July 24, 2024
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Art League Defending Israel Seeking Tributes to “Our Boys”

Englewood—While the war rag­es in Israel and Gaza, supporters on both sides are using social media to win the hearts, minds—and dol­lars—of people around the world. Although no one is keeping score, some journalists are writing that Isra­el is winning the war but may be los­ing the media battle. The Art League Defending Israel LLC (ALDI) is a new organization determined to change that perception. Founded by Sheryl Intrator Urman of Englewood, with colleagues she has worked with on previous art exhibitions, ALDI will encourage the creation and show­ing of art supporting Israel in social media, an Internet gallery, and ex­hibits where the art can be seen and discussed.

Ideas for the Art League have been incubating for months, but the murder of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach galvanized the founders to get ALDI up and run­ning. “The tragedy created a lot of emotion,” Urman said. “We are pro­viding a vehicle for artists to express their feelings with a tribute and me­morial to the boys so they won’t be forgotten.” A post on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ artleaguedefendingisrael) tells art­ists to express their anger and sor­row about the tragic murder by cre­ating a work of art and posting it on the page to remind the world “to re­member our boys.”

Urman first thought about art in support of Israel after visiting gal­leries in New York and seeing many works of political art by Palestinians but none about Israel. She worked with a group to put on an exhibit of art about Israel in Brooklyn in 2011 and last year in Riverdale.

Fred Spinowitz of New Rochelle, a co-founder of ALDI who first met Urman working on the Brooklyn ex­hibit, is one of the first artists to post work about the boys. “The capture of the three boys hit home in a whole different way to me,” he said. “I heard lectures by Ra’annana’s Rabbi and Rebbetzin Neuwirth about the phys­ical dangers but spiritual clarity in Is­rael and images flashed in my head. I posted my idea quickly to show oth­ers what we’re talking about.”

In his artist statement, Spinowitz writes, “One of the strengths of the Jewish community in times of crisis has been prayer. The call for T’hilim/ Psalms, has included Psalm 121. It states that ‘my eyes are raised to the hills—my strength comes from the Lord.’ The full Psalm 121 is incor­porated into the axis that connects heaven and earth. The names of the 3 Boys are in a very white and incom­plete space. The space will not be filled because, we are incomplete without them!”

Spinowitz said ALDI will periodi­cally make artist calls for work in re­sponse to an event or idea and ask for an explanatory statement about how the work relates to the subject. “The statement makes art more rel­evant. Viewers begin to see things and have conversations about it with others. With a presence on the Inter­net and social media, we’re achiev­ing a new kind of momentum and moving ahead with more people.”

The Art League’s plan is to post all submissions, subject to the group’s guidelines, on the Facebook page, Instagram, and other social me­dia channels. The Internet gallery and traditional exhibits will be jur­ied; Urman is the curator and a jury will decide on selection. Urman is re­searching venues now for an exhibit early next year, along with co-found­er Doryne Davis, an artist from En­glewood, who is helping with the group’s administration.

The social media pages are being constructed and moderated by Ahu­va Mantell, a resident of Bergenfield and teacher of art at Frisch Yeshiva High School.

“The goal for our Facebook page is to encourage people to get their artwork out there and build an au­dience. It takes time for artwork to be made. As it gets posted, peo­ple can like and respond—the site is for viewers as well as artists—and they can give immediate feedback. It keeps everyone up to date on what’s going on.”

The posting on Instagram will be geared to encourage teens and col­lege students to support Israel. Man­tell has Frisch alumnus Sarah Laskin of Englewood and Ramaz senior Emma Rosen of Englewood helping her to monitor posts. “If something inappropriate is posted, they noti­fy me immediately and it gets taken down,” she added.

Mantell is also working with Rabbi Ciner, Principal of The Frisch School, to encourage interested students to participate in the Art League. Incoming ninth grade art-track students will be getting an email about it and artists will be speaking to the students in school.

As an artist, Mantell is looking forward to the challenge of creat­ing work for the League. “My body of work is Biblical and about Jewish identity but not always Israel related. This will force me to figure out how to put that into a work of art, choos­ing different media. People write ar­ticles and go to rallies. This is anoth­er way to make a statement and express an opinion. And it’s great to work with other artists and say something together as a group. We all care about Israel and want to say something about Israel.”

Reba Wulkan, Englewood, a for­mer curator of art at the Yeshiva Uni­versity Museum, is an Advisor to ALDI and is heading the team of ju­rors for exhibits. Like the other mem­bers of the group, she was very af­fected by the murder of the boys in Israel and wanted to help the emerg­ing Art League in any way she could. “I can use my knowledge of art and connections with artists to help the group reach its goal of presenting ju­ried exhibitions. As a juror, I can de­cide on what pieces are appropriate and will be the most successful.”

Currently she is working with pri­vate collectors of Judaica and repre­senting individual artists. “I’ve start­ed to tell people about what the Art League Defending Israel is doing and they are very responsive. They think it’s a great idea.”

The reach of the Internet is al­ready drawing responses from art­ists in other states and countries. Urman reached out to some of the artists she met when she visited Na­hariya on behalf of the Northern New Jersey Jewish Federation’s Part­nership2Gether initiative, who are now distributing information about ALDI and encouraging Israeli artists to participate.

Urman has met with Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organiza­tions, who is supportive of the Art League Defending Israel, and is help­ing to make introductions to well-known artists.

“We are all united in the idea that art is the conscience of a society and art shows where people are,” Urman said. “There was no art to support Is­rael’s right to exist or right to defend itself. Now there is.”

By Bracha Schwartz

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