Based in Toronto, Ontario, the Ashkenaz Foundation is a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an increased awareness of Yiddish and Jewish culture through the arts. Through its biennial festival and an expanding slate of year-round programming, Ashkenaz showcases the work of leading contemporary artists from Canada and around the world working in music, film, theatre, dance, literature, craft, and visual arts. Ashkenaz places an equal emphasis on the need for preservation and innovation within this cultural milieu. The Foundation incorporates in its mandate and programming many other manifestations of Jewish music and art beyond Klezmer/Yiddish, and actively pursues fusion and cross-cultural exchange with artists from outside Jewish cultural traditions through commissioned work and special projects. Ashkenaz places a strong emphasis on local and emerging talent, as well as on education and community outreach. Ashkenaz forges partnerships with other entities and like-minded organizations in areas of overlapping interest or cause.
The Ashkenaz Festival is the largest Jewish cultural event in Canada, and among the largest events of its kind internationally. The Festival takes place biennially at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and satellite locations throughout Toronto. Each edition of this multidisciplinary event showcases approximately 50-75 acts from Canada and around the world, including 200+ artists and performers working in music, theatre, dance, film, literature, craft, and visual arts. The Festival draws a diverse, multicultural audience of over 50,000 people.
The first Ashkenaz Festival took place in July 1995, emerging out of a worldwide revival of Klezmer music and Yiddish culture. Ashkenaz quickly became one of the most prestigious events of its kind, making Toronto a key centre in the international Klezmer/Yiddish scene. There were Festival editions in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. The 7th Ashkenaz Festival in August 2008 celebrated the organization’s “Bar Mitzvah” year (13th year). The next Ashkenaz Festival scheduled for August 28-September 3, 2012.