iv
 
         


  Susan Weinberg
  Studio 409































   





SLEEPING WITH CHICKENS
   


A woman who grew up in North Minneapolis told us this  story about chickens who slept next to her grandmother's bed each weekend prior to being butchered for dinner.  While I call it Sleeping with the Chickens, my husband has renamed it Death Row.

I remember after I was born that we lived on Emerson also.   When my aunt Tillie, my grandmother’s oldest daughter, when she decided to take a vacation for a weekend or something.  My mother had a sister that lived in Wisconsin.  So she would decide to go up to Wisconsin to see her sister.  They didn’t want my grandmother to live alone so who do they pick to go live with my grandmother? Me. I remember my grandmother had a one bedroom apartment, it was upstairs.  She lived upstairs.  She had a mattress must have been about that thick (holds hands two to three feet apart), all feathers you know, and a stool to get up.  So when it was time to go to bed, I crawled in to get into bed to sleep with her… next to the bed my grandmother had  two live chickens in a box and I was deathly afraid of chickens and that’s where I had to sleep that night with the live chickens there.

Because in the morning she’d go to the shocket (pronounced sherket), if you understand my Jewish, and have the chickens killed.  She’d carry them to the shocket and come back and flick them.  Sit in the back yard and flick ‘em.  Every time on a weekend.  She’d go like on a Friday morning before Shabbos started and get her chickens and when I’d come to sleep with her she’d have the chickens Friday.  And every time I went I had to go sleep there and I had to sleep with those chickens.  I’ll never forget that.  I was scared to death that night.

Based on an interview with Shirley Sussman


Related blog entry Evolution of a Painting

Video Excerpt: Hear Shirley Tell her Story



Prior page Prior image Next image















































 

FALLEN LEAVES



  

When I do an interview I begin with a basic history.  One of the questions is when their parents died and at what age, normally a routine question.  When I asked Boris, a Russian immigrant and survivor, when his mother died, I got the response "She was shot when she was 39".   With that I knew this was not going to be an easy interview.   He then elaborated and told me that his mother, father and two sisters were in a concentration camp and building a bunker for Hitler.  When they finished, they were executed.  Boris was a child at the time.


After the war he searched for a picture of anyone in his family.  This painting is based on the one image he located, a sepia colored school picture of his sister set in the shape of a leaf.  I decided to echo that form in additional leaves with the names of his family members who perished written in Russian.  I wanted the image to be muted as if seen through a glass.



Based on an interview with Boris Lerner

Related blog entry: Artwork:Fallen Leaves

Prior Page Prior Image Next image 




 




























































LOZAN SHA




Shirley had fond memories of the North Side of Minneapolis and recounted for us her memory as a child of the old Lyndale shul.

We went to the old shul on Lyndale, the Lyndale shul.  That was a beautiful building, it was just gorgeous, it really was the prettiest one ever built in this whole state.  It had the columns. When you walked in there you felt you were in a shul, you were in a house of worship.  You weren’t just in a fancy place where this one had candy and this one was serving…No you went to a shul.  And of course the women sat upstairs.  I sat upstairs with my mother.  And I don’t know how anybody would pray there because everybody was talking to somebody else, kissing all the kids and talking to someone else.

 And if it got late, they’d go to shul and they’d have services, a week before the holidays they’d have a late service until 11 o’clock at night. It was always later with the orthodox shuls because they had more to say.  It always took more than it said so in the book.  They had more to read, they had more to say, then they would stop and they would talk to somebody here and they’d talk to somebody there and they’d stand there with a big gavel and say, “Lozan shah”. You know people would talk so they would say “Lozan shah”.  My mother would give me her coat and I’d cover up and lay down on the empty seats around there and sleep until they were through.  My father would carry me home.

When I painted this image I thought about the women's balcony as a unique world, separate from that of the men.  I wanted it to be defined while the world of the men below was blurred and indistinct.  I pictured it from a child's perspective, being lulled to sleep by the voices and with her mother's hand resting on her creating a sense of safety and security.

