How do you approach an event or destination that you know will be difficult and depressing? Not an easy thing to do.
We recently participated in a pilgrimage that laid before us the darkest of human times. The darkness was followed by the light of today and what the future holds. All in a two week period.
LET’S START WITH THE DARKNESS.
At the end of October 2017, my husband and I joined a group from our synagogue on a journey to explore our peoples history through Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. Marty has a fairly thorough family tree of his parents ancestors and was looking forward to learning more about their life and fate in the “old country”. I know very little about my families history but do know that they did come from that part of the world as well.
We knew that the trip would take us to a number of concentration and death camps. Our group really didn’t know how we would react to the devastation ahead of us, all had different reasons for taking this journey
Our pilgrimage started in Poland
Poland was the location of the vast majority of concentration/death camps primarily because of it’s proximity to the Jewish population of eastern Europe. We learned that before the war, Jews comprised a large majority of the Polish population which was all but wiped out during those darkest of times. We visited a number of the concentration and death camps but also learned of those who risked everything to protect their friends and neighbors.
As most Jewish cemeteries were destroyed during the war, bits and pieces of headstones remained. These were often built into walls that surround the sacred space. The window above depicts one such cemetery wall. It combines traditional copper foil stained glass technique with wire knit “Priestly Benediction” hands. Some of the glass pieces are etched with actual text and images from those remaining headstones.
We visited the Krakow JCC and learned that in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest amongst the Polish people. They are flocking to learn and explore their countries Jewish history and personal roots like never before.
I began by photographing everything and anything. My thought was to look at the events of history through the lens of my camera and eyes of an artist. Once we returned, I planned to translate those experiences and images into stained glass windows.
Not easy as I had planned… so many of the photos were taken through tears.
Looking back at those photos I see the horror of those times and beauty of souls lost. But also the brightness of the future that is ahead.
We traveled from Poland to Jerusalem. At our first stop in Jerusalem we witnessed the sunrise over the old city on Shabbat morning. Once settled in our hotel, some of us headed to HUC for Shabbat morning services. We found this a truly uplifting way to transition into the light.
From Jerusalem we traveled south into the Negev. The beauty of the land and people was inspiring. From there we traveled back up to the modern city of Tel Aviv. Along the way, experiencing a people and county pointed towards a bright future.
These images were much easier to translate into glass as you can imagine. To the right, “The Green Line” depicting a line of green trees dividing the Israeli landscape from the desert.
YOU ARE INVITED
My translation of all of these images, some very literal, some fairly abstract, will be presented a collection called From Darkness into Light. These will hang along with some of my other stained glass creations in the Congregation Beth Or Olitsky Art Gallery.
The exhibit runs from Friday, March 9 through Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Congregation Beth Or is located at 239 Welsh Rd, Maple Glen, PA 19002. The gallery is generally one during normal business hours Monday through Friday and Sundays from 9 am to 1:30 pm. If you are interested in visiting, please contact me and I’d be happy to meet you there.