RUACH, a local Jewish non-profit, is sponsoring a series of events in Sherman Park, in an effort to find common ground among the people of the neighborhood.
The festival will span several months and encompass three main events. The festival is not meant to be a traditional weekend lakefront event with booths and vendors.
The theme of the festival is “‘diverse roots, common ground,’” said Josh Richman, the founder and executive director of RUACH.
The first event is an ongoing one called Project VITAL, which stands for Values in the Arts & Life. Artists-in-residence will go to Fifty-Third Street School, Yeshiva Elementary School, Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club, Sherman Multicultural Arts School and St. Catherine’s Catholic Elementary School and hold art sessions for the children, for 7-10 weeks.
“The plan is to integrate the final artwork, consisting of murals depicting trees and based on the themes of personal growth, communal growth, and learning what it means to have a ‘growth mindset’ into the Community Arts Day and the May 2 concert,” said Richman. The Community Arts Day is Sunday, April 22 at Sherman Park’s Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club.
The concert is Wednesday night, May 2, at Ascension St. Joseph Hospital’s Klieger Auditorium. Performing is musician Jason McKinney, a native of Milwaukee and a Jew who is black.
RUACH focuses on the arts specifically because “arts is a unifying force and a common denominator — they can be a non-threatening way of bringing people together,” Richman said.
Sherman Park is a diverse community and is home to some Orthodox Jews. The neighborhood has been challenged by some economic and social issues. Riots erupted in the summer of 2016.
“Jews have a responsibility to care about people who are not Jewish, working with others of all stripes to improve society, of which the Sherman Park community is an interesting microcosm,” Richman said.
The organization welcomes all voices in the planning of events, with 19 members on the board of directors, five of whom are non-Jews and minorities.
Richman hopes that soon this year, along with the theme of the art murals, with the continual efforts of “diverse institutions in Sherman Park – including schools, places of worship, senior center, and businesses,” a permanent art installation of a tree will stand in Sherman Park.
The word RUACH has many meanings in Hebrew that refer to the spirit. “RUACH is the part of the spirit that is situated in the heart and is associated with creativity,” said Richman.
This Jewish organization has a foundation that lends itself to its mission to promote unity among different races and religions, which is as Richman said, “everyone is created in G-d’s image—people who are not Jewish are created in G-d’s image, too.”