Category Archives: Arts

Visual Midrash: Artistic Commentary on the Torah

by on September 20, 2015

torah midrash art exhibit

Mid • rash | mid räSH |
noun (pl. Midrashim) an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text.

We’re unscrolling the Torah, all 54 portions; not literally, but figuratively. Artist Scott Switzer has painted each one in The Torah Series, oil paintings based on portions of the Hebrew Bible that are read each week in synagogues. The paintings capture one complete year of readings on 24” x 24” canvases that are embedded in six grids, each made up of nine panes. The exhibition is  currently on display in the PJCC Art Gallery.

The approach of finding deep and spiritual understanding of the Torah through artistic expression is referred to as visual midrash (Rabbinic commentaries on the Torah’s
teachings). Switzer, who is not Jewish, found that engaging in these stories through Judaism’s perspective, “gave them new life and changed my consciousness.” He considers the paintings in this series “ … a conversation or even a prayer.” His figurative style and color palate are reminiscent of Marc Chagall’s well-known Biblical artwork.

Visual midrash is not new to the PJCC. In 2009 our gallery hosted Seeing Sinai, a collaboration between modern artist Jill Nathanson and Judaic scholar Arnold Eisen. And certainly our vibrant Grow Justice Mural utilized this process in a community-based setting. This summer, you can partake in a workshop to create your own visual commentary. Rabbi Lavey Derby and Scott
Switzer will partner to lead a text study/studio session where each participant will have the opportunity to express their own personal artistic interpretation of the week’s Torah portion.

Our endeavor follows the footsteps of Reboot’s Unscrolled, a book featuring the works of 54 different writers and artists who were invited to select a portion of the Torah and provide their fresh interpretation. As described by Reboot, it’s now our turn to “approach the Torah with a spirit of creative adventure, wrestle with it,” and then find our own meaning. Throughout the PJCC’s 2015-2016 season, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to engage in Jewish learning and examine
multiple forms of creative midrash through poetry, musical composition, movement,  and storytelling.

The close of The Torah Series coincides with Simchat Torah on October 6, the celebratory Jewish holiday that marks the annual completion of the year’s Torah reading.  As congregants in  synagogues around the world re-roll the Torah to start anew,  we too will “roll” up Switzer’s  enchanting enterprise to share with another  community in the New Year.

PJCC Art Gallery presents
The Torah Series
On display in the PJCC Art Gallery
through October 6, 2015

 Prints are for sale through the artist. Great to commemorate bar/bat mitzvahs, life events, or other special occasions. www.
Telephone: 208.935.5978
Specify image # (1-54); and cite PJCC for commission credit.
Allow 2 – 3 weeks for delivery




Music As Therapy

by on June 9, 2015


My Patient
Irene (not her real name) was my patient for many years, and during a routine visit she showed me a lump on her abdomen which turned out to be metastatic pancreatic cancer. I went to visit her one afternoon in hopes of offering her some comfort. The day I visited her was sunny and cloudless, but when I entered the mobile home, I was ushered in by her daughter into a low-lit room with all the shades drawn. Irene was lying in bed surrounded by Continue reading

The Butterfly Project: Remembering Children of the Holocaust

by on April 19, 2015

butterfly project

Inspired by the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944, the Butterfly Project was initiated by two teachers in the San Diego Jewish Academy in 2006 to remember the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.

The butterflies in our PJCC atrium were created by hands of all ages. Our youngest artists learned that every butterfly is unique, fragile and beautiful for its individuality. Continue reading

Judaica Finds Life By Remembering The Past

by on April 14, 2015


This spring the PJCC Art Gallery is proud to present an exhibition highlighting the multifaceted projects of Mi Polin, (Hebrew for “From Poland”). Mi Polin, founded by the couple Helena Czernek and Aleksander Prugar, is the first post-war brand that designs and produces Judaica in Poland. Mi Polin’s mission is two-fold: to create a new contemporary look of Jewish ritual objects, and to prove that Jewish life in Poland is vibrant. They embrace the future by giving great reverence to the past.

The PJCC reached out via email with a few questions for Helena and Aleksander, who are based in Poland.

Can you give an overview of the work you create as Mi Polin?

We are a design studio specializing in contemporary Jewish design. We have three fields of Continue reading

Out Of The Desert Innovation Blooms

by on January 21, 2015


A desert state in a modern era, Israel has sparked the way as a world leader in resource allocation with pioneering innovations in solar energy and irrigation development. In fact, contemporary Israel is a major player on the world stage of technology, medicine, and engineering, boasting more scientists, technicians, and engineers per capita (140 per 10,000) than any other country in the world.

For a country so young, and so fraught with turmoil, an astonishing amount of life-enhancing Continue reading

Discover the Bay the Artsy Way

by on June 16, 2014


It’s fun to play tourist in your own backyard. I mean if you are going to staycation, the Bay Area, a major vacation destination is a pretty great place to do it. But this summer, get to better know the sites through site-specific performances.

Now if I suggested you walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and take in the view, you’d rightly say, “Kimberly, thanks, but EVERYONE knows that.” But how much time have you spent under Continue reading

Amazing Things Happen When We Work Together

by on March 21, 2014

October 2013 was intense around here.  Well, at least for me; and certainly for our Artist-in-Residence, Jay Wolf Schlossberg-Cohen.

The Center was filled with excitement, anticipation and inspiration for me and the hundreds of you who participated in one of our 28 mural painting sessions.

Our community, under Jay’s guidance,  took 1,560 square feet and 8 planter tops of blankness and transformed them into a work of art. A work of art that communicates social justice themes such as Environmental Stewardship, Human Rights & Dignity, Economic Justice, and Food Justice.

Do you remember eating lunch outside by the J café and seeing the steady progression over 15 packed days?  Or perhaps coming back after an absence to notice the work fully realized?  I remember October, but this documentary by Chip Curry brought back vivid details by capturing the communal spirit and offering candid testimonials.  I’m delighted to share it with you.

Continue reading

Dynamic Duos

by on January 16, 2014


The Perks of Being a Duo

Simon & Garfunkel topped the charts in the very unofficial hallway poll of favorite famous musical duos I conducted.  “Of course this is the PJCC,” a co-worker warned, should the results seem in any way biased.  If your favorite is Hall & Oates, Sonny & Cher, or Ike & Tina Turner, rest assured you were also represented.

It got me pondering the many ways in which 4 hands can be better than two, musically.  So I went directly to the source and asked our upcoming Up Close performers for their impressions of duodum. Continue reading