RF: The Jewish community has expressed some disapproval about its methods and its audience.
CD: Awesome! It was King Solomon that would never agree with a unanimous decision because it meant both sides were not heard. We’ve received a ton of positive feedback in the non-traditional press and in the non-Jewish communities. That is, by the way, the press and the community that matters when it comes to this day and age. No reason to preach to the choir. So, it is nice to hear some negative feedback too. Our ego was getting too big.
RF: So, you don’t care how you are perceived in the traditional advocacy world?
CD: Of course I care. I hope all the attention we get from the traditional advocacy community is stark raving negative. The traditional advocacy community is basically one very failed franchise. How are you going to have the most beautiful, kind, loving nation as your product and not be able to sell it? It is like being incredibly good looking and never brushing your teeth. Every time the traditional advocacy community criticizes me, I know I am doing something right.
RF: What do you say to the criticism that the people at your events are mostly non-Jewish or Jews who are completely removed from the religious or social Jewish world?
CD: That is a criticism? What the fuck? Let me go back to the franchise metaphor. Where are you going to place your product for sale; in a place where everyone already has one of what you are selling or in a new community that needs it? The non-Jewish community needs to know the truth about Israel and they are eager for that information coming from a source that is at once reliable and entertaining.
RF: And about the Jews who are at a remove?
CD: I spent a long time basically running another non-profit that pretended to bring “unaffiliated” Jews into events. After a while, it became a running game between this org. and a few others of sharing their unaffiliated Jews for different events. How you going to go to 4 Jewish events a month and say you are still “unaffiliated?” Something like 80% of New York’s Jewish population goes to no Jewish or Israeli event – not Temple, not a Shabbat dinner, not a party at a club with a minor Israeli theme. Nothing. Maybe they’ve gone to Israel on a Birthright Israel trip but that was just to get some free touring. Those that come to our events, this is very literally the first and only time they’ve gone to an Israel related event.
RF: How do you know that?
CD: Because they are dragged there by their non-Jewish friends. No one comes because it is Jewish or Israeli. They come because they are interested in graffiti or tattoos or sex or film or whatever they hell we are doing that day.
RF: What are some of the events you have planned?
CD: Our (S)kin life drawing program that you covered is a monthly event. It happens on the last Sunday of every month. We will be doing a Tattoo Orgy that will combine tattooing demonstrations, a debate about the religious allowance of tattoos and free, Israel-related tattoos for all who are willing. We are traveling to Yale with our graffiti exhibit and have a fashion event I can’t even reveal yet. Also, we are organizing a trip to Israel that should be beautifully effective and shockingly creative.
RF: If you could tell the world one thing about Israel, what is it?
CD: I can tell the world a billion things. I will leave it for our events and our artists to speak to that.
RF: May I ask some personal questions?
CD: Only if you are prepared for the answers.
RF: Are you an artist?
CD: I am a writer and a poet but you most likely will never see or hear my work at an event as we have too many artists who are far better and far more deserving of the spotlight. Also, I might be a graffiti artist…but would never admit to that.
RF: Judging by your last name you are Jewish.
CD: I am a 100% proud Semite. My blood is shared with kings, warriors and poets.
RF: So, are you religious?
CD: Yes and no. I maintain certain spiritual beliefs but do not concern myself with organized religion. The beauty of Judaism, for me, is that it is very open for interpretation and personal thought. The most legal book in Judaism is nothing more then a bunch of sage opinions in debate with one another. So, from that aspect, I believe. I believe in ethical monotheism. I believe in a sense of karma and supreme justice. But, I also believe in the here and now and the need to behave according to divine principles while maintaining an awareness of human needs and frivolities.
RF: How can you be so committed to Israel and yet have such a remove from the Jewish community? What drove you to this?
CD: I grew up in a ghetto. Rap music was my first teacher. I heard the music of conscious, urban poets – like Public Enemy and Rakim. I became enamored with the ideas of asserting power and creativity in the face of oppression. As I matured, I realized that that is the very narrative of my people and of Israel.
RF: Are you afraid that your attitude and general approach might cause a schism between your new advocates and more traditional Israeli advocates?
CD: Those advocates must question their motivations then. Artists 4 Israel lives by the tagline: Beautifully Creative, Shockingly Effective. If my methods work, jump on the bandwagon – beers are in the back.
RF: Any final thoughts?
CD: I would like to dedicate this interview to the memory of Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the Satanic Verses who was stabbed to death because of his support for the arts. I’d also like to offer Lou Reed honorary membership in Artists 4 Israel.