Israeli Academic Cultural Programs

American friends of Israel are working hard to keep that country’s presence felt in positive ways in American universities. From the cutting edge Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island to numerous “Israel studies” programs on campuses (also in the UK), to this Israeli artists-in-residence program I learned about last week, they are seeking to weave Israel into the tapestry of the American academy, at a time when Israel’s critics are seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state.

Below are excerpts of press release last week promoting the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Israel Institute. Schusterman, a Zionist organization, has helped create Israel Studies departments at schools around the country, reportedly pressured Ruth Messinger and the American Jewish World Service to sponsor a pro-Israel trip, and has sent many congresspeople to Israel too, through the AIPAC arm, the American Israel Education Foundation. From the press release:

Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program kicks off, bringing prominent Israeli artists to teach at top universities across the U.S.

10 prominent Israeli artists to arrive on U.S. campuses this school year for residencies to help bring contemporary Israeli culture to a wider audience

Washington, DC, September 10, 2013 — The 2013-2014 track of the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program has officially kicked off, bringing 10 Israeli artists for residencies at top universities across the United States. The Program, an initiative of the Israel Institute, a DC-based academic institute aimed to enhance the study of modern Israel, brings Israeli artists—among them filmmakers, choreographers, musicians, writers and visual artists—for residencies at top universities and other cultural organizations in North America.

The idea of the Visiting Artist Program is to foster interaction between the artists and the communities in which they are based, exposing a broader audience to contemporary Israeli culture. The Program was founded in 2008 by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which is part of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network.

“What makes The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program unique and so effective is that it allows members of the host community and the visiting artists to connect in a variety of settings—from formal to informal, Jewish to non-Jewish over a significant period of time, rather than the more traditional one-off experience,” says Marge Goldwater, the program’s director. “As we look back on the first five years, we see that the success of the residencies has prompted host institutions to find ways to bring Israeli cultural leaders to their communities after the Schusterman artist has left.”

Since the program began in 2008, there have been 42 residencies at colleges and universities across North America. To date, 47 artists have participated, among them, a recipient of The Israel Prize, Israel’s most prestigious award; an Emmy nominee; numerous recipients of Israel’s highest literary awards; and many winners of multiple Israeli Oscars.

“The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists program is the bridge between the Israel Institute’s academic and cultural programing. These visiting artists provide more than just classes that teach skills; these artists provide a window into the heart of Israel,” said Ariel Roth, Executive Director of the Israel Institute. “Cultural education provides insights into the fabric of a society in the way that other courses cannot and the understanding of students enrolled in these classes is deeper and more enriched as a result.”

The artists in this year’s program are:

· Dror Burstein, 43, an award-winning Israeli novelist, who will be in residency at Clark University and the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts this fall semester. Burstein will be teaching a course, Israeli Culture as Reflected in Hebrew Literature since the 1970s, at Clark. In addition, he will also teach a course on Genesis in Art and Literature at Holy Cross.

· Noemi Schory, a renowned Israeli documentary film director and producer, will be in residence at the University of Minnesota this upcoming fall semester. On campus, Schory will be teaching a course, The Holocaust in Film: Recent Israeli and German Documentaries, which will trace the path of documentary representations of the Holocaust. In addition, Schory will also speak at the Jewish Community Centers in the area, at Carleton College, and other public venues.

· Oded Ezer, 41, a critically acclaimed Israeli graphic artist and typographer with an international reputation, will be in residence at the Rhode Island School of Design this fall semester. On campus, Ezer will be teaching a course on typography…

· Gilad Ratman, 38, one of Israel’s leading visual artists and Israel’s representative this year at the Venice Biennale, will be in residence at SUNY Purchase this fall semester. On campus, Ratman will be working with both undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Art and Design, lecturing and offering workshops and critiques, and he will also participate in events at the Neuberger Museum of Art, where his work will be on view.

· Talia Beck, 33, an acclaimed Israeli dancer and choreographer, will be in residence at the University of Kansas this fall semester, where she will be teaching dance and speaking about her own career and the dynamic dance culture in Israel….

· Gabriella Barouch, 28, an award-winning Israeli Illustrator, will be in residence at Lehigh University this fall semester. On campus, Barouch will be teaching two courses – Journal Diary and Illustration and Text.

· Almog Behar, 35, an award-winning Israeli fiction writer and poet, will be in residence at Cornell University and teaching a course, Literature of Jews from the Arab-Islamic World, and hosting a roundtable discussion on contemporary Israeli literature with Israeli writers that will be broadcast at select college campuses, including Cornell.

· David Fisher, 57, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, will be in residency at Yale University this upcoming spring semester. He will be teaching a course on world documentary and working with his students on their senior year films.

· Dan Chyutin, 35, a filmmaker and film historian, will be in residence at American University spring semester. On campus, Chyutin will be teaching a course titled, Israeli Identities through Film.

· Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, 41, 42 respectively, will be in residence at Rutgers University the spring semester. Sheinfeld and Laor, who have been collaborating together since 2004, combine contemporary dance with performance-art and physical theatre. … At Rutgers they will be offering classes on technique and advanced improvisation and performance.

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