Cultural touchpoints

Passover in a pandemic, round two

We have come together across geographical distance to work collaboratively to support artists

Despite the good news of vaccinations on the horizon, it doesn’t change the fact that many of us are facing yet another physically distanced Passover celebration.

In 2020, the reality of the pandemic was new, and many of us scrambled to teach family members how to use Zoom in order to gather for the Seder.

Now in 2021, while life feels far from ‘back to normal,’ we believe that we have all come to a new place that is not just about helping our tradition survive, but enabling it to grow, evolve, and thrive. Because like the eternal story of the Jewish people, our success is in our ability to innovate, collaborate and adapt.

At JArts™ and Asylum Arts, what we have seen over the past year is that this drive to innovate, collaborate, and adapt can lead to greater creativity and impact.

We have come together across geographical distance, to work collaboratively to support artists and bring new art to our Jewish celebrations.

So, here are four digital artistic expressions of Passover that we hope will intrigue, delight, and inspire you this year. Whether or not you are able to be with your loved ones face to face this year, we hope these offerings will elevate your celebration.

Golem v. Golem by artist Julie Weitz

This project is one of three pieces in the CANVAS Dwelling in a Time of Plagues project, a Jewish creative response to the real-world plagues of our time, featuring a constellation of outdoor art installations at museums and sites around the U.S.

Artist Julie Weitz’s Golem project uses the mythical figure of the Golem to explore global crises. JArts and the Vilna Shul, Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture are teaming up to host the installation of this piece, in addition to the 8-part episodic video series that will be released on social media every day of Passover. 

Weitz explains that her piece is the story of My Golem and [her] struggle for justice in a world of tyranny, supremacy, and enslavement. Like the biblical tale of Passover, it is a story of resistance against systemic power and mental narrowness. It is also a story about creation and destruction, the ways in which we mold ourselves into being and the paradoxical consequences of our actions.

A companion literary collaboration, “What We Talk About When We Talk to the Golem,” by Moriel Rothman-Zecher, is produced by the Jewish Book Council. Digital partners include the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. Golem v. Golem by Julie Weitz is produced by Asylum Arts, made possible with the generous support of CANVAS.

Hip Hop Haggadah by Joshua Walters 

This audio storybook telling the story of Passover through diverse hip hop artists is narrated by Walters, who grew up with the music style as his first love and came of age in the Bay Area as a beatbox artist.

This 20-minute audio collage of beats, rhymes and Hebrew examines Passover as a story about slavery and being set free. Much in the same way Egyptian pharaohs or American slave traders sold people into bondage, this storybook directly connects the relationship of African American and Jewish history as similar struggles. Just as a traditional Haggadah has the same overarching story, in the Hip Hop Haggadah, there is a re-mix of storytelling from a multicultural point of view.

Each part of the story is now mixed with the words of MCs who speak from their own experience about the history of oppression and the significance of a religious narrative. This project is part of the Reimagine Exodus project, commissioned by Asylum Arts and JArts.

Drop by Drop by Jacqueline Nicholls

This animation series takes inspiration from the Haggadah’s stage directions to spill wine when mentioning the plagues.

This project explores the grief and loss we have all experienced during this global pandemic. The four cups of wine punctuate this journey, marking the ceremonial beginning that sanctifies this ritual meal, kiddush; to pouring out wine for Elijah, the mythical prophet who will herald an ultimate redemption. We also use wine, specifically the spilling of wine, as a performative gesture to acknowledge loss and destruction during the plagues. In each short animation, wine will be used as a drawing medium, taking as its starting point a text from one of the four cups. Wine will be the ink for the writing of relevant quotes and will distort and play with the text as it falls into illegibility and reveals its shadow self. Part of the Reimagine Exodus project, commissioned by Asylum Arts and JArts.

SEDER. Conspiración femenina. (Female Conspiracy) by Michelle Wejcman

Female characters are central to the Passover story, but their roles are often minimized. Argentina-based theater artist Michelle Wejcman brings us a series of videos, and a live Zoom Seder experience in Spanish (with English subtitles) as part of the Reimagine Exodus project, commissioned by Asylum Arts and JArts.

We hope that these offerings will create a fresh and meaningful connection to the holiday and to each other. So, with wishes for a meaningful Passover, enjoy.

Rebecca Guber is the Director and Founder of Asylum Arts, a global network of nearly 700 multi-disciplinary Jewish artists. She previously was the Founding Director of the Six Points Fellowship. Over the past 17 years, Rebecca has built an international community of artists exploring Jewish ideas through commissions for new work, international retreats, and professional development.

Laura Conrad Mandel, Executive Director of Boston’s Jewish Arts Collaborative, is a public art advocate and social entrepreneur. Laura is a proud Carnegie Mellon fine art alum, and lives in Brookline, MA. She serves on the board of the Council of American Jewish Museums, the MASSCreative Advisory Council, and the JCRC Boston Council.