A Time to Every Purpose

“Sabbatai Tsevi” by Mark Gunnery.

Radical Jewish Calendar Calls for Submissions

While there is no shortage of Jewish calendars in the world, the Radical Jewish Calendar, currently working on its fifth edition, is different.

“Most Jewish calendars that are printed now turn to a new month based on the Gregorian calendar, and the Jewish dates are forced to fit that mold,” said Rabbi Ariana Katz, rabbi of Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl, who serves as the calendar’s layout editor. “Our calendar is fit to the lunar cycle, to Rosh Chodesh, deprioritizing Christian notions of time.”

The calendar is now seeking submissions from artists for its next edition. Submissions are due April 25. Those who wish to purchase the calendar when it is finished can do so at buyoly.com.

“The calendar was started to create a beautiful tool for timekeeping that centered Jewish time and progressive values,” Katz said. “The Radical Jewish Calendar tells the story of a vibrant, powerful, and growing Jewish leftist community, one that has existed for as long as there have been Jews.”

The team behind the calendar is comprised of Katz, content editor Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg, and art editor Elissa Martel, who works with artists that are proposing submissions.

In past editions, the calendar sold as many as 1,500 copies around the world, Katz said, but its origins are humble.

“We began by shipping out of Jess’ living room, hand-packaging and stamping each one,” Katz said. Currently, they allow a distributor to handle that aspect of the work.

The art that is in the calendar comes from artists around the world. “Artists from around the world submit pieces that reflect our political and emotional realities, and are paid for their labor,” Katz said. One such artist is Baltimorean Mark Gunnery, whose submission was in the 5779 issue of the calendar.

Gunnery’s submission was a portrait of “Sabbatai Tsevi, the 17th century rabbi, kabbalist, and self-proclaimed messiah,” he said.

Gunnery explained that Tsevi converted to Islam after being threatened with death by Ottoman authorities.

“I am fascinated by Sabbatai Tsevi and the movement that arose around him both before and after his conversion,” Gunnery said, adding that Zevi’s story “should be reexamined, because it can teach us a lot about assimilation, nationalism, mass media, sexuality, queerness, and what it means to be a Jew in the modern world.”

Katz described the calendar’s artwork as “heartbreaking, funny, cheeky, and it tells the story of the world around us with great truth and beauty. Our calendar’s values are core to how art is selected and what dates are lifted up.”

The dates that are included, or not, in the calendar are also noteworthy.

According to Katz, “we have rejected some dates found on ‘traditional’ Jewish calendars, holidays that exclusively celebrate contemporary militarism and nationalism.” In their place, she said, the calendar’s leadership “added days that reflect and build the Judaism and Jewish culture that we want to live; that celebrate queer and feminist history; honor the racial, ethnic, cultural, and historical diversity within Jews; and that lift up resistance to the occupation.”

Some of these dates include the birthday of Trayvon Martin, the yahrzeit of Octavia Butler, the expulsion of Jews from Spain on the sixth of Nissan, 1492, and the “21st of Tevet, when the Lumbee Tribe [of North Carolina] drove the KKK off their land,” Katz said.
“Calendars have always been political, because it controls who does what when,” Katz said.

“Calendars have always integrated things from the larger secular world to more religious aspects such as when is candlelighting. The project is not that new or revolutionary.”

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