ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The St. Charles Jewish Festival kicked off Sunday outside the Foundry Art Centre with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Steve and Amanda Steingruby wanted their children, 13-year-old Brooklyn and 7-year-old Raymond, to experience the culture.

“We just saw a clip on the news and we thought it looked like a lot of fun,” Amanda said. “We spent last summer in Europe, actually, and went to Poland and a few different Jewish communities in Prague.”

People could utilize all their senses at the event. You could listen to Jewish music, try out Kosher food, and even take part in various arts and crafts where you can learn more about Jewish culture.

“I really enjoy watching the violins,” Brooklyn said. “It’s kind of neat.”

Her brother Raymond added, “I like the music.”

The festival is organized by the Chabad Jewish Center of St. Charles County. They serve an estimated 6,000 Jews who live in St. Charles County. Rabbi Chaim Landa grew up in St. Louis. He and his dad, who’s also a rabbi, have been working to build the Jewish Community in St. Charles.

“Our goal is to bring people together for joyful, meaningful experiences,” Rabbi Landa said. “That’s really what this event is about: is to create a space where people can come out and be proudly Jewish, and if they’re not Jewish, {they can} learn about another faith, learn about another culture, and it’s just a celebration.”

There was also a new exhibit this year: the Stetl Village.

“It’s the Jewish, European Village and petting zoo,” Rabbi Landa said. “There’s characters that you can approach, and you get to learn about Jewish history, building on some of the themes of Fiddler on the Roof. It’s a fun way to learn and come up close with Jewish culture.”

This year’s festival carries an added meaning as Jewish communities worldwide celebrate the year of the Hakhel or “gathering,” a once-in-seven-years Jewish tradition. Leaders from across St. Charles County and state showed up in support of the now-annual event.

“It is the most heartwarming thing,” Rabbi Landa said. “It feels like just one huge embrace, and we feel it.”

To learn more about the Jewish Community in St. Charles, click here.