Hebrew College Arts Initiative
In 2021, Hebrew College established its Arts and Culture initiative in keeping with the College’s long-standing mission of fostering love of Torah, social justice, pluralism, and creativity. Our exhibitions are open to the public, providing access to learning and on-going conversation.
The same year, Hebrew College also launched an Artist Beit Midrash in partnership with the Jewish Arts Collaborative and CJP. This new Jewish learning salon brings together Boston artists to study Jewish texts, share their creative processes, and build community and connection.
“The Hope Diaries: A Collaborative Art Project”
Shirah Rubin, a Boston artist, convened students from around Boston at four different Jewish institutions (Jewish Community Day School of Boston, Solomon Schechter of Boston, Temple Beth Zion, and Metrowest Community Day School). Though a collaborative art making process, the 60 students explored their personal interpretations of hope, assembling collage covers for these sketchbooks based on the prompt: “What does hope look like for you?” The diaries were then sent to children in six Yad B’yad schools — where Jewish-Israeli students learn together with children who are Arab-Israeli in Haifa and five other cities within Israel. The Hope Diaries offer a “container” for each child’s expression and imagination during this most difficult time.
Special thanks to Shirah Rubin, the Jewish day schools involved, and CJP.
Images from Past Hebrew College Art Exhibits
“In the Beginning”: Art Exhibit Features Works by Mel Brown
September 10-December 14, 2023
Beginning September 10th, Hebrew College will be showing a collection of artist Mel Brown’s acrylic and ink on canvas paintings in an exhibit called “In the Beginning” in the new Atkins Atrium on our shared campus in Newton. The exhibit opens with an event on September 10th from 5-7 p.m. celebrating the launch of Hebrew College’s first art exhibit of the new academic year.. Read more.
Hebrew College Inaugurates New Campus with “Eight Approaches” Exhibit
“Eight Approaches” by Joshua Meyer
To celebrate the inauguration of the new shared campus, Hebrew College is featuring artist Joshua Meyer’s eight-painting series “Eight Approaches,” which debuted this past December at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. These paintings are displayed alongside his painting “Seek” from the College’s permanent collection and will be on view through July 2023. Read more.
FALL 2022 ART EXHIBIT
Syncopation: Lyrical Abstraction in Israeli Art (1970s)
Hebrew College’s fall art exhibition “Syncopation” featured Israeli art from the College’s permanent collection in celebration of Israel’s 75th anniversary. Explore 22 works on paper, all done in the 1970s. The exhibit ran in Hebrew College’s Ted Cutler Atrium from September through November 2022. Read more.
Spring 2022 Centennial Art Exhibit:
Remember. Renew. Reimagine.
Show Dates: April 3 through June 14, 2022
Location: Hebrew College Ted Cutler Atrium
This special exhibit, which honored Hebrew College’s 100th anniversary, celebrated artistic voices, images, and expressions inspired by Torah, and included pieces from Hebrew College’s permanent collection as well as contemporary creative expressions on Torah and Jewish identity. (Above: “Eight Approaches” by Joshua Meyer. Oil on canvas, four panels, 50″ x 40″.)
Show Dates: September 12, 2021-January 31, 2022
Location: Hebrew College Ted Cutler Atrium
Hebrew College Exhibit Partner: Rabbinical School
Sponsors: Deborah Feinstein and Susan Schechter
Seeing Torah is a visual diary documenting artist Anita Rabinoff-Goldman’s study and artistic response to each of the 54 portions of the Torah over the cycle of a single Jewish year. Each piece is a visual midrash in the tradition of Jewish creative commentary: imaginative re-envisionings as seen through a woman’s lens illuminating the spiritual, political, and feminist lessons living in the Torah. Accompanied by a short commentary, every piece allows viewers to consider how Torah can be a continuing source of learning and discourse and reflect on what it means to them.
Hebrew College’s Centennial kicks off with Torah-inspired art exhibit — Newton TAB, September 24, 2021
The Art of Making Torah Visual by Judith Bolton-Fasman for JewishBoston, September 27, 2021
Special alumni-led gallery talks
The exhibit included Hebrew College Rabbinical School-alumni-led talks about the Torah portion of the week as it pertains to the exhibit. The events are free of charge and will be offered in the Ted Cutler Atrium in the lower level of the college unless otherwise indicated:
- Mon., Oct. 4 at 1:15 p.m. with Rabbi Jessica Lowenthal `19
- Tues., Oct. 26 at 1:15 p.m. with Rabbi Allison Poirier `19 — Watch the Zoom recording
- On Zoom: Tues., Nov. 9 at 1:15 p.m. with Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz `10
- Wed., Nov. 17 at 11:00 a.m. with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger `17
- ON ZOOM Wed., Dec. 8 at 11:00 a.m. with Rabbi Jamie Kotler `16 — Watch the Zoom recording
Inaugural Hebrew College Arts Initiative
“This idea of seasons within faith, was one I thought of often. In Genesis 8:22 it reads, ‘For as long as Earth lasts, planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never stop.'”
— Brenda Bancel, curator of “Faith in Isolation Expressed”
Over the past challenging year, many of us found ourselves looking for strength and faith when separated from our communities. In Hebrew College’s inaugural Arts Initiative project “Faith in Isolation Expressed,” photographer and curator Brenda Bancel has created a photo installation looking at how we found that faith despite our challenges. “At one point I began looking through the Internet for photos of faith and how people were digging deep into theirs in order to be comforted,” she said. “People were getting creative in order to engage in their faith. It was so moving to see believers unite together in this period of separation.”
