The work of Kaleidoscope seems most aligned with the propositions of chochmah and kedusha.
For the value of chochmah, Kaleidoscope’s mission to bring well-crafted, personal monologues by Jews-of-color and Jews of diverse ethnic backgrounds to the public aligns well with the essential characteristic of authenticity expressed in the article. The monologues of our various cast-members contain the complexity of their lived Jewish experiences across various denominations/affiliations. As a result, when we perform, audiences in general, and young Jews in particular, see much of themselves within our stories and respond accordingly.
Interestingly, our program most often meets a kind of passive resistance from older, tribal Jews that Rabbi Schwarz references. One particular question that we were asked by an older gentleman in a post-show Q&A was: “Today, identity politics pushes so many people claim to be 20% this and 40% that and 3% that, etc…, but being Jewish is a full-time [identity] commitment. For each of you, where do your commitments lie? How do you all identify?” While one of our cast-members handled this question with great nuance, this older gentleman’s skepticism of the intentions of a program that highlights the complex experiences of Jews-of-color and non-Ashkenazim seems to be owing to a particular worldview that is grounded largely in the hegemonic view of Jewish survival.
Secondly, I think that our work is aligned with kedusha because we are intent on using the arts to address questions of Jewish identity and diversity. We take each cast member that we add to Kaleidoscope through a workshop process (both writing and performance based) in order to ensure that their piece is as truthful, moving and effectively “draws people in”.
I believe that our project does a fair amount of implicit work in building bridges between Jewish communities and non-Jewish communities. People of color who happen not to be Jewish come to our shows and see themselves reflected in some members of the cast. Some of the extemporaneous conversations that have come out of this fact have been really invigorating.
Kendell Pinkney is a Brooklyn-based theatre writer, Jewish education professional, and the associate producer of Kaleidoscope – a narrative arts showcase highlighting the personal stories of Jews of color and diverse ethnic backgrounds. He started rabbinical school at JTS in fall 2017, where he hopes to build on his work at the intersection between the arts, Torah, Jewish education and community building by working with college-aged students.