Jewish Arts and Culture for Hope and Solace

Lou Cove

The CANVAS Compendium: Dispatches from the New Jewish Renaissance

Photo: Ilana Shckolnick-Backal via the PikiWiki – Israel free image collection project

Dear Reader,

Like you, I am horrified by the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza. First and foremost, we encourage everyone to send support to those in need. Jewish Funders Network has created this list of trusted NGOs that greatly simplifies this process. Charity Navigator also has a list of ways to help war victims

What have we seen? How is any of this remotely possible? 

The expression “man’s inhumanity to man” has resurfaced in my mind over and over again these past few days. And though the expression feels biblical, it is actually a line from the 1784 poem “Man Was Made To Mourn” by Robert Burns.

250 years on, a single line from a single poem about the plight of the poor is now a caution to us all to remember our humanity, and to speak out against injustice. It serves as a lasting reminder that while the innocents die and the warriors rage, the artists give voice to our values, and our suffering. 

They also stir our hope. 

Another biblically evocative poem, “Prayers for the Protection and Opening of the Heart” by Ya’akov Hakohen, translated by Peter Cole, attempts the latter:

May the Name send its hidden radiance
       to open the gates of deliverance
to His servants—and shine in their hearts,
which now are shut in silent darkness.

May the great King be moved
       to act in perfection and righteousness—
to open the gates of wisdom for us
and waken the love of old, the love of ancient days.

For those who feel only helplessness and grief, our creative community is doing what it can to provide solace and kinship. You’ll find some examples below, and we’ll share more as they will, surely, become available.

We stand with the people of Israel. We stand for peace. We have no illusions about our power to stop this unthinkable violence, but we believe in the transformative power of the arts to unite us when hope seems lost, and we pray that those in power heed the call: not just for protection, but for the opening of the heart as well. 

Zayt mir ale shtark und gezunt – stay strong and healthy.
Z”l – may their memories be for a blessing.

Lou Cove
Founder and President

Rising Song is gathering online to recite Psalms. Every day this week at 1:15 ET, you can join Hadar faculty in reciting Tehilim. Rising Song also offers their collection of prayer-songs for this difficult time, Songs for Times of Distress. And for those times when language fails: Nigunim for When There Are No Words.

The Jewish Book Council is sharing writers’ first-hand accounts. In the coming days and weeks, JBC will share the accounts of Israeli authors from Israel and elsewhere. They will also share reading lists to help understand this critical moment. The accounts are published here.

The Jewish Studio Project is holding public virtual space. JSP is doing a free, 30-minute creativity session, as well as other public programs to provide inspiration and solace. You can find them all here

Hey Alma is offering a moment of collective grieving. Join the Hey Alma community and Rabbi Emily Cohen for a 20-minute gathering of Jews, Muslims and everyone affected by the violence and bloodshed, Oct 13, 12 pm ET / 9 am PT on Zoom. Hey Alma also collected 50 strategies for coping.

Kveller has a helpful guide for how to talk to children about the war. It has suggestions by age group, and if you’re a parent struggling to explain it to your children, it’s worth a lookKveller also joined the Jewish Education Project for a webinar, “How to Talk to Children about Israel Today”.

The Alliance for Jewish Theatre discussed how to fight antisemitism. AJT and Moment Magazine brought together an illustrious panel of Jewish theatremakers for “How Jewish Theater Combats Antisemitism”.

If you have further examples of how Jewish arts and culture can provide solace and hope in this difficult moment, please let us know. We’d be happy to add to the list. —Ed.

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