In the words of Israel Horovitz the playwright, who addressed our 2009 AJT Conference in New York, “Today I am a fountain pen.” He was of course humorously referring to the bar mitzvah boy who prepares for his sacred obligation, but only for all the presents he’ll get.
But for me the gift I have is working for you as your new Executive Director. I don’t say this lightly. I know what a responsibility this is. Active Jewish culture is at an all time high when you look at the online wealth of material through Jewish journals, blogs, music, dance, comedy, film, and performance. Jewish theatre and narrative Jewish performances are also in abundance. I sit on a couple of Jewish arts boards and see what is being produced by so many creative people. I was fortunate to be on Governor’s Island and to lead a workshop for Art Kibbutz in New York City last summer, working with talented artists and burgeoning theatremakers. I am also on the advisory board of the Holocaust Theatre Catalog of the National Jewish Theater Foundation and from these alliances and more — both within AJT and outside, from Jewish and in the general arts world — I see tremendous opportunity.
A vacuum now exists for a cohesive landscape with ongoing collaborations, visionary thinking and strategic alliances. No one is filling that void. So we are ready NOW to move to that new level. We are ready to bring together all that is out there. We are ready to shape the Jewish arts scene with our friends and allies like it has never been shaped before!
When I first came on the AJT Board in Vienna in 2007 I saw and felt a tremendous energy. The AJT Board knew that we needed to be an autonomous organization and when I became president at the next conference in Detroit we decided to formally be a new non-profit, independent in order to reach out to all who shared our vision. It is a vision of Jewish stories that form the core of Jewish identity and it is an inclusive vision of theatre that enriches, expands us both individually and as a culture, and that continues to engage the world over a 4,000 year history.
Our work, with the leadership of the entire board and with Hank Kimmel as president, will be to navigate the plans for our growth, sustainability, and creative opportunities. Over the last few years we have done strategic planning and forecasting and we are ready, as Hank says in his note to you, to go to the next level. We are lucky to have Hank with his multiple skills as a playwright and non-profit lawyer. We are blessed to have the Executive Board made up of truly talented theatremakers. And the members-at-large on the AJT Board provide the eyes and ears of both experience and youth. And we are well-positioned with Eli Taylor as our AJT Coordinator, who has been with us for so many years. We will be forming taskforces on strategic areas and doing AJT Pop-Ups in cities throughout the United States, Canada, and other places in the world – so if you want to be involved either by hosting a pop-up event (we can send you the very easy guidelines) or being on a taskforce of your affinity area, let us know. My email firstname.lastname@example.org is the best way to reach me.
So I will end right now, knowing that there is always too much to say, too many things I want to hear from you, so many confidences as Paul Simon wrote in “Old Friends” — A time of confidences.. Long ago it must be….Preserve your memories. They’re all that’s left you. He must have been writing from his “pintele yid”, his inner Jew, when he wrote this. And as he writes about memory he also is saying to preserve who you are. So as we create the new stages of AJT for the future we will also bring you forward, preserving and enriching who you are as Jewish theatremakers with incredible stories to tell.