CINCINNATI — The ish Festival returns to Washington Park this weekend as a kickoff to the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial.
The festival debuted in 2017 as a grassroots effort to showcase Jewish arts, culture and community. Now in its third iteration, ish has grown to serve wider populations and has deepened engagement beyond the festival itself.
Acclaimed reggae, rap and alternative rock singer, Matisyahu will headline the event Saturday night with a concert.
“ish’s growth reflects Cincinnati’s diverse Jewish demographic. We’re proud to center our work downtown, in the historic home of Cincinnati’s Jewish community, while honoring and partnering with those who call the West End and Over-the-Rhine home today,” said Abby Schwartz, chair of the ish board.
The theme of this year’s festival is “from Generation to Generation,” a nod to the history of contributions of local Jewish people to the city’s arts and culture.
Following the rededication of Chestnut Street Cemetery on Sunday, attendees will make a formal procession to Washington Park, led by marching and Klezmer bands, a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe.
“I knew art and artists had the power to inspire us even during these incredibly challenging times, and to help us feel connected to one another, even from afar. It was ish’s time to do just that,” said Marie Krulewitch-Browne, the event's founder. Her previous professional experiences include a decade at ArtWorks Cincinnati.
This year’s festival will feature an expanded footprint and schedule. Organizers said the park will come alive with art, dance, music and history over the two-day event.
In honor of the historic nature of this year’s event, ish will debut a digital platform for their “Jewish Cincinnati: A Walk Through History” walking tours, featuring the art of local artist J. Miles Wolf. It features guided audio narration and augmented reality technology.
Other events include the launch of a holiday box program; artist talks; a virtual evening of food inspired by international chef Yotam Ottolenghi, in partnership with local restaurants; and a CincyFringe musical debut. Actors from Playhouse in the Park will perform historical reenactments.
There will also be programs aimed at teens and an artist fellowship for young adult creatives.