You've got a friend

In an attempt to bridge the gap between youth and the creative arts of Israel, Jacob Bryce has taken things into his own hands.

Cameri Theater (photo credit: Lauren Izso)
Cameri Theater
(photo credit: Lauren Izso)
They sometimes are portrayed in popular media as “geeks” or “losers.” In modern television and films, young people who are interested in the arts hardly end up being the most popular kids in the playground. This has created a certain separation between being creative and being cool. Jacob Bryce wanted to change this stereotype, at least from the Israeli perspective.
When Bryce made aliya in 2010 from Australia, he was hoping to find a well-established artistic community that would fulfill his passion for the arts. Instead what he found was a community rich with talent, but lacking a connection to young audiences.
This made him worry about the future of creativity in Israel. It wasn’t the ticket sales that worried him, but rather the age of people filling the seats. With audiences comprised “mostly of pensioners,” Bryce knew something had to be done to ensure that Israel’s performing arts would continue to flourish in years to come. That was when he decided to begin a new endeavor called Young Friends of the Arts.
The non-profit organization is based in Tel Aviv and is dedicated to “bringing young professionals together to the classical arts in Israel,” explains Bryce.
Ahead of YFA’s ninth event in two years, Bryce says that they always strive to collaborate with Israel’s most professional companies. This list includes The Israeli Opera, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where the next event will be held, and the Israel Ballet, the host of last month’s event.
Each event consists of a pre-show talk with some artists involved in the respective production, followed by a seat in the audience at a discounted price, and a post show reception including cocktails and mingling with artists.
The pre-show talks give YFA participants an idea of what goes on behind the curtain, a rare look into the professional arts. At last month’s event, the Israel Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, choreographer Berta Yapolsky told the YFA about the difficulties of casting and the challenge of translating the classic story into movement. She even spoke about the first time she choreographed this ballet during the Gulf War, and their offstage gas-mask storage for emergencies.
“Juliet is a dream part for every ballerina,” insisted Yapolsky during the pre-ballet gathering.
This glimpse into the life of a dancer is exactly what YFA is about. “We want young people to see a side to the arts that no one else can. It helps them understand the reasoning behind it,” says Bryce.
Although the membership fee is NIS 85, YFA has arranged with various theaters and art venues, to provide members with a discount any time they attend an event, beginning from when they purchase their membership, as well as a rarely seen backstage look.
The next event will be held at the Tel Aviv Museum of art, and will offer attendees a lesson in Israeli art. The sold out event taking place this Wednesday will give an overview of “100 years of Israeli art,” something most Israelis do not have the privilege of learning about.
Young people of Israel are disconnected from the creative arts for one of two reasons, Bryce suggests. Either they are simply disconnected and have no reason to participate, or it is because “they are born in fire and war,” and think that the arts shouldn’t be a priority. The organization does try to include Israelis, but since many of them feel this disconnection, YFA has a special interest in reaching out to new olim.
Shai Tirosh of Connect TLV, who works closely with YFA says that olim are more inclined to attend these types of events because they want to get involved any way they can. “We connect olim abroad so they can become accustomed to Israel,” he says of the connection between the two organizations.
“We are not strict or exclusive about age,” says Bryce, “but we tend to gear our events towards highly educated people.” It’s not exclusivity that inspired this focus, but rather the belief that these people are more inclined to be interested because they are more exposed to this culture.
YFA does not expect to automatically change the performing arts industry of Israel, insists Bryce. “We make an introduction and hopefully people will continue to come back.”
The first event of the New Year will be the infamous Greek tragedy Trojan Woman, produced by the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater and will be held on January 5 at the Cameri Theater.  The evening will of course include a pre-show talk, and post-show cocktails.
Even though the theaters have agreed to give discounted prices to YFA members, and they are technically “losing money, this is an investment for the future,” says Bryce. He insists that the only way to address this problem of an uncertain future for the arts is to connect young people on a much deeper level.Tickets for Trojan Women on January 5 begin at the discounted price of NIS 90 and can be purchased at:
For more information about Young friends of the Arts visit their website: