Culture, Identity

Who should pay for Jewish culture?

The JTA reports,

With intermarriage rampant, synagogue membership among young Jews on the decline and a general sense that younger Jews are less connected to Judaism, Jewish communal leaders are on the lookout for ways to get the younger generation to connect and to engage in a conversation about Jewish identity, community and meaning.
Some of these young people, and, increasingly, some of their elders, say that the way to their hearts — and minds and pocketbooks — is through artistic and cultural exchange: Jewish music, books, movies and art.
But along with the explosion of Jewish arts come many questions. At its recent conference in Denver, the Jewish Funders Network offered several panels and discussions on the place of arts and culture in today’s Jewish milieu. At the conference and beyond, Jewish thinkers are asking whether the arts should be viewed as a gateway to further Jewish involvement or are valuable as a destination in and of themselves.

Full story.

7 thoughts on “Who should pay for Jewish culture?

  1. What’s going to be the slogan for this initiative. “dont marry the shiksa, write a book”
    “Come to Israel, visit a museum?”
    Taking on a hobby does not induce cultural attachment, I would think. Whoever thinks otherwise doesn’t have a nationalist drop of blood in his body.

  2. I would argue that any connection people have to Judaism is a good connection. Like many people who are part of this site, or just read it, I’m religious. But let’s face it, in the world today some people just aren’t interested. But none of us should push them away because of it. You don’t have to agree with them, or me for that matter, but perhaps if they got interested in jewish music for example, it would lead to more attachment, or perhaps that’s all the attachment there will be. That’s better than forcing them out completely because they won’t embrace everything. You say that taking on a hobby doesn’t induce cultural attachment… If someone joined a Klezmer band as a hobby, how is that not cultural attachment? Or is Jewish culture purely bound by Halachah?

  3. “Or is Jewish culture purely bound by Halachah? ”
    Frankly, yes. What if the child doesn’t share his parents taste in music?

  4. Jewish culture is so broad, not only is it not bound by Halacha, it isn’t only in the hands of Jews. (Witness how Klezmer music, Yiddishims, Jewish humor have spread throughout the culture, sometimes by non-Jews.)
    Now, one may ask: does the Jewish religion exist only within the boundaries of Halacha? Of course not. From a purely descriptive, anthropological point of view, Jewish religion includes all denominations, as well as historical groups like the Kara’ites that are completely outside normative Halacha.
    Final question: Are there elitists within the Jewish world who assume that thier halachic boundaries are self evident and ‘true’? Yes. How limiting for them!

  5. I’m a theater artist – so I obviously think that artistic mediums, when skillfully excecuted, may have a strong effect on people. Ironically, though, it been very difficult to find funding. This conference was in Denver, and I’m in the same area (Boulder). I have a solo show on Jewish identity in America, where I play nine Jews of various backgrounds and practices (actual people who I interviewed).
    When I recently looked for funding from major Jewish organizations in Colorado, I was told their parameters did not allow them to fund the arts, which I find absolutely absurd. Feedback from a work in progress showing last month (it’ll be fully debuting late this summer) was that it made people reexamine their Jewish identity, and that they wanted friends, family, etc., to see it. Forgive my egocentric rantings…but I give this as an example that the arts are indeed effective. Yet I need to make a living, and we artists need real financial support in order to bring our work to the world.

  6. “I was told their parameters did not allow them to fund the arts, which I find absolutely absurd”
    all foundations and Federations have parameters which exclude things which are important and reasonable and effective and terrific. if the funders didn’t have guidelines, they’d go broke very fast, and then where would we be? if you’re going to seek outside funding for your work, you need to look for funders who are already interested in the area you’re working in. otherwise you’re going to be very frustrated trying to convince people to change their guidelines to suit you. it’s not a question of whether the arts are effective or not; it’s a question of whether a funder is interested in funding the arts. if not, look elsewhere.

  7. Thanks for the feedback, but the point is that *no one* is funding Jewish arts in Colorado (at least that anyone I’ve connected with knows about). That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying to find the right people, but it’s interesting to look at how the funders of major CO foundations overlook it.

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