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Foundation backs Jewish cultural projects

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LONDON, May 30 (JTA) — A $1 million foundation, the European Association for Jewish Culture, has been established to inject creativity into Jewish life across the continent.

A joint project of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London and the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris, the foundation aims to provide a total of $200,000 a year in grants to artists from more than 25 countries across Europe.

While the association may run some workshops and conferences, its main purpose is to disburse grants of roughly $5,000 apiece to creative individuals in the visual or performing arts, Lena Stanley-Clamp, director of the association’s London office, told JTA.

The foundation is supported by a grant from the European Union’s Culture 2000 program and a charitable foundation based in Europe that has chosen to remain anonymous.

In its first year, the foundation will focus on supporting new plays, visual arts and Jewish periodicals.

The association’s leaders are particularly eager to support cross-border projects, as well as those that involve collaboration among artists from different disciplines and backgrounds.

The association is sending out brochures to academics, museums, curators and theaters to solicit grant applications, Stanley-Clamp said.

“This initiative aims to help a new generation of Jewish artists, whether they are in Manchester, Prague, Budapest, Copenhagen or Rome,” she said.

Jewish organizations across Europe are associated with the initiative, including the Jewish Community of Berlin, the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Jewish studies program of Budapest’s Central European University.

Marcus Freed, a British actor who developed a one-man play based on the life of King Solomon, hailed the establishment of the foundation.

“We’re going through a strong period in Jewish culture in Britain right now, partly because the wider Jewish community recognizes that it takes money” to produce art, he said.

Freed said British Jewish groups are becoming more willing to fund arts projects, and “the more players there are in the game, the better.”

He pointed out, though, that the grants are relatively small.

“It’s important for a grant-making body to be aware of what they can achieve with this amount of money,” he said.

Stanley-Clamp acknowledged that grants of $5,000 might not go far in some European countries.

“It’s intended, to an extent, as seed money,” she said.

Tom Freudenheim, a past chairman and president of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in the United States, was also enthusiastic about the foundation.

Grants to support Jewish arts have been “extremely fruitful,” he said. “Artists need validation. They can’t just work in the dark.”

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