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!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • 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.