Based on an interview with Shirley Sussman

Related blog entry Lozan Sha

Video Excerpt: Hear Shirley Tell Her Story

Prior page Prior image Next image


 

 

 

 













































FIRE, LIGHT & LEGACY

































 

My interview with Fannie was filled with legacy stories. The central image in this painting is drawn from a story she told about her mother.

My mother was always afraid that we wouldn’t remember anything she said or did ... and she wanted the children to know that she had a life... all of the things that she did and saw and heard and she was afraid that it would all be forgotten.  And so she chose me as her spokesperson. She would always grab me in from play and there would be a cup of coffee and milk and a caramel roll and she’d say “Ess”, Eat, listen to what I say and then “Shreibses arupt”, write it down.  I didn’t shreibe arupt, I didn’t write it down.  And one day I came home, she was staying with us and she was burning all kinds of papers, citizenship papers, a whole bunch of them was on the floor in a bag.  And she was destroying them.  And I yelled, “What are you doing?”  And she says, “Did you shreibe, write it down?” And at first I didn’t know what she was talking about, and I said, “no”.  "Well so what do I need all this for? Who’s going to care?  No one’s going to care! "  And then I said, “Mama, please.”  Well she stopped destroying and ...in my old age I discovered I could write, I didn’t know how, but the kids bought me a word processor.  I was 77 and I remembered Shreibses arupt, that would be the title.


When I asked Fannie if there was something she grew up with that is still part of her life she told me of the Sabbath candlesticks that her grandmother packed in her mother's luggage when she came to America.

The final image relates to a story from 1926 about her father designing a pair of candelabras with electric lights for the synagogue in response to a fire caused by the use of candles. The candelabras have survived to this day.

When I begin a painting I think about all of the stories from the person and what images I associate with them.  I realized that many of Fannie's stories related to light, fire and legacy so I began with a ground that was the color of fire.  I then pulled out the suggestion of the candelabras in the background and used an image I had of her mother as the central figure holding the flaming papers of her legacy.  A candle in the 200 year old candlestick symbolizes the passing of time.

Based on an interview with Fannie Schanfield

Related blog entry: Artwork: Fire, Light & Legacy

Video Excerpt: Hear Fannie tell her story

Prior Page Prior Image Next Image















































GRANDMA ZELDA




 Zelda was a presence at Beth Jacob where she was known as Grandma Zelda.  When we asked her how her role evolved she replied,  "Through the children.  Because I always love children and they know it.  The kids at Beth Jacob know it.  I’m only known as Grandma Zelda, Grandma Zelda.  Two little boys came up to me and one said, “Hi Grandma Zelda, how are you? " And the other one looked at him and said, She your grandma?  And the first one said “Yes she’s my grandma and she’s everybody’s grandma. And he goes like this (pointing) and listen she could be your grandma too if you want her to so the second one says, “Do you think she would be” and the first one said, “All you have to do is ask her”, so he comes up to me and he says, “Can I ask you something?”  And I jokingly said, “Is it going to cost me money?”and he said , “no, would you be my Grandma Zelda?”   I almost…I had tears in my eyes. I said, “I would be happy to be your Grandma Zelda, but when you see me what are you going to say to me?   “No problem, if it’s on Shabbos I’ll say Good Shabbos Grandma Zelda.  If its on any other time I’ll say, Hi Grandma Zelda, how are you?”

Kids to me are beautiful, I love children. I’ll take all the time in the world to talk to them and if they have anything to say that they want me to help them, I’ll be there for them because I love kids.

I was never married, but I have a lot of grandchildren.  I have a lot of grandchildren.

When I began this painting it seemed that it had to be a portrait as Zelda was so central to the story.  As it evolved I felt that I needed to have children filling the frame as well as her role to so many children was also an important part of the story.  But that story resided in a home, that of Beth Jacob so I selected an architectural detail of the building and housed Zelda and her countless grandchildren within it.

