Ashrenu: A happy and wealthy Jewish culture

“Ashrenu: A Happy and Wealthy Jewish Culture” will run through May 18 at the Heichal Shlomo Museum.

'Upward' by Reuven Zukerman (photo credit: NATALIE CHETBOUN)
'Upward' by Reuven Zukerman
(photo credit: NATALIE CHETBOUN)
According to curator Ehud Dar, the Bible, tradition and Jerusalem are the three most central components of the Jewish people’s history.
For his current show at the Heichal Shlomo Museum, Dar chose pieces by seven Israeli artists, working in a variety of media that speak to these themes.
The most notable works in the “Ashrenu: A Happy and Wealthy Jewish Culture” exhibition are David Fisher’s impressive paper cuts. A graphic designer by trade, Fisher discovered paper cutting when searching for a design for his eldest son’s bar-mitzva invitations. Years later, he learned that his mother is a Holocaust survivor, a fact that she kept hidden from her children as they grew up in Israel. Haunted by this revelation and craving a clear direction for his art, Fisher began researching Jewish life before the Holocaust. During this research, he stumbled upon photos of the elaborate wooden synagogues built in Eastern Europe in the 17th century. Their interior structures, specifically the aronot hakodesh and bimot, were masterful works of art completely destroyed by the Nazis.
In the Lost Synagogues project, Fisher creates detailed sketches of the synagogues’ interiors by piecing together old photographs, architectural plans, survivors’ memories, and his own intuition and imagination. Next, he carefully cuts out his designs using a special paper-cutting knife. Fisher’s steadiness of hand is remarkable. His work includes Hebrew letters only millimeters in size, so small that he works with a magnifier. In addition to depictions of the synagogues’ interiors, he creates ketubot and art featuring Jewish symbols and verses from prayers.
Another notable artist featured in the exhibition is Sara Weitzman, who paints realistic landscapes of contemporary Jerusalem. With fine brush strokes and masterful use of light, she finds the beauty in the everyday, calling attention to the splendor of Jerusalem’s most familiar scenes. In Jerusalem Courtyard, a small stone courtyard is covered in shadow, while a bright burst of sunlight rests on the top of an arched doorway. The rusted yellow paint and green shrubbery are typical of Jerusalem, yet Weitzman’s depiction gives the viewer the sense of experiencing something extraordinary.
While Weitzman’s work focuses on her external surroundings, Reuven Zukerman’s photography looks inward, offering a glimpse into the connection between the physical and divine. His work, inspired by prayer, depicts Jerusalem as a spiritual center and invokes feelings of solitude, introspection and calm.
In Upward, a lone religious figure stands motionless on a stone staircase. Above him, a beam of light illuminates a small portion of sky, while below him, a mysterious white shadow waits for the man’s next move.
Yezkiel Sander’s paintings of Jerusalem during various Jewish holidays are free-spirited and cheerful. In Hanukka in Jerusalem, Sander transforms Yemin Moshe’s pale limestone buildings into a celebration of color. Homes are painted a range of hues from lime green to orange, and Montefiore’s windmill is rendered pink. Modern skyscrapers stand tall in the background and hanukkiot are visible in windows and on rooftops.
Sander’s vibrant, playful style contrasts with that of Ilana Yaron, whose abstract pieces are elegant and dreamlike. The most understated of all the works in the exhibition, they are also the most enigmatic, juxtaposing a base of textured neutrals with unexpected pops of color that float across the canvas like clouds or angels.
Other works included in the exhibition are Prof. Yeshaya Yarnitsky’s paintings of Jerusalem as a heavenly city, as well as his work depicting the world’s creation. Shoshana Kimchi’s pieces on the same theme stress the primal world order when “the waters were dried up from the earth.”
As a bonus, socially conscious viewers will enjoy Women Embroidering a Dream, a project showcasing textiles created by 30 Ethiopian women living in Beersheba. Ranging in age from 35 to 60, the women arrived in Israel with few skills marketable in the Western world and no knowledge of Hebrew. At the same time, they left a society that revolved around ritual, and have generations of experience in traditional craft making. With simple shapes and bright colors, the women hand-embroider tapestries, halla covers, kippot and other functional Judaica items that depict village life in Ethiopia and interpretations of Jewish customs. The initiative was established in 2003 by Margalit Moshe, whose goal is to employ 150 women by 2018, offering them financial independence and creative fulfillment. 
“Ashrenu: A Happy and Wealthy Jewish Culture” will run through May 18 at the Heichal Shlomo Museum (the gallery in the entrance lobby), 58 King George Avenue.
Entrance is free. For more information: 025-889-010.