Jerusalem Biennale Festival Aims To Showcase World of Jewish Arts

Six-Week Show Looks To Go Beyond the Kitsch

Start the Show: Dancers perform at the opening of the Jerusalem Biennale.
jta
Start the Show: Dancers perform at the opening of the Jerusalem Biennale.

By Ben Sales

Published September 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — The reader opened with a recitation of Psalm 48 followed by a contemporary poem before yielding the floor to five male dancers, all wearing the standard haredi Orthodox uniform of black pants and white button-down shirt. One had bushy earlocks but no yarmulke.

So began the inaugural Jerusalem Biennale, a six-week contemporary art festival that launched this week and will run through the end of October.

Seeking to combine the best in Jewish and contemporary art, all of the pieces on display — from oversize worry beads bearing words like “Iran” and “militant Islam” to an installation of a Shabbat dinner table — share a single goal: To show that Jewish art reaches far beyond the kiddush cups and menorahs available in synagogue gift shops.

“We wanted an event that maps out what exists today in common between the contemporary art world and the Jewish world,” said Ram Ozeri, the event’s organizer. “I am interested in where the world of Jewish content comes out through art. Because it’s a dominant ingredient in Israeli identity, it doesn’t make sense that it will have no expression.”

Exhibiting in five Jerusalem locations and including works by more than 50 artists, the festival aims to serve as a proving ground for emerging Jewish artists and as an opportunity for more established but still unknown artists to reach a wide audience.

Ozeri is hoping the debut biennale is the first step in a recurring and larger undertaking.

Ken Goldman, a Memphis-born multimedia artist who lives on Kibbutz Shluchot in northern Israel, called the festival “not your grandmother’s challah covers.”

“It’s a chance to get in on the ground,” said Goldman, 53. “We’re a very small community of modern artists dealing with Jewish subjects. It’s a chance to meet the world, show our stuff. I want to have one foot here and one foot there, and be straddling that edge.”

Like many of the works in the festival, Goldman’s piece — a photograph of his arm with the deep imprint of tefillin straps along with the biblical quote “You shall bind them as a sign” — deals explicitly with religious ritual.

Many of the works in another exhibit, at the Heichal Shlomo synagogue, explore the meanings of key phrases in the Torah or abstract concepts like divine holiness.

“It was fun imagining in my head what the rabbis would look like,” said Jessica Deutsch, 22, the youngest artist featured at the festival.

Deutsch is exhibiting a series of nine drawings depicting the first two chapters of the Jewish ethical tract Pirkei Avot.

“In my heart I just consider myself Jewish,” she said. “Projects in my sketchbook will reflect what I’m learning.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.