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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
So. Bruns. rejoices at Woodlot Park
North/South Brunswick Sentinal
By Jennifer Booton
With thousands of attendees and a myriad of vendors and entertainment, the second annual Rejoice Jewish Music and Culture Festival was a celebratory outing for Jewish families, along with people of all faiths, Sunday at Woodlot Park in South Brunswick.
The award-winning festival is a "celebration of the vitality of the Jewish community of Central New Jersey," according to the festival's website. The festival isn't solely meant to target people of the Jewish faith; rather, anyone looking to participate in "a day of fun, of music, of celebration and of joy."
The festival also serves to raise donations for the South Brunswick Food Pantry. Last year, two carloads full of food were delivered to the pantry, according to LouAnne Wolf, South Brunswick social services director. Although admission was free, attendees were encouraged to bring a donation for the food bank.
The seven-hour celebration that kicked off at 11 a.m. had entertainment throughout the day. There was music, shows for all ages, activities for the children, vendors, food and a 50/50 raffle.
"This is a wonderful affair," Assemblywomen Linda Greenstein said at the September 13 event. "I was craving the kosher food and music. This is a great new addition [to the community]."
The music kicked off with children's musician Mr. Ray, or Ray Anderson, who has experience jamming with Bruce Springsteen. The rest of the day saw several musicians who played klezmer music, a traditional Jewish music-style dating back over 200 years to Eastern Europe. The klezmer musicians included the Sons of Tikvah Band, Klez Dispensers, Makhelat Hamerkaz, Mama Doni Band and Tsu Fil Duvids.
Somerset residents Hank and Rosemarie Sullivan traveled to the festival specifically for the klezmer music. They attended the event for the first time this year after hearing about it from their neighbors who were in attendance last year.
"We came because we are really interested in the music, especially the klezmer music," Rosemarie Sullivan said. "And it's a beautiful day."
Halfway throughout the day, the shofar was blown to welcome the upcoming holiday season. The shofar is an instrument usually made from the horn of a ram or another kosher animal that is used for Jewish religious purposes.
There were several community groups present such as the B'nai Tikvah Sisterhood, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Hadassah, Jewish Family & Vocational Services, Jewish Federation of Middlesex County, National Council of Jewish Women, Nurture Institute, The Stein Residence Assisted Living, Solomon Schechter Day School and Young Judaea. There were approximately nine area synagogues present as well.
To add to the fun, the festival hosted a variety of children's entertainment including a moon bounce, the Brian Richard Magic and Comedy Show, face painting and Miss Lisa, an acrobatic and educational show.
There were also two food vendors including Lox Stock & Deli, featuring sandwiches, burgers and falafel, and Maglione's Italian Ices.
There were over 25 vendors targeting people of all ages, including toys for kids, jewelry, cosmetics, tea, arts and crafts, wood products, cooking tools and religious products.
One vendor, Bonnie Ganzer Shauli of Old Bridge, said she participated in the event to meet people in the community and advertise her business called Simply Shirls, which specializes in making personalized shadow box frames.
"I'm just starting out in this business and I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet a lot of people," Shauli said. "If it wasn't for Ruth Shindler [one of the event organizers], I never would have been able to do it."
Accompanying Bonnie Ganzer Shauli was her daughter, Beth Shauli, who offered support to her mother.
The Rejoice Festival was started by 88- year-old Aaron Rosloff last year after he visited a similar festival in New York four years ago. Last year, the B'nai Tikvah Congregation in North Brunswick, of which Rosloff is a member, won a Solomon Schechter Award for Excellence in Synagogue Programming from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism for the Rejoice Festival.
Cindy Gittleman, a Rejoice volunteer, said Rosloff started the event to bring the Jewish community together.
"He wanted [his organization] to stand out but in the end what he wanted was to bring the Jewish community together," she said. "The more that came to participate the better. It's a big party; life's a big party."