The New Israel Fund (NIF) announced today that it has awarded $42,000 in grants of $3,000 (NIS 10,000) each to 14 individual Israeli artists. This kind of direct support for artists is a first for the New Israel Fund, which has given over $300 million to Israeli civil society organizations working to further equality and democracy in Israel, and has only occasionally supported arts and culture. At a moment when Israelis face dramatic social challenges alongside tremendous political impasse, NIF believes that art, as a vehicle that helps hearts and mind flourish, is more important than ever.
“People need an outlet for their anger, love, and imagination – both creators and consumers,” said NIF Vice President for Public Engagement Libby Lenkinski. “We need inspiration. We need cognitive dissonance. We need to be moved and challenged so that we are able to envision a different future. Art accomplishes all these things; it is essential work.”
Well before the pandemic began, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and NIF had been researching the relationship between culture, narrative and social change in Israel. When the coronavirus hit, the two foundations worked to bring direct economic relief, as well as access to information and services, to various marginalized groups in Israel. As the crisis worsened, it became clear that individual artists, unlike the large cultural institutions receiving government bail-outs, were falling through the cracks, becoming a marginalized group themselves.
NIF launched a call for artists seeking economic relief in October. The call offered a grant for artists whose work was affected by the coronavirus and fit one of NIF’s three criteria: (1) told untold stories, elevating underrepresented communities and struggles; (2) built bridges across difference such as language or identity; or (3) was directly related to or in collaboration with activist movements working towards a variety of social change issues. NIF received over 700 applications. Fourteen artists were selected for the grant.
According to Lenkinski, “We were both overwhelmed and devastated by the number of applications. It showed us that there is so much incredible work out there on the issues we care about. This is incredibly heartening. But it also showed us just how massive the need for funding is and how devastated the artistic community in Israel has become through this crisis.”
The New Israel Fund offered grants to the following artists: Spoken word poet and performer, Yossi Zabari; director and filmmaker Iris Zaki; musician, DJ and broadcaster Ellyot (Sharon Ben Ezer); rapper and singer Orit Tashoma; singer Lala Tamar; painter Durar Bacri; choreographer Dege Feder; writer, director and actress Bat-El Moseri; Holot Theater Director Chen Alon; choreographer and social activist Dana Yahalomi; artist and actress Raida Adon; director, writer and actress Einat Weizman; DJ and cultural entrepreneur Ram Mizrahi Spinoza; and documentary filmmaker Rana Abu-Fraiha.
WATCH: Video of the artists introducing the grant project.
The New Israel Fund is the leading organization advancing and defending democracy and equality for all Israelis. Widely credited with building progressive Israeli civil society, NIF supports a wide range of Israeli nonprofits and has provided over $300 million to progressive civil society organizations since its inception in 1979.