I spent the last week of December encamped in a Catskills hotel with about 425 klezmorim, dancers, artists, students, and lovers of Yiddish from around the world. We had gathered for the 23rd annual KlezKamp, a music and culture extravaganza organized by Living Traditions, a nonprofit dedicated to Yiddish cultural continuity and community. During the day, we took classes on everything from Hasidic dance to world Jewish foodways; at night, we danced to the newest and oldest in Ashkenazi music in the hotel ballroom with its famous gold lamè curtains.
Ever seen women with headscarves doing Vaudeville? Last week's Forward featured an article about Atara, an association of Torah observant artists whose new mission is to bring Orthodox female artists and performers together to nurture their creative expression -- be it through theatre, music, art, spoken word, etc. -- within a halachic framework.
It’s a thrill for me to see artist Joan Snyder listed among this year’s recipients of MacArthur fellowships, the “genius grants” that honor and advance the work of exceptionally creative thinkers and doers. Joan Snyder greets me each morning as I begin work. A copy of her print, “Our Foremothers,” occupies the wall opposite my desk. A collage of names of all the women in the Bible as well as women in her own family, the print is a visual metaphor for our work at the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Most of the time, harsh world realities leave us feeling powerless. Violence, illness, prejudice, and war cause us to ask: does our work really matter? Artists might be confronted with this question more often than others. When families can’t put food on the table, Art may seem irrelevant. But modern dance pioneer, Anna Sokolow, reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth.
Cartoonist Miriam Engelberg, whose best-known work found humor in her fight against breast cancer, died last Tuesday in her San Francisco home at the age of 48.
Engelberg’s book, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, was published earlier this year. The book details the painful experience of going through cancer treatment but in the end, Engelberg has her readers laughing.
In my online preparation for Passover, I came across a site called “japshopper.” How is this connected with Passover, you might ask? It’s actually the site of an artist named Melissa Shiff, and JAP stands for “Jewish art projects, products, politics.” Redefining the term, Shiff is selling her Jewish-themed, activist art creations (e.g. the Crush oppression matzo pillow and Matzo Ball Activist Kit) and donating a percentage of the profits to feed hungry people and to support progressive art projects.