Over the past few years, we have all endured so much, it has made us stronger and more resilient and very different from who we were before the pandemic. Instead of thicker skin, you might say we have each grown a layer of chutzpah.
Like a lot of words used in Jewish households, chutzpah can carry positive or negative implications, depending on the context and inflection of the speaker. In this case, we define it as an attitude that empowers us to thrive and push through tough times so we can appreciate – and, in some cases, physically reembrace for the first time in too long — our family, friends and community.
Here at the Breman Museum, we are gearing up for a busy Jewish New Year, with live performances, talks, exhibitions (including the continuing “History with Chutzpah”) and more. As a museum and, increasingly, a presenter of performing arts and Jewish cultural programs, it’s in keeping with our mission to push forward from the pandemic and resume our institution’s edifying and unifying work.
But beyond that, my personal feeling is, and I say it often and did so even before Covid changed the world, that live performances and smart conversations create a shared experience like no other. We humans were not built to be quarantined. We are social beings who draw strength and wisdom from shared experiences. While it remains essential to stay safe, we are citizens of the world, not meant to be isolated from one another.
When we sit in a darkened theater with others — whether watching a witness to the Holocaust, hearing an expert on Jewish history or listening to a music performance — we have a broadened and more beautiful view: We have rejoined our community.
Leslie Gordon is the executive director of Atlanta’s Breman Museum, where Jewish arts, culture and history thrive.