When They Say, “Welcome Aboard,” They Really Mean It

by Miriam Libove

How many people can say that their third week at a new job started out on a ferry with a bunch of dynamic women, and a visit to an artist colony? And a Jewish one at that.  Welcome to Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York.

As the newest member of the JWFNY team (I became Operations Facilitator on August 15th), I felt privileged to be invited to join the JWFNY leadership team on a site visit to our grantee partner, Art Kibbutz, a Jewish artists’ residency, community, and hub  located on Governor’s Island. Having not been on a kibbutz since the 1990s when I did the midnight shift in the bakery at Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect the incredible experience that ensued.

I had been told that JWFNY’s grant to Art Kibbutz supports the fellowships of three female artists, Pearl Gluck (filmmaker), Ella Moriah Mason (dancer), and Asherah Cinnamon (visual artist); who through their art are exploring women’s issues and gender equality from a Jewish perspective. I did not know that I was going to be incredibly moved by their work, as well as that of other Art Kibbutz residents.

When we arrived on Governor’s Island we were greeted by energetic Art Kibbutz Executive Director, Patricia Eszter Margit, and treated to a tour of Art Kibbutz. This was followed by presentations by three artists from Art Kibbutz whose work directly benefits from JWFNY’s Start-Up Grants.

I think I was not the only one who was awestruck by the cutting edge art of Cynthia Beth Rubin who, together with collaborator Yona Verwer, created the interactive exhibit, “Using Augmented Reality to Weave Stories of the Past and Present in New York City’s Lower East Side.”   Rubin shared a brief overview of her digital artwork which involves a variety of media including gorgeously bright acrylics overlaid with visuals created by augmented reality. It is beyond me to describe the intricacies, but I was impressed by the beauty of the pictures, the vibrant colors, and the marvel of viewing the work through an iPad, and finding another layer of images, and hearing sounds reminiscent of the Lower East Side. To see what I’m referring to, check out Cynthia Beth Rubin’s webpage on the Art Kibbutz Site.

Next we were introduced to performance artist, Amy Oestreicher, who shared about her healing from sexual abuse and illness, and how she has used theatre, music, dance, and art to convey a message of hope and resilience.  Amy, who looks like a ballet dancer, performed a short song from “Gutless & Grateful,” her original “One Woman Musical” that had such power and depth, it was hard to believe that it was coming from this petite young woman.

Our final experience at the Art Kibbutz was a presentation by one of Art Kibbutz fellows supported by JWFNY, filmmaker Pearl Gluck, who is using her art form to build awareness of sex trafficking and other issues that affect women and girls. I was transfixed by the excerpt of her feature film in progress, “The Turn Out,” as well as her short video on issues of sexual orientation for girls in the Hasidic community. These works were so poignant, I would have liked to see more.  I would encourage you to visit Pearl Gluck’s page on the Art Kibbutz site.

When I accepted the job at JWFNY as few weeks ago, I knew that I was joining a good organization, but having witnessed directly the impact of JWFNY’s work on just one grantee, I now know that I am joining a great organization. I’m thrilled and honored to be on board.

 

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Executive Director Patricia Eszter Margit gives overview of Art Kibbutz.

 

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JWFNY member sees digital images come to life in Cynthia Beth Rubin’s artwork

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