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Announcing the Winner of the 2016 AGJA Essay Contest

What area of Jewish Life, from Jewish tradition or from Jewish text, is most important to you to pass on to future generations with your works? Juror’s Statement by Lawrence Schloss. MA ‘English The question raised by the assigned essay topic affirms the positive point of view that art possesses the intrinsic quality and force to effect change; that Jewish artists can draw from Jewish tradition or text and create art for a variety of viewing audiences. The 3 essays I read are imbued with a sense of hope, sincerity, insight and knowledge relative to the importance of passing on to future generations integral elements of Judaism, each essay citing specific and concrete examples of how the writer’s art serves to fulfil this important function: One essay broaches the idea that the artist’s intention is to reveal, “The intrinsic beauty of our year round traditions.” The writer goes on to state that she hopes her, “children, grandchildren and those who viewed the works, would better understand how Judaism can bring joy into one’s life.” The essay is a beautiful expression of her desire to convey, “The message of appreciating the intrinsic beauty of Jewish concepts and traditions, which would bode well for future generations.” The essay concludes with the noteworthy desire that her art, “May be a spark to illuminate its (Judaism’s) significance and beauty.” How inspirational! A second essay proudly proclaims that, “Jewish artists are truly blessed….A long, rich cultural Jewish history spanning nearly the whole world…” The writer presents a brilliant explanation why she chooses to create Chassidic art as opposed to, say, art reflecting images from the Holocaust. Her description of Chassidic art, “a fading line between harsh reality and what the mind and soul need” is a manifestation of the writer’s profound sensitivity to history, art and Judaism. It concludes with the wonderful assertion that, “Art makes the world within visible…especially the Chassidic world.” The essay reflects a keen insight into art and Judaism; the tone and voice is quite remarkable! A third essay is a powerful, personal expression of the writer’s 40 year commitment to use, “my work in creating visual messages that inspire Jewish interest, pride and identity… today all problematic factors in the Jewish community.” He goes on to state that Jews face, “a big challenge to our Jewish future and at its core is our Jewish educational process.” The essay maintains a vibrant and consistent point of view, as clearly stated in the title: Judaic Art, Needed Tool of Jewish Continuity. It is a moving and brilliant plea for the increased role of Jewish education. I am moved by the writer’s obvious passion regarding art, education, and Judaism! As Juror, I am highly impressed by each of these fine essays: they are passionate expressions of the role of Judaic art relative to Judaism. Each essay possesses its own voice, tone, illustrations, and insight relating to the assigned topic. May I congratulate all three writers! The winner of the 2016 essay contest is Shoshannah Brombacher, Ph.D. Shoshannah’s Winning Essay: Jewish artists are truly blessed. A long, rich cultural Jewish history spanning nearly the whole world offers us a plethora of subjects to choose from. What we show the world depends on our tastes, preferences, experiences and backgrounds, where we are now, both spiritually and artistically. As a Western European Ashkenazy Jew who grew up in Holland, lived in Berlin and moved to New York, people often ask why I don’t make Holocaust art? Much of my work depicts the Eastern European Chassidic world before it vanished in the Holocaust. I discovered Chassidic stories in my father’s study in Holland. They are about human nature, aspirations, adversaries and adversities —about never giving up. They embody the supernatural, magic, a fading line between harsh reality and what the mind and soul need and crave. Chassidic stories speak to the heart and soul! This is the kind of Jewish heritage I want to pass on to others, like a torch. Like Beethoven’s music, Chassidic stories are alive and inspiring, no matter what time or country we live in. You will often see an antique shabbat lamp hanging in my drawings, a so-called Judenstern. Its oil-lights fan out like a star to all sides, bathing the room in the peaceful glow of Shabbat. Outside, wolves howl in the cold darkness; inside, there is an island of peace and serenity. A little light can disperse a lot of darkness. That is what I want to pass on to future generations – our heritage, our pride. We are still here and very much alive! My artist statement is based on a story about the Kotzker Rebbe, who had no Chassidic background. One day, he heard a story-teller in the street talk about the Besht. Despite his ideas about those “buba-mayses,” (simple children’s stories), he stopped, listened, became a follower of the Baal Shem, a famous Chassidic Master. I am not a Rebbe. I am an artist. But I understand how he felt. That’s why with my brushes I light the lamp to bathe my canvas and my world in a golden glow… “Art makes the world within visible. My art is a tribute to music and to our heritage, especially the Chassidic world. The Kotzker Rebbe listened to a story-teller in the street and stated: ‘He told what he wanted and I heard what I needed’. That is art.” Shoshannah Brombacher, Ph.D., Maggidah Brooklyn NY

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