The Triumph of Mordecai

— Ellen Abraham

I was so glad to be able to participate in the Old City Jewish Art Center Purim Art Exhibition. The opening reception was a joyous occasion and it was a wonderful opportunity to see all of my friends at the OCJAC and see all of the artwork inspired by the holiday of Purim.

My painting,”The Triumph of Mordecai,” depicts a man who is happily celebrating Purim. He is wearing a “Mordecai” mask and is also wearing an extremely elaborate horse costume around his waist which is worn by celebrants to commemorate Mordecai’s triumphant ride on King Ahasuerus’ horse. He is playing the violin and dancing which is part of the merriment that is required on Purim.                  

I have to admit that my own family Purim costumes were a much more low-key event. My son and I always created a Purim outfit for him utilizing the obligatory empty milk carton for his helmet and a bright bathrobe became his biblical attire. My two daughters wanted, of course, to always be Queen Esther and we three “girls” enthusiastically transformed ourselves into Queen Esther using anything bright that we could find in our closets. I think the excitement and fun my husband and our three children (now grown) associate with the holiday of Purim is reflected in my painting.

Details about the exhibition and artist reception after the jump.
The Purim Exhibition runs through March 24. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Thursday, 1-6 pm at the Old City Jewish Art Center (OCJAC), 119 N. 3rd Street, 215-923-1222.

A meet the artist reception will be held this Sunday, March 13, 1-4 pm, Delicious refreshments and live music 1:30-3:00 pm. Featured artists include: Ellen Abraham, Rhea Dennis, Ruth Pinkenson Feldman, Lynnrae Fenimore, Adam Levin, Michael Neff, Deborah Schafer, Mark Segal, and Professor Alexander Shteynberg.

Old City Jewish Art Center Brings Light to High Holidays

Show features new work by thirteen local artists

— Neil Greenberg

In Jewish terms, the practice is fairly recent – only 200 years old – of reading Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul. But it’s a powerful tradition today, and one that informs the new “L’Dovid Ori” show at the Old City Jewish Art Center, which opens First Friday, September 3, from 5 – 9 p.m. and will be up until October 27, with an Artists’ Reception and Grand Opening on Wednesday,
September 15, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.

The psalm is called L’Dovid HaShem Ori, “To David – the L-rd is my light.” Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, who founded the gallery, says he hopes the joy and hope expressed by these artists “will bring a warm and welcome light to difficult times.”

More after the jump.
Despite mentioning enemies, armies and war, the psalm expresses reassurance that we will always be able to face these evils with G-d’s help. Cynthia Blackwood, who curated the show, said “I gathered a number of translations and sent them all to the artists, asking them to use the words as an inspiration. The works they came up with in response are breathtaking and uplifting. This may be our best show ever.”

Ms. Blackwood, who owns The Frame Shop in Elkins Park, designed the show to “embrace you as you come in,” with the words of the psalm running all along the gallery walls, spread among the artworks. Food and wine will be served during the show, and the community experience will be enhanced with a Taste of Shabbos dinner at 9 p.m.

True to the spirit of the Chabad movement in which he is highly respected, Rabbi Schmidt wanted Jewish artists of all backgrounds to participate. “We don’t think people have labels,” he
said. “If you have a curiosity about your heritage, come on in.” Motivated by the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, “the Rebbe,” Chabad is non-judgmental and inclusive, opening its doors to anyone with a questioning mind and a spiritual nature.

The thirteen artists who are represented work in many media, from oils to calligraphy to handmade paper. Mordechai Rosenstein, an internationally known artist, did a mixed-media work that includes Hebrew block lettering rescued from a printer. “A friend in London, Irv Kline, was walking through the East End and found a printer who was going out of business. There were beautifully carved letters that were waiting to be thrown out! He got there just in time, and sent me many of the letter blocks.” The cache stayed in Mr. Rosenstein’s studio for a while, until some of the letters found a home as the word Ori (light) in his work for this show.

Calligrapher Karen Shain Schloss recounted how Ms. Blackwood’s call brought back memories of a trip to Mexico years ago. “It was a difficult time in my life, but I found this labyrinth in Rancho la Puerta, and I was drawn to it every day. Walking there gave me a sense of serenity. Then when Cynthia told me about the show and the psalm, I flashed back on that image, and used it to express the sense of conquering trouble that came into my life.”

Paper artist Rhea Dennis came by her inspiration by talking with friends and family. “The more I discussed the psalm with others, the more I was moved by the idea, and finally came up with the piece I’m showing.”

The Artists’ Reception on the 15th will have some other features to liven up the proceedings. Philly favorite Ben Laden will provide the music, and The Shofar Factory will bring a number of shofars to add to the aural merriment. There will also be a reading of Psalm 27 and commentary by the artists themselves.

“L’Dovid Ori” First Friday, September 3, 5 – 9 p.m., Taste of Shabbos 9 p.m. Featuring works
by Lucy Barr, Sandy Berman, Cynthia Blackwood, Leah Caroline, Rhea Dennis, Harriet Finck,
Debra Kapnek, Emily Ennulat-Lustine, Mordechai Rosenstein, Barbara Rosin, Karen Shain
Schloss, Joye Schwartz, Mark Segal and Deborah Ugoretz. Artists’ Reception September
15, 6:30 – 9 p.m. Show open September 3 through October 27. Gallery hours: T-Th 1-6 or by
appointment. Old City Jewish Art Center, 119 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia, 215.923.1222. A project
of the Jewish Heritage Programs.