Hebrew College is grateful that our Arts Initiative is supported by Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston’s (CJP) Arts and Culture initiative.
Exhibit dates + in person touring schedule
Title: The Faith in Isolation Expressed
Dates: April 12 to June 14, 2021
Location: Hebrew College Cutler Atrium
About the Curator: Brenda Bencel
Brenda Bancel is the President of the Champions of Love Foundation and owner of Brenda Bancel Photography LLC. She spent ten years in the advertising industry working with clients such as Apple in Los Angeles and IBM in New York, Paris and London before realizing that she wanted to focus on non-profit work. She was President of the TAKE 5 Foundation for ten years where she gave photography lessons to kids in underserved communities. She is a 2011 graduate of the New England School of Photography where she received honors in documentary. She also recently studied for two years at the Harvard Divinity School as a special student. Brenda is interested in the cross section of where creativity and compassion intersect.
Faith in Isolation: A Multifaith Panel Discussion
In response to Brenda Bancel’s “Faith in Isolation Expressed” exhibit, religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions will explore the ways in which they and their communities have expressed their spiritual commitments during the pandemic. This will include discussion of prayer, meditation, study, and acts of service and advocacy. Panelists include: Rabbi Or Rose, founding director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College; Dr. Celene Ibrahim, author of Women and Gender in the Qur’an and editor of One Nation, Indivisible: Seeking Liberty and Justice from the Pulpit to the Streets; and Shively T. J. Smith, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Boston University School of Theology.
One of the things that I can’t live without in my life is faith.
It’s like breathing for me.
But when Covid seeped into the world, fear and uncertainty sank in; governments, news channels, organizations all scrambled to try to understand this deadly virus.
Fear, is mentioned a lot in my faith, The phrase, “Fear not, “ is mentioned over 70 times in the bible. Yet, here I was, afraid. I needed my spiritual nourishment. The world was in quarantine, all of us collectively trying to figure out how to be safe to ourselves and to others.
This time was an incredibly challenging season for myself and my family.
This idea of seasons within faith, was one I thought of often. In Genesis 8:22 it reads, “For as long as Earth lasts, planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never stop.”
This moment for me felt like a very long, cold, dark winter.
As a photographer, I felt zero inspiration to capture this moment in time. I only wanted to see the other side of this pandemic and still do. But at one point I began looking through the Internet for photos of faith and how people were digging deep into theirs in order to be comforted. I saw photos of people finding ways to celebrate the high holidays, perform sacraments, conduct prayers and even do baptisms by squirt guns. People were getting creative in order to engage in their faith. It was so moving to see believers unite together in this period of separation.
There were also photos of extreme sadness. The solitude of death, the inability to be together to celebrate a life lost felt unbearable. These were moments where only being together could bring serenity and comfort.
But globally, across all religions, the beauty of the believers in their quest and thirst for spiritual practice brought hope into my days.
As I was also looking to nature to comfort me, I was reading about the amazing life of the sequoia trees. Their life felt like an analogy of faith.
The sequoia is the oldest and one of the largest tree species in the world. It never stops growing in its lifetime. They can live 3000 years and be 300 feet tall. To put this in perspective, it’s the size of a twenty-six floor building. They can be 30 feet in diameter. So the tree, is just an amazing force and presence.
Yet in order for the tree to reproduce, the pine cones must be set on fire so they open and the seed is released.
So for the sequoia to bear life, it must suffer.
The sequoias greatest risk of dying is not fire however, as its bark protects the tree, but its greatest risk of dying is that their roots are too shallow, far too shallow for their height and weight.
So in order to live, they grow near each other, and they pull on each others roots for support.
They pull on each others roots so they don’t fall down.
For me it perfectly sums up this moment, this season. We all pulled each other up in order to make sure we didn’t fall. It showed that even the strong are vulnerable, and that sometimes the suffering can lead to a beautiful harvest. Let’s talk about what the harvest will be. Let’s find the beauty in the harvest.
Selections from the Exhibit
Rev. Miriam White Hammond, Pastor of New Roots AME Church
in Dorchester, MA.
Havdalah service at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA
Online Shabbat service with Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA
Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center member making masks
Artist Beit Midrash
A learning community for creatives
Hebrew College has partnered with JArts & CJP to create the Artist Beit Midrash, a new Jewish learning salon, that will bring up to 28 Boston-area Jewish artists of all kinds together to study Jewish text, share their creative process, and build community.
Is your creative drive a big part of your life, personally or professionally? Would you like to nourish your creativity with Jewish learning and community? Would you like to engage in your creative work as a spiritual practice? Come join the Artist Beit Midrash!
Launched in 2021, the Artist Beit Midrash is a Jewish learning salon that brings together Boston-area Jewish creators to study Jewish text, reflect on their creative process, and build community. In our inaugural year, our community included writers, installation artists, photographers, singers, theater directors, textile painters, memoirists, poets, potters and more.
Applicants’ work may be Jewishly themed, but does not need to be. All mediums, themes, and levels of artistic and textual ability are welcome. Commitment to creative living as Jews is what brings us together.
When you participate, you receive:
- A community and network of local Jewish artists and creators
- Monthly guided study of rich and accessible contemporary and classical texts
- Opportunities to reflect on your creative process in a small group setting
- A place where your work and thoughts are received as sacred gifts
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman, Co-creator and Director of Professional Development at Hebrew College
There is so much to explore in Judaism that can enrich our lives as artists and our creative process. We can delve into Jewish history and texts that speak to the role of artist as creator, or our engagement in the societal challenges facing us, or how memory and trauma function in our art, or how we build resilience and joy in troubling times.