“Arts—like faith—can lift the human spirit, buoy us during difficult times, and open up new worlds. A vibrant arts ecosystem is vital to the health of the Jewish community…Jewish arts and culture is the glue that holds us together.”
—Walter & Elise Haas Fund, 2016 Report on Strategies for Jewish Arts & Culture

Pause a moment. Consider your world without the arts in it. No music. No painting. No dance. No great novel to read, no comic books. No theater. You walk into the house and turn on the radio, and it’s all talk and news; iTunes and Spotify don’t exist. No Beyonce, no Brahms. Movies aren’t on Netflix. No favorite poster or photograph on the wall. Sound good? Nah.

A grim world…and yet, today, too often we take art and culture for granted. They are so ubiquitous, surrounding us, and with so many possibilities and opportunities—too many, even—that we either settle for the comfort of what we are familiar with and closest at hand, or just go on without giving what we enjoy much thought. It’s there and we enjoy it, which might be good enough—or maybe not.

You know, though, when something really moves you; you play that song over and over; you go back to that painting; you watch that movie five times; you read everything by a certain author. Those moments…those are the reasons Leonard Bernstein can say that the creative arts are the breathing heart of our civilization—because without them, life just seems dull.

Each year, on a Friday two weeks before the fall election, MASSCreative, our statewide arts advocacy organization, sponsors Arts Matter Day (#ArtsMatterDay). It’s designed to build a constituency, particularly around the elections, for arts and culture in the Commonwealth. (This year, that day is Oct. 26.)

The Jewish Arts Collaborative believes that, as the Haas Fund report I quote above, art is vital to the Jewish community—it’s the glue that holds us together. It brings us together for experiences, communal experiences, that fill our souls. Because just as the arts are a doorway to the wider world, a more heightened and beautiful living, the arts are an entryway into a deeper and more fulfilling Jewish life.

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So last year, we joined with MASSCreative to create Arts Matter Shabbat. It’s a natural, since the day is on a Friday, and Friday begins the traditional Jewish Sabbath, we thought. “Why not sponsor communal events, learning, opportunities to listen, to think, or even create together—as a Shabbat experience?” Just as Shabbat is meant as a pause from daily life as usual, Arts Matter Shabbat is the chance to pause from our normal routines and celebrate the beauty, spirit and soulfulness that arts and culture bring to us as Jews.

There is more Jewish art and culture being created today than at any other point in history. Arts Matter Shabbat is a chance to share it with others. So we’ve worked with local and visiting artists of all types, with synagogues and community organizations, to focus on the importance of Jewish arts.

There will be theater in Sudbury, jazz in Newton, Ladino in Wayland and percussion in Jamaica Plain. Author Rachel Kadish will be speaking in Wellesley, a cappella group Aleph Beats singing in Taunton, and Havdalah spice box building in Brighton. In fact, this year you will find Arts Matter Shabbat programs stretching from Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody to Agudath Achim in Taunton, from Temple Israel in Boston to Temple Emanuel Sinai in Worcester.

We ask that you register for these events so locations won’t be overwhelmed—but we’re sure that you’ll find something interesting, moving, fun and friendly in this lineup.

Make #ArtsMatterDay and Arts Matter Shabbat a part of your day and/or weekend this coming Friday or Saturday. Stand up (or sit down) for the arts and what they mean to you, your friends and the world.

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