Little did artist Nechama Farber know, when growing up in Minsk, Belarus, that some day she would yearn to live in Israel, become an artist, sell her Judaic paintings, drawings and prints internationally, be commission to create portraits for Jewish families, and, most noteworthy, create an original painting for one of the most grandiose synagogues in Eastern Europe, the 102 year old Riga Synagogue in Latvia.
Nechama was orphaned while quite young and was raised by her loving grandmother. When she was two years old, her grandmother recognized her penchant for art, and bought Nechama a set of paints. While other toddlers might be overwhelmed by paint, and make more mess rather than art, Nechama set to work as a professional. From then on and until she enrolled in Glebov College, art was her passion. She explored and became proficient in using many different materials enabling her to enter the art school already equipped to excel. Glebov enjoys an exceptional reputation in art training. Its rigorous student requirements includes demonstrating a variety of skills, working in many styles of art and media, as well as showing knowledge of historic and contemporary artwork. The training would become the foundation for her mature work, but for Nechama, at the time, it was a continuation of what she had already begun to pursue.
After graduation, the young artist took another exam to enroll in graduate studies at the State Academy of Arts. Her skills were so polished and her abilities so numerous that Nechama became the chief artist for the Belarus Northwest Theater Company. She thought the theater was heaven and that she would never want to leave. What more could she want? She designed costumes and sewed them, painted stage decorations, planned programs and posters, and worked with the lighting. Every aspect of the theater was her concern. The joke at Northwest was that if Nechama ever left, they would have to hire ten people to replace her.
Rabbi with Tefillin
In this demanding schedule, Nechama still found time for her own art, perfecting her ideas in portraiture, landscapes and still life. Each day was filled with creative enchantment and creative people; and, as an added bonus, there was much travel. Nechama saw many lands, met different people, heard endless languages, brought back unique treasures and saw art of many unique cultures. It was a dream come true. A lover of learning, Nechama continued to grow as an artist and as a scholar. She would never leave the theater; so she thought.
One day, while the staff was chatting among themselves, the topic of religion came up. At that time, as we all know, the U.S.S.R not only frowned on practicing religion, it sought every way to annihilated it and punish those who did practiced. Performing even the smallest Jewish act had dire consequences. Nechama knew she was Jewish, but had little knowledge of what that meant. Without warning, her neshama kicked in and the passions she felt for art turned towards passion for her religious heritage. Nechama wanted only to learn about Judaism; but Russia was not the place.
Father and Son Learning
Being a resourceful person, and eager to pursue this yearning, Nechama investigated where and how she could learn more about yiddishkeit. There was a program in Warsaw, Poland, led by Rabbi Michael Schudrich, in the Jewish Education Center sponsored by Ronald Lauder Foundation. Alone, Nechama left her beloved theater and went to Poland; her passion for Judaism far exceeding her love of creating art and theatrical life.
Studying under Rabbi Schudrich was an amazingly rigorous experience, but always an artist, Nechama had brought her paints to Poland and made time at night to sketch and paint. Realizing her life was changing, but not sure how, Nechama created a new series of beautiful Jewish art for her future family.
Rabbi Schudrich, knowing that Nechama was a dedicated and talented young woman, recognized that it was time for her to move to the next stage of her life. He recommended that she enroll in Midrashet Rachel in Jerusalem. And in Jerusalem, Nechama’s life would indeed change.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Unbeknownst to Nechama, in New York City, Russian-born bachelor David Farber had moved from Irvine, California to study with the world-famous Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. The Rebbetzin had promised David that if he would learn at her Hineni Organization, she would find him the perfect wife.
Back in Jerusalem, Nechama attended a wedding to which the Rebbetzin had been invited. Seeing Nechama and speaking with her for less than five minutes, the perceptive Rebbetzin knew, from Nechama’s regal bearing, grace, and holy expression that she had found David’s wife. A phone call to New York convinced David to alter his travel plans. He would not only visit his father’s gravesite in Odessa, as planned, but he would add a stop in Jerusalem. Needless to say, the couple met, each realizing that their perfect soul mate had been found, and the engagement was soon arranged. Two Russian people, who had traveled on their life’s journey, to America and Poland, were brought together to finally meet in Eretz Yisroel.
Kiddush with White Orchids
Nechama and David were married in Jerusalem. Rebbetzin Jungreis became Nechama’s “Eema” and walked her down the aisle. Rabbi Leib Kelemen, noted writer and lecturer, their teacher, accompanied David down the aisle.
They now live in Jerusalem and have a baby boy, Yehoshua. David studies Torah full-time and Nechama continues to paint several series on Torah themes. Originally made in oils, watercolor, ink, or other media, Nechama has created images of Abraham, Sarah, Moshe, Mount Sinai and many inspiring Torah-based paintings. She also creates individual commissioned family portraits, scenes of Shabbos tables and other inspirational themes that grace homes around the world. Her original painting in the Riga Synagogue has now been installed.
Nechama Farber’s journey began in Belarus, took her to many parts of the world, but now, with family, yiddishkeit, and art, she is truly home, in Jerusalem.
Nechama’s website www.finejewishart.com provides people from around the world with an opportunity to view and purchase prints of her fine Jewish art. Roberta Carasso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org