Members of The Tarbut Community, a group of young Israelis who use the cultural arts as a way to reach out to at-risk youths in Israel, will be visiting communities of the Southern New England Consortium (SNEC), at the end of this month.
Visiting will be Hadas Goldman, CEO of Tarbut, and Yuval Hameiri, a film director, theater artist and actor. Hameiri’s first film, “I think this is the closest to how the footage looked”, won first prize for experimental short documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be screened several times during their visit to the region, which will include stops in Central Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, New Bedford, and Stamford and Westport in Connecticut.
The Tarbut Movement was founded by a group of young artists in 2006. Goldman, 30, who is originally from Jerusalem, is one of those founders.
“We are a group of six artists who finished their army service and decided that instead of starting an artistic career in Tel Aviv, we wanted to live, work and create art combined with education and culture, in the geo-social periphery of Israel,” Goldman said.
The group, all in their 20s and early 30s, reside in Afula, where there are now 30 artists living in an Urban Kibbutz framework.
“During these years we also founded younger groups that have followed in our footsteps, and today we have over 500 artists in groups all over Israel,” Goldman explained. “All of them work day-to-day with thousands of children, youth and adults from disadvantaged backgrounds, to strengthen community life, bring tolerance and understanding into the culture, and create sustainable local leadership. We see ourselves as ‘modern day pioneers,’ directly continuing the shlihut at the core of the Jewish and Zionist values.”
Goldman said that Tarbut works with 2,500 teens on a weekly basis. Their youth organization, Tarbut Youth, run by Tarbut artists living all over Israel, meets in groups in more than 20 cities, to study theater, dance, street art, and music, and to “be involved in their communities, become counselors themselves, and create their own art,” Goldman said.
“Art has the power to affect youth and kids in a very deep and meaningful way,” explained Goldman, whose artistic specialty is acting, producing and directing. “First, studying a certain art form gives them the tools to express themselves in ways that were not open to them before. When a child learns how to sing, to dance, act or write, they have a new doorway to themselves that allows them to access content in their lives that was not open to them before. Through the artistic process they have a vehicle of self-expression that goes deeper than the communication they are accustomed to. Second, being exposed to the arts also gives them the opportunity to learn about how artists throughout history have dealt with different social issues, and have created art as a form of rebellion or resistance to social injustice. Many of the kids and teens we work with come from a disadvantaged, disempowered background, and when they see that artists can create a critical statement or creation, it inspires them to do the same.”
Yuval Hameiri, 27, was born in Haifa. He graduated from “WIZO” School of Art In Haifa and studied in the Tel Aviv University Film & TV department. He joined Tarbut at the age of 24.
As a member of Tarbut, Hameiri works in Afula with underprivileged children and youth through the use of film and photography. He also directs and produces films with the kids and teaches them editing and directing skills otherwise not available to them.
“These days I am thinking about the power art has to make a change, and about my responsibility as an artist. Furthermore, my work as part of Tarbut with teenagers and adults in the city I live in exposed me to the new layers of Israeli society and complex social issues that I try to confront as an educator, and remains with me when I go into my studio,” he said. “Also, as a filmmaker, I see the unique potential film has to reach young people, because of the accessible technology that can be used by unprofessional people as well. I am trying to take advantage of this potential as a filmmaker working in the community.”
In his 10-minute award-winning film, Hameiri said he tried to reconstruct an old memory of the last day with his mother before she died.
“I was 15 when she died, and this moment was really powerful for me,” he recalled. “Although I can say that the film is as much about not remembering as well… for me, no human actors or participants could encompass the essence of this memory, so I decided to use everyday objects for that purpose… But I guess it’s the kind of film that it’s better to watch than to talk about…”
Winning the award at Sundance was a surprise, he said.
“Sundance is a very unique film festival. It’s really about film lovers, and encounters between very talented people from all over the world – including the filmmakers, audience, volunteers, everyone,” Hameiri said. “I saw many beautiful films and I was so honored just to be part of the films participating in the festival. I was especially touched by the personal reactions people had after viewing the film. Of course winning the award was an incredible surprise and joy, but the experiences of the festival far surpassed the excitement of that moment for me… when I remember Sundance, those are the memories that stay with me strongest.”
Hameiri’s film just finished the Sundance Short Film Tour in movie theaters around the U.S. It will be screened at the Boston Jewish Film Festival Nov. 9 and 10.
Howard Borer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass., has been a fan of Tarbut for several years. Eight years ago he and former SNEC chair Rob Adler of Worcester were visiting Israel where they watched a presentation by members of the Tarbut Community.
“The director of our partnership region at the time thought it might interest us. Three of the Tarbut community did a small skit for us and they talked about what their goals and aspirations were for the group,” Borer recalled. “They were a group of people who had recently graduated from the Army and by and large were people from the center of the country who felt that families and children in the periphery of the country often didn’t have the same advantages as those people growing up in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem area of the country. They wanted to use the cultural arts as a mechanism to improve their lives. We thought, ‘Wow, what an amazing story.’ …We came back and presented it to our SNEC committee and everyone thought this was a worthwhile project to support and we have been supporting it ever since.”
Goldman said she and Hameiri are looking forward to sharing Tarbut’s message with members of the Central and Western Massachusetts Jewish communities.
“First, we are always happy to meet new people and communities and tell them about good things that are happening in Israel. It is very important for us to relay the message that there are young people in Israel that are very much committed to making Israel a better, more just society,” she said. “Tarbut and SNEC communities have a long connection, in which SNEC has been supporting projects we run in Afula. We wish to speak directly to the communities about the significance the contributions SNEC had to Tarbut over the years.”
Hadas Goldman and Yuval Hameiri of The Tarbut Community will be in Worcester on Monday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Worcester JCC. The Women’s Philanthropy Division of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. will sponsor the event, which will include a screening of “I think this is the closest to how the footage looked” and a discussion about the Tarbut Community. RSVP: (508) 756-1543. Yuval and Hadas will meet with Worcester’s young adult division for a special Sunday brunch on Sunday, Oct. 26 from 10:15 a.m. – noon. For information on the YAD event, please contact email@example.com.
On Oct. 30, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts will host Hadas and Yuval from 1-2 p.m. at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Massachusetts. The event is open to the entire community.