Based on an interview with Zelda Katz

Related blog entry: Grandma Zelda

Video Excerpt :Hear Zelda tell her story

In Collection of Beth Jacob, Mendota Heights, MN

Prior Page Prior Image Next Image



 

 

















































YIDDISHKEIT




Fannie is deeply involved in her Jewish heritage.  In the course of our interview she expounded on her view of Yiddishkeit.

If you’re Jewish and you don’t display or tell or show that you are Jewish, you’ve lost it and then we’ve lost it, we’ve lost something. 

Yiddishkeit is everyday.  You can’t just put it aside before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Yiddishkeit has to be spontaneous, it isn’t locked in little cubbyholes. It’s a way of living, it’s a way of living.
It’s part of being part of the synagogue, no matter which one it is, it’s part of being body and soul of everyday living and believing of what they do and knowing  what it is Tzedakah and Mitzvah.  Those are natural words and natural things, they are things that happen and you make them happen and you learn to give from the time you’re that high.  So it isn’t, “well I’ll think about it”.  You may think about increasing or decreasing your contributions, but you don’t think about contributing for your synagogue and your Hadassah and your council and everything else.  It just comes naturally and it has to and that’s Yiddishkeit.

In painting this I tried to incorporate key phrases, you see the suggestion of cubbyholes in the background, but the spontaneity of which she spoke is reflected in a waterfall of words.  If you look closely you will see Mitzvah, Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam. She had talked about using her hands, another expression of spontaneity. I painted them, but decided they looked rather disembodied without her face so added it. Only when I finished did I notice that the "waterfall of words" resembles a prayer shawl.

Based on an interview with Fannie Schanfield

Related blog entry: Yiddishkeit

 
Video Excerpt: Hear Fannie talk about Yiddishkeit

Prior Page Prior Image Next Image





























































BESSIE SENDS GREETINGS



I was going to school on March 15, 1935 on the day Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, I was there.  My parents were in Romania. I went to school on that day.  They had sentries in front.  I walked up the steps of the school.  By the entrance were a bunch of hoodlums with swastikas on their sleeve.   “Juden raus”.  They wouldn’t let any Jews into that school.

Walter was able to return to his home in Romania on the last train to leave for there from Czechoslovakia.

My mother’s history is that at age 5 her family moved to the US so my mother was brought up here.  At that time in 1939 the war started already and Czechoslovakia was already occupied and Romania was going to be next.  So my parents made frantic efforts to get out. They were on a quota system, so many but not more.  Because of her background in America, she went to school here.   She had to show evidence to the American consulate that she had been in America.  By chance her sister who lived in America was a good friend of her former teacher and she once met her and asked her, ”Is there any evidence that my sister Bessie was your student?” She says she has a class picture.  So my mother had to show that picture to the American Consulate and said, “This is me, I was there”.  And on that basis she was able to get a visa to get the whole family in.

Walter's family boarded the last refugee ship that left Italy.  On the way to the United States, Italy declared war on France in 1940.  After Pearl Harbor, Walter joined the army.  He was sent to Camp Ritchie, a basic training camp for people who spoke German fluently, most were refugees from Central Europe.  They were taught to interrogate prisoners of war. After the war he was stationed in Czechoslovakia where he his story began. Walter recounted his visit to relatives, one of whom had survived the camps.  The people came to the door slightly opening it. What is a man in uniform doing here?  They were suspicious of people in uniform anyway.  So they opened the door and I said, “Bessie Schwartz my mother is sending you greetings”.

I was intrigued with the idea of the cracked door with family members peering out and moving from suspicion to joy.  His experience as a Ritchie boy was an important part of his legacy so I wanted to do an image with him in uniform.  I was also struck by the chanciness of his escape, the last boat, the last train and a school picture all figured in the story. 

Based on an interview with Walter Schwarz

Related blog entry: Artwork:Greetings from Bessie

Video Excerpt: Hear Walter Tell About the Nazi Invasion
                      Hear Walter Tell of Meeting Related Survivors



Prior Page Prior Image Next Image



 


 


















































POSTCARD FROM NEW ULM




My interview with Trudy, a survivor from Stuttgart, started with her early experience in Nazi Germany.   Trudy's father was taken to a concentration camp and then released on the condition that he leave Germany. 

