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Jewish Art Salon at the Jerusalem Biennale 2015


The Jewish Art Salon’s Pavilion at the Polonsky Academy features New York / New Work: Contemporary Jewish Art from NYC, curated by Dvora Liss and David Sperber

Participating artists: Helène Aylon, Siona Benjamin, Tobi Kahn, Rachel Kanter, Robert Kirschbaum, Richard McBee, Archie Rand, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Joel Silverstein, Eli Valley, Yona Verwer, David Wander, and Ahron Weiner.

View images here

There are 3 events in conjunction with this exhibit: the opening reception September 24, a panel discussion/film screening September 30, and a symposium November 1.

J.A.S Opening Event Thursday September 24, 2015, 7-9pm

Polonsky Academy at the Van Leer Institute, 43 Jabotinsky Street, next to the Presidents House.

19:00-19:30 – Jewish Art Salon Exhibition NEW YORK, NEW WORK. Wine and refreshments will be served. Short notes by participating artists

19:30-20:15- Notes from the American Center Director Bill Murad, and the J.A.S. and J.B. founders Yona Verwer and Ram Ozeri

Music & Dance Performance: Color Me Blue (Siona Benjamin)

Exhibit on view until November 5th, Sundays-Thursdays 10:00-16:00

Opening free to the public

Buy Biennale tickets here.

See a map of the venues here.

About the exhibit

Jewish art in the United States today exists as its own defined and developed field of visual art. In 2013, the art historian Matthew Baigell described our era as “the Golden Age” of American Jewish art. These artists present complex, critical and questioning observations, that draw on deep knowledge and reinterpretations of the Jewish texts.
The exhibition New York/New Work presents, for the first time in Israel, some of the current major and canonical artists of contemporary Jewish art in the United States. These artists hail from different diasporic spaces and appropriate Jewish traditions on their own terms. Their contributions to the development of contemporary American Judaism in the context of a dual diasporic lens are considerable: on the one hand, they examine the Diaspora’s relationship with itself; and, on the other hand, they look at its relationship with other diasporic locations.
Contemporary scholars explain the concept of “Diaspora” as a synchronous culture where people are located within two cultures and two languages: they share the culture of where they live, but they also belong to the culture of another group. This complex condition suggests simultaneous local and trans-local cultural belonging and expression. In other words, it is a condition where the collective has two compasses: one points to the person’s physical location, while the second points to another, distant locale; one to the local culture, and the second to the culture the person shares with other, related collectives that live elsewhere. “What makes Judaism a diasporic culture,” scholar Daniel Boyarin stresses, “are the ties with other Jews in other places around the world, thanks to Judaism’s cultural discourse and practice. . . .” Boyarin points to the study of texts as the central axis of the Jewish diasporic condition.
Many of the works on display in this exhibition are inspired by the Bible, midrash (textual interpretations or explanations) and Jewish myth, but seek to speak to the here and now through various discursive contexts: ethnicity, religion, politics and gender. Other works draw on traditional Judaica and are an act of reinventing the text and the ritual, shaping these in a conceptual or spiritual language. Although the artists working within this framework do not reject aspects of secular Jewish culture, they undoubtedly place religious values at the center of the discussion on Jewish culture.
It appears that this post-secular turnaround is based on a growing feeling among American Jews that only religion (but not necessarily organized religion) can inspire and create a meaningful contemporary Jewish culture. This turnaround is clear in the shift that occurred between the exhibitions Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities curated by Norman Kleeblatt, which traveled to many museums throughout the United States in the 1990s, and Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life curated by Daniel Belasco, which was shown at the Jewish Museum in New York a decade later. Too Jewish? looked at Judaism in the context of identity—ethnicity, assimilation and gender—and marked the beginning of the inclusion of contemporary Jewish art in the world of American Jewish art. In contrast, Reinventing Ritual indicated a further stage in the development of Jewish art in the United States, one that showed the return to or a “re-enchantment” with religion. As the cultural historian Stephen Whitfield explains, “There is simply no longer a serious way of being Jewish—and of living within Jewish culture—without Judaism.”
One of the characteristics of the new trend, namely a direct and in-depth focus on Judaism, is the establishment of groups and associations of artists who draw their inspiration from Judaism in all its diversity. The current exhibition presents new works by members of the JAS (Jewish Art Salon), one of the most important, and certainly the largest, of such groups. Archie Rand explores the cycles of traditional Judaism in his art. He has created a number of series, including ones that look at the seven days of creation, the 613 mitzvot (commandments), the 39 activities prohibited on the Sabbath, the Amidah prayer (central prayer of Jewish liturgy) and the 54 weekly Torah portions read in the synagogue. The current exhibition presents a new series by Rand that examines the four mitzvot of Purim: reading Megillat Esther, the festive meal, mishloach manot (gifts of food to friends) and matanot leevyonim (gifts to the poor). Helène Aylon previously exhibited an ambitious and radical installation, The Liberation of G-d, (1990–1996) that launched her long-standing preoccupation with a radical feminist critique of the Jewish world, institutions, worship and canonical texts. In The Liberation of G-d Aylon marked the non-humanistic verses found in the Torah. In the work she is exhibiting here, she marks the Torah verses brimming with anger and brutal curses and questions whether these verses can be indeed be attributed to G-d.
A feminist perspective also emerges in the works of Rachel Kanter, a textile artist who creates feminist ritual textiles, and of Tobi Kahn, whose work over the years has reinvented traditional ritual objects. Here Kanter is exhibiting a giant mezuzah that transforms the traditional mezuzah into a feminist “Femage”—a collage incorporating elements of women’s traditional crafts in a way that combines both solidarity and criticism. Kahn’s “Judaica” is characterized by a contemporary, abstract and conceptual language that always touches on spirituality. The four small chairs in the current exhibition symbolize the four mothers of the Jewish people. The chairs serve as models for new ritual objects. Just as the traditional “Chair of Elijah” is used during the circumcision ceremony, these chairs are intended to be used during the “zeved habat” ceremony when a baby girl is named. New designs for traditional Jewish objects also appear in the works of Robert Kirschbaum, connecting a clean design language with the spirituality and mysticism that is found in the Holy Scriptures. His series, entitled Devarim, is composed of 42 sculptures, the same number as the number of letters in the ineffable Divine Name. The series connects the material with the spiritual, and what is missing with the utopian. The sculptures derive their forms from Hebrew letters, architectural models in Jewish sources and ritual objects. One work in the exhibition refers to the letter “Tav” and to the shape of the Temple as described in the prophecy of Ezekiel; another’s shape is inspired by the steps used to light the menorah in the Temple and a third recalls the shape of tefillin (phylacteries).
Although Jewish diasporic culture is articulated in the works of all the artists in this exhibition, it is particularly clearly expressed in the works of Siona Benjamin, a Jew born in India, who connects Indian iconography, American pop culture and Judaism. The complex relationship between the