Hazon, the Jewish Lab for Sustainability, has announced the winners of its inaugural art competition, the Shmita Prizes, after collecting nearly 250 submissions from 11 different countries over the course of 10 months.
The Shmita Prizes were inspired by the Jewish calendar cycle of Shmita, a sabbatical every seventh year devoted to rest, community building, and release of traditional work patterns. Shmita takes place every seven years in the Jewish calendar. “Shmita offers a remarkable framework for addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time,” said Hazon’s former CEO and current Global Ambassador Nigel Savage. “Shmita is about our relation to land and food; to community and boundaries; to work, overwork, and rest; and to debt relief and the amelioration of inequality. Each of these topics is a significant issue in contemporary life.”
The Shmita Prizes aimed to engage artists, teachers, and religious leaders from around the world in their own exploration of what a “Shmita ritual” might look like for this unique moment in time, a Shmita year amidst a changing world and global pandemic.
Following an anonymous review process that evaluated submissions on quality, connection to Shmita, and contemporary relevance, Hazon’s panel of expert judges, including author Anita Diamant and musician Alicia Jo Rabins, awarded first place, honorable mentions, and youth prizes across five different categories: Fine Art, Ritual Object, Written Word, Video, and Performance Art / Music / Liturgy.
First place winners will receive a prize of $1,800 each, while honorable mentions will receive $250 each, with at least one youth winner in four of the five categories (these are notated by an asterisk). Winners will be honored at the Hazon gala in May and a virtual award ceremony hosted by Hazon and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel, which ran a parallel Israeli Shmita Prizes.
First Place winners are Mira Burack (Sleeping Huts, Fine Art), Idelle Hammond-Sass (Renewing Shmita, Ritual Object), Benjamin Shalva (The Thistle, Written Word), Levi Selig, Simon Zeitlin and Eitan Marx (Shmitah Brick By Brick, Video)* and Jessi Roemer (Seij Años, Performance Art / Music / Liturgy).
Honorable mentions are awarded to Anna Fine Foer (That’s Not Land, That’s Sky, Fine Art), Rachel Kanter (Community Wimple, Fine Art), Susan L. Brown (Shmita Honey and More, Fine Art)*, Emmet Leader (Imagining A Shmita Bowl: 7 Explorations for Ritual Use, Ritual Object), Rachel Berger, (Mappa, Ritual Object), Mil Wexler Kobrinski (The Giving Fields, Ritual Object), Liz P.G. Hirsch (5781: A Shmita Year , Written Word), Camille Lerner (On Shmita, Written Word), Nikki Skuratovsky (Shmita Within Society, Written Word)*, Raaya Ilovitz and Nava Elias, (Shmita in a Nutshell, Video)*, Alli Fransblow (Shmita safe cake!!, Video)*, Sophia Porath (Shmita Food Rules, Video)*, Yael Goldfeder (Earth Needs Naps, Performance Art / Music / Liturgy), Jordan Lowe (Shmita Prayer, Performance Art / Music / Liturgy) and Eitan Marx (Shmita: The Remedy, Performance Art / Music / Liturgy)*.
Sarah Zell Young, Hazon’s Director of Strategic Partnerships explains why Shmita, a traditional Jewish practice often associated with agriculture, matters to contemporary society: “Traditional teachings about Shmita shed light on a significant range of contemporary issues including rest and work; relationship to land, community, debt and debt relief; definitions of community; and the issue of consumption itself. Thinking about Shmita concepts from 2,000 years ago also means thinking about how just and equitable societies could look today. As with many teachings, Shmita offers a framework for analyzing what is in front of us through the lens of Jewish tradition, peoplehood, and relationship to the world around us.”
The Shmita Prizes are part of Hazon’s larger effort to raise awareness of the Shmita sabbatical year, both in Jewish circles and for the general public, through the Shmita Project, a significant collaboration of a wide and growing range of organizations. Each Shmita Project partner is currently teaching about Shmita or producing programs in association with the Shmita year. Project partners include leading educational institutions (such as the Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem, Hadar, the Shalom Hartman Institute, Limmud, Pardes, Aleph, and 929.org), as well as many Jewish Outdoor Food Farming and Environmental Organization (JOFEE) organizations (Ekar Farm, Jewish Farmer Network, Organic Torah, Pearlstone, Shoresh, Shmita Project Northwest, Grow Torah, and Wilderness Torah). Arts partners include Atiq, the Jewish Maker Institute, Jewish Arts Salon, Gold Herring, and the Greensboro Contemporary Jewish Museum. Sponsors include the Covenant Foundation and a number of individual supporters.