Note – this article was originally written and published for UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Snapshot Newsletter. To learn more about UJA please click here.
Connecting with Jewish Identity Through Arts, Culture, and Heritage
Cultural experiences are a powerful way to explore Jewish life and gain insight into new perspectives. For thousands of Jews in our community, these experiences are a meaningful way to engage with their Jewish identity—and an accessible entry point to Jewish life. In this past year of social isolation, this kind of programming has nourished the Jewish soul.
Through UJA’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee, UJA invests in programs, organizations, and initiatives that aim to develop Jewish identity and engagement. The Kultura Collective is a group of 14 Jewish cultural organizations that, through collaboration, engage the community with Jewish culture in Toronto and beyond.
For 2021, UJA invited Kultura Collective member organizations to submit proposals for projects that encouraged collaboration across the arts, culture, and heritage sectors, developed initiatives that engaged new and diverse audiences while exploring Jewish identity and connections to community life, and showed the resilience of the Jewish community throughout history. Note: This funding is on top of what UJA’s funded agency partners already receive in annual grants.
Six projects were chosen by UJA’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee for a one-time project grant in 2021. Each will be a collaboration between at least two Kultura Collective member organizations, and include additional partners from across the GTA, ensuring a wide reach. The upcoming projects will focus on exploring Jewish identity and history through a variety of mediums—including virtual reality, photography, music, theatre, and film.
- Ashkenaz Foundation: Nu? Normal?: Ashkenaz Summer Concert series, live and online
- Partners: Committee for Yiddish, Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Canada Israel Cultural Foundation
- A three-part monthly outdoor “pop-up” concert series in summer 2021. These casual, near-acoustic performances will take place at a variety of Toronto parks with small live audiences in attendance (if permitted). Performances will also be live-streamed.
- Harold Green Jewish Theatre: The Golem’s Mighty Swing
- Partners: Ontario Jewish Archives, Outside the March
- The Golem’s Mighty Swing follows the story of the Stars of David –a 1920’s barnstorming, Jewish baseball team that travels small town America playing exhibition games. A bus ride from Christie Pits Park (site of the 1933 Christie Pits Riot) will bring audience members to the Meridian Theatre in North York with a guided tour of Toronto’s interwoven history of baseball and the immigrant experience.
- Ontario Jewish Archives: Jews on the Margins
- Partners: Prosserman JCC, No Silence on Race
- This project will capture the experiences and stories of Jews of Colour (JOC) through a portrait photography exhibition, an accompanying exploratory short film, and a panel discussion
- Canada Israel Cultural Foundation: Waiting for the Fall
- Partner: Miles Nadal JCC
- An evening of contemporary ballet/dance premiering a new piece Waiting for the Fall by Israeli born dancer and choreographer Avinoam Silverman.
- Koffler Centre of the Arts: Tangled Heirlooms
- Partners: Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (TBC), Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (TBC)
- An investigation into the ways in which descendants of survivors are employing art and literature to address the theme of inherited trauma and its social, cultural, and psychological effects.
- Toronto Jewish Film Festival: Exploring Jewish Identity Through Virtual Reality
- Partners: Miles Nadal JCC, The Jerusalem Foundation, Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto, Consulate General of Israel
- Working in partnership with the Miles Nadal JCC, TJFF will invite community members to experience the innovative and interactive experience of virtual reality film and how it can be harnessed to explore Jewish identity. Creating a new form of interactive documentary, The Holy City draws on traditional and modern VR game mechanics to encourage the user to participate and explore the city of Jerusalem.
These exciting projects will help engage our community in dynamic and thought-provoking Jewish experiences, all while following COVID-19 provincial guidelines. Finished projects will be rolling out throughout 2021, so be sure to keep an eye on our newsletter and social media to stay up to date!