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New Foundation Gives Grants to Cultural Projects Across Europe

January 29, 2002
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Enrico Fink is a Florence-based musician, singer and theater director working on a stage production based on the biblical book of Jonah.

Mira Zelechower-Aleksiun is a painter in Wroclaw, Poland who is preparing an exhibition of works exploring the loss and rediscovery of Jewish life in her country.

Hannah Spliid is a painter and stage designer in Copenhagen working on a project that will use the life of Bezalel, the first artist mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, to explore the quest for meaning.

The three are among more than 30 artists, writers, musicians and performers who have won the first grants from a new foundation set up to promote Jewish cultural creativity in Europe.

The European Association of Jewish Culture, an independent body established last year by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London and the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris, has just announced 33 grants totaling more than $200,000.

Individual grants range from $3,330 to $11,000 and have been awarded to artists and projects in 12 countries across the continent — Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain.

Selected from scores of applications, the winning projects “demonstrate that it’s possible to recruit a new generation of artists and cultural producers from among European Jews,” said the treasurer of the EAJC, Barry Kosmin. “These grants represent an investment in creative talent.”

Winning projects include 14 plays and works of choreography dealing with the Jewish experience; 13 exhibitions in painting, sculpture, photography, installations and video art reflecting the Jewish experience; and six European Jewish periodicals that received grants to finance new and translated articles, essays and short stories.

One such winner was the Budapest Jewish monthly Szombat, which received a grant to produce a special issue on Central Europe.

“The issue will explore what happened after the fall of communism, what kind of Jewish cultural revival has emerged in the region,” Szombat’s editor, Gabor Szanto said. “We could not publish such an issue without a grant.”

One of Szanto’s short stories will be published in another grant-winning publication, the quarterly Italian Jewish scholarly journal La Rassegna Mensile di Israel, which received an award for a special issue on European Jewry since the fall of communism.

Lena Stanley-Clamp, director of the London office of the EAJC, said she is particularly pleased that a large proportion of the grants were made to artists, performers and writers in former communist countries, like Hungary, where Jewish expression was stifled for decades after the Holocaust.

“It’s significant that the number of grants going to Hungary — six — is matched only by the number of awards in France and the U.K.,” she said.

“What this tells us is that Budapest has re-emerged as a major center of Jewish cultural life,” she said. “Being able to support the Jewish cultural re-awakening across the European continent is extremely rewarding.”

A full list of grant winners and details about their projects can be found on the EAJC’s Web site,

Survey shows positive image

for Jews in the United States WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (JTA) — Looking good, Jews.

Jews are considered by other ethnic groups to be hard-working, intelligent and strongly committed to family, according to a study released Jan. 24 by the American Jewish Committee.

Between 27 percent and 30 percent of non-Jews report contact with Jews at work, school or in the community, the report says.

Fifty-eight percent of non-Jews say they know a Jew, and 28 percent feel close to one.

The research also shows that people have a poor understanding of the number of Jews in the United States, with respondents estimating on average that Jews make up 18 percent of the population. The actual figure is close to 2 percent.

The study was authored by Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The study is one of a number of research projects conducted by the AJCommittee on relations among religious, racial and ethnic groups.

Kenneth Jacobson, associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Jews are considered an integral part of American culture, but are still able to maintain a distinct identity.

“I see that as cultural pluralism at its best,” he said.

In fact, Jews are perceived in more positive terms than whites in general, the report shows.

The study looked at ethnic images of whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Jews.

Overall, Smith notes that intergroup relations have improved over the years, as Americans have become increasingly supportive of racial and ethnic equality.

But negative ethnic images remain common, and intergroup interaction is still limited, Smith warns.

Jews increasingly are more accepted in society, Jacobson said, but people “shouldn’t think old stereotypes don’t exist.”

In a 1998 ADL survey, 12 percent of Americans were identified as anti-Semitic.

Negative stereotypes are alive, according to Mike Wenger of the Network of Associations for Bridging Race and Ethnicity Institute at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

With America becoming increasingly diverse, it’s more urgent than ever to improve intergroup relations, Wenger said.

Smith believes that attitudes about groups are formed when people are young. Interaction with parents and friends during youth make up the “formative layer of race relations,” he said.

Wenger acknowledged that concept, but also stressed the importance of media, education and peer pressure on intergroup understanding.

Americans have become more tolerant in their views on intergroup relations over the last decade, according to the survey.

In 1990, 16 percent of non-Jews said they would object to a relative marrying a Jew, compared with 13 percent in 2000. Only 9 percent said they would object to living in a majority-Jewish neighborhood, compared with 14 percent in 1990.

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