Let Love and Justice Flow Like a Mighty Stream: Congregation Agudas Achim Hosts Memorial Artwork Dedicated to Pittsburgh Synagogue
The 18 individual mosaic pieces created by artists from around the country. Credit: Jennifer Rubin
By Jennifer Rubin
As synagogues and other places of worship around the world try to cope with a spate of violent attacks on their religious freedom, a group of artists came together at Congregation Agudas Achim for a meaningful discussion and presentation of mosaic artwork created in the wake of the tragedy in Pittsburgh last fall. The artwork will eventually find its home at the Tree of Life synagogue.
“From Darkness to Light: The Tree of Life Synagogue Memorial Mosaic Project” is the brainchild of Susan Ribnick, co-chair of the Austin Mosaic Guild. Just days after the horrific attack at the Tree of Life synagogue, Ribnick was inspired to use her skills and passion as an artist to help her heal. She reached out to fellow mosaic artists and brought together 18 people from around the country to create a collection of mosaics that will be donated to the synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The program began with a welcome from Rabbi Neil Blumofe, who spoke about the many ways that communities of all faiths can come together to heal and learn.
Janis Bergman-Carton, an art historian and one of the mosaic artists, provided a meaningful lesson on how artistic expression has been used to cope with tragedy dating back to the first cave paintings in Lascaux, France. She also compared the inspiration behind the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. to the artwork and memorials left outside the Tree of Life synagogue in the days following the shooting.
One image left outside the synagogue immediately struck a chord with Ribnick. She said there was a “hand-written note from a sixth-grader, Cooper D., who wrote, in colored crayon, a timeless verse from the Bible, ‘Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the seas.’”
“It was apparent that in the midst of a tragic scene, one that resonated with many of us personally, that people felt the need to simply do something. It was that very impulse that drove this project into being. There are times in which doing nothing is not an option and that seemed to be the case for many people near and far,” Ribnick said.
In addition to meeting and conversing with eight of the 18 artists at the event, the audience also had the opportunity to hear from Dave Kalla, a member of the Tree of Life synagogue who expressed his hope that this project could benefit many communities before making its way to Pittsburgh.
Due to the destruction which occurred during the attack, the synagogue is currently undergoing extensive reconstruction that is not expected to be completed for another two years.
Ribnick and Bergman-Carton hope to take this show on the road to serve as a catalyst of conversation and action in other cities across the country. They are currently raising funds to cover those expenses with any extra being donated to the Tree of Life. To contribute to their project, visit gofundme.com/tree-of-life-synagogue-project.
While plans for the national tour are being made, the artwork will continue to be on display at Congregation Agudas Achim. ■