Kan Ya Ma Kan is three weekends featuring the culinary traditions, music and culture of the Arab-Jewish diaspora of Iraq, Syria, and North Africa. Each weekend will offer a Saturday night and Sunday afternoon program featuring chefs, writers and scholars. Saturday’s dinner will prepared by a guest chef, followed by live music. Sunday afternoon will feature tea, sweets and conversation with an invited writer, scholar or artist.
The phrase “Kan Ya Ma Kan” is usually translated as "once upon a time, there were..." In Arabic literature, these words are often the opening line of a story about the past. In Arab countries in the Middle East, there were once Jewish communities, and now there are almost none. Before the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, Jews played an integral role in social and cultural life throughout the Middle East and Iran. In places like Baghdad, Aleppo, Casablanca, Tehran, and Tunis, Jews were writers, musicians, merchants and scholars who lived with Muslims, Christians, Druze, Assyrians, and Turks. After 1948, the numbers in these communities dwindled, and cultural traditions and objects were packed away and carried elsewhere by foot, boat, and train. This rich history of the Jewish role within these ethnically diverse societies can be preserved. Kan Ya Ma Kan is an effort to do just that.