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America’s 1st Israeli Art Lending Library Launched at Northeastern University

Right to left: Daniel Agranov, Deputy Consul General of Israel to New England; Yeshi Mengistu, Director of Israel Engagement & Education and JAFI Israel Fellow at Northeastern Hillel; Gilad Skolnick, Executive Director of Northeastern Hillel. (Photo Credit: William Kuang)

At a time when social distancing will limit student trips to Israel and in-person campus programming, Northeastern University Hillel, the Consulate General of Israel to New England and Returning the Sparks announces the launch of the first-ever Israeli Art Lending Library (IALL). 

“Although Zoom events can do a lot, they can’t replace live events and tactile experiences,” stated Gilad Skolnick, executive director of Northeastern University Hillel. “There’s a reason why we are willing to spend so much to go to Broadway or Fenway Park, when it’s free and so much easier to see much of the same on TV.  Tangible events and things resonate in a different way.  We’re wired for experience.  The genius of this art lending library is that it brings a tangible piece of Israel – something personal and uplifting that the student selects – directly to them for daily enjoyment.”

The innovative public-private partnership will be housed at Northeastern University, and it will allow students the opportunity to bring a piece of Israeli art back to their dorm rooms for the year. Art lending libraries exist at several universities, including Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley, however this is the first art lending library to showcase Israeli artists.

“I listened this spring as foundations shared concerns that short-term immersive Israel trips for college students stood to be compromised for the Fall of 2020, without a clear alternative, due to the need for COVID-19 social distancing,” shared Arinne Braverman, executive director of Returning the Sparks, a non-profit which helps connect Jews with Judaism and Israel.  “I figured if we couldn’t bring students on short trips to Israel and we couldn’t educate through in-person events, we’d bring a piece of Israel home to students and have the process itself be educational, while incorporating their personal preferences. It would be great to see other campuses launch Israel art lending libraries as well,” added Braverman who conceived of and spearheaded the IALL initiative.

The IALL website (IsraelArtNU.com) provides a social distancing-friendly means for selecting Israeli art, while granting an opportunity for students to learn more about the art’s subject and origin from the safety of one’s own dorm.

Framed Israeli prints, photographs, and original pieces were curated based on feedback Northeastern University Hillel received from student leader focus groups this summer.  The selections represent Israel’s diverse society, and include selections by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and LGBTQ Israelis, as well as artists with disabilities.

“Israeli society is a mix of different cultural backgrounds and identities, and as an innovative democracy with a rich history, it produces a variety of messages that reflect the diversity of perspectives, experiences and thinking of its people.  We are glad to be able to show a little piece of our country through the intimate lens of art,” added Daniel Agranov, deputy consul general of Israel to New England.  “IALL allows us to actively support a diverse array of Israeli artists during a challenging global economy, while providing students with resources to learn more about our country through related articles and maps.”

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