My father had to report to the Gestapo every week about his immigration and he was in danger if he wouldn’t go away they would take him back  (to the concentration camp).  So we waited a little bit and they came up with a trip to ShanghaiShanghai opened, and let the Jews come in.  I was included too, my passport was not ready.  My parents left in 1939, beginning September and they said two weeks later goes a second transport to China, Shanghai and I could be on that boat.  But in those two weeks the war broke out.  That’s how I was stuck in Germany

Trudy talked about the abandoned towns of Germany after the war as the Germans ran from the Russians. Every night we stayed overnight in a different house in a different village and all the villages, this was in Germany, all the villages were empty, the houses.  The Germans did run away from the Russians, they left and left everything behind so we had food.... We went in and chose a house where we could stay and I was sick and a few of our friends were sick. ... Polish soldiers came and asking, they did go through the houses and asking if anybody was sick and I said, “I’m sick” and they had a cart, a wagon with cows in front pulling the wagon and take me to the hospital.

After the war Trudy was reunited with her parents in Minneapolis.  Her father lived for six more years and passed away on a vacation to New Ulm, a German town in Minnesota.

After the funeral of my father I got a postcard in the mail from my father, from New Ulm, and he writes, “We have such a good time, everyone speaks German here, German, born in Germany, raised in Germany and the food is so good, German food”.


This painting incorporates many of the images from Trudy's stories with the postcard as the central image.  The monument in the foreground is Herman the German, a monument in New Ulm, a Minnesota town with largely German roots.  A procession of vehicles includes an image from Shanghai and a cart pulled by cows taking those who were ill to the hospital.  The houses are abandoned with doors open and curtains flying in the wind.  The words of her father are on the card emphasizing the importance of their German heritage even when Germany had turned on them.

Based on an interview with Trudy Rappaport

Related blog entry: Artwork: Postcard from New Ulm

Video Excerpts Shanghai Escape and Postcard from New Ulm

Prior Page Prior Image
Next Image






































































BRICKS FROM BREAD




This interview was with a Polish survivor who was a child when the war broke out.   He claimed he was older in order to survive.  Prior to the events he describes below, he was working in the crematorium at Auschwitz.

Then they (the Nazis) need a transport to go to Warsaw.  But they didn’t take any people who speak Polish, but they didn’t know … I could speak Polish.  So I got in between the French and the Italians and the Greeks and I got into Warsaw…  The Warsaw ghetto was bombed.  People were laying on the basements there like flies. (Note: subsequently said that he was sent into destroyed buildings for bricks to sell and found corpses of those who had been trapped in the ghetto.  He covered  them with sand.) So what they did is to blow up the rest of it, the rest of the building and they covered up the other ones.  Then I had to do clean up with the bricks and the Polish people came in and they were buying those things, the bricks from the Germans.  The Polish people came in with a horse and a wagon and they were buying those bricks from the Germans.  When they got in they had to pay so much and they had to show me a piece of paper, how many bricks they need to buy.  So I gave them the bricks they needed to buy and sometimes I ask them if they have bread or something like that. Pretty soon they got smart, they brought me a bread, they brought me a salami and I gave them those bricks.  I gave them instead of 20 bricks, I gave them 25 bricks. See the five bricks they had a hole on the wagon and they put it in the holder so the Germans, because they count the bricks when they went out.

They gave them 20 bricks and going out they had to show the paper that they got 20 bricks, so they went up on the wagon and count the bricks, but they didn’t count the other ones.

In the background of this painting is the line of Warsaw after its destruction.  Only a church remained.  I wanted to capture the imagery of a horse and wagon belonging to the local Poles who were purchasing the bricks as well as our subject who was loading the cart with bricks.  The sky is dark and hazy as one would expect in a bombed out city.

Based on an interview with Sam Saide


 Prior Page Prior Image
Next Image


































































MAKING KNISHES












One of our interviews was with a woman who lived on the Iron Range, an area in Northern Minnesota where Jewish communities have largely disappeared.  She has fond memories of Virginia, Minnesota which today has a population of about 9,000 and only two remaining Jews.

