Expanding the conversation beyond religion

Over a three-week period in October 2019, more than 500,000 visitors to Sydney’s S culptures by the Sea were treated to a futuristic vision of a 3,000-year-old Jewish ritual. Inspired by New York’s Sukkah City , Shalom’s Succah by the Sea showcased six radical reinterpretations of the ancient tabernacle – the culmination of almost a year’s work by a team of architects and the project’s Artistic Director, Billy Feuerman.

For Billy, the success of the event spoke to the universal themes and values in Jewish traditions. “Succot is a holiday that has the ability to reach out to larger issues and philosophies,” he said, “Jewish history, of course, but also how the succah relates to existing issues today – from the environment to sustainability to the open house, to valuing imperfection, homelessness, and the refugee crisis.”

“I think the future is in this idea of expanding the conversation and letting other people in and understanding that our culture goes beyond just the religion.” – Billy Feuerman

Many visitors were from the Jewish community but, in a city with some 50,000 Jewish residents, the overwhelming majority were from the broader Australian community and visitors from countries across the world. As Billy described it, “People mostly came and thought they were pavilions, but then once we explained to them what they were, how they all followed the same rules yet came out completely different, it had a significant impact. For Jews, it’s very much about ancient history, but when you start to expand on the larger philosophies people really are just blown away by what you can actually get from them.”

Reflecting on his experience with Succah by the Sea , Billy feels that it’s important for our future to expand the conversation; to open up and make people aware that our culture goes beyond religion. “We had one very old Russian man on a tour come up to us – he was, like, crying – saying how amazing it was to see Judaism go from ‘underground’ to ‘above ground’. We also had this little five-year-old boy say he’d never been so proud to be Jewish.”

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You can read more about Billy’s story – and others – in your JCA 2020 Source Magazine here: https://bit.ly/mysource20