As the year comes to a close, we’re taking a look back on a few of the cultural experiences offered by our Kultura partners in 2023. We’ve highlighted a few events from our 2023 archives.
Wishing you a safe, happy, healthy and creative 2024!
New to the community:
The new Toronto Holocaust Museum opened in June 2023. The state-of-the-art institution is the first Holocaust Museum in Canada designed for the post-survivor period. The THM believes that high impact Holocaust education is relevant to the world we live in today and can inspire discussion and behavioral change around contemporary antisemitism and all forms of hate. Since the opening, the THM has welcomed school groups and engaged thousands of people through tours, programming, film screenings and events.
In November 2023, we joined over 100 Jewish creatives for the Jewish Futures Arts and Culture Salon at the Prosserman JCC and Toronto Holocaust Museum. The one-day conference for Toronto’s Jewish artists and cultural workers explored the future of Jewish cultural and artistic life. The program emphasized networking, communal learning, and the exploration of Jewish and artistic identity and practices. The day included conversations with specialists and local artists, community-building workshops and activities, facilitated conversations about artistic and Jewish identity, and keynote address by rabbi and theater producer Kendell Pinkney.
In 2023, the OJA celebrated 50 years of collecting our community’s history! Since 1973, the OJA has been gathering, preserving, and sharing the stories of Jewish life in Ontario—from Thunder Bay to Windsor and everywhere in between. Help us celebrate this milestone by enjoying a snapshot of the collections at the OJA. On the website oja50.org a new collection was revealed each week, showcasing a variety of organizations, individuals, and events from over 170 years of Jewish history in Ontario. Each collection has an important story to tell and a reason why it is being preserved. Enjoy 50 collections for 50 years!
Earth, artifacts, movement and memory came together to form HaMapah, a new installation created for FENTSTER in Spring 2023 by the artist duo and married couple, Adam W. McKinney and Daniel Banks. This exhibition was an outgrowth of their film, dubbed “a genealogical dance journey,” directed by Banks with McKinney as dancer / choreographer. They traveled to the places where McKinney traces his roots and where he danced in this site-specific work: Ouidah, Benin; Kraków and Siedlanka, Poland; as well as cities, towns, fields and shores across Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, and Wisconsin. The installation was in dialogue with McKinney’s ancestor, the 16th century scholar, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, and his foundational work: HaMapah, Hebrew for both ‘tablecloth’ and ‘map’. The artists map the narrative of a Black, Jewish, Indigenous Queer man in the United States, who inherits a lineage of genocide, forced migration and oppression; cultures of vibrance, community and resilience; and a past teeming with loss and omissions. In a gesture of release and exaltation, McKinney offers an opening for each of us to dance our own maps into existence.
When the OJA did a call out to the community in 2020 inviting individuals to share their Bathurst Manor story, the response was overwhelming. The small Toronto suburban neighbourhood Bathurst Manor, developed and largely built by Jewish community members, widely attracted young Jewish families. In the post Second World War era, families seeking affordable housing were drawn to the attractive new spacious homes, schools, parks, and unencumbered outdoor space. What made Bathurst Manor “The Manor“ was celebrated in this exhibition featuring reminiscences, photographs, artifacts, and documents, donated to the OJA by the baby boom generation, and their families.
The Koffler Gallery, in partnership with Swiss Architect Manuel Herz and Canadian historian and curator Robert Jan van Pelt, presented the world-premiere exhibition of The Synagogue at Babyn Yar: Turning the Nightmares of Evil into a shared Dream of Good. This international exhibition was brought together with assistance from Canadian architect Douglas Birkenshaw and through architectural photography by celebrated Dutch photographer Iwan Baan. The exhibition features large-scale photographic murals directed by Ukrainian-Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky taken by Ukrainian photographer Maxim Dondyuk. Babyn Yar is a 160-hectare site in Kyiv, Ukraine where the first large-scale massacre of the Holocaust occurred in 1941. The multi-disciplinary exhibition tells the story of the Babyn Yar Synagogue in its full historical, political, artistic and spiritual contexts for the first time. On view until January 14, 2024!
Performances, Screenings and Events:
In light of the recent tragic events in Israel, the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company donated 100% of the ticket-sale proceeds from the October production of Knock Knock, to Beit Halochem and The Association for the Soldiers of Israel-Canada in order to help those directly impacted. Through drama and comedy, Niv Petel weaved a vivid and detailed familial relationship in Knock Knock, an immersive physical mono-drama about the effects of National Service on everyday life.
The OJA partnered with the Toronto District School Board’s Jewish and Italian Heritage Committees to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Christie Pits Riot for Jewish and Italian heritage months. At the centre of this exciting program was a live onsite theatrical performance by Hogtown Productions. Thousands of Grade 8 and Grade 10 students viewed the re-enactment at Christie Pits Park, and learned vital lessons from our community’s history.
The 31st Edition of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival was held from June 1st-11th. TJFF 2023 featured the best in Jewish-content film from Canada and around the world including International, Canadian and Toronto Premieres. TJFF 2023 included 77 films from 20 countries, 50 feature films, 19 short films, Archival Series (Canada-wide), In-Theatre Screenings, Outdoor Screenings, Online Screenings (Ontario) and many special guests in attendance.
TJFF also hosted a free outdoor screening of Moshe Rosenthal’s multi-award-winning film Karaoke, featuring a stellar cast of Israeli favourites. To set the mood for the evening and to instill a feeling of community, the evening kicked-off with an hour of live karaoke. Participants ranged from young to old and the song selections covered a span of genres, including songs sung in English and Yiddish.
TJFF also offered a series of international film screenings, paired with a delicious meal inspired by the film, in partnership with the Prosserman JCC.
Ashkenaz Festival and Magen Boys Entertainment are teaming up this summer for “Summer Jam,” a first-of-its-kind concert series bringing downtown music festival vibes to North Toronto. The three-show series of FREE concerts at Earl Bales Park, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the legendary July 1973 “Summer Jam” at Watkins Glen Raceway in upstate NY, a massive one-day festival that drew a record crowd of over 600,000 (more than Woodstock!).
As stalwarts of music and event production within Toronto’s Jewish community, Ashkenaz and Magen Boys are highlighting both Jewish music and Jewish musicians in these open-air community concerts. Middle Eastern Fusion, Jewish bluegrass and Yiddish funk will mingle with psychedelia, southern rock, and Americana, as each of these epic double bills pairs a Jewish roots artist with an act paying tribute to one of the three iconic “jambands” that were featured in the original 1973 festival: The Band, Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band. These eclectic and unexpected musical pairings will be unified by their celebration of community, creativity and the power of music.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition, Camp juxtaposed two 15-year-old girls’ experiences—Lila at Jewish sleepover camp and Greta- in a concentration camp. Presented as a reading at the Miles Nadal JCC, this research-informed play explores themes of womanhood, trauma, sisterhood and resilience.
The Prosserman JCC hosted the Canadian premiere of HaMapah / The Map Dance-on-Film with award-winning U.S. artists, director Daniel Banks and dancer/choreographer Adam W. McKinney, the married artist duo and founders of DNAWORKS, dedicated to dialogue and healing through the arts. This stunningly beautiful film (30 min.) accompanied by a stirring soundtrack follows McKinney’s return to his ancestral homelands in Benin, Poland, and across the United States to trace the intersections of his African American, Native American and Jewish heritages. Following the screening, the audience came together for DNAWORKS signature “storycircle” inviting dialogue on how viewers’ own personal stories and experiences intersect with the key themes of family, identity and heritage laid out in the film.
From November 1-9, Neuberger HEW 2023 presented a thoughtful array of public programs and commemorations that offer compelling ways to engage with the history of the Holocaust and its legacy. Audiences explored contemporary approaches to Holocaust education and remembrance in innovative ways, delving into issues and dialogues that offer new perspectives on this nuanced and essential history.
HEW takes place throughout the month of November to coincide with the commemoration of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). For more than 40 years, HEW has provided high impact Holocaust education programming across the GTA to students, intercultural groups and the general public.