One category revolves around which neighborhood ethnic restaurants I’m frequenting. The other is all about the Jewish Arts Collaborative. With the launch of our upcoming fall season, here are some of the usual questions and some not-so-usual answers.
Just what is Jewish culture?
To be honest, I wish I had a better answer for this, especially as JArts’ artistic director. The one thing I can tell you is that Jewish culture is not just one thing. It is a wonderful mishmash of creativity. It’s Ashkenazi and Sephardic and Mizrahi and American and more. It is something enriching to the young or old, inspiring to the observant or secular, and meaningful to those Jewish by birth, by choice, or not Jewish at all. Jewish culture is our artistic expression that has been shaped by the diversity of our backgrounds, homelands, beliefs, styles, tastes, times and interests.
What do you recommend for me?
Jewish culture isn’t one-size-fits-all. We all have our personal likes and dislikes. With that in mind, here are some ideas.
If you’re looking for fun, check out the Sept. 18 lunchtime pop-up concert with The Klezwoods in Dewey Square. Looking for funny? Don’t miss former New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff exploring the question, “What’s so funny?” with WBUR’s Ben Brock Johnson. And the wit and wisdom of author/poet Judith Viorst’s conversation with Bill Novak is sure to get you to laugh, and maybe even cry.
For inspiration on a more spiritual level, take a few minutes and dwell in the Devorah Project, our beehive-themed sukkah at the BIG Mass Tiny House Festival in Beverly Oct. 19-20. Or check out one of the 15 Arts Matter Shabbat programs on Oct. 25. Whether you try a Yiddish sing-along, jazz prayers, scenes from Neil Simon plays, The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia created by the folks who bring you the Unorthodox podcast and more, you’re sure to experience new perspectives on Bereishit (creation), the parsha of the week which just happens to be perfect for Arts Matter Shabbat. From Andover to Westwood, you’re sure to find something nearby that sparks your creativity and cultural appreciation.
And for those who prefer visual arts, mixed media artist Caron Tabb’s “Of Two Places” art show at the Beacon Gallery will provoke thoughts and feelings about what it means to be home. At the Gallery@Mayyim Hayyim, check out the Nigun exhibit, in which artists and printmakers Shelby Feltoon, Stacey Friedman and Emily Mogavero explore spirituality and repetition.
Know any good parties?
Here’s a great one! Join me and 3,000 other close friends and neighbors at the Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights celebration at the MFA on Dec. 18. This is, without a doubt, Boston’s biggest, most creative, free holiday happening.
There’s something for everyone to do and eat, including sufganiyot (doughnuts) and latkes. Kids and families can enjoy a museum scavenger hunt and crafts projects, get their face painted, jump around to Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys or listen to stories from PJ Library.
There’ll be Moth-style story-telling for adults, gallery talks, the unique klezmer/world music fusion of Yaeko Elmaleh Group and international Jewish folk songs with Rosalie Gerut, plus a special modern dance gallery experience with Jenna Pollack.
But at 6:30, you’ll want to be at the lighting of the MFA’s newly commissioned menorah for one of the most moving and inclusive Hanukkah gatherings around. It is further proof of the amazing power of the arts to bring people together.
Cuisine and comedy, music and art, wisdom and humor are all vital aspects of Jewish arts and culture. And they are all part of the JArts fall season.
So now here’s a question for you.
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