Multicultural Festival Shows the Many Faces of Bedford

Flags of many nations waved proudly during the opening ceremony at Bedford's first Multicultual Festival - Image (c) _____,. 2015
Flags of many nations waved proudly during the opening ceremony at Bedford’s first Multicultual Festival – Courtesy image (c) . 2015

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

Bedford’s first Multicultural Festival on Sunday afternoon, April 12, celebrated the diverse heritage represented by town residents, and was a rousing success. There were crafts to make, and to buy; delicious food to sample; music and dance to appreciate; thought-provoking talks; and a striking Parade of Flags carried by scores of children and adults, led by Town Manager Richard Reed and Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills.

In a post-event telephone interview Reed complimented “the group of volunteers who came together and did such a wonderful job” creating “a great success, especially for a first-time event that drew so many participants.”

Leading-the-parade (2)
Town Manager Richard Reed and Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills led the parade of flags – Image (c) JMcCT, 20

Click on thumbnails in each gallery to view larger images

Pilipino dancers, waiting to perform - Image (c) JMcCT, 2014
Pilipino dancers, waiting to perform – Image (c) JMcCT, 2014

There was dancing, and there was music: Native American, Pilipino, Armenian, Indian and Bollywood dancers performed, along with a Klezmer band, the Davis School Chorus, and Bedford High School student and faculty performers. Patrick Morrissey, head of the Math Department, along with his wife and daughter sang in Mandarin.

There were Armenian dancers, Armenian food supplied by the Armenian Relief Society of Lowell, and a heritage table staffed by members of Bedford’s Armenian community. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide on April 24, Robert Kalantari submitted a Letter to the Editor.

Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills, Col. Michael Vogel ___, and Town Manager Richard Reed (l-r) Image (c) JMcCT, 2015
Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills, Col. Michael Vogel ___, and Town Manager Richard Reed (l-r) Image (c) JMcCT, 2015

Hanscom Field sent a contingent of participants and volunteers led by Colonel Michael Vogel (66th Air Base Group Commander). Captain Kristina Eclevia, Hanscom’s Executive Officer, helped with decorations on Saturday and Sunday, worked at the Welcome Table, escorted Col. Vogel around the festival, and then helped with clean-up. Jacob Zamzow, another Hanscom volunteer, arrived early and helped at the raffle table, especially in its closing and accurate accounting.

Known for its international focus, the Rotary Club of Bedford,  contributed to the festival on many levels. Teens from the club’s Interact Group staffed a large area where children and adults practiced Origami and other crafts. Evalina Pajus, a Rotary International exchange student in Bedford this year, shared her experiences and then joined in the fun with Christine Pinney, one of her host parents.

There were a variety of informational tables highlighting various cultures

There were thought-provoking sessions in the auditorium:

Keynote speaker Leon Rubenstein (l) with his son Wade and event chair Marilou Barsam - Image (c) JMcCT, 2015
Keynote speaker Leon Rubenstein (l) with his son Wade and event chair Marilou Barsam – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015
  • Keynote Speaker Leon Rubenstein: For the many young people in the audience, Leon Rubinstein’s keynote talk at the Multicultural Festival was an eye-opener. Rubinstein recounted in harrowing detail his experiences as a young boy in World War II Poland: his family murdered by Nazis, his “existence” for two years literally living down in a hole in a potato field, and his ultimate rescue by the Red Army.  As with so many survivors of the Holocaust, Rubinstein never spoke of his experiences for decades until, finally, 10 years ago, his son Wade (a Concord businessman) persuaded him to reveal details of his early life.  Rubinstein recounted his story in his 2009 book, As I am Presently Known, and now is able to speak about his journey from Poland via Palestine into the United States.  He frequently talks to school children about his experiences so the days of horror will not be forgotten. Rubinstein became a successful inventor and employee of Polaroid Corporation, raised a family in Massachusetts, but as he said most powerfully, he “never lost his connection to Judaism.”
  • Roundtable
    Col. Vogel shared a thought at the end of the panel – Image (c) JMcCT, 205

    Facing Historical Wrongs – a panel discussion: Moderated by Michael Rosenberg, the discussion panelists included Shua Khan Arshad, a practitioner of intercultural and interfaith education; Claudia Fox Tree, a Bedford resident of Native American and German heritage; Dr. Mark Santow, Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth; Lisa Flannery, a Bedford High School French teacher who has served as the Gay-Straight Alliance faculty advisor for 10 years; and keynote speaker Leon Rubinstein.

  • Real People/Real Stories: A storytelling session, Real People / Real Stories featured Sherry Cerino / My Libyan Sons; Chris Wiley / To Raise A Hero; Alexis Presti-Simpson  / What’s That About A Few Good Men?; Cedric Townes  / Perseverance;  Patricia Hiort  / The Snowbird Redefined; Brianna Robinson  / Beauty; and special guest Alma Hart who shared A Mother’s Tale.


The assistance of scores of volunteers made the festival possible, and the organizers mentioned a few special ones: Sarah Thompson worked tirelessly, transporting food and accessories, putting up decorations, and doing cleanup, making everything run smoothly. Mark Maurice’s team of Boy Scouts put up decorations for many hours on Saturday, and constructed a flag stand to keep all the flags together. Conor Wisentaner and Albert Chen are trained BHS students who handled the sound in the gym, and sound and stage lighting in the auditorium; Conor arrived two hours early to set up, and Albert was there all afternoon. David Reiner from the Klezmer band and Dennis Crumbine were also instrumental in making the sound systems run professionally.

The festival opened with welcomes from Chair Marilou Barsam, Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills, and Town Manager Richard Reed.
Event Chair Marilou Barsam welcomed Festival participants along with  Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills, Town Manager Richard Reed and event Vice Chair Val Rushanan

Bedford Embraces Diversity is a community-based, not-for-profit organization committed to increasing awareness and understanding of community diversity. The Multicultural Festival was organized as a town-wide activity following the 2014 incidents of anti-Semitism in the Bedford schools. The event was chaired by Marilou Barsam, with help from Valerie Rushanan, Vice-chair; Meg Crumbine, Treasurer & Operations Manager; and members Neetu Devdas, Dr. Naomi Dogan, Keiko Iseda-Brown, Nibha Bhatia Jolly, Ellis Kriesberg, Erin McCormack, Mike Rosenberg, and Anitha Reddy Yajnik.  Chairman Marilou Barsam summed up the committee’s reaction to the Festival:” We are so proud and feel so rewarded.”

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