19 April 2008 marked the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. On 15 April, the President of Israel gave a speech to commemorate those who perished in this fated battle. Afterwards, there was a silent march to Próżna street, where poster-size photos of holocaust victims where displayed. Then, in early September, the atmosphere of the pre-war city was evoked in Warsaw’s Próżna street and Grzybowski Square which, for six years in a row now, have been filled with booths and stands showcasing Jewish arts and crafts and traditional kosher cuisine.

Welcome to Shalom Warsaw, a Festival that strives to revive the city’s past, when Polish and Jewish languages and customs mixed, if not harmoniously, at least without major conflict, before the war. During the festival, Clezmer music and singing can be heard from the synagogue, as t is the aim of the Singer’s Warsaw Festival of Jewish Culture to showcase tradition while at the same time presenting contemporary Jewish culture.

For approximately one week, people have the opportunity to attend concerts, theatre performances, recitals, literary meetings, and film screenings. More importantly, citizens can actively interact with people who cultivate Jewish traditions and customs. The program has even been adjusted for the needs of children, to open the mysteries of Jewish culture to them by means of interactive activities.

The Shalom Warsaw! greeting inscribed on the posters and the programs could be interpreted to mean not just Peace Warsaw, but that two nations or a city of two nations can coexist peacefully when we are open to accept differences.

America L. Martin