Laura Conrad Mandel

Creative Leadership in Challenging Times: Artists to Watch in 2024

Photo credit: Daniel Brenner

I began my blogging journey with the Times of Israel driven by the belief in the power of art to foster creative connections to Jewish life, particularly in these times of heightened fear and isolation due to rising antisemitism. As we approach the end of January 2024, I’m excited to share six artists whom I believe embody the creativity and resilience essential for navigating these challenging times. I’m proud to know them, to have them in the Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts) family, and I invite you to get to know them as well.

  1. Yoni Battat, affectionately known as the JArts house band, has been captivating audiences across Boston for years. During his tenure as an inaugural JArts x Combined Jewish Philanthropies Community Creative Fellow in 2021, Yoni delved into his Iraqi Jewish roots, even learning Arabic to better immerse himself in less familiar traditions compared to his Ashkenazi background. Following the fellowship, Yoni was part of “The Bands Visit” tour and is now a leader behind the Kedmah: The Rising Song Piyyut Project with Yosef Goldman, an ensemble of musicians and prayer leaders excavating the power and beauty of Mizrahi Jewish expression through ancient poetry and song. Kedmah illustrates Yoni’s ongoing efforts to understand, preserve, innovate, and share his unique blended Jewish heritage.
  2. Igor Golyak and his partner Sara Stackhouse are the masterminds behind Arlekin Players, a small theater that came into the zeitgeist with their Elliot Norton Award-winning Zoom production of “State vs Natasha Banina” in 2020. As a Ukrainian Jew, Igor is committed to countering antisemitism through his work, evident in Arlekin’s current Broadway production of “Our Class.” This show, exploring the relationships among ten Polish classmates, five Jewish and five Catholic, serves as a poignant reflection on life and death consequences, inspired by real events surrounding a tragic 1941 pogrom in a small Polish village. This show is a sober check for the moment we’re living in.
  3. Galeet Dardashti, a singer, has dedicated her career to playing the music of her late grandfather Younes Dardashti, a religious Jew who achieved national celebrity status in Iran during the 1950s. Her album Monajat combines her grandfather’s voice and her own to preserve and innovate this family musical tradition. In her multifaceted musical work, Galeet also leads Divahn, and all female all-star group who performed in Boston in 2023. Transitioning from music to podcasting with her sister Danielle, Galeet aims to narrate their family’s mysterious departure from Iran in “The Nightingale of Iran,” a podcast that launches this February – unfolding a complex and compelling tale of Mizrahi Jews, antisemitism, and hope. A significant story for our times.
  4. Noah Clickstein, the chef at Lehrhaus, a new Jewish Tavern in Somerville, MA, has played a pivotal role in bringing a pan-Jewish inspired menu to life. Lehrhaus co-founders Josh Foer and Rabbi Charlie Schwartz conceived the concept and vibe, but Chef Noah Clickstein’s culinary innovations, in collaboration with Chef Michael Leviton, earned Lehrhaus a spot as one of the Best New Restaurants in America 2023 by Esquire. Noah’s passion for playing with Jewish food traditions and innovations was evident early in his career at the annual Jewish Arts Collaborative Beyond Bubbie’s Kitchen event, and now he leads the charge nationally in appreciating and understanding diverse Jewish culture and traditions through food.
  5. Aveva Dese, an Ethiopian Israeli singer, made her US debut with JArts in 2018, sharing songs that preserved and reimagined her Ethiopian roots. Recounting her family’s incredible journey from Ethiopia to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984, Aveva has become a global leader in the world music scene, beautifully representing her Ethiopian culture and the identity of Ethiopian Israelis. Following her move to LA in 2023, she continues to captivate audiences with her performances. Check out her performance at the Skirball Cultural Center in LA over the summer.
  6. Rachel Linsky, a dancer, is on a mission to preserve memories erased during the Holocaust through a new Yiddish dance movement language. Jewishly educated and fresh out of school, I met Rachel in 2018 when she was seeking resources in the Jewish community. As a 2022 JArts x Combined Jewish Philanthropies Community Creative Fellow, Rachel has built up her dance series “Zachor,” remembrance, which has since garnered numerous grants and awards. In December 2023, Rachel created this dance piece to serve as an artistic hanukkiah at the annual JArts x Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Hanukkah celebration. Collaborating with dancers from diverse cultural backgrounds and with an eye to education, Rachel’s thoughtful work preserves the memory of artists who perished in the Holocaust, creates innovative pieces reimagining Jewish traditions for today, and connects us all through her art. She is truly one to watch.

May these artists inspire you like they inspire me.

About the Author
Laura Conrad Mandel is an artist, entrepreneur, mom, and founding Executive Director of Boston’s Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts). She currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Council of American Jewish Museums and as co-chair of the Boston Lyric Stage Advisory Council.
Related Topics
Related Posts