Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Judaic Studies hones new concept for long-term residencies

Performing artist Amichai Lau-Lavie doesn’t mind being a guinea pig for a new out-side-the-box idea. It seems he’s never been inside the box.

When Lau-Lavie was asked to be the Center for Judaic Studies’ first artist-in-residence at the University of Denver, he didn’t hesitate.

“I think it’s a good concept,” Lau-Lavie says. “I’ve done week-long residences at NYU, Toronto and Jerusalem, but this program is a first.”

The Center for Judaic Studies (CJS) brings dozens of scholars to the University each year, but the faculty and students were thirsting for deeper engagement, which meant keeping them here longer, says David Shneer, the center’s director. 

“It also meant bringing artists, in addition to scholars, who can change the way we stuffy academics look at what we do,” Shneer says. “With a long-term residency, Amichai has touched students in theater, music, philosophy, religious studies, Judaic Studies and people throughout the Rocky Mountain region. He has transformed the way people look at the Bible.”

Lau-Lavie, artistic director of Storahtelling, uses theatrical performance to promote literacy of the Torah. 

“We retranslate the ancient into current,” says Lau-Lavie. 

During his seven-week stay at DU, which ended Nov. 16, Lau-Lavie hosted five major performances, a three-day workshop for the public and a workshop with students in DU’s theater department. 

“The workshop just opened my mind,” says theater student Neysha Burgoes-Nieves. 

Burgoes-Nieves, who is Roman Catholic, attended Lau-Lavie’s “Staging the Bible” workshop. 

“Why are we separating ourselves, one from another, instead of looking for the things that unite us?” she asks.  

Because of the success of Lau-Lavie’s residency, CJS plans to regularly host long-term visiting artists and scholars.  

“It is such a success that universities around the country are calling us to replicate our model,” Shneer says.

Singer and ethnomusicologist Galeet Dardashti, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the sounds and music of the Middle East, will be in residence in February 2008.  

The Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver offers educational programs that advance knowledge and enrich understanding of Jewish culture.

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