[Chicago Crossings: Bridges and Boundaries, reel 80; Morry Fred]

chicago-crossings-bridges-boundaries-reel-80-morry-fred-2

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In an interview with Kartemquin Films, Morry Fred, Director of the Spertus Museum of Judaica, reflects on the museum's 1994 exhibition, "Bridges and Boundaries: Chicago Crossings." Fred talks about what inspired him to pursue the project, the project's successes and shortcomings, and the unbalanced nature of Black–Jewish relations.

1:06Copy video clip URL Morrie Fred talks about how he got the idea for the Spertus Museum’s exhibition, “Bridges and Boundaries: Chicago Crossings,” as well as their goals for the project.

6:00Copy video clip URL Fred talks about growing up as a Southern Jew under segregation while continuing to talk about the Spertus’ motivations for the show. “I felt that not only the issue of African-Americans and Jews was interesting, but that it would provide a model for understanding the relationships between any two communities,” he explains.

8:33Copy video clip URL Fred says that over the course of the exhibition he observed that “this issue, or at least the way we were framing the issue, was far more important to Jews than it was to African-Americans.” However, he suggests that perhaps this is not a wholly negative phenomenon, but rather an interesting fact worth exploring.

9:30Copy video clip URL Fred recalls the “open” nature of the Bridges and Boundaries project and its many creative benefits. He also discusses how their approach, which only included one or two meetings between the artists, may have helped shape the nature of the work, and speculates on how it might have been different had the artists been given more time to get to know each other.

14:05Copy video clip URL Fred talks about the show’s success, calling it “one of the strongest contemporary shows in Chicago [in 1994]” before going on to talk about a complementary project they did with Black and Jewish Chicago teenagers who created a mural together.

16:10Copy video clip URL Although the creative benefits of the project’s “open nature” were plentiful, and the exhibition received great reviews, Fred suggests that the show’s openness also created an air of mystery that contributed to its inability to be picked up by other museums.

17:33Copy video clip URL Fred talks about the role of museums in society and the difficulty of attracting patrons to an exhibition that deals with an issue that is not directly in the media’s spotlight.

20:48Copy video clip URL Fred references the Farrakhan issue that was a hot topic among the participating artists in their meetings leading up to the show while continuing to talk about the role of major cultural events in the success or failure of an art show.

24:03Copy video clip URL Fred talks about the unbalanced relationship between African-Americans and Jews—one which Jews seem to place much more weight in than Blacks—calling it “a critical aspect in the identity of the Jew… It deals with freedom, it deals with relationships, and responsibility that we have towards those that are dispossessed in a society.” Fred goes on to posit that the point in history at which Jews became the same as all other white men in the eyes of African-Americans was “very troubling to Jews.” Fred goes on about how Jewish society in America has changed radically as it has assimilated with the rest of white culture, and the crisis of identity those changes have created for the Jewish community.

 

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