Jewlia Eisenberg was collaborating with The Contemporary Jewish Museum to develop and present Fierce as Death, an exploration of the ancient biblical Song of Songs. Project partners sought to illuminate the text’s traditional meanings and reveal additional layers that suggest new ways of relating to it.
Every Friday afternoon, the museum planned to set up an outdoor house of study in the public space at the front of its building where Jewlia would study the text with strangers in the square, havruta style (in small groups). She was to offer Fierce as Death workshops with such community partners as Qal’bu Maryam, City of Refuge, Bay Area Faeries, and El/La. She and the museum also planned to curate a performance series in which workshop participants and others would share their responses to the Song of Songs.
Sadly, the collaboration changed course when Jewlia Eisenberg died in March 2021. With encouragement from the Creative Work Fund, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Charming Hostess, and Eisenberg’s artistic partners are producing a virtual series Queering the Song of Songs in October-December 2021 and a culminating celebration of her life, music, and legacy inspired by the Song of Songs on March 6, 2022.
Trained as a cantor with extensive experience leading traditional religious practice, Jewlia Eisenberg’s work melds traditional vocal music with deep yet playful text study. Her musical team for this project will draw upon her long-time collaborators from Charming Hostess and Book of J. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, a non-collecting institution, works “to make the diversity of the Jewish experience relevant for a 21st century audience through innovative exhibitions and programs that educate, challenge, and inspire.” In March 2021, Fierce as Death will be performed in the museum’s Yud Gallery, and the room will be enlivened by zoetropes of woodcut images from the Song of Songs, drawn and fabricated by Andrea Dezsö.