Engaging Israel in Our Community: The Arts Programs of the Washington DCJCC

Theater J’s participation in the upcoming J Street Conference is part of a long-established and agency-wide tradition of engaging in conversations about Israeli society through a variety of artistic media, public lectures and policy debates. It is through this legacy of programming that the Washington DCJCC has established itself as a place where conversations about Israel from multiple viewpoints can take place. Because of our expertise in this area, Theater J agreed to participate in the J Street Conference around its discussions of “Culture as a Tool for Change.”

Over the thirteen years we have been at 16th and Q we have tackled almost every hot-button issue in Israeli society either through film, theater, literature, music or visual art. In presenting David Hare’s Via Dolorosa in 2000 we partnered to create the Peace Café in order to create the safe space to discuss many of these highly volatile and deeply felt issues. We have encountered the issue of the West Bank settlements in Motti Lerner’s play, Pangs of the Messiah, and how to confront an Iran with nuclear intentions in Benedictus. We have explored the lives of Israel’s gay and lesbian community through films like Yossi & Jagger, Orthodykes, Trembling Before God and Jerusalem is Proud to Present. We have explored the issue of foreign guest workers in Israel in films like James’ Journey to Jerusalem and plays like The Accident. We have grappled with the on-the-ground reality of relations between Israelis and Palestinians in films like Lemon Tree, The Bubble and Promises. We have shown documentaries that look at the role Palestinian laborers play in the life and economy of Jewish Israel in films like Another Road Home and Nine Star Hotel. On the walls and exhibition floor of the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery in the exhibit “L(A)TITUDES” we have grappled with different artists’ interpretations of the map of Israel and Palestine – showing everything from a map comprised of oranges meant to extend the plight of settlers evacuated from Gaza to the whole of Israel, to an abstract representation of what a two-state solution transport system would look like.

In all of these endeavors we have sought partners with which to discuss the real world issues the artwork raises. We have collaborated with everyone from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Embassy of Israel, Taglit Birthright, the American Jewish Committee and the New Israel Fund, Jews United for Justice and Americans for Peace Now. Now we are partnering with J Street in a conference environment to examine what practical effects artwork and discussion of it have in-practice.  

We’re involved in J Street’s conference not because of its political agenda, but because of its spirited commitment to culture as a tool for energizing discussion and transformation in our Jewish community, and in bringing forth meaningful discourse between communities of different faiths.  The conference, entitled “Driving Change, Securing Peace” is presenting a number of highly informed, creative and committed Israeli and American-Jewish artists who represent a cutting edge, new generation of artists who, like J Street, see themselves as both pro-Israel, pro-dialogue, pro-peace, and pro-open cultural interchange.

While we do not endorse any of J Street’s specific policy positions, we do appreciate the opportunity to be included in the broader discussion they have convened.

Theater J, the professional theater of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center is participating only in the cultural track of the upcoming J Street Conference.  Theater J and the Washington DCJCC do not engage in legislative or political advocacy and our participation should not be construed as an  endorsement or sponsorship of other aspects of the conference or of J Street’s  programs and policies.

Here’s a complete list of the programs Theater J is participating in as part of the cultural offerings at the J Street Conference.

  • Sunday, October 25 at 5:15 pm : Pre-Conference Event – Arts and Activism in Troubled Times

A panel made up of artists active in Middle East issues, as well as artists involved in social causes on a local, national, and international stage. Presented by Theater J following the 3 pm matinee of Lost in Yonkers

  • Monday, October 26 at 8:00 pm:  Music – Rocking the Status Quo Party with JDub’s Soulico

Soulico, a DJ crew from Tel Aviv, is literally one of the biggest names there.  The music is a unique mix of hip-hop, Middle Eastern melodies, dancehall, and electro, in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.  Their debut album Exotic on the Speaker, is being released in October.  The group appeared at the Washington Jewish Music Festival in 2008, as have many JDub Bands throughout the years.

  • Television – John Marks and Search for Common Ground

Search for Common Ground’s founder John Marks discusses the groundbreaking soap operas that promote tolerance and reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians.  The innovative peace building organization is the second largest producer of soap operas in the world.

  • Storytelling – Noa Baum’s A Land Twice Promised

Storyteller Noa Baum, an Israeli who began a heartfelt dialogue with a Palestinian woman while living in the U.S., weaves together their memories and their mothers’ stories. She creates a moving testimony illuminating the complex and contradictory history that surround Jerusalem for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

  • Short Film – Other Israel Film Festival presents 6.5 Minutes in Tel Aviv, Shnaim, and Roads

Founded in 2007, the Other Israel Film Festival, a program of the JCC in Manhattan, fosters awareness and understanding of Israel’s Arab citizens. Two short films from the festival explore the complex and unexpected connections between Israelis and Palestinians. Join Festival Director Isaac Zablocki for a conversation about the films and the festival.

  • Documentary Film – Just Vision previews Budrus Has a Hammer (working title)

In this upcoming documentary, a Palestinian community organizer unites political factions in a Gandhian struggle to save his village. Just Vision staff Ronit Avni, Julia Bacha, and Irene Nasser present selected scenes from this timely, powerful documentary and lead a discussion with the audience.

Later this season, Theater J will present its annual Voices From A Changing A Middle East Festivalwhich will continue to give voice to a variety of Israeli, American-Jewish, and Arab and Muslim-American writers, involving collaborations between Israeli and American designers, directors and more. In addition to our mainstage production, Hadar Galron’s Mikveh, Theater J will present additional readings by contemporary Israeli playwrights including: Savyon Liebrecht’s Apples from the Desert.  Readings will take place at both Theater J and the Embassy of Israel’s Jerusalem Hall.

And in case you haven’t heard, the 20th Washington Jewish Film Festival will be presenting the best in current Israeli cinema, beginning on its Opening Night on December 3rd, with the DC Premiere of A Matter of Size.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you Theater J for standing by your participation in the J Street Conference!

  2. […] the professional theater arm of Washington DC’s Jewish Community Center. (Mark our words, the remarkably cosmopolitan and relevant Theater J is likely going to have to fight for its survival now that right-wing gatekeepers have discovered […]

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