New Jewish “Texts”

I think [creating new Jewish texts] is a really good description of what we’re trying to do. These days we’re increasingly creating products that are intended to be shared on the web. We’ve felt and continue to feel that this medium, and virtual communication as a whole, is being under-tapped for its possibilities for making art.


And that’s one of the main things we’ve tried to accomplish in working with young people—try and figure out how they are using online tools to communicate and try and harness those tools to create coherent artistic expressions in a form that feels authentic and native to the maker. This is supported by all kinds of data showing that most people who view and consume media on the internet also create, and that’s most true for this age group of 18-29. So it has been really exciting to see what kinds of forms people in this age group can come up with. Obviously, Jews are not unique to this phenomenon. However, one of the things that we’ve been interested in doing lately is collaborating with scholars to ask, “What can be Jewish about the way these tools are used?”.

One scholar shared a theory with me that the printing press created all of these revolutions in Jewish thought and the way that Jews looked at textual analysis. And what’s happening now is analogous in some ways. The technology is forcing people to look at questions of ownership and questions of cultural transmission; to think of ways that we look at texts and share texts and learn from texts. And texts can be brought into multimedia through video and photo stills and images. Increasingly, we’ve got these phenomenal archival resources available to us to organize and remix and communicate with. And that’s very exciting in the Jewish world, and also underutilized. There’s been a lot of expenditure of money and energy in digitizing the Jewish record from genealogy to literature to photos, and increasingly film. Now, we’re at this moment when we can unlock all of that and remix it and make it relevant.

On the NJFP.org website, we have a project called “Half-Remembered Stories.” One is a “choose your own adventure” story, like what we read as kids. The maker of the project researched her own family story, so visitors navigate through history as her great-grandmother. But only one thread is what actually happened, and there’s a video at the end that shows the factual history. The other threads are ones that the filmmaker researched about decisions Jews were faced with during the 20th century and how they responded to those decisions. So it’s an amazing combination of deep historical research and personal expression. And the third benefit is that it’s very sharable: it’s a game you can play, so this is an example of documentary gaming, which is a completely new form.

Instead of thinking about filmmaking as one person communicating with many people, it really becomes a joint community endeavor. You’re constantly thinking about questions of collaboration and questions of education, such as, “How do I research and what’s my responsibility as a researcher in terms of factual accuracy?” You think about all of these questions of individual roles vs. community responsibility and community sharing. Covenant has been uniquely forward thinking in embracing art as a way to explore these kinds of questions, and I’m very grateful for that.

Grant Results

Grants that have been completed between 2000 and 2007 are described with an eye toward what of the project remains in the field and the effect it has had on its host institution and the community for which it was designed. It is the belief of the Foundation that the impact of a grant cannot be judged until the funding has been completed for about three years.

  • Avoda: Objects of the Spirit The grant funded the creation of a program combining the exhibition of a teaching artist (Toby Kahn) with workshops for teens and young adults in nontraditional locations. The goal of the program...
  • Living Museum Project Organization : Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust Grant Year : 2005 Project Director: Ivy Barsky Type of Grant: Signature Grant Amount:...
  • The Jewish Lens: Exploring Values and Community through Photography Organization : The Jewish Lens Grant Year : 2007 Project Director : Zion Ozeri Type of Grant : Signature, Expansion Grant Amount : $120,000 (Signature, 2007), $25,000...
  • The New Jewish Filmmaker Project Organization: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival Grant Year: 2002 Project Director: Samuel Ball Type of Grant: Signature Grant Amount: $60,000 Website:...
  • View from the Balcony Organization: Eldridge Street Project Grant Year: 2002 Project Director: Hana Iverson Type of Grant: Signature Grant Amount: $15,000 Website:...
  • Welcome to the Talmud! (A Musical Tale) Organization : MAQOM Grant Year : 2002 Project Director : Judith Z. Abrams  z'l Type of Grant: Signature Grant Amount : $5,000 Website: http://www.maqom.com/...
On the Horizon

A space to spotlight ideas that look promising, or lessons learned from active grants that have not yet been evaluated. Although the grants are still in process, in each case something worthy of note has arisen.

  • Hanan Harchol: Jewish Food for Thought Artist, Animator, Director and Musician, Hanan Harchol created and disseminated Jewish Food for Thought , a 12-episode animated series that incorporates Jewish teaching into accessible and...
  • Re-Imagining Jewish Education through Art Re-Imagining Jewish Education through Art enabled Yeshiva University Museum to reconfigure, refine, and expand its pilot program of creative aesthetic education based on the Lincoln Center...
  • Studio G-dcast As a result of an annual, intensive, week-long Media  Beit Midrash , student animators and storytellers developed filmed stories of the Minor Prophets.
  • The Complicated Lives of Biblical Women: An Arts-Based Curriculum The Complicated Lives of Biblical Women is an innovative, arts-based curriculum about the women of Torah for teens and adults structured around “ Girls in Trouble ,” an indie-folk song cycle...
  • The Creative Collaborators Project: An Arts and Social Justice Program The Creative Collaborators Project: An Arts and Social Justice Program enabled the creation of a community arts and social justice program and piloted arts integration for Orthodox girls...

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