Message from the Director

A priest, a minister, and an Orthodox rabbi are sent into space by NASA for a one-week mission orbiting the Earth. When they land at Cape Canaveral, media from around the world are there to greet them, and ask their impressions of the experience. The priest, looking radiant, tells them, “Seeing the Earth from such a distance truly shows how we all share this planet, and must find ways to inhabit it in peace.” The minister, also beaming, declares, “My faith was deepened even further after I was able to view the majesty of God’s creation in this way.” The rabbi is a different story. Exhausted by the accelerated obligations of praying three times a day while in orbit, he looks as if he had neither slept nor eaten for the entire week. When a journalist asks the rabbi for his thoughts, all he can say are the words for the three daily prayer services: “shakharit-minkhah-maariv, shakharit-minkhah-maariv, shakharit-minkhah-maariv...”

The fall 2012 semester didn’t move quite that quickly for us, but it was sufficiently busy that as soon as one event ended, we moved on to plan the next one. Fortunately, a lot of the legwork was done by partners on and off campus—some with whom we’ve worked before, and others we were happy to collaborate with for the first time. The convergence of the second and final year of our “Roots & Restlessness” programming and UWM’s Year of the Arts has given us an exciting opportunity to explore the arts from various perspectives and in various formats.

Arts programming also opens doors to new audiences who may not have any inherent interest in Jewish Studies per se, but might come to a concert featuring Jewish music, or a Hollywood film that sheds light on World War II, or a presentation on painting or photography. And indeed, along with many familiar faces, we did see hundreds that were new to us. New partnerships with local cultural gems like the Milwaukee Art Museum and Boswell Book Company certainly helped us expand our horizons as well

On campus, our partnership with the Peck School of the Arts—the driving force behind the Year of the Arts—made it possible for us to organize events that could not otherwise have happened. This was particularly true for the Klezmatics concert, which was also made possible by considerable input from an older partner, Hillel Milwaukee. Besides applying successfully for funding that made concert tickets free for all UWM students, Hillel played host to an intimate workshop the day after the concert.

We will continue exploring “Jewish Lives in the Arts” with a number of events in the spring: exciting speakers on architecture and performance, two fascinating French films (with post-film discussions led by UWM faculty members), and a very special exhibit at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, which will bring the work of an important but underappreciated Soviet Jewish artist to our city. As always, the participation of enthusiastic audiences is vital to the success of these events, and we look forward to seeing you.

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Joel Berkowitz
Director, Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies

January 15, 2013