By Malka EisenbergIssue of October 22, 2010/ 14 Cheshvan 5771 A group of Orthodox female artists have banded together to provide a creative outlet for others religious women. The weekend of Nov. 12, will bring the 4th International Conference for Performing Arts According to the Values of Judaism to the Merkin Concert Hall in New York.
“It is an effort to reach out to people like myself who possibly stifled their creative expression in exchange for being observant,” explained Miriam Leah Droz, one of the organizers. “People who are highly talented were thinking that they couldn’t share their talent. It’s an effort to create a community in the right format to pursue art within the value system — performing for women only and giving or taking classes for women only.”
The conference, organized by ATARA: The Association for Torah and the Arts for Religious Artists, will offer classes and performances in music, dance and theater exclusively for women. The program is also fielding a Shabbat program with speakers and stand-up acts. Some of the artists include a former New York City Ballet dancer and a former opera singer who gave up their careers in the arts to become Orthodox.
Droz lives in Brooklyn and was a music theater major in a music conservatory in her home state of Pennsylvania. She switched to Barnard and went to Shearim, a seminary in Israel. At the seminary, Droz said she was told that she couldn’t be in theater if she was Orthodox and instead studied library science. She worked as a librarian in Touro College where she also earned a masters degree in Jewish History.
During the year the organization has a newsletter that publicizes opportunities in music, art and theater. Droz said they have no paid staff.
“We feel badly asking for money when there are starving children in Israel,” she explained.
Participants to the conference come from Israel, Canada and across the United States and range from Chasidic to Modern Orthodox. The arts featured in the program are equally diverse and range from modern dance to classical music.
“The arts are a way to communicate.,” Droz said. “People are afraid of the power of arts; they touch the emotions. We have to harness their potential and lift the emotions to greater service of G-d. Art can pick us up and give us the inspiration we need. It can elevate us to a new plane of beauty and joy.”
The concert part of the program, “From Stage Lights to Spiritual Heights,” will be held on Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Kaufman Center, 129 West 67th Street. Call the box office for tickets at 212-501-3330. Classes will be held that Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. For more information, go on ATARA’s website, www.artsandtorah.org.