I really liked living (there).  We had a Hadassah, we had every organization the Jewish people have in the cities on a smaller scale and we made different affairs to raise money.  It was wonderful living there.

The synagogue has been turned into a community center as the Jewish population diminished. Because the Jewish population was small there was much more interaction with their neighbors and she fondly remembers sharing traditions with her non-Jewish neighbors.

I never once met a person that I thought was anti-Semitic.  My friends in Virginia were some Gentiles and they had us for Christmas and I had them for Yom Kippur.  They learned how to make knishes. I taught them how to make knishes.   I used to make bagels.  We were the best of friends.

In deciding how to capture this I studied videos of people making knishes and combined them in an image of hands engaged in a shared activity.  Behind them is the suggestion of a Christmas tree to reflect the sharing of traditions.

Based on an interview with Anne Milavetz

Related blog entry: Making Knishes


Prior Page Prior Image
Next Image





















































SYNAGOGUE




I especially liked this image from Lozan Sha and decided to develop it in a small painting.  I did a detailed synagogue painting and then coated it with a wash of white.  While the detailed painting was quite interesting in its own right, I especially liked the mysterious feeling of the altered painting.

Related blog entry: Nuances

Prior Page Prior Image
Next Image



























































SLEEPING WITH CHICKENS II







This painting developed out of the Sleeping With Chickens image.  I found that I was drawn to the gaze between the young woman and the chicken as she watched it in terror.  That seemed to be the central part of the image.  Feathers flying in blue and white opposition completed the image.  Here I made the young woman into a young girl as I was contemplating how the image would work in a children's story and was experimenting with a younger subject.

Related blog entry: Nuances


Prior Page Prior Image
Next Image























































SLEEPING GIRL




I found that when I did the paintings in the Identity and Legacy series, there were often aspects  that I wanted to explore further.  This image is an excerpt from Lozan Sha.  I liked the form of the sleeping girl with her mother's hand resting on her, connoting a sense of peace and safety.  I decided to explore it in a close up image with a focus on the face, the hand above forming a frame with the hand on which she rests.

Related blog entry: Nuances

Prior Page Prior Image
Next Image















































EVERYTHING STOPPED


EverythingStopped

This painting is based on a story of the Kindertransport during WWII.  At 16 Hana was sent by her German Jewish family to live in England with a Quaker family.  There she adjusted to the loss of her family as well as a new life, country and language.  Her only connection to her former world were the letters transmitted by the Red Cross that she received from her parents, carefully preserved in her picture albums. She told me that one couldn’t say much in these letters because other eyes were watching. Hana showed little affect as she talked about her family and the war. She carefully managed her emotions. Her story was best told in what wasn’t said. In answer to the question of how she knew her parents were no longer alive she replied, “everything stopped”. Her parents had been very good about sending Red Cross letters to her, fondly signed Vati and Mutti, until they could no longer send them. Later she learned that her father, mother and brother all died in Auschwitz.

I pictured a void of silence. Nothing coming, a black hole and began to paint it in the corner of the canvas. As I painted that black hole it reminded me of an ear, the dark center of it, listening anxiously for word that doesn't come.  It occurred to me that there must have been a long period of waiting, listening, before the finality of "everything stopped" was acknowledged. It would have been a gradual, horrifying realization. By thinking of Hana's experience at that time, the concept of the painting began to take form. It was to be of that moment before full comprehension of loss, when one anxiously awaits the word which doesn't come.

The form around the hole began to take the shape of an ear, not necessarily recognizable as such because blues and purples seemed like the right colors to balance the painting. And blue is the color of sadness, loss, so perhaps it is fitting in an emotional sense. Above it the scratched in words, Mutti, Vati, Halo, their pet name for her.


