More than 500 people turned out for the second annual Challahpalooza: The Berkshire Jewish Music Festival. Held at the Duffin Theater in Lenox, Mass., smack dab in the middle of Massachusetts' famous Berkshires vacation and cultural destination, the festival featured Klezmer artist Andy Statman.

"We are the premier cultural capital of the country," said Rabbi Levi Volovik, co-director of the Pittsfield, Mass.-based Chabad of Berkshire County, which sponsored the event. "You find here more theatre, art and music than anywhere in the U.S. We'd like to spread the word that there can be Jewish music and entertainment in the Berkshires as well."

The Berkshires are better known as the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Volovik and his wife arrived in Pittsfield three years ago to establish a new Chabad House. The pair immediately realized that "good food and good music is a great way" to draw people and their hearts, said Sara Volovik.

The following year saw the birth of the music festival, which the Voloviks used this summer to call attention to their ever expanding programs and their upcoming High Holiday services.

With Statman highlighting the Aug. 12 fest this year, the Voloviks pointed to the concert's 500-plus attendance figure in proclaiming it a success.

Many in the crowd were among the 250,000 annual tourists that come to the Berkshires for its mountain vistas, watersheds and trails.

"This was the largest Jewish event in the last 10 years," said the rabbi. "This many people coming together for a Jewish program is unbelievable, especially when you can share a Jewish thought and explore Yiddishkeit together."

In between sets of the Chassidic melodies he remembered from his childhood in Queens, N.Y., Statman, considered one of this generation's premier mandolin and clarinet players, told the crowd of his many travels throughout the world and meeting Chabad families living in far-off locations.

"Chabad does important work in a manner that no other organizations do. Its approach is one of warmth and acceptance, and it is dealing with holiness and how it applies to a person in their daily life," said Statman. "For me it's where I know I can get kosher food, but in terms of the unaffiliated it is really like a life jacket. They are throwing a rope to people that their souls are taking, but are not aware of it. They are contemporary heroes and heroines."

He pointed to the concert as an example.

"What a concert can do is awaken the soul. Chabad takes that, enhances it, and it bursts into a flame," he explained. "In the same way, all the music that I play is to produce an experience in the musician and the audience. We're looking to take the audience on a [spiritual] journey through the music."