Arts & Culture

The JCA is proud to present our annual Arts & Culture Series, featuring scholars, authors, films, photography and musical performances.

  • Programs are subject to change. See our website and announcements for the latest information.
  • All programs are held at the JCA, unless otherwise noted.
  • JCA closures will be announced via WCSH, WGME, WMTW, and on and the JCA’s voicemail at (207) 772-1959.
  • Admission to the JCA’s Arts & Culture events is free for students with a valid high school, college or university ID, unless otherwise noted.
Binding of Isaac - Rembrandt

The Art of Sacrifice: The Binding of Isaac Story in Visual Art, Literature, and Music

With Emily Isaacson, Artistic Director of the Oratorio Chorale and Maine Chamber Ensemble

Tuesday, April 23, 6:00 PM

JCA - 1342 Congress St., Portland

Free! All are welcome.

The binding of Isaac is one of the most emotionally heart-wrenching stories in the Hebrew Bible. In this tale, Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is prepared to sacrifice his favorite son to show his devotion to God. In the thousands of years since it was written, this impassioned story has generated awe, controversy, and artistic expression. It prompts questions about the nature of faith and the relationship between God and humans. In her multi-media presentation, Dr. Isaacson demonstrates how, throughout history, various artists, writers and composers have chosen to interpret this story, not only from a religious perspective, but also as commentary on contemporary political and social issues.

Mike Reiss Trev Gradient

Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for the Simpsons
With former Simpsons head writer and producer Mike Reiss

Sunday, April 28, 6:30 PM

Free. Suggested admission is $10 - we appreciate your support!

Reserve your spot in advance at or call (207) 772-1959.

  • A "Must" pick by Entertainment Weekly
  • An A.V. Club "Best Books of June" selection
  • A "New and Noteworthy" selection by USA Today
Yom Hashoah

Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day Community Observance & Free Film

Wednesday, May 1, 6:00 PM. 

Presented in partnership with the Maine Jewish Film Festival, Oratorio Chorale, and the JCA

Made possible with the generous support of:

Drs. Verne and Tracey Weisberg

The Sam L. Cohen Foundation, as part of the What Binds Us Together Series

The event will open with a brief memorial ceremony which will include lighting of Yahrzeit memorial candles and recitation of the Kaddish prayer, and a musical performance by Oratorio Chorale, followed by a free screening of the film They Played for their Lives. The film will be followed by a Q+A session with Emily Isaacson - Artistic Director of Oratorio Chorale, Rabbi Carolyn Braun, and Holocaust educator and historian Anna Wrobel.

They Played for Their Lives tells the extraordinary story of eight musicians whose lives were saved by music.  Through intimate interviews and live performances, the film artfully portrays  how music saved the lives and fostered the spiritual strength  of young musicians in the ghettos and concentration camps.  Each survivor has a unique story that illustrates the power of music to sustain the human soul during its darkest hours.  And while their post-war lives unfold in surprising ways, music remains at the core of these survivors' memory and legacy.

Kosher Gospel

Kosher Gospel – Joshua Nelson Live in Concert

Sunday, May 5,  12:30 PM

Free, as part of the JCA’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration of Israel Independence Day.

12:30 PM - the celebration opens with children’s crafts, games, trivia and activities, as well as delicious fresh falafel for sale prepared by Daniel Heinrich.

2:00 PM - Free “Kosher Gospel” concert featuring Joshua Nelson.

Blending Jewish liturgical lyrics with the joyous and uplifting melodies of Gospel music - one of America’s best-known indigenous musical forms, Joshua has performed around the world for presidents, congregations, major music festivals—and for Oprah, who named him a “Next Big Thing.”  He has produced a stellar album, Mi Chamocha, sung with stars from Aretha Franklin to the Klezmatics, and served as the subject of the acclaimed documentary film Keep on Walking.  Nelson serves as an artist in residence at Jewish congregations across the country, including at his home synagogue of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, a Reform congregation in South Orange, New Jersey where he taught Hebrew School for 15 years. Whatever the venue, Joshua Nelson, the Prince of Kosher Gospel, brings people—and cultures—together in joyous song.

Reserve your spot in advance at or call (207) 772-1959.

Rachel Kadish

The Weight of Ink
Book talk with award winning novelist Rachel Kadish

Tuesday, May 21, 7:00 PM

Free. Suggested admission is $10 - we appreciate your support!

Reserve your spot in advance at or call (207) 772-1959.

  • An intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel
  • Winner of a National Jewish Book Award
  • A USA Today Bestseller
Saving Your History

Saving Your History: How to Review and Organize Your Stuff to Meet Legal and Personal Needs (A workshop with Susie Bock)

Thursday, July 18th, 10:00 – 11:30 AM

JCA – 1342 Congress St. Portland

Co-sponsored by USM’s Judaica Collection

Free and open to the public. Advance registration required.

Humans create and collect material culture (documents, objects) in the course of living. Establishing control over your material culture can be daunting, but important so you can put your hands on what you need when you need it. This workshop will:

  • Help you sort and evaluate material culture (papers, objects, photographs, audio-visual material) created or collected.
  • Advice on storing and caring for the materials to ensure their preservation.
  • Advice on donating material to a cultural/historical institution.

These principles and procedures can be used by individuals or groups (such as community organizations).

Susie Bock is Coordinator of Special Collections and Director of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine at USM’s University Libraries.