Closing the Gap Between Jewish Learning and Art

“What’s important is for the artists to feel that this is really feeding them.” Eve Grubin isn’t talking about food—she’s talking about the Jewish learning that goes on at an unusual new program for artists. The Drisha Arts Fellowship, which aims to “revitalize the Jewish community by producing Jewishly knowledgeable artists,” is growing exponentially as artists of all stripes apply.

Drisha known as an educational institution that empowers Jewish women through rigorous text study; for nearly 30 years it has been turning out female graduates who’ve altered the face of Jewish scholarship and teaching. The Arts Fellowship started two years ago with just two students (of whom Grubin, who now does publicity for the program, was one); now there are 16 enrollees— writers, singers, composers, painters, potters, actors, dancers, jewelry makers, musicians, poets, choreographers and visual artists, all accomplished in their fields, including fiction author Sarah Heller, dancer Anna Schön, musician Basya Schecter of Pharaoh’s Daughter, and filmmaker Laura Wiessen among them. Fellows, who can enroll part-time or full-time, join in regular Drisha classes. Depending on interest in and familiarity with Jewish sources, they may study Biblical Hebrew or intensive Talmud. They also meet regularly as a group, both to study a specially selected text, and for “salons” where they discuss their work and their studies. An endof- year event showcases their artistic endeavors.

The Fellowship is clearly enhancing the artists’ professional lives. But the effect goes further. Lia Lynn Rosen, a Fellow alum who has since taken over as educational director for a small New Mexico synagogue, told Lilith that “the integration of the arts into Judaism may not be the way to reinvigorate Judaism, but it’s certainly my way. I think Drisha picked up on that. I think in that way we helped each other.”

“The thing that’s unique about this program is not just that it brings together Judaism and the arts, which I think is a trend right now,” Grubin explains. “It’s the rigorous learning aspect. There’s a real gap between the arts world and the world of Jewish learning. I think it behooves us to close that gap, and that’s what we’re doing here.”