Compass

Jewish Centre for Culture and Art Belgrade

Grant Awarded: 
2013
Country: 
Serbia (Belgrade)
Areas of activity: 
Adults,
20’s and 30’s,
Teens,
Families,
Students,
Interfaith
Background: 

The Jewish Centre for Culture and Art (JCCA) was founded in Belgrade in 2006 to offer innovative educational programs, creative workshops, music events and interactive theatre for Jewish youth. The JCCA provides a platform for young Jewish artits to present their work, explore different aspects of their Jewish identity.

The establishment of the JCCA was prompted by a need to respond to the reality faced by Jewish communities in Serbia as well the former Yugoslavia as a whole, which are all characterized by small Jewish populations with low rates of affiliation and severe pressure to assimilate into a larger national culture. In light of these challenges, efforts by Jewish communities to reach out to young Jews through formal educational provisions have yielded only limited success. Therefore the JCCA has been focusing its efforts on cultural programmes including art, literature, music and theatre which are less ‘threatening to unaffiliated Jews because of their universal and humanistic messages. Moreover, the JCCAs projects also seek to build tolerance and reconciliation among different religious and ethnic minorities in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia.

The JCCA’s flagship project, the Jewish Ethno Fusion Fest, is a music festival that promotes the diverse musical heritage of Jewish communities in Eastern European as well as other marginalized minorities in the region. Last year the festival showcased the work of more than 30 artists from seven countries and more than 3000 people attended concerts that were held in the yard of the Belgrade synagogue for one week. Its theatre productions such as Blonde Jewish Girl touch upon many aspects of Jewish life, especially the customs and religious traditions of Jews in the Balkan. Over the years the JCCA has also collected and revived many traditional melodies and prayers of the region. These have been reintegrated into the regular prayer services of the Serbian Jewish community.

In the coming year, in addition to running the Jewish Ethno Fusion Fest, the JCCA would like to stage a new play, Golda’s Balcony about the Golda Meir’s journey from impoverished Russian schoolgirl to prime minister of Israel. It would also like to produce a CD of rare recordings of rabbis from Belgrade, Sarajevo and Prishtine. The recordings were the basis to the revival of traditional prayers and songs into the synagogue service. These prayers for the High Holiday (slichot) and religious songs (piyutim) are unique as they are in Hebrew and Ladino and some are influenced by a rare Ashkenazi liturgy. The CD will be used in workshops across the former Yugoslavia that would introduce Jewish musical within the wider context of local music.

Capacity building project: 

The JCCA is an impressive organization because of its professionalism. It successfully fulfils its dual purpose of on the one hand preserving local Jewish culture and tradition by documenting, recording and reintroducing Jewish religious music into community service and on the other hand exposing non-Jews in the former-Yugoslav region to Jewish culture, history and tradition. The people involved in the JCCA are active and practicing Jews as well as professional artists and musicians involved in their communities, as well as accomplished artists. This provides their programmes authenticity and vibrancy.

Number of employees:

1 full-time,
3 part-time