AGJA Blog Archives

  • kaddish has four letters

Kaddish has four letters

Painting is interpreting. Artists put thoughts and feelings on canvas the way they experience them or want to express them, their own or belonging to others, but seen though an artis’s lens. Here are my four canvasses about mourning and saying kaddish.

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Yosef and his brothers. Three artistic interpretations

It is not enough that an artist has good skills handling his our her tools, like brushes, chisels, a weaving-loom, clay, or whatever medium they work with, and it’s not enough that they are good at making compositions or combine colors and the like, though this is, of course, indispensable for good art.

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Purim 2024

I once made a circle drawing for a calendar, the month of Adar 1.

This is a month full of symbolism like a pomegranate with seeds. I started with this sketch, like all the oftener artwork shown in this article in India ink and pastel on paper

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The Artist and the Chain

What defines a Jewish artist in the true sense of the word? One definition is: that’s an artist who plays the very important role of connecting our present with our long past, inspiring us with enthusiasm for our Jewish life and traditions through visualizations. Last week I was at a shiva for such a Jewish artist. I saw paintings and drawings on the wall featuring a shtetl artisan and Eastern European Jewry.

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Between Izmir and Berlin

Izmir (or Smyrna, from the Greek word for myrrh, σµύρνα) is an ancient city at the West coast of Turkey, the cradle of civilization and a cultural melting pot during several millennia. In and around Izmir, ancient Greek pillars are juxtaposed to pearls of Byzantine and Ottoman culture and a modern city with steel and concrete office-buildings, high-rises, hospitals, publishing houses, four universities, and an airport.

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Too many Kaddishes

On the last days of this strange and difficult year I want to dedicate a column to the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. The text is actually very uplifting. It praises HaShem and does not mention death at all. It is recited to elevate the soul of a deceased loved one, especially for close members of one’s family , but also for significant persons in one’s life.

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The Ushpizin and the Chassidic Rebbes in the drawings and paintings of Shoshannah Brombacher, Ph.D.

It is customary to invite guests to one’s sukkah on the Festival of Sukkot. During seven days and nights, people sit, eat, and if possible sleep in their sukkah with relatives, friends and neighbors. According to the Zohar, each night of the Festival a group of seven prominent Biblical guests (the Seven Ushpizin) is invited, in a fixed order: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and David.

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What’s in a name? Making art for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

From time to time, I am asked to create a personalized work of art for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This is a joyous occasion and I love the opportunity. Usually, I stick to the following procedure. I paint the bar mitzvah boy or bat mitzvah girl with symbols or objects that are associated with the occasion, like a tallit, sometimes tefillin—but many ceremonies take place in the synagogue on a Shabbat, when donning tefillin is not permitted—or Shabbat candles.

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Is one drawing enough? The story of Channah and Shmuel.

In 2002, right before Rosh Hashannah, I decided to make a series of drawings about the biblical story of Channah and Shemuel (I Sam. 1, 2) which is read as the haftarah of the first day of Rosh haShannah. This beautiful and moving story has all the ingredients an artist could ask for.

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The Shevatim and the Mazalot

The 12 Tribes of Israel and the Constellations of the Zodiac in 14 drawings. I dedicate this project to my dear parents. The drawings in this article combine elements from the blessing of Yaakov in Bereshit 49, Sefer Yetzirah, and to a lesser extent the blessings of Moshe Rabbenu in Devarim 33: 6-29.

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  • JCC Takes ‘Journey’ With 28 Jewish Artists

JCC Takes ‘Journey’ With 28 Jewish Artists

Five Atlanta-area residents are among 28 Jewish artists whose work is on display through May 10 at the Marcus JCC’s Katz Family Mainstreet Gallery.

The juried exhibit, “A Journey Through Time: Works of the American Guild of Judaic Art,” includes paintings, weavings, quilts, sculpture, jewelry and photography.

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The same but different: Three portraits.

This column is written in honor of the Rebbe, who passed away on Gimel Tamuz, which is next week.

Few rabbis have been portrayed as frequently as Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the famous Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Many of these portraits are based on photographs and have a (hyper-)realistic style but there are also portraits in, for example, pop-art style, like Rabbi Yitzchok Moully’s work.

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It is May, the year 2020. Our lives have been drastically changed since March. The city of New York is in lockdown. My neighborhood in Brooklyn has been hit hard by the corona virus. The safest option is to stay at home, drink coffee next to the house—weather permitting— and make walks around the block. People are shopping at the supermarket at night, when there are fewer people, and always with a face mask and gloves.

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Tisha BeAv

We are “in the nine days” preceding Tisha BeAv, which commemorates the two times in history that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed—the first time by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the second time by the Romans in 70 CE. After the first destruction, ten of the twelve Jewish Tribes were exiled from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. According tradition, they ended up behind the legendary River Sambatyon, which flows six days a week but stops on Shabbat.

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People are fascinated by portraits of both the living and those long gone. Portraits make it possible to stand eye to eye and face to face with people who are dead, absent, unreachable or unapproachable. Thanks to portraitists we know how historical personalities looked, and sometimes we can deduct their character or behavior from certain details in their portraits.

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On anachronisms. What time is it?

Dear fellow artists,

I am writing a book about the treatise of The Seven Paths of the Torah of the medieval kabbalist Avraham ben Shmuel Abulafia. Born in Spain, he traveled around the Mediterranean (Italy, Greece), visited Eretz Yisrael in search of the legendary River Sambatyon, taught Kabbalah on Sicily, and died in 1391 on Comino, a small island near Malta.

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Swinging chickens.

In a few days we celebrate Yom Kippur. It is a day of repentance, forgiveness, and atonement, many people fast, go the synagogue, and reflect on their life and their relationship with other people and with G-d. Before Yom Kippur, we ask those we know for forgiveness for intended and unintentional offenses and wrong doings. To ask people we don’t like (or worse) is more difficult, but we make every effort to enter Yom Kippur with a clean slate.

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An artist’s challenge: how to paint a Trial with G’d?

Dear fellow artists and art lovers,

In the past, I have posted an article about Rabbi Aryeh-Leib, aka the Shpoler Zeida (Grandfather from Shpola), a Chassidic Master who lived in the Ukraine from 1724-1811.

In the year 1780, a terrible famine struck the Ukraine, making the lives of its Jewish inhabitants even more miserable than they were already due to antisemitism, pogroms, a horrible bureaucracy, bad winters, and grinding poverty.

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