CCAR  Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly

TOPIC:  The Intersection of The Arts and Judaism


GUEST EDITORS: Rabbi Eve Ben-Ora and Vickie Reikes-Fox

There are those who claim that the Jewish world has entered another Golden Age.  Unprecedented opportunities for creative expression have led to a blossoming of the arts in the Jewish world.  Visual expression, music, fine art and crafts have found their way into the consciousness of the Jews.  Museums with Jewish content are being built or reimagined across the country. With the opportunity to create comes the question of authenticity. 

Judaism has often had a conflicted notion of the visual depiction of ideas.  The second commandment, which prohibits making something in GOD’s image, gives the impression that the visual depiction of human beings must be avoided; all the more so, the visage of the Divine.  The strict rules around not illustrating a Torah scroll provide a clear message of avoiding the visual, while the long-standing tradition of illuminating Megilat Esther gives a different message.  To further confuse the issue, we know of examples where it would appear that the prohibition against worshiping other gods is totally disregarded, i.e. early mosaic floors in synagogues that the symbols of the zodiac.

With this background in mind, the Winter 2013 issue of the CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly will offer the opportunity for reflection on the intersection between the arts and Judaism; who can create Jewish art and who determines what makes the art Jewish.

Some questions to consider:

1.               What makes art Jewish?  Is it the content of the material or the background of the artist? What is the difference between Jewish art and a Jewish artist?  Can Jewish art be created by someone who is not Jewish?
2.               What is the place of creative visual expression in classic Jewish text?
3.               What impact does the Holocaust have on the creation of art and music?  Can creative expression address the experience of the Shoah without diminishing the significance of this period in history?
4.               What is the relationship between the artist, curator, producer, patron and collector?  Who influences whom?
5.               The role of art in synagogue architecture; how are decisions made around what will be used in a congregational setting.  Who makes these decisions and what is the process?
6.               What is the role of memory in artistic expression?  Can photography effectively transmit identity to future generations?
7.               What is the role of architecture in creating sacred space?  What objects should be in the home?  Which ones belong in museum?
8.               What is the role of kitschy Jewish art? Is humor an appropriate expression when creating visual objects for public use i.e. Famous Rabbi cards, bobble head dolls, etc.
9.               The Betzalel School in Israel sought to create a uniquely Israeli form of artistic expression.  Was it successful?  If so, how?  If not, why did it fail?  What is the American equivalent?
10.            What makes Israeli art Jewish?  What makes it Israeli?  What are the issues Israeli artists face when creating for an Israeli audience?  Will diaspora Jews relate to these issues

If you are interested in having an article considered for inclusion in this issue, an abstract  of 100-200 words should be submitted by February 6, 2012 to Rabbi Eve Ben-Ora at or Vicki Reikes Fox at  
You will be notified by March 6 if the full article is requested, or if your abstract has not been accepted. 
A full Journal article is generally 8-14 pages or 2500-4000 words.   Articles will be due by April 23, 2012.

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