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Statement of Purpose
Why ATARA? Why Now?
Jewish tradition teaches that G-d does not ask us to perform the impossible. If He grants individuals the ability to communicate through theater, music and dance, while also a legal standard by which to live, then creative expression according to these standards is possible. Further, in that the perfect world is the open expression of Divine values, the expression of art according to these values is not only possible, but ideal.
One example of a legal standard applicable to creative expression is the need for female audiences if performers are women. A second example is the assurance that material performed will not contradict the values of Jewish tradition. A third example is the observance of Shabbat for rehearsals, events, classes and performances. These circumstances cannot be guaranteed in the secular performing arts environment. Therefore, special effort is needed to create opportunity and provide support for artists adhering to traditional values.
Without opportunities and support, observant artists may be forced to choose one value over another, G-d forbid abandoning either their commitment to Jewish law, or their art. While the importance of upholding Jewish law cannot be underestimated, artistic expression can also be considered essential for optimal religious service. Arts can be understood as mediums through which to serve G-d, communicate spiritual ideas, and help others. Music, dance, drama, visual art and creative writing have the capacity to bring joy to both those engaged in it and those absorbing it, be used as a tool for education, and improve both emotional and physical health. The abandonment of this important range of expression is untenable for any spiritual community, as is the compromise of Torah values. Living with both is an imperative.
In the last several years, the efforts of observant Jews in the field of performing arts have increased, contributing to the emergence of a global community of artists engaged in similar work. By recognizing our shared goals and finding ways to connect, we can communicate about our work for the purpose of helping each other, as well as strengthening the resources and opportunities for creative work in traditional communities.
In order to strengthen the expression of art in accordance with Jewish law, therefore, the individuals and groups involved in ATARA have created a network for the community of performing artists who adhere to traditional standards. The individuals involved in the ATARA initiative are observant artists worldwide who have created performing art opportunities in traditional communities despite challenges. London, Israel, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Cleveland, Toronto and New York are regions represented in this community-network of observant artists. Together, this group will iyH be able to provide an even stronger framework for the global community of observant artists, providing educational workshops, social and professional communication between artists, and support for creative exploration and development within the framework of Jewish law.
We hope that those previously forced to choose only one value will be able to find a comfortable form of expression within the boundaries of traditional law, that observant artists will have greater resources and opportunities for creative exploration, and that performing art can be used to express Jewish values, adding beauty to the light we wish to share.