Please support our work with a fiscal year-end gift. Thank you!

October 23, 2023 Before the Beginning: Rabbi Nehemia Polen and Artist Mel Brown in Conversation

This Event Has Passed

  • Date
  • time Eastern Time
  • location Hebrew College
    1860 Washington Street
    Newton, MA 02466
  • cost Free
  • organizer Hebrew College
share with friends

In the Beginning art exhibit

Representing the Unrepresentable

October 23| 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. |  Hebrew College

Drawing upon early mystical sources, including Sefer Yetzira and Zohar, enter with us into an exploration of visual, verbal, and musical efforts to depict that which cannot be depicted. The conversation will be followed by a Q & A session and is related to our current art exhibit, “In the Beginning,” featuring works in acrylic and ink on canvas by Boston artist Mel Brown. Read more about the exhibit, on view through December 14, here.

Kindly RSVP by October 18, 2023 using the purple button above or to the right.

Our Speakers

nehemia-polinRabbi Nehemia Polen, PhD is Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew College and a leading expert in Hasidism and Jewish thought. A widely published author, his books include The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapirathe Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto; a translation of Malkah Shapiro’s The Rebbe’s Daughter: Memoir of a Hasidic Childhood, a project that originated in Polen’s research as a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and recipient of a National Jewish Book Award; Filling Words With Light: Hasidic and Mystical Reflections on Jewish Prayer; and From Tiberias, With Love: A Collection of Tiberian Hasidism, Volume I: Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk. His most recent book, most recent book Stop, Look, Listen: Celebrating Shabbos Through a Spiritual Lens (Maggid 2022), was named a finalist for the 72nd Jewish Book Council’s Myra H. Kraft memorial Award for Contemporary Jewish Life & Practice.

Polen holds a doctorate from Boston University, where he studied with and served as a teaching fellow for Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. Prior to his career in Jewish academia, Polen served for 23 years as a congregational rabbi.

Mel Brown

Mel Brown is a self-taught painter, entrepreneur, and an occasional mystic descended from a family of Eastern European rabbis who originally came from Spain. He grew up in a working-class steel town in Northwest Indiana.

In his early years, he worked as a railroad switchman as well as a boiler cleaner at U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana. He also studied abstract experimental photography at Indiana University under the tutelage of Henry Holmes Smith, one of the most influential fine art photography teachers of the mid-20th century.

For many years he has also been a dedicated student and teacher of Jewish mystical texts. In addition to leading intimate study groups in a line-by-line parsing of the Torah, he also co-leads a post-denominational Jewish spiritual community in the Boston area.

Through his many life experiences and journeys, Mel has been a keen observer of many cultures and traditions which has allowed him to weave a certain transcendent universalism into his art.  He is engaged in creating non-representational art that is unique and evocative, drawing on his own wide ranging experiences, his sense of mystery, and his ongoing engagement with ancient Jewish texts.

The exhibit and talk are organized by the Hebrew College Arts Initiative.

Mel Brown’s original artwork and limited-edition prints will be available for purchase during the run of the fall exhibitThrough a generous arrangement with the artist, half of the proceeds will be given to Hebrew College.

venue & contact info