Hebrew College launched its centennial year on Sept. 12, 2021, with the opening of “Seeing Torah: A Visual Midrash,” an art exhibit representing the spiritual, political and feminist lessons of the Torah by Boston artist and Hebrew College adult learner Anita Rabinoff-Goldman.
This visual diary, which will be on display through December, consists of 54 squares filled with patterns, colors and textures that encourage viewers to reflect on what Torah means to them, to relate to it through their own experiences and to consider how Torah can be a continuing source of learning and discourse.
“As a Jewish woman, these are my stories, my family’s history, and they tie me to every other Jewish person. By understanding more of our history, I gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Judaism and a greater understanding of myself,” Rabinoff-Goldman said at the opening. “I created a body of work that illustrated and deepened my understanding of Torah as well as its relevance to our 21st-century lives. Hopefully, by sharing it with more people, others will benefit from a different way of entering the text. We are called a ‘people of the book’ and there are many explorations of Torah by many experts in many books that fill many libraries.”
Rabinoff-Goldman launched “Seeing Torah” when looking for a new artistic project and realized there would be value in reading the entire Torah from start to finish, beginning on Simchat Torah (this year, Sept. 28-29). She later enrolled in Me’ah Classic, Hebrew College’s intensive two-year, 100-hour adult-learning program. This coming year, she will be part of a new Artist Beit Midrash, a collaboration between Hebrew College and the Jewish Arts Collaborative.
Rabinoff-Goldman’s exhibit was initially scheduled to open in March 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19. Hebrew College president, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, said that now is an even more perfect time for the exhibit to open—exactly 100 years after Hebrew College first opened its doors in the fall of 1921.
“It is through deep literacy that we give rise to rich intellectual, spiritual and cultural creativity, [and] it is through Jewish education that we give birth to a vibrant Jewish future,” Anisfeld said. “What better expression of those values than an art exhibit born of deep and sustained study of the yearly Torah cycle—that is itself a work of visual midrash? Undertaken—incidentally—by someone who had supposedly ‘retired’—but has shown us all what it means to cultivate a lifelong capacity for learning, creativity and renewal.”
The Hebrew College Arts Initiative, chaired by trustee Deborah Feinstein, seeks to partner with different areas of the college and focus on bridging the academy and the community through the gallery exhibits and lunch-and-learn conversations. This fall, in the “Seeing Torah” gallery, Hebrew College will host a series of alumni-led public conversations, all from 1:15-2 p.m.: Oct. 4 with Rabbi Jessica Lowenthal ’19; Oct. 26 with Rabbi Allison Poirier ’19; and Nov. 17 with Rav-Hazzan Aliza Berger ’17.
As part of the centennial celebration, Hebrew College will also hold other special events, including a November new shared-campus groundbreaking, winter day of learning and Centennial Gala on June 2, 2022. Hebrew College is also offering a special centennial lecture series adult learning course, “The Old Made New and the New Made Holy: Leading Scholars & Thinkers Reflect on a Century of Jewish Experience and Explore the Challenges That Lie Ahead,” taught by leading scholars and rabbis, including Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld (Hebrew College); Rabbi Angela Buchdahl (People of Central Synagogue, New York); Rabbi David Ellenson (HUC-JIR); Rabbi Arthur Green (Hebrew College); Rabbi Shai Held (Hadar); Rabbi Benay Lappe (SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva); and Jonathan Sarna, Ph.D. (Brandeis University).
“Anita, your work gives exquisite expression to this abiding truth. You have enlarged and expanded our understanding of Torah by sharing so generously your own creative encounter with the text,” Anisfeld said at the art exhibit opening. “In this moment, what a blessing to experience the gift of beauty, of color and texture and an artist’s hand reaching out, connecting us all with stories and texts that are timeless and striving to touch that which is transcendent.”
“Seeing Torah“ runs Sept. 12 to Dec. 10. Due to the numerous High Holidays in September, please call 617-559-8600 before visiting to confirm whether the college will be open at your desired date and time. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 10, the exhibit will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Learn more at hebrewcollege.edu/events/seeing-torah.
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