Judaica Division Hosts Conference on Israeli Culture

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Israeli composer Gil Shohat discussed Israeli music during a conference organized by the Judaica Division. Shohat also premiered a new composition during the conference.


November 6, 2008 - To commemorate Israel's 60th anniversary, the Judaica Division of the Harvard College Library held a three-day conference, "60 Years of Israeli Culture: Creativity and Documentation," last month at the Harvard Faculty Club. The conference was intended to bring together leading figures on the Israeli cultural scene�including creators, scholars and curators�to discuss the state of Israeli culture in an intensive "think tank" type of meeting.

At the same time, the conference highlighted the leading role of the Harvard Judaica Collection in the documentation of Israeli culture; Harvard has the largest collection of Israeli and Israel-related materials outside of Israel, including extensive holdings of Israeli materials not available in any research libraries in Israel.

"The conference was a great success and we hope to publish the proceedings," said Charles Berlin, the Lee M. Freedman Bibliographer in Judaica, and head of the Judaica Division. "The opportunity to showcase the Judaica Division's �Documenting Israel' program to a gathering of such key individuals in the Israeli cultural elite is an invaluable tool in fostering cooperation with Israeli institutions and a number of potential projects have emerged as a result."

Conference participants included two internationally renowned Israeli composers�Gil Shohat and Betty Olivero. Both composers premiered their newest works during the conference week, Shohat at an evening session on October 27 with the Portland String Quartet (with Shohat at the piano) and Olivero at a post-conference concert on November 2 with BMOP (Boston Modern Orchestra Project). Olivero's work had been commissioned by the Friends of the Harvard Judaica Collection, through a gift of its President, David B. Keidan. Other participants from the Israeli music scene were Avi Hanani, director of classical music at Israel's national radio, and Yoav Ginai, director of culture and entertainment programs at the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Channel 1.

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Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College Nancy Cline welcomed participants to the three-day conference.


Other aspects of Israeli media were the topic of presentations by Moti Sklar, the director-general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and by Modi Bar-On, a television producer and writer. Atay Citron, chair of the Theater Department at Haifa University, discussed Israeli theater, while Shmulik Duvdevani of Tel Aviv University's Department of Film and Television covered Israeli film. Nissim Calderon of Ben-Gurion University discussed literature and the cultural scene in general.

Israeli art was the topic of presentations by Malka Haas, pioneer of progressive education in Israel, who spoke on art as an educational tool for pre-school children. Galia Bar-Or, curator of the Museum of Art in Ein Harod, covered the history of Israeli art, while Guy Raz, photographer and curator, discussed Israeli photography. Architecture was the topic of Nurit Lissovsky of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, who discussed landscape architecture, and Nili Portugali, an architect who focused on public buildings and neighborhoods.

Two sessions were devoted to overviews of the Harvard Judaica Division's efforts to document Israeli culture, including a presentation by the Division's high-tech vendor in Israel, Dantec Ltd., who implements the Division's digitization projects in Israel.

Following the conference Berlin praised Judaica Division staff, including Violet Gilboa, the Littauer Hebraica Technical and Research Services Librarian, for "initiating, conceptualizing and organizing the conference and related concerts," and Lee M. Friedman Judaica Technical Services Librarian Elizabeth Vernon who was responsible for the administrative and logistical aspects of the conference.