"Walking Our Heritage into the Future"
(click on the picture to see it enlarged)
This is a painting I have been working on for several months, but really it began developing in my mind on the day that Temple Shir Shalom moved from their temporary location in an office building to its newly completed building, designed particularly for their congregation. Rabbi Dannel Schwartz had been the Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth El at the time close to 30 years ago that our family moved here from New Jersey. Our son was nearing Bar Mitzvah age and had begun Hebrew study before we moved, in preparation for reading his Torah portion in Hebrew at his future Bar Mitzvah Service at temple when he would turn 13. We moved when he was 10 years old. Since we moved to a home not far from Temple Beth El, it was practical for his after school studies, for us to join that Reform congregation. We had heard from others that Rabbi Schwartz was an outstanding leader, and we found him to be everything good that we had been told. When our son was to have his important day, it was Rabbi Schwartz who officiated. His manner with Seth, our son, made every thing about the event so personally meaningful. In fact, it was so moving that as our family stood up front near the Ark where the Torah scrolls are stored, and the Rabbi blessed Seth, expressing the meaning of all that was taking place and his hopes for Seth as a "Jewish man" in his future, our older daughter Jennifer was moved to tears, and our younger daughter Lindsay stood wide-eyed, and mesmerized by a feeling of the importance of all of this.
So you would say that we were personally connected to this Rabbi who would eventually leave Beth El, and begin a fledgling congregation of his own.
This is a quote from the Shir Shalom website :
From the outside appearance of the building itself, which is fashioned to look like a Torah Scroll unfurling from right to left to the very pattern of our walkway in the form of an olive branch, each and every element was created to reflect the philosophy of our congregation. In the forefront of Reform Judaism's future, Temple Shir Shalom has grown from 30 founding families in 1988 to over 900 families today. We have worked hard to create a synagogue, which could radiate warmth and respond to the individual needs of our congregants. Architects Ken Neumann and Joel Smith translated both the mission of our congregation and Rabbi Schwartz's vision into brick and mortar while providing the traditional three-fold purpose of the synagogue: a house of study, a house of prayer and a house of meeting designed for people who wish to share a warmth of heart and spirit.
When the day of the actual move was publicized in the Jewish News and other newspapers, I saved the photos and articles that had so much meaning to me, seeing Rabbi Schwartz finding his dreams fulfilled. I knew then, in 1988, that I would eventually do a large painting about this event. I find that the subjects and imagery that have true importance to me stay with me forever intil they find fruition in my work, sometimes, as in this case, many years down the road.
This painting has been finding itself subconsciously within me for this duration of time. Even from when I decided to paint it a few months ago, it has moved forward with fits and starts, trying to find its right description on my canvas. I now feel fulfilled in expressing this group of people and the destiny of its leader, as they made their way forward on that day, carrying their torahs under the "Chuppa" the canopy, as is traditional) to their new and rightful home, to continue their tradition and heritage, carrying it into a new future. I recall reading that one of the scrolls that they passed from one member of the congregation to another as they walked was a torah which had been smuggled out of Germany wrapped in a wedding gown, brought to this country by those fleeing a tragic past, immigrants seeking a new life in America, and the freedom to worship safely in their ancient tradition, bringing along that of value which belonged to their anscestors. I hope I have expressed the details of the past correctly. It's been quite a meaningful journey. I suspect this painting is my way of participating in the joyous event and the strength of survival it carries with it. L'Chaim! To Life!