Art is a besotting force, not a funding opportunity

Art is a besotting force, not a funding opportunity

Congregation Beth Shalom, Pompton Lakes, Conservative

Amazing. Your article about support for “the arts” (“The arts must be a Jewish communal priority,” June 28) talks not about the actual human need and value of art, but rather the philanthropy of art. It speaks of institution building and auditorium building rather than the experience of the arts as transformative.

To my ears, the recommendations and pleas sound like the synagogues of generations past: raise huge amounts of money, fund and construct concert halls, make your funders happy. I have a vision for the arts in Jewish life that involves transcending the synagogue (and JCC, etc.) buildings with which we have been saddled and that weigh us down so much. The arts are the music and the dance and the theater and the writing that comes from a community besotted by the influence of a gripping force (God, community, justice, whatever) that bids them to transform their lives.

What is left to us from biblical Israel are not the concert halls or even the Temple. What has kept us going is the Bible, the combined literary and poetic opus that remains vital to this day. Fund groups that want to create choreography or perform plays and musicals of Jewish content. Give money to support a guild of creative needleworkers and calligraphers. Fund up-and-coming musical groups to tour and ignite Jewish lives. Rent bergenPAC four times a year for a once-per-season showcase of what the community of the arts is accomplishing.

We need fewer buildings and named institutions. We need more grass roots and participatory activities that encourage the increasing depth of the Jewish spirit.