Some people think of it as a quiet alternative to the Five Towns. It is a unique neighborhood with a strong past, but also ripe with possibility. Communities can shine brightly for years, but over time their batteries start to get weaker, and though they still work, they are mere shadows, a flicker of what they once were. In Oceanside, the community refused to let those batteries die. They just needed a little recharge to help the neighborhood shine brightly once again.
Posts Tagged ‘Five Towns’
Weiss and Brocha Teichman.
Unfortunately, many times in the tradition-bound Orthodox community, creativity in the visual arts is frowned upon by some, based on the mistaken notion that all images are simply forbidden or that making art is not a serious pastime for the Torah community. What Brocha experienced as a child was a generosity of spirit and sensitivity to her talents by her parents. Such love and understanding can give birth to enormous creativity in the secure environment of a frum family. And that can make all the difference in the world.
Brocha Teichman has, for the last 10 years, painted the places and objects that give her joy. Her scenes from Eretz Yisrael, still lifes and portraits, are infused with Jewish sensibility that makes each one an expression of personal belief. The formal artistic training she received at the Art Students League in New York has shaped a realist’s sensibility to the daily images of an observant family life. In a rather literal way, her paintings are a direct reflection of her Yiddishkeit.
Israeli Still Life (2000) brings a classical perspective to a set of highly symbolic objects. The earthenware jug looks as if it was just unearthed from an excavation of an ancient Jewish settlement. The little looped handles are the exact kind I found with an archeologist friend in the fields of upper Galilee, while the crack along the neck seems a direct symptom of years of burial. This little icon of history is surrounded by two deep red pomegranates, echoing the hopes of a plentiful year, as associated with Rosh Hashanah. The simple painting is worthy of the French 18th century still-life master, Chardin, in that it displays a classic, triangular composition that expresses stability and reserve. It is a perfect New Year’s greeting from Israel.
Purim in Meah Shearim (2000) brings us into the heart of Jerusalem, while defining a quintessential aspect of Purim, the costumed abandon of children. A Hasid in his Yom Tov finery is seen walking away from us, surrounded in space by three sets of gaily-costumed children. Even though Teichman’s figurative paintings are all done using photographs, her manipulation of multiple images and compositional creativity belie a painter’s eye. Figures recede from the picture plane as others simultaneously advance towards us. This creates a visual tension that breaks into the fixity of the one point perspective that would normally dominate this image. Moreover, the fact that the two children in the foreground are about to turn back into the pictorial space begins a narrative that leads us into the mitzva of delivering shalach manos. In this concise little painting, the holiday is, at first, described and then pictorially narrated.
There is perhaps no genre that interests me less than Rebbe portraits. These generally murky images of venerated sages from retouched photographs or badly reproduced prints are unfortunately interchangeable caricatures of some of our greatest leaders. Teichman’s portrait of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein is a notable exception. Her clear and forceful delineation of the planes of his face in combination with the strong compositional triad based on his shoulders and crowned by his Old World rabbinic cap express the strength of his Torah personality. Beyond her masterly handling of paint, the crisp light in the painting gives it a power and integrity that reflects the very lucidity of Reb Moshe’s vision.
Brocha Teichman’s vision of Jewish art is seen in yet another expression in the field of art education. She has recently opened, with partner Zelda Weiss, The Art Studio of the Five Towns. It is located in Lawrence and offers classes for children and adults, with a special emphasis on teens. The classes in acrylic painting, drawing, watercolor and oil painting are held in the newly created studio space and are attracting a growing following of aspiring artists.
Both Weiss, who owns and operates Zelda’s Art World in Brooklyn and Teichman, are experienced teachers who offer a solid foundation in academic techniques necessary to create realistic images. They also have an opportunity to offer their students another kind of essential foundation. The Jewish values and sensibility that Teichman has been able to express, must be nurtured by an ongoing appreciation of Jewish art.
Just as the skills of drawing and painting are gleaned from the masters of Western painting, so too the sensibility and subjects of Jewish art need to be learned from the 2,000 years of visual expression of the Jewish people. To infuse fine art training with the values of Jewish art would make The Art Studio of the Five Towns a truly unique institution. I hope they seize this opportunity.
Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to email him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter #1: ‘Poor Little Rich Children’
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I have a feeling that you will be inundated with endless letters and stories relating to those shared in your article entitled “Where Are The Moms And Dads?” I am compelled to share two of my own experiences with you.
I was recently a camp counselor in the Five Towns. All of the staff were “Agudah” types, but the community generally consisted of affluent modern Orthodox Jews. This circle of people was very new to me. I really had had contact only with the “Yeshivish” world or secular Jews.
