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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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Spotlight to shine on Israeli culture

Tags: Arts
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A photo from the a visual art exhibit called “Harissa, Honey & Hysop: Photos of North African Food,” which features the work of Nelli Sheffer, Israel’s top food photographer.

The Spotlight on Israeli Culture, a two-month showcase of Israeli music, theatre, film, dance and visual arts described as the first event of its kind, will be presented in Toronto in February and March.

Organized by the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, the exhibits and performances will be held in venues throughout the city, including the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company, the Julie M. Gallery for Contemporary Art, the Koffler Centre of the Arts and the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre.

“There is so much spectacular Israeli culture, so many spectacular performances and art… I think Israel is in a golden age, a cultural golden age,” said Cheryl Wetstein, who has been serving for the past seven years as the executive director of the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

“There is so much energy, so much creativity. They talk about Israel as the startup nation, but there is also Israel as the art-up nation.”

Wetstein said she’s been working very closely over the past year with Rebecca Singh, director of cultural affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, to encourage other cultural organizations in the city to showcase Israeli work throughout the months of February and March.

“The idea is to bring together people who are doing their own thing and to encourage people in this time frame to showcase Israelis,” Wetstein said.

“The Toronto Jewish Film Festival always has a Chai Tea [film screening] event in February, so we co-ordinated with them that this is when they would do an Israeli film.”

Wetstein insisted that organizing the spotlight was very much a group effort.

“We’re not producing these shows… The presenters are the people putting this on. Our support has been more in the administrative and in the publicity… but not in the actual production of the shows,” she said.

The Israeli culture spotlight includes, but is not limited to:

• the theatre production of An Israeli Love Story, a true story about a young girl named Margalit and an idealistic kibbutz pioneer and soldier in the Palmach, named Ami;

• a screening of Igor and The Cranes’ Journey, an Israeli film presented by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival about an 11-year-old Russian boy who has to start a new life in Israel following his parents’ divorce;

• an Israeli jazz showcase, presented by Toronto Downtown Jazz and the Consulate General of Israel in association with The Ashkenaz Foundation, featuring the Gilad Hekselman Trio, the Shai Maestro Trio, and the Toronto-based, Juno award nominated David Buchbinder Ensemble;

• a visual art exhibit called Harissa, Honey & Hysop: Photos of North African Food, featuring the work of Nelli Sheffer, Israel’s top food photographer, who travelled to North Africa in search of foods that have become an integral part of the cuisine in Israel, where more than half the Jewish population is Sephardi.

Wetstein said the spotlight falls in line with the mission of the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, which is to present Israeli culture in Canada, and to act as a cultural bridge.

“The idea is to showcase this to the general population, just to show what Israel has to offer,” she said.

“I think that Israel gets seen by the general public mainly in terms of the conflict, in terms of the difficulties, and I think it’s important for people to see that Israel is much more than that. All of these artists are acting as ambassadors for Israel and showing Israel’s cultural side.”

For more information, visit www.spotlightonisraeliculture.com.

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