sasha Heller
- Atlanta Jewish Times
- Jewish Life Festival
- Centennial Park
- Nosh Pit
- Cotton Cravings
- Kosher Gourmet
- Toco Grill
- EB Catering Company
- Keith’s Corner BBQ
- The Baal Shem Tones
- As of Yet
- Ruby the Clown
- Magic & Mirth
- Hannah Zale
- David Karsh
- Michael Morris
- jewish life