Barely two years have passed since Arie Shikler retired after serving as a Cantor for 49 years, and retirement hasn’t slowed him down one bit! He’s created a foundation with the focus of sharing, advancing, and fostering Jewish culture through music. I had the chance to speak with Arie and learn more about his latest passion project, the Shikler Foundation.
What inspired you to create this Foundation?
The next generation is disconnecting. I saw it firsthand, they complete their bar/bat mitzvah, and then that’s it. You never see them again. At the same time, they are seeking meaning and conversation and I want to show them that the Jewish culture is positive and friendly, full of advice and good sense for life. Many of us don’t know it’s there. It’s a gift you may not open, but once you do, it keeps on giving.
Why do you think young Jews have been disconnecting?
There are so many reasons: interfaith marriages, bullying, anti-Semitism, lack of interest. But Judaism and peoplehood is more than going to synagogue—it’s more than religion. The next generation hasn’t connected to it yet, and it’s not because they aren’t searching. At the Shikler Foundation, we’re in the process of figuring it out and bringing the youth back to the culture through music.
Why is music the solution?
Music is one of the most powerful mediums to share the beauty, wisdom and joy of our heritage. It goes from heart to heart and penetrates the soul. [For example] a lot of people don’t know the story of Havah Nagilah. This was a wordless melody that came from a shtetl in Eastern Europe to Israel. Later on it was given Hebrew words. People came out to dance in the streets to this song when Israel became a state. Now it’s played all over, even in ball parks! That’s the power of music. That’s the story of culture. It changes and adjusts. That’s what we’re trying to do now: adjust for the next generation.
How is the Foundation reaching the next generation?
Our first event was in November 2019 in a private home. For the program, I delivered culture through music. I told the story of the Israeli (Jewish) National Anthem. One song that I performed was “Chazak Ve’ematz” which has a message going back to the time of Moses: “Be strong and brave.” Really that’s the message to the next generation.
When I did the first event, one of the most important comments I got was “You had a lot of content. How do we deliver that to the youth?” This generation wants things in short spurts. We will try to deliver in that formula by taking it online with the help of young people involved in the Foundation.. We are already in the process of taking the content from our culture and heritage and finding what appeals to youth today.
Where do you see your Foundation five years from now?
I hope we will be known as a resource to help make meaningful connections.. And I see the Foundation collaborating with other organizations that are on the same path of strengthening the Jewish people.
The Shikler Foundation plans to have their next event this spring or summer in Orange County. For more information, visit: https://shiklerfoundation.org.
DVORAH LEWIS IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.