Who we are
ATARA is a community of individuals both committed to Torah observance and interested the development and expression of creative talent.
Some of us became observant (BT) after professional training or careers in the arts, while others emerge from within the observant community (FFB). Some of us are performers, others are creators, composers and producers, fostering opportunities for training and performance for many others – some are both. We live predominately in North America and Israel, although can be located anywhere in the world: our founding members are from Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Toronto, Oregon and Efrat, Israel. Conferences have hosted participants from South Carolina, Houston, and Manchester, UK – although typically attract artists without as far to travel…
We look forward to welcoming YOU and hope to bridge the gaps between us to promote the development and expression of talent – wherever it lives – according to Torah values and halacha, and create a more uplifted and beautiful world through our work. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts.
What we do
The individuals and groups involved in ATARA sing, dance, act, direct, produce, compose, paint or illustrate, film, write, perform, create, or any combination of these acts. However, at minimum we are observant of Shabbat, and we range from lenient to stringent in our observance of other halachot related to the arts.
Together, we aim to create an infrastructure for the global community of observant artists, facilitating networking, performance and educational opportunities. We promote both social and professional communication between artists, and in any way we are able, support creative exploration and development within the framework of Jewish law.
Other than the observance of Shabbat for rehearsals, performances and training, additional halachot related to the arts include but are not limited to Kol Isha, female audiences if performers are women, and the use of performance material that does not contradict Jewish values in either content or in the form in which it is employed.
Special effort is often needed to create settings in which Torah will be upheld in artistic fields, and ATARA strives to minimize the obstacles in these pursuits. By recognizing our shared goals, we can iyH help each other in achieving our independent, unique visions, as well as strengthening the resources and opportunities for creative work expressing Torah values as well.
How we started
In 2007, only a handful of opportunities existed in the arts in adherence to Torah, and artists often struggled with observance, sometimes feeling forced into choosing one value or another: Unfortunately, some abandoned Jewish law, and others abandoned their pursuit of art, neglecting gifts Hashem had provided them.
We thus began as a response to this untenable situation. While the importance of upholding Jewish law cannot be underestimated, artistic expression can also be considered essential for optimal religious service. Like any language, the arts are mediums through which to serve G-d, communicate ideas, and help others. Arts have the capacity to bring the Jewish value of simcha, joy, both to those engaged in it and those appreciating it, they are tools for education, and they improve both emotional and physical health. The abandonment of these important channels of expression contradicts basic aims of religion (and certainly unjustified in the name of religion!) Just as we uphold Torah values, we uphold the basic human need for the development and expression of G-d given talent.
Thus, we began our journey to prove that G-d does not ask us to perform the impossible. If He grants individuals the ability to communicate through the arts, while also a legal standard by which to live, then creative expression according to these standards is not only possible, but – in that the perfect world openly expresses spirituality – arts expression according to Torah law is not only possible, but ideal!
The handful of individuals actively creating programs in the arts prior to 2007 met together and devised the “annual conference,” an opportunity to gather in person from various cities to meet, perform, teach and learn – basically to share our talents and visions with each other, and with any audience willing to attend. From there, we began a monthly email newsletter to stay connected throughout the year and raise awareness of arts taking place in all communities of Torah observance. In 2009, we created a CD representing multiple artists with recorded music at the time. And as Facebook became popular, we began a social media group, where members can post, chat and connect independently.
Where we are going
Now, through the internet and social media, we can be more connected and technologically capable than ever before. Our community boasts radio stations and other media outlets for women only, and as the world will iyH become a more openly spiritual place, this community and its talent will only grow and expand.
We simply hope that all who value the dual pursuit of Torah and the Arts will be able to find development and expression of their talents on the level of observance most comfortable and desired. We hope that observant artists will have continually improved resources and opportunities for creative exploration, and that the arts can be widely accepted and employed as mediums to express Jewish values. As Jews, our aim is to serve Hashem in the best way we can – as artists, this includes the beautification of spirituality to our utmost ability.