University hosts Sababa Jewish festival, a first for the St. Louis community

Aiden Blinn | News Editor

Approximately 3,000 people attended the Sababa Festival in celebration of Jewish arts and culture hosted at Washington University Oct. 14.

The outdoor event, held in the parking lot outside of the Danforth University Center, was the first Jewish cultural festival of its kind held in St. Louis and featured musical performances, artists and cultural foods.

Attendees were appreciative of the opportunity for the St. Louis Jewish community to gather on the University’s campus.

“We all really knew it would be a special event, but to see it take place, to see the Jewish community of St. Louis—which is very diverse, not just in terms of practice, but in location around the city and suburbs—in one place, interacting and engaging with one another was just a very powerful experience and really beautiful,” Rabbi Jordan Gerson said.

Hosting a festival has been a longtime goal for Jewish Federation of St. Louis President Andrew Rehfeld.

“[Rehfeld] lived in Chicago for a very long time, and they actually had a huge Jewish festival there that has been extremely successful since 1981,” Sababa Project Coordinator Stacy Smart said. “And so, he really wanted to bring something like that to the St. Louis Jewish community, but also the St. Louis community at large.”

Smart and the other festival organizers decided on the University as a venue because of its location and presence within the community.

“I felt like Wash. U. really encompassed what we were looking for within a venue. It’s kind of central to everyone: We love the fact that we were on campus,” Smart said. “We started talking to Wash. U., and they were very, very receptive to it; and it also turned out to be a really great partnership.”

Students who attended valued the chance to engage with the Jewish communities that exist outside of the University.

“I think it was just really cool to see the Jewish community come together,” junior Michaela Cohen said. “I feel like when you’re on campus, you really only get to see the Jewish life on campus—you don’t really get to see what it’s like off campus.”

Smart is hopeful that the festival will return to St. Louis at some point and would like to continue hosting it on the University’s campus.

“We are looking into doing this again, it really was we felt successful; we don’t have a timeline for it…but I know that we really value our partnership with Wash. U., and if they would have us again, we would be absolutely thrilled,” Smart said.

Additional reporting by Danielle Drake-Flam and Olivia Szymanski