Based on an Interview with Hana Lyon

Related blog entries at And Then Everything Stopped
and Getting Started on Everything Stopped

 
Prior Page Prior Image
Next Image

















































FROM HER MOTHER


FromHerMother

Raychel is a woman in her 90s who immigrated from Kiev to the United States to be close to her daughter Liana.  Liana joined us for the interview and translated for her mother.

When I asked to what extent her mother grew up with Judaism Liana responded, "Her mom went to synagogue and she kept kosher. She was proudly Jewish.  She was singing Jewish songs, celebrated Jewish holidays.  My mom was born right after revolution. Which more like era of atheism and any religion including Jewish religion were persecuted.  And Jewish religion especially. My mom knew about Jewish holidays from her mom.  Myself, whatever my mom remembered she told me, but we couldn’t go.

We had one synagogue for four million people in the city.  One.  which was attended by older people who have nothing to lose, retired people, people who didn’t work.  For younger people, I could lose my university, I could lose my job. I could lose everything if I would be, and I would be because it was all kind of monitored, who is going there, who is coming.

I look like her a little bit and I recognize myself as a Jew like, as a proud Jew like grandma and ma.


Raychel had also spoken about how her mother would lead them in songs at the table during Pesach and proceeded to share the Yiddish songs she had learned from her mother.  Similarly she shared how she had learned how to make gefilte fish from her mother who in turn learned from her mother.  The thread that echoed throughout was the handing down of knowledge and tradition, shared through food and song even when the practice of religion wasn't possible. 


When I painted this I thought of this long string of women figuratively sharing the same table in song, wearing their Judaica necklace proudly with the synagogue of Kiev in the background.


Note the number 5 which signifies line 5 of the internal passport that identified one as Jewish and was the identifier for much discrimination. 

Based on an interview with Raychel Scheynkman and Liana Ravkin

Related blog entries: In American We Become Russians
and From Her Mother

Video Excerpts  Gefilte Fish and  Line 5

Prior Page
Prior Image
Next Image

















































THOSE #%& FISH


DamnFish

Shirley had many colorful stories and in this one she remembered helping in her father's butcher shop.

And we spoke only Jewish (Yiddish), only, there was no such thing as not speaking Jewish.  And then my father had the meat market and everything in his meat market, all his books, books that people had orders, every customer had a book with their name in it.  Everything was written in Jewish you see. I would help in the butcher shop.  I started to help in there when I was ten or eleven years old. I knew all the customers.  I spoke Jewish when they came in to them and they knew who I was and if my father had a cold and couldn’t come in, he would cut up a lot of the meat and stuff and get it ready so I could wait on the people.  And I would write in English in their book and then I would tell my father and he’d translate it into Jewish so he’d know what was on there. 

They used to have fresh fish on weekends on the other window.  My father had made a tin, a whole tin thing, separate for each type of fish.  Usually my mother used to take care of that. Always, but when my mother couldn’t be there, or where she had to help my dad, they put me in there.  I was scared of those damn fish, they wiggled and jumped all over the place. I would say to the customer, “ You want this one? (pointing) and he would say, “Yeah” and I’d say, “would you pick it up please and put it in” and they said yes, they did, they knew.


When I decided to paint that image I wanted Shirley to be small in relation to the fish as she no doubt felt.  I wrote the Yiddish word for fish which looked a bit like fish scales so then began free associating imagining the butcher block paper in which they wrapped the fish and turning it into a stream filled with Yiddish fish.  The yellow aura represented the movement of those fish that so unnerved her.


Based on an interview with Shirley Sussman


Prior Page
Prior Image
Next Image
























































ALEF BES


AlefBes

Bernice was our first interview and had the distinction of singing us the Yiddish song Ofen Pripitchik which I used between passages in the videos I created.  She had an exceptional singing voice and used to be a pianist as well.  She also had a unique style, always well groomed and wearing a white jacket, pink blouse and pearls.  For those reasons, I decided a portrait was in order.  I wanted to create the suggestion of a keyboard, but in this case with the name of the song on it.  To the side you can see the faint Yiddish for Alef Bes.  The song is about teaching children their alphabet and in fact Bernice was a teacher as well which made it particularly fitting.

Bernice also spoke quite a bit about Yiddish.  When we asked her what she liked about it she replied, “ There’s a lot of power in Yiddish, a lot of fire.”

She then proceeded to tell us of how she tries to think of new words that she could bring to the Yiddish class to stump the teacher.  She then shared the word she was going to take to class the following day.

“Kasokeh, Have you ever heard of it.  It’s cross-eyed.

There’s another word….vahikeh.  That’s somebody who stutters.

There’s one more I thought of, but I won’t tell it to them all in one day. It’s hard to think of new words that she doesn’t know."

I asked how you would say if someone was a cross-eyed stutterer.

"Ich ben a cusoked vahikeh mensch.

 One more, “Calamutke”, Calamutke means, it doesn’t mean sad and it doesn’t mean depressed, it means something in between."

Based on an interview with Bernice Gordon

Prior Page
Prior Image
Next Image












































BODY & SOUL


BodyMind




















My interview with Dorothy Brochin Wittcoff took me back to the early history of the Jewish community in Minneapolis.  Dorothy’s father, Solomon Brochin, came to the US in 1906 and started an unusual store.  On one side he sold groceries, on the other tallesim, religious articles and Jewish books and newspapers.  He once remarked, “On one side I give the customer food for his stomach, on the other side, I give him food for his mind.”

His store served as a community center for the Jewish community.  Dorothy recalled when she was a very young child, Chaim Weitzman and Louis Brandeis visited the store.  She told us, “We were little kids, but my father said to us, “You should go and say hello because these are going to be hugely important to the Jewish community.” Between 1915 and 1918 he also assisted in bringing over Jews from Russia through coordinating with a bank in Russia and assisting local Jews in the purchase of steamship tickets for friends and family. The store was so fundamental to both the community and the family that I felt that it should be at the core of the painting.

Another story that Dorothy told was about how their Hebrew names were discarded by their first grade teacher for Americanized names, sometimes quite dramatically.  While Dvora became Dorothy, Shear Yashuv became Joe.  I wrote the names in Hebrew at the bottom of the painting while at the top you will find the Americanized version.  Since this painting is based on Dorothy’s story you will see Dvora in Hebrew on one of the tallises.  After completing the painting, I added a square yamulke when Dorothy came to my studio and told me that he always wore one in the store.

Based on an interview with Dorothy Brochin Wittcoff

Related Blog Entries:
Citizens of the World Part 1
                                Citizens of the World Part 2
                                Body and Soul
           
 

Prior Page
Prior Image
Next Image















































A MATTER OF CHEMISTRY


BUILDINGBLOCKS

Harold and Dorothy were the only couple we interviewed and they began by reflecting on their 66 years of marriage. In the course of our interview I was struck by their loving relationship and their shared spirit of adventure as they lived around the world, Harold teaching chemistry and Dorothy teaching English. At one point in our interview Harold put his hand over Dorothy's and it seemed to capture the spirit of their relationship.  In the painting it forms a shelter and rests on the world. 

I decided to use chemistry as a motif and within each flask you will find elements of their story with a shadow representing memory beneath it.  Dorothy's first husband died in WWII leaving her a young widow when she met Harold.  Her son told a story of Harold returning from the wedding and telling him as a three year old child that he was his new Daddy. I decided to make the vial red for blood which represents the strength of their tie.  Harold also told of his mother's immigration to the United States and her wonder at the glass ceiling of the Hamburg train station. This vial is blue as it represents the gateway to her ocean voyage.  They were very involved with Labor Zionism and their son remembers as a child they went to gatherings where people dressed in white and did Israeli dances. The suggestion of the chemical structure of salt and of sugar is in the lower right and upper left, both elements in a satisfying life.

This painting felt especially poignant as Harold passed away during the time I was developing it.


Related Blog Entries: Citizens of the World Part 1
                                Citizens of the World Part 2
                                A Gentle and Embracing Heart


Prior Page
Prior Image
Next Image











































        


 








   


























       



















































          

Site designed by Susan Weinberg
©Susan Weinberg 2012