My new group of four year old campers were coming in and I was using every ounce of my mental and emotional capacity to try to remember their names and those of their parents as well as “very important” information” that some mothers didn’t think pertinent enough to write down. Then, something very strange happened. A young mother firmly grabbed my arm and very anxiously said, “You must come with me now!”
She took me over to a Hispanic woman and stated rather strongly and nervously, “This is my child’s care- taker. Her name is Maria. If there is any emergency with my daughter “Sarah,” she is who you will contact. She doesn’t speak any English, but don’t worry, I taught her how to walk to the camp if she has to pick up Sarah.”
Rebbetzin, I must tell you I let out a silent prayer, “Please, please Ribbono Shel Olam, Almighty G-d, don’t let there ever be an emergency with “Sarah.” Please don’t make me ever have to call the non-English speaking gentile caretaker for this holy Jewish child.”
The second story happened a few years later at the same camp. I had a lovely, well-behaved four year old in my group. It was several weeks into camp, so by now I knew the children well. “Baruch” always ate his lunch very well and generally was a pleasure to have in my group. One day, we noticed that “Baruch” wasn’t eating his lunch. We asked if he felt O.K. He stated, “Yes”. We asked him why he wasn’t eating his sandwich, and he stated, “I don’t like salami and BUTTER.”
We were rather shocked at this statement. We knew that the boy’s parents were observant Jews and had a strictly kosher home. We tried to speak with him to find out what was going on, but to no avail. We really thought he must be mistaken and just wasn’t hungry that day. Well, the next day, the same thing happened. “Baruch” wasn’t eating, when we asked why, he stated that he didn’t like “bologna and butter sandwiches.”
By this point, we were wondering what was going on. We took the sandwich and examined it. The sandwich really did look like cold cuts and butter, but we thought, “Perhaps it’s soy meat. Perhaps it’s soy butter.” I tried to call the house, but there was no answer. Then I called the father at work stating that I was Baruch’s camp counselor, and was told that the father was in a very important meeting and couldn’t be disturbed. Then I called the emergency number, but there too there was no answer. Baruch Hashem, it was the last day of the week.
On Monday, I saw “Baruch’s” mother dropping him off at camp. I told her the whole story and her face turned white as a ghost. She kept saying, “Oh my G-d, Oh my G-d. I don’t believe it!” Finally, when she calmed down, she told me that she had gone on a short vacation and left the children with a secular Jewish girl who swore she would only give the kids kosher food, and she must have intentionally given the children meat and dairy sandwiches. The family had to kasher the whole house and throw out many things that couldn’t be made kosher.
May Hashem have rachmanut on His Jewish children.
Second Letter: “A Father’s Confession”
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
Thank you for the very compelling and insightful analysis of derech eretz. It touches upon a subject that has also troubled me for some time – even before I became a father. I have always advocated that children learn and do what they see and hear. If they experienced physical and emotional abuse or neglect between parents or siblings in the home, then they too will tend to behave in like manner as adults – sometimes long before reaching adulthood.
I believe that parents should even avoid something as innocent looking as arguing with each other in front of children, especially if their arguments tend to become emotional or hurtful. This is for two very cogent reasons: (1) Such arguments tend to undermine their parental authority, and (2) children, especially younger ones, can actually develop an unwarranted sense of guilt as a result of seeing constant parental disputes. They tend to feel that somehow they did something wrong and that this time, Abba and Eema are fighting about it and that is their fault.
My very first reaction after my ex-wife informed me that she was leaving me for someone else was to gather my four children around me in order to attempt to explain to them that what was
happening was not their fault, and that Mommy and Daddy still love them and always will.
I realize that this issue is separate from that which you discussed in your response, but it is nevertheless related to it because it is rooted in the very same cause – parents setting poor examples for their children’s behavior, unwittingly or otherwise.
Regarding the use of baby sitters, may I tell you that I cannot ever recall my parents having a hired baby-sitter watch over us while I was growing up. Occasionally, when aunts and uncles visited us, they did take care of us, however, my parents always avoided having strangers watch us for two reasons: (1) they did not trust placing us in the care of strangers, and (2) their unanimous attitude was that they would simply not go anywhere that they could not bring their kids – an attitude that is perhaps not very popular today.
Finally, before I conclude this letter, if I may, I wish to offer you a confession. It would be improper and hypocritical for me to address these important issues without sharing with you my own guilt, my own terrible mistakes concerning my absence from my children – in itself a vicious form of neglect. I shall undoubtedly have to deal with the pain and guilt of the indirect effects of my actions on my children for the rest of my life. I have been attempting to make up for this absence, if indeed, this is even possible.
Baruch Hashem, my children have responded positively and appear to genuinely wish to include me in their lives. I intend to do everything within my power to promote that goal and to enrich my relationship with all of them. I have taken this opportunity to write in the hope that others will learn from my experience.
Your Avid Reader