Inaugural festival celebrates Jewish culture 

Attendees got a global taste of Jewish cuisine, music, and art.


The inaugural Jewish Culture Festival offered attendees an experience showcasing Jewish art, culture, music, and cuisine from around the globe. 

The event highlighted the Jewish community as a key part of the Island’s diverse melting pot of cultures, and served as a coming-out party of sorts for the newly instated Chabad on the Vineyard, founded by Rabbi Tzvi Alperowitz and his wife Hadassah in 2021.

Alperowitz told the Times the goal of the festival was to put Jewish culture on the map, alongside other prominent Island cultures that are widely celebrated in the community. 

“Martha’s Vineyard is known for its diversity,” said Alperowitz. “There are many different cultures, all very comfortable and at home celebrating their identity, and I think we want to introduce that with the Jewish community here.” 

He said he hopes to give more visiting and local Islanders a taste of Jewish culture, and to continue to grow the festival in coming years, in both attendance and subject scope. Alongside food and music, future festivals could include comedy, literature, and more. “It’s endless,” said the rabbi.

Tuesday night’s festival included live cooking demos, and a panel with experts from the Jewish Food Society, Jewish-made art, traditional klezmer music courtesy of the Klezwoods band, a tasting of kosher wines selected from Israel, specialty global food items for sale, open bars featuring specialty cocktails, such as an “Arrak Lemonade,” and an abundance of food, catered by VIP Kosher Events, based in New York City. 

The event was hosted at a private residence on Nashaquitsa Pond. The winding sound of klezmer music filled the air, courtesy of the Boston-based Klezwoods, who play modern and traditional Jewish music from around the world. 

Five different food stations were set up around the main tent, allowing guests to get a taste of Jewish cuisine from around the world in one night. Global cuisines included a Classic Jewish Deli station, offering pastrami, corned beef, mini hot dogs, buns, sauerkraut, potato salad, and rugelach; a Middle Eastern station, offering lamb arayes, chicken shawarma, falafel, Israeli salad, purple cabbage, hummus, pita, fried eggplant, pickled turnips, and halvah; a Northern African station, with Moroccan snapper, chickpeas and carrots, couscous, fennel coleslaw, and baklava for dessert; an Eastern European station, featuring homemade gravlax (smoked salmon, or lox), bagel crostinis, horseradish aioli, chilled borscht shooters, and cinnamon babka with cashew crème fraîche chocolate. Finally, there was a Martha’s Vineyard station, featuring a wide assortment of grilled local vegetables, a kale and berry salad, and a lemon meringue parfait. 

One guest in attendance, Islander April White, who does not identify as Jewish, said she saw the event listed online. “It looked so interesting, I immediately just bought tickets,” she said, and also commented on the music and ambiance being so good she just “didn’t want to leave.” 

One of the cooking demonstrations, which took place in a small barn on the property, taught the audience how to braid challah, a traditional Jewish bread made of braided strands, consumed for Friday evening services and high holidays. The challah-braiding demo was facilitated by Amanda Dell, program director of Jewish Food Society, and led by New York–based baker and chef Zoe Kanan, who plans to open a Jewish bakery on the Lower East Side (name forthcoming). Attendants of the demonstration had the chance to taste Kanan’s innovative “challah de camote,” or sweet potato challah, a fusion recipe she created when helping to open a Jewish deli in Mexico City. 

A panel with the Jewish Food Society featured James Beard Book award winning food writer and culinary historian Michael Twitty, who also won the National Jewish Book Award for his “Kosher Soul.” Kanan and Dell spoke on the panel as well, alongside the founder and executive director of Jewish Food Society, Naama Shefi, and Jerusalem-based Chef Eyal Asolin. 

“Deep inside, in my soul, I am still the little girl from the kibbutz finding ways to escape the communal dining room in search of more delicious and interesting bites,” said Shefi of her motivation to build the Jewish Food Society, a nonprofit organization based in New York City. The group’s mission is to preserve, celebrate, and revitalize Jewish culinary heritage from all around the world. Shefi noted that, though cliché, celebrating culture through food is an effective medium to bring people together in an intimate way. 

“I’m really about the stories behind the food,” she says. “I hope through our work, and events like this, people can be more knowledgeable about Jewish life and Jewish culture, and more proud, because we have so much to be proud of.” 

Rabbi Alperowitz took a moment to address the crowd, thanking everyone in attendance and inviting the event’s host, Adam Zoia, alongside sponsors Diane and Kenneth Feinberg, Harriet and Len Schleifer, and Chabad co-founders Jim and Rosalee Shane, to say a few words and participate in Moully’s interactive art exhibit, titled “Overflowing Blessings.” 

The art piece, Moully said, is a celebration of collective gratitude. “I am so grateful to be here and to be able to share this with you. Part of my work as an artist is collaborative work, inviting other people into the process. Every one of us here has something to be grateful for,” said Moully. He invited the audience to choose from the assortment of 10 paint colors he provided, to identify something to be grateful for, and then to pour the paint over the top of the cup-shaped sculpture. The community-created art piece is to be installed at Chabad on the Vineyard. 

Rabbi Yosef Glassman, formerly an Island resident and doctor at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, commented on the event. “When Rabbi Tzvi envisioned this idea, mixing art and Torah, that’s the real Jewish way,” Glassman said. “I am thrilled to see an event like this. Martha’s Vineyard has been a desert full of Jews, and now they’re sprouting,” he said, commenting on the evening’s robust turnout and programming.


  1. I wish this event had been more widely publicized. I would kill for a good Kosher deli sandwich and a good baklava!

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