by Dan Brown
The Tel-Aviv nightclub, Ha-Oman 17, recently played host to “Taglit Art 2012″, a festival of modern Israeli art and culture, that brought together 800 Taglit-Birthright Israel participants from the countries of the Former Soviet Union.
Four separate break-out areas were dedicated to avant-garde Israeli music; theater and multidisciplinary arts; Israeli fashion; and an exhibition of modern visual arts. Guests snacked on falafel and shakshuka while meeting Russian-speaking Israeli artists and designers. Interestingly, the most energy was not found on the dance floor, but in the artist presentations.
The festival event was superbly designed, and implemented, by the Tel Aviv based Fishka House organization.
Addressing the attendees, MK Limor Livnat, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, stated that since the First Aliyah of the 19th century through the much larger wave of new immigrants in the 90s, Russian-speaking immigrants have always been an integral part of Israeli culture as creators and trendsetters.
“Further proof of this is the gifted artists who are with us tonight – their language is Russian, their creations are Israeli, and their success is international,” she said.
While young Jewish adults around the world have many similarities, they also have unique cultural interests and needs. This is particularly noticeable with the Russian-speaking demographic who travel to Israel with Taglit. Like the Limmud FSU festivals, Taglit has found a benefit in “tinkering” with the well-established program to provide unique experiences for participants. High on the agenda of many, what are Russian-speaking Israelis “doing right here, right now.” And since some think about aliyah, there is an above-average interest in how one might build their career, and their home, in Israel.
There are meaningful differences in mind-set of those traveling from the FSU compared to participants from western countries. While many have previously visited family, their perspective is much narrower. Israel, and the Jewish world, do not appear in the FSU media to the degree they do in the West. University life offers neither the variety of Jewish programs, nor the discourse on regional politics, found in other parts of the world. In general, only those who attended a Jewish day school as a youngster have had any exposure to Jewish holidays or customs. Those at the forefront of planning programs aimed at this demographic, including Fishka, Limmud FSU, Taglit and Genesis Philanthropy Group, all recognize these differences, and plan programs accordingly.
During the 10 day program, also with the assistance of the Fishka House community, many of the groups had the opportunity to explore a young, vibrant Tel Aviv – one specifically tailored to this Russian-speaking audience.