Israel & the Arts: A New Perspective

Tags: Arts, Philanthropy, Israel

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Thanks to generous support, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland is showcasing the best of Israeli arts and culture right here in Cleveland. Our donors trust in the idea that we have the power to change Clevelanders’ perceptions about Israel through the arts.

The news portrays Israel as a conflict-ridden, war-torn country. Yet, many experiences with Israel have shown that Israelis would prefer not to think or worry about war. They are a creative, passionate people, and the arts and cultural experiences we have brought in through the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection shows the vastness of their talent, the importance of the arts to them, the deep impact it can have on us, and the multi-faceted character of the country and its citizens.

More than 21,000 patrons now have a different perspective on Israel. Donors help bring in these immensely talented artists to ensure that Clevelanders understand a little of what we know so well about Israel and Israelis. The concerts, performances, and exhibit highlights from the 2013-2014 season of the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection have brought a new perspective on Israel to the audiences who witness them.

Presented by the Cleveland International Piano Competition, “Duo Amal” comprised of masterful Israeli pianist, Yaron Kohlberg, and talented Palestinian pianist, Bishara Haroni, performed in the Reinberger Chamber Hall in Severance Hall to a sold-out crowd of 450 in February. They conveyed a message of hope and peace between their people, and that the Middle East is so much more than conflict. The audience could see that when the Israeli and Palestinian people connect on another level, they can create beautiful music, and even friendship.

In his concert, Gil Shaham, one of the foremost violinists of our time, conveyed his passion and warmth through flawless technical skill to a sold-out audience of 700 members.

In partnership with the Schusterman Visiting Artist Program, Cleveland Israel Arts Connection brought David Fisher to speak about his film trilogy at the Reel Israel Film Festival. The three documentaries explore the three generations of the film maker’s family and their complex relationships. They are bittersweet, emotionally honest, and touchingly funny films that convey to hundreds of Clevelanders the universality of family and each one’s unique, yet similarly complicated, dynamics.

The experience of watching Fisher’s “Six Million and One” about his father’s release from a concentration camp was made even more moving by the presence of Pete Carnabuci. Featured in the film, Carnabuci is a World War II veteran from Ohio and a member of the 71st infantry that liberated Fisher’s father and the other camp prisoners from Gunskirchen.

“Not by Bread Alone,” recently made its Cleveland premier at Playhouse Square. The ensemble cast of Nalaga’at, Tel Aviv’s Deaf-Blind Theater Company, wove together the stories of their lives to 2,500 audience members. Their message – that of humanity’s interconnectedness – was fundamental and familiar, yet through their acting and story-telling, they showed the audience that beliefs could evolve regardless of previously held conceptions.

Piven World, created by Hanoch Piven and exhibited in the Roe Green Gallery in the fall, was a magical place filled with colorful and witty illustrations. By using common, everyday objects to create works of art, the artist brought layers of meaning to his profiled celebrities. The workshops with the artist made his art even more accessible for our community members.

The Roe Green Gallery recently exhibited Prints from Kibbutz Cabri, which featured a collection of prints from the renowned Gottesman Etching Center at Kibbutz Cabri in Israel. Jane Glaubinger, curator of prints for the Cleveland Museum of Art, visited Cabri in 2013 and personally selected the works to be displayed. Patrons enjoyed the beautiful, unique prints, which were produced by a variety of traditional and non-traditional techniques. The exhibit showed visitors the innovation coming from Israel with this complex and beautiful art form.

Currently on display in the Roe Green Gallery is The Way We Looked, Photographs of Shtetl Life from the “Petersburg Judaica” archives in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Through our donors' commitment to bringing the arts to Cleveland and connecting to the area’s most well-respected arts institutions, we are being celebrated as an important arts provider and an indispensable partner. Our arts organizational partners have been positive, even effusive, in their appreciation of working with the Federation. With over 30 different institutional partners, including our newest source of support from the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, Israel’s Office on Cultural Affairs, and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, these performances and productions are able to reach larger markets.

In addition to the phenomenal, world-class arts programming, your support helps produce the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection brochure to convey the breadth and depth of the artistic talent and options coming from Israel to Cleveland. This marketing piece goes to over 18,000 households. In advance of the brochure’s distribution, our arts partners call to make sure their organizations and performances are included. This brochure brings the whole Cleveland Israel Arts Connection season together beautifully.

The community – Jewish and general – has been wonderfully supportive of this new endeavor. Our donors' generosity and commitment allows these enormously talented artists are seen for their art, not the perceptions of their country of origin.

For the audiences, these performances and exhibits help Israel become a place of grace, agility, beauty, innovation, passion, and talent. Thoughts of Israel turn from war and controversy to Gil Shaham’s skills, Duo Amal’s harmony, and Kibbutz Cabri’s compelling images. We are changing the conversation about Israel and making it also about a country with a rich culture filled with immensely talented artists.

Together, we are bringing such a fascinating, meaningful, and beautiful discussion topic to Cleveland.

Learn More: Arts, Philanthropy, Israel