Temple Sholom Sisterhood Choir under the direction of Joyce Cherry with pianist Kathy Bjorseth performed an afternoon concert of Jewish music at the Weinberg Residence on Jan. 13. Featured were three works by Joan Beckow, a resident of the Louis Brier Hospital and a Temple Sholom member. Beckow was an active composer and music director in Los Angeles and, for a time, was Carol Burnett’s music director. The 23-voice Sisterhood Choir has sung for the annual Sisterhood Service for a number of years, but the recent concert at the Weinberg was a first for them outside of Temple Sholom.
Some of the artists on opening night of the group show Community Longing and Belonging, Jan. 15 at the Zack Gallery. The exhibit marked Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month and ran until Jan. 27.
Eurovision 2018 winner Netta Barzilai, right, performed at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Jan. 26 to help celebrate the 18th anniversary of Birthright Israel. Here, she is pictured with Carmel Tanaka, emcee of the night with IQ 2000 Trivia. The dance party was presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver in partnership with Axis Vancouver, Hillel BC and the JCCGV.
“Open Doors” by Marcie Levitt-Cooper.
(photo by Daniel Wajsman)
The group show Community Longing and Belonging,
which opened Jan. 15 at the Zack Gallery, marks Jewish Disability Awareness and
Inclusion Month (JDAIM).
“I heard about community art shows in
celebration of JDAIM in other communities,” said Leamore Cohen, inclusion
services coordinator at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, who
was the driving force behind the local exhibit.
“I thought an unjuried exhibit would be a
fabulous way to honour our community-wide commitment to remove barriers, to
celebrate our community members’ creative capacities,” she said.
The main idea was to open up participation to
everyone – professional artists and amateurs, people of different skill levels,
abilities, perspectives, faiths and socioeconomic status.
“To make participation truly inclusive,” said
Cohen, “we provided each artist with a 12-by-16 wood panel. We have also been
taking direction from Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture and its artistic
director, Yuri Arajs, as we wanted to ensure that this event is fully
The JDAIM inclusion initiative and month of
advocacy began throughout North America in 2009, explained Cohen. The idea for
the art exhibit started to take form last spring, when Cohen approached Zack
Gallery director Linda Lando.
“Linda was really receptive to the idea of the
show.… Once I had the green light from her, the support and use of the
gallery,” said Cohen, “I began to focus more on the theme.”
The theme of community and inclusion prompted
her next steps. She reached out to many different organizations and communities
and invited artists from all over the Lower Mainland to participate. The call
for submissions went out in late September, and the response was remarkable.
Fifty-two artists are included in the show.
“We have artists from Vancouver, Burnaby,
Richmond, North Vancouver, and even as far out as Cloverdale,” said Cohen.
“I’ve had the good fortune to meet all these new and amazingly creative people,
welcome them to our community centre, and make new friends along the way. It’s
been a joy. It broke my heart that I had to turn many away because of the
limited space in the gallery. I have artists who want to sign up for the next
year. There is so much excitement and so much more to say on this issue.”
To frame this exhibit, Cohen posed two
questions, which are being used in its promotional materials: “How do we make
meaning of the concept of community, the real and the imagined spaces we
inhabit? What does community longing look like and what are the possibilities
for belonging in an ever-changing world?”
“This show was a challenge and an invitation to
look at social problems creatively and critically,” Cohen told the Independent.
“It was also an opportunity for artists living with diverse needs to exhibit
their work in a professional venue and to receive exposure.
“I don’t think we are going to resolve the
problems of longing and belonging, or longing for belonging, any time soon. I
think we’ll always have people who are better situated and people whose social
networks are more tenuous. We should just keep having the conversations and
build up those connections. We create new platforms and new access points, new
opportunities for people to engage and tell their stories, whatever they look
like and from whatever lens, whether it be through mental health, sexual
identity, ability or socioeconomic status. We all have a story to tell.”
Cohen shared one example of how the show’s
theme relates to her own life.
“The ‘longing’ part of the theme resonates with
a lot of people,” she said. “It resonates with me as well. It emerges from my
own story of disconnection from the Jewish community during my youth and young
adulthood. Fortunately, so, too, does the ‘belonging’ part of this show. The
JCC is a wonderful place, a place for belonging.”
The theme allowed for a number of different
approaches, and the skill of the various participating artists varies widely,
but the utter diversity becomes its main attraction. Although the size and
shape of the canvases – the wooden boards provided by the organizers – are
universal, the content is anything but, and so is the media. Some pieces are
oils, others acrylic; still others, mixed media. There are abstracts and
figurative compositions. Some have narratives. Others evoke emotions. Some have
Jewish connotations. Others don’t. Some artists participated solo, while others
enrolled as a family group.
Marcie Levitt-Cooper represents one such
family. Her painting “Open Doors” depicts a colony of colourful birdhouses.
Every door of every birdhouse is open, creating a welcoming avian village, a
festive metaphor that makes you smile. No birds appear in the image, but you
can almost hear them sing. The artist’s three daughters – Rebecca Wosk, Teddie
Wosk and Margaux Wosk – also exhibit in the show.
Another family of artists is mother Elizabeth
Snigurowicz and son Matthew Tom Wing. “They regularly come to the Jewish
Community Centre inclusion services Art Hive drop-in program, a low-barrier,
free art program,” said Cohen.
Daniel Malenica doesn’t have a family in the
show, but her charming, pastel-toned piece is a jubilation of the artist’s
Croatian roots and her LGBTQ+ community. Two girls embrace each other in the
painting, both wear Slavic costumes. The title, “Veselye u Selu,” is the
English phonetic spelling of a phrase in the artist’s mother tongue, meaning
“Celebration at the Village.”
In Evelyn Fichmann’s painting “Embrace,” the
artist, a recent immigrant from Brazil, has incorporated words in English and
Hebrew. “Encourage,” “include,” “educate,” “respect,” “engage” and “support”
surround the image, all fitting descriptors of what we should strive to do in
Community Longing and Belonging runs until Jan
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].