Veteran Olim: Expert in miniature

Profile of Goldie Hollander, 60, who moved from Antwerp to Ramat Hasharon in 1975.

Goldie Hollander (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Goldie Hollander
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Every two weeks for the last five years, Goldie Hollander has left her Ramat Hasharon home to travel to the army post-trauma day-care center in Ganei Tikva.
There she is greeted by a group of army veterans who are unable to work because of their combat experiences, which left them traumatized. She is there to teach them a subject which is close to her heart and in which she is a world expert – making miniatures.
“So far we have made a patio, a Shabbat table and several shops,” says Hollander, who made aliya as a single girl of 20 in 1975.
Miniatures, for the uninitiated, are reproductions, usually in 1:12 scale, of anything in full size – houses, shops, flower stalls, haberdasheries, garden sheds – any structure that exists can be reduced to a tiny version of itself.
Always very artistic and an interior designer by training, she is a superb craftswoman who has been honing her miniaturist skills for 15 years.
She was born in Antwerp, Belgium, to a father who is a Holocaust survivor and a Belgian-born mother.
“My father’s name is on the original ‘Schindler’s list,’” she says. “You can see it in Yad Vashem. Unfortunately, it was erased and someone else took his place.”
So, because of a simple clerical manipulation, her father spent the war in several concentration camps, but was lucky enough to survive.
Her mother came from a deeply Zionist family, and she herself was the chairwoman of Wizo in Belgium for years.
“During the war my mother’s family was hidden in a village in the Belgian Ardennes called Louette-Saint-Denis,” says Hollander.
Ironically, the street they lived in was Rue des Juifs (Street of the Jews).
In 1975 she left Antwerp to come to Haifa and study at Wizo College, majoring in interior design. She moved to Tel Aviv and got a good job designing kitchens for several prestigious companies, including Poggenpohl. She was also a partner in an antique shop in Hamedina Square for a while.
In the next few years, she married, produced her two sons (today both students of 26 and 24) and waited for her divorce.
“I was a mesurevet get [one who is refused a Jewish divorce document] for seven years,” she recalls.
While she was waiting for her divorce, sometimes hopeful, sometimes despairing, she found that making miniatures was a wonderful escape from the stresses of being tied to a recalcitrant husband who would not let her go.
“The minis helped me keep my sanity,” she says.
While still in the limbo of not knowing if she would ever get a divorce or not, she discovered the newly created Israeli Miniaturists Association, a group of about eight older women who got together united by a common love of their somewhat esoteric hobby. They were joined by one very gifted man and Hollander, who quickly demonstrated her skills and in no time became the teacher of the group.
For several years the Israeli Miniaturists would meet in different homes, but more often than not in Hollander’s spacious basement in her Ramat Hasharon home, to create miniatures together. It was a wonderfully happy time – I know because I was a member of the group and several acclaimed exhibitions of our work were held. One was in Hadera, where several members of the group lived, another in Jaffa, and there was a two-month-long exhibition in Ra’anana in 2004 which was hugely popular.
“The ushers at Ra’anana Yad Lebanim Hall used to say that everyone who came in went out with a smile on their faces,” recalls Hollander. “Grandfathers used to come in with their grandchildren, and some brought chairs so they could sit and study all the detail in comfort.”
After three years the group disbanded, but Hollander went on to bigger and better things. She began to travel to mini-groups in America to learn new techniques and joined the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts in the US. She made friends around the world and gave a beautiful face to Israel to people who otherwise would never have met an Israeli.
After participating in several joint exhibitions, she had a huge success with her solo exhibition in 2011 in Ra’anana. It was on the theme of stories and legends, and many of the exhibits were created especially for it.
Recently she traveled to Denmark to participate in several workshops where she learned the techniques of making miniature silver items and miniature inlay in woodwork.
With an ever-increasing number of miniworks of art, she has found a solution to the space problem by donating several of her tableaux to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where they can be seen displayed on the walls of the children’s department.
Eventually, she hopes to move to Tel Aviv to be “in the center of things,” as she puts it.
She is looking for a penthouse apartment – not too large – but with room to display at least a selection of her wonderful works of art in miniature.