Enhancing the Legacy: The Creative Arts Program

Throughout all his years at Valley Beth Shalom, Rabbi Schulweis has sought to realize his vision of the synagogue as a locus of Jewish creativity and artistic expression.  He continues to demonstrate a deep commitment to broaden the place of the arts in Jewish life, and most particularly, in the life of the synagogue.

The vision for the Creative Arts Program is to deepen our religious experience and memorialize our ritual by enriching it with visual arts, performing arts, music, and literature.   The program encourages artists in all media to share their gifts with the synagogue community, as a model of the value of the arts.  The Creative Arts program encourages artists in all disciplines to share their gifts with the synagogue community. Composers, musicians, photographers, dramatists, authors and painters have been sponsored by the Schulweis Institute to deepen and share their visions and creations with the synagogue

In this quotation, Rabbi Schulweis emphasized the intertwining between the cultural and ritual fabrics of Judaism: “The word for song in Hebrew is shirah, which means poetry and, according to the mystical tradition of Gematria, shirah has a numerical equivalence of 415. Tefillah, which means prayer in Hebrew, also has a numerical equivalent of 415. To sing is to pray, and to pray is to sing.   As the poet sang: ‘God made the world with rhythm and rhyme, the very soul of song is woven into the skein of life.’   Much of the original poetry written by Rabbi Schulweis can be found in the Online Library in this web site under the keyword “poetry,” some of it combined with the music of Aminadav Aloni.

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  VBS was the formative home for Aminadav Aloni and his creation of a great archive of Jewish music for solo voice, choir,and orchestra.  Ami was recognized as a gifted composer with whom VBS was blessed with a 30 year association. With the encouragement of Rabbi Schulweis, a distinct liturgical voice was fashioned for the congregation. Aloni’s works, some in collaboration with Rabbi Schulweis, have spread worldwide, increasing awareness, pride and consciousness of the beauty of Jewish music and its power to enhance the religious experience.  The Aminadav Aloni Music Foundation has been established to gather and publish the vast treasure of Ami’s repertoire.  Many of these compositions can be heard on www.alonimusic.org.
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JCCC, Performance at JWW 2
  Fulfilling the lifelong  vision of Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis and with the support of the Schulweis Institute, Dr Michelle Green Willner founded the Jewish Community Children’s Choir (www.jewishchildrenschoir.com) in 2011.  The choir’s success in bringing together children from different tracks of Judaism has proven Rabbi Schulweis’ passionate belief in the power of combining Jewish tradition and music as a means to overcome barriers to discourse.  Rasing their voices in harmony, the children in the JCCC represent a cross-section of the many denominations in the Jewish Community of Los Angeles.  Its members attend public schools, private Jewish day schools, charter schools as well as being home-schooled.  For some of these students, the JCCC is their only connection to Jewish culture.  The JCCC focuses on teaching children how to read music and how to perform professionally by  inspiring a new generation in the singing of Jewish choral compositions, both old and new.  The JCCC performs at venues throughout Los Angeles, enriching the broader community with new music, new repertoire and new memories.
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  Valley Beth Shalom, in launching a new initiative of bringing art in its many forms into the synagogue, was proud to present Faces of Homelessness: Painting the Unseen Among Us. The Harold M. Schulweis Institute was the lead sponsor of this exhibit as part of its Creative Arts Program.This art exhibition featured 25 portraits by artist and clinical psychologist, Dr. Stuart Perlman, with accompanying personal stories, narratives about homelessness and texts from the Jewish tradition that speak to the issue. This initiative converts the walls of the synagogue into galleries that promote Jewish values by exhibiting artists and works that seek to transform lives and raise social conscience.  The exhibition included a “what you can do” section and informational brochures with programs intended to alleviate homelessness in Los Angeles. The exhibition ran through December 2013 and was free of charge.  Click on the picture to feel the impact of these portraits and their stories.