Austin, Texas, is known for several things: authentic barbecue, hot weather, cowboys — and, increasingly each year, the ever-growing South by Southwest festival.
What began as an indie music event in the late 1980s has swelled to include multiple conferences on film and technology. Last year, over 70,000 people registered to attend the nine-day extravaganza.
As always, this year’s installment, which starts on Friday and runs until March 19, will feature plenty of Jewish artists, innovations and forums — including a session with the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, about the recent uptick in anti-Semitism. And of course, at least one Purim party.
If you’re headed to SXSW, here are some Jewish events you shouldn’t miss.
Trolls: Lessons from Online Anti-Semitism’s Rise (March 12, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Austin)
After writing an article on Melania Trump in GQ last spring, journalist Julia Ioffe received so many anti-Semitic messages, including death threats, that she filed a police complaint. Sadly, she was just among the first of many Jewish journalists and other Jews active on social media to be targeted by anti-Semitic “trolls” — a term commonly used to describe belligerent online provocateurs — over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. Ioffe, who now writes for The Atlantic, will speak with Chabad Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone about how trolls, once relegated to the fringes of the internet, are now feeling empowered.
Kosha Dillz (March 16, 1:00 a.m. – 1:25 a.m., Scratchouse)
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a rapper whose stage name is a Jewish delicacy isn’t your typical hip-hop artist. The Israeli-American Kosha Dillz (real name Rami Even-Esh) has wowed crowds with his freestyle abilities for more than a decade — and he is also known for being able to rap in English, Hebrew, Spanish and Yiddish. According to his South by Southwest bio, he now teaches a class at synagogues around the country on “how to be a Jewish rapper in 45 minutes.” You can catch him at the festival as part of his Oy VEY USA tour, likely spitting tracks from his latest album “What I Do All Day And Pickle,” which he released last year.
YAASSS Queen Esther Purim party (March 12, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Jackrabbit Mobile)
You likely have to be a fan of “Broad City,” the uber-hip sitcom created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, to get why the title of this event is so clever. But you won’t have to get the joke to enjoy this Purim party. Hosted by the Chabad Young Professionals group in Austin, the event will include a traditional holiday megillah reading, a hamantaschen fondue bar, plenty of Purim gifts (known as misloach manot), an open bar and — what do you know — beats from Kosha Dillz.
Orkestar Kriminal (March 15, 1:00 p.m. – 1:40 p.m., Austin Convention Center; March 18, 9:00 p.m. – 9:40 p.m., Russian House)
Orkestar Kriminal is the rare band that lives up to its name, in multiple ways. The Montreal-based group plays (or steals, as band leader Giselle Webber says) songs from the Yiddish-speaking musicians who populated the the criminal underworlds that once flourished in cities such as Warsaw, Odessa and Istanbul. Think one part hyped-up klezmer, one part gypsy rock, one part utter chaos — and a heck of a live show.
Faith & Technology Meet Up (March 12, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Hyatt Regency Austin)
Jews aren’t the only religious group looking to connect their faith with technology at this year’s festival. This discussion will feature the Anti-Defamation League’s Austin Community Director Renee Lafair, who, alongside Christian and Muslim speakers, will address the ways religious communities are joining together on social media to fight online hate.