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Boston Jewish community drops arts center plan

BOSTON (JTA) — Boston’s Jewish community has abandoned a plan to build an $80 million arts and cultural center to be designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.

The plan for the New Center for the Arts and Culture, announced in 2004, as well as other cultural projects slated for development on the newly created Rose Kennedy Greenway, was dropped due to a lack of funding.

In the current economy, the decision not to build was a relief, acknowledged Francine Achbar, the center’s executive director.

“The business we were always in was gathering programs and offering cultural experiences seen from the Jewish perspective,” she said.

New Center will continue to host its programs in venues throughout the city, she told JTA.

“Of course we are disappointed,” Libeskind told JTA in an exclusive statement read in a phone conversation from Milan by Nina Libeskind, the architect’s wife and chief operating officer of Libeskind’s New York-based studio.

Libeskind, designer of the rebuilding of Ground Zero in New York, the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, commended the New Center as an institution that promotes tolerance.

“It would have been a perfect fit to activate the Rose Kennedy Greenway,” he said in the statement.

Libeskind concluded in the statement that in tough economic times, it is “ironically precisely the moment when one needs culture the most, when one needs stamina, belief, and faith in the future. We will remain committed to this idea and hope that at some point it will be revived.”

The New Center effort was launched originally in a collaboration between the Greater Boston Jewish Community Centers and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies to bring cultures together through the arts. The idea was based on research that showed that the arts, and Jewish arts and cultural programs, would attract many Jews who are not otherwise engaged in Jewish organizations.

That idea continues to shape New Center’s programs, Achbar said. A program last week titled the “Great God Debate” — between Rabbi David Wolpe and writer Christopher Hitchens — sold more than 900 tickets. An Israeli film series attracted young Jews in their 20s and 30s, from Orthodox to non-religious, Achbar said.

 

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