More than 2,000 people turned out for a day of fun and unity at the 29th Annual Jewish Renaissance Fair. The event, hosted by the Lubavitch Center of Essex County in West Orange, N.J., took place Sunday at the Richard J. Codey Arena, home to the training facilities of the New Jersey Devils hockey team.

A clown on stilts greeted young and old, inviting them to feast their stomachs, eyes, hearts and minds on all the fair had to offer. Performers Uncle Moishy and Yehuda provided the musical entertainment, while booths positioned around the rink offered food, arts and crafts demonstrations, a shofar factory and challah-baking workshops. Various Judaica stores also set up tables to sell merchandise. In addition, volunteers gave out information on Chabad's High Holiday services and learning programs, and helped Jewish men put on tefillin.

Michael and Candice Feiler said that after reading about the fair in their local newspaper, they decided to bring their eight-year-old daughter, who attends a Sunday Hebrew School in nearby Paramus.


"We came to give her some Jewish exposure," said the girl's father.

Clapping her way through Uncle Moishy's performance, Candice Feiler stole a glance throughout the arena and exclaimed: "Chabad does a lot!"

For Rabbi Boruch Klar, co-director with his wife Devorah of the Essex County Chabad center, the fair was about "a rebirth of Judaism that brings all different kinds of Jews together to experience a good time."

"For some people here," he pointed out, "this is their only Jewish activity for the whole year."

It may not have been for the clown, said Devorah Klar, but it was the first time the Jewish entertainer in the suit had put on tefillin, with everyone dancing and singing around him. Indeed, over the years, the fair has introduced many people to Jewish observances, like when a woman picked up a flyer on the kosher dietary laws and decided to keep a kosher kitchen.

"This fair shows people that being Jewish is actually fun! It's about being with other people, laughing, and just having a good time," continued Klar. "It's the light side of Judaism."

Consequently, she added, "people's lives are turned on and lit up."

In the middle of Yehuda's performance, Boruch Klar took to the ice to blow the Shofar, which Jews traditionally do during the 29 days prior to Rosh Hashanah.

Nothing Like This

Learning about the scribal arts at the Jewish Renaissance Fair (Photo: Miriam Morrow)
Learning about the scribal arts at the Jewish Renaissance Fair (Photo: Miriam Morrow)
Sunday's Renaissance Fair also attracted a sizable contingent of older adults and senior citizens, who came to connect with the wider Jewish community.

Springfield-native Elissa Titen, who has known the Klars for 20 years, volunteered at the fair, for instance.

"For years now, this fair has been giving me a sense of community," she said. "And you know, a lot of us go back to our communities where there are only three or four Jewish families. We're isolated. But this fair gives us the opportunity to recognize each other, feel a part of the community, and then spread it around when we go back."

Devorah Klar explained that the fair demonstrates that "while we may not be a majority," Jewish people living among non-Jews can still make the world a "Jewish world."

"A while ago, it looked like Judaism was going extinct," she said, referring to the years immediately following World War II. "But it isn't always about numbers. It's about our unity."

One fairgoer, a Holocaust survivor named Jacob Kol Tun, knew all too well what she meant.

"It took me 60 years to return to Judaism after what I experienced," he said.

Describing the fair as "overwhelming," he added: "It's truly something to get so many Jews together and make sure that no one is isolated or disqualified. I come from a small town in Poland. We never had anything quite like this."