For the artist, the use of symbol is similar. Art is a search for definition, through symbol and creative expression. The use of symbol in Jewish art reflects the need to represent the Jewish people, the Jewish collective soul, in a form that Jews can identify with and recognize as Jewish.
The kippah is then the ultimate Jewish symbol. It is an instantly recognizable symbol: of a relationship, to God and to fellow Jews, and of a set of values. This symbol constitutes a community. The kippah, or rather, what it symbolizes, seeks to define the Jew.
But is such definition possible? Both the issues of art and of the kippah, as the articles in this magazine reveal, have the same problem at their core: is the Jew or Jewish experience definable? Can it be symbolized?
Defining Judaism is only possible if we believe that there is such thing as a collective Jewish soul, that there is some underlying principle to Jewish experience that distinguishes it. This leads to another issue discussed in this magazine - that of Jewish pluralism. The implication that there is no shared way to be Jewish renders the Jewish experience indescribable.
As illustrated herein, each Jew as an individual tries to define himself in a different way. Whether all ways are equally valid, however, is left unsettled. It is the shared symbols that establish a community, not merely the sum of individual definitions.
-- Rebecca Phillips