An Artist’s View of Jewish History

BY
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Altneu Synagogue
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I grew up in a household of non-practicing Jews in Brooklyn, NY. The once a year Passover Seder was my only link to my heritage. In fact, I had no idea what the Seder was really about or why we did it. I just knew it was an obligatory family event. As I grew up and became deeply interested in the arts, acquiring an eclectic group of friends, being “Jewish” was the furthest thing from my mind.

Teaching art to an almost exclusively African American student body, I was exposed, for the first time, to the difficulties and challenges of being “different”. The struggles I witnessed inspired my work, and a burgeoning interest in cultural heritage. But that interest did not include my own cultural heritage.

It was some time later, while living in the Washington, DC area, that I was exposed, for the first time, to anti-Semitism, something I had never experienced before, and had long thought a myth. With my heritage shoved in my face, I could no longer ignore who I was.

As I began facing this Jewishness I had long ignored, I was invited to paint a mural in Prague, Czech Republic, a city with a rich Jewish history. Before embarking on my exciting adventure I read up on the places I would be visiting. Confronted for the first time with the Holocaust and Jewish history, I was fascinated and read everything I could get my hands on before departing. Once in Prague, I haunted the old Jewish quarter, old synagogues and an incredible cemetery . I visited Theresienstadt.

When I got home, my work was forever transformed. On a search for signs and remnants of Jewish culture and history, I read more about Jewish History and culture. I began to travel to the places I read about. The more I read the more I traveled. The more I traveled the more I read, and the more my work became immersed in the places I had been,

The works that you will be viewing are based on these travels, the images created partially from memory and partially from direct observation. If you have any questions or comments and/or you are interested in purchasing one of these unique pieces, please contact Joyce at joyel5@comcast.net. For more information and to see additional works, visit JoyceEllenWeinstein.com.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.