In every artistic and scholarly field, a new generation is exploring Jewish cultural identity. Through the Jewish Endowment for the Arts and Humanities and the Jewish Cultural Achievement Awards, the NFJC provides the resources and encouragement for this new creativity. An example is the Fund for Jewish Documentary Filmmaking, created with a lead grant by the Righteous Persons Foundation established by Steven Spielberg, which has provided finishing funds for 14 films.
Another effort is the New Play Commissions in Jewish Theater, which has underwritten the initial development of more than 31 plays to 26 theaters in 10 states.
Groundbreaking conferences and festivals stimulate the work of individual Jewish artists while nurturing the fields in which they work.
In Northern California, with its high level of cultural and intellectual sophistication, a special relationship between the community and the foundation has led to influential programs such as "Writing the Jewish Future."
Past Bay Area activities include the 1988 international Jewish writers' conference in Berkeley and support for the work of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
Others include collaboration with the Jewish Museum San Francisco and Judah Magnes Museum through the NFJC's Council of American Jewish Museums, and major funding for the local ensemble A Traveling Jewish Theatre. Completion funds were made available for the documentaries "Blacks and Jews" and "The Return of Sarah's Daughters," both by local Jewish filmmakers.
With its network of artists, scholars and Jewish cultural presenters, NFJC has helped federations, synagogues, JCCs and other community institutions address issues of Jewish identity.
It does this through community- and synagogue-based artist-in-residence programs that reach thousands of people. Local cultural professionals receive training in the fields of museums, theaters, archives and libraries and cultural presentation. Local Jewish organizations receive guidance on cultural strategies, resources and programs.
In all these ways, the Foundation aspires to help communities understand and maximize their own cultural potential. In the last three years, the NFJC has developed weeklong artist residencies in Tucson and St. Louis, and year-long, synagogue-based programs in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.
In addition, the NFJC, in conjunction with the S.F.-based Institute for Community & Religion and the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Jewish Studies, has begun an unprecedented study of Jewish culture in America, using San Francisco as a special focus (see Page 15).
The NFJC also promotes Jewish studies on college campuses. Over the past 30 years , the doctoral dissertation fellowships in Jewish studies have supported more than 400 promising students, and have been a generative force in the development and growth of Jewish studies in the United States. Most of the top U.S. scholars in Jewish studies have received the NFJC's doctoral dissertation fellowships. As Professor Yosef Yerushalmi of Columbia University said when he received the NFJC's coveted Jewish Cultural Achievement Award for Historical Studies in 1995: "This one investment was responsible for my entire career."
The Council of Archives and Research Libraries in Jewish Studies is the national clearinghouse for issues dealing with cultural and scholarly preservation. The Fund for Jewish Cultural Preservation, the NFJC's newest grants program, supports projects and programs in the preservation of the Jewish material culture and will coordinate Jewish federation funding to the community's major cultural institutions nationwide.
For more information on the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, call (212) 629-0500, or e-mail: NFJC@Jewishculture.org
The organization can be found on the World Wide Web at www.Jewishculture.org