This year the Lucky Jew sets up shop online!
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has already caused thousands upon thousands of events, celebrations, and festivals to be postponed or cancelled. Luckily, thanks to FestivALT, you can still take part in the Krakow tradition of purchasing an image of a Jew for Easter! Even though we won’t be able to meet in person this year, we’re not giving up on our annual appearance at the Emaus Easter market. The Lucky Jew takes his wares online on Monday, April 13, where you can join him from 1 to 7 p.m. Kraków time (7am to 1pm NYC time) to buy mugs, canvases, magnets, and iPhone cases, or simply stop by for some conversation.
The tradition of selling images of Jews at Kraków’s Easter market goes back as far as the 1800s, where these figurines were sold alongside carvings of other Polish archetypes—peasants, Highlanders, priests, etc. In the late 1970s, new images of Old Country Jews appeared, showing them counting gold coins. This tradition, thought to bring the buyer financial luck, continues to this day. For some people, these good-luck charms also serve as remembrances of Poland’s pre-war Jews; for others, they are simply anti-Semitic caricatures. The debate about these objects and how they should be treated is very much alive. Just last month, a leading Kraków politician submitted an appeal to the mayor of the city to investigate how these figurines perpetuate anti-Semitic stereotypes. In December 2019, the OBI chain of supermarkets removed from sale images of Jews with coins after a wave of public pressure.
FestivALT, a Jewish arts collective based in Kraków, has long engaged in a public discussion about this tradition. As a response to the sale of Jews with coins, FestivALT created a performance in which a real, live Jew takes to the streets and markets of Kraków, selling images of himself. Engaging with the cultural complications of these objects, the Lucky Jew pulls passersby and customers into a difficult conversation about stereotypes and tradition. The performance, at once sincere and satirical, empowering and disarming, brings a critical eye to this common cultural practice, while also inviting critique and criticism of the performance itself.
Our most popular and most controversial piece, Lucky Jew is guaranteed to provoke meaningful discussion and debate. Join us on Monday to meet the Lucky Jew, take part in this complicated conversation, and maybe even get some luck yourself via zoom or live streamed on our Facebook page!