This year's African Culture Night began with a few dozen people milling around the second floor of a hostel in central Jerusalem, listening to musicians warm up and eating injera. It ended, more than four hours later, with over a hundred people together on the dance floor, joined together in a giant hug.
The African Culture Night is the most-attended fundraiser of the year for JACC. It's also a chance for JACC volunteers, community members, employees, and friends to relax and experience a little bit of African culture in the heart of Jerusalem.
This year, more than 150 people ended up attending the event, which was held for the fourth time at Abraham Hostel, near Davidka Square.
The room was packed. People picked up drinks at the bar, sat on couches to talk, and danced to live music. Volunteers sold homemade injera and other East African specialties, all of it cooked by a JACC community member. Near the entrance to the room, guests posed for photos in a picture frame that read "Refugees Welcome."
The Malaika Trio played a set with drums, calabash, the ngoni (a string instrument), the balafon (a kind of African xylophone) and other instruments to open up the evening.
They were followed by the Afro Po band, which includes musicians from the Congo, Sudan, and Israel. Along with sharing their music, Afro Po band members spoke about the suffering inflicted by dictatorships and their hope for change.
The African Culture Night is open to the public--some guests from the hostel wandered in, too--and it's one of the ways that JACC shares a slice of its work and community. And, for people who are deeply involved in JACC's work, it can also be a welcome chance to gather, decompress, and share some lighter moments.
JACC board member Ariella Cwikel speaks about how difficult and stressful the advocacy work can be. But, she added, "This is our one time of year to have fun."