Israel is a dynamic, complex, and challenging country to understand. The University of Colorado Boulder’s Hillel and the Program in Jewish Studies are presenting two events on the Boulder campus that will explore some of the issues at play in contemporary Israel today. All events are free and open to the public but RSVPs are appreciated. RSVP to Nicholas.Underwood@colorado.edu or call 303.492.7143.
Wednesday, March 21 at 7 PM is a screening of the popular Israeli television series Srugim in ATLAS Center Auditorium with a talk back by Dr. Caryn Aviv, Senior Instructor in Secular Jewish Society & Civilization.
Described as a modern Orthodox Friends, this contemporary Israeli TV drama deals with the lives of five 30-something modern religious singles in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem as they attempt to navigate the frequently contradictory worlds of contemporary Israel and traditional Jewish observance. Srugim – the title refers to the knitted kippot worn by modern Orthodox men – has garnered praise from all corners of Israeli society as well as American viewers who follow the series on-line.
Stories focus on the young group of friends who are trying to establish themselves in the workplace while searching for love. This group of friends includes a graphic designer who photoshops more modest attire onto models in religious product advertisements, a high-powered female accountant who rides a motorcycle, a biblical studies major that struggles with her own faith, a recently divorced grammar teacher, and a doctor with commitment issues. What makes the show unique is the fact that all of these friends are observant modern Orthodox Jews. Many episodes feature Shabbat meals, men and women davening, and men wearing kippot. The show explores the struggles that some of the characters have being religious while trying to date or make a living in contemporary Israeli society.
Srugim’s co-creator and director, Eliezer Shapira and many of its writers and production staff are graduates of Ma’ale, a film school in Israel founded to encourage the production of entertainment sensitive to the nuances of Orthodox religious life. These students and teachers believe that for there to be a vibrant Orthodoxy in Israel, there must be a vibrant Orthodox artistic culture.
Monday, April 2 at 7:30 PM welcomes Jewish Israeli Poet, Author and Activist, Almog Behar to CU’s Old Main Theater on the Boulder campus for an evening discussing his work, his activism, and readings of his latest poetry including “My Arabic is Mute.”
Almog Behar is an Israeli Mizrahi (Jew of Arab descent), award winning writer and poet. He is also an activist involved in the solidarity movement against the eviction of Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Behar is also actively engaged in a vibrant community of Jewish and Palestinian Israeli writers—who write in both Hebrew and Arabic—and has participated in the organization of bilingual poetry readings and publications. His own fiction and poetry explore the connections between Hebrew and Arabic, insist on the importance of Arabic culture in contemporary Israel and highlight the historic and tradition-based connections between Judaism and Islam and Jewish and Muslim communities throughout the Middle East.
Arabic is an official language of the State of Israel, a country usually known for having resurrected Hebrew, and has been since the days of the British Mandate in pre-state Palestine. While Israel maintained Arabic’s official status with the intention of protecting minority rights in a Hebrew-dominated culture, it also marked Arabic as the language of the Palestinian minority, artificially dividing the citizens of Israel linguistically and culturally. As an Arabic speaking Jew, Behar forces us to ask: what about Jews who speak Arabic and embrace Arab culture as their own?
Behar works to break down those cultural divisions through his writing and his activism. From a recent interview with the online magazine for international literature, Words Without Borders, Behar said “…historically and in the day to day, the music and symbols of Judaism, especially Mizrahi Judaism, have a relationship with the music and symbols of Islam, and part of my own search is about exploring this connection.”
Join us for an evening with Almog Behar that will include a conversation with Dr. Zilla Goodman, Senior Instructor and head of the Hebrew language and literature program, about his work as a poet, author and activist as well as readings from his recent work. Complete details can be found at jewishstudies.colorado.edu, hillelcolorado.org/cu or by calling 303.492.7143.
These events and Almog Behar’s visit has been made possible by generous donors to CU’s Hillel, the Program in Jewish Studies and the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project, directed by the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Support for the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project is generously provided by Legacy Heritage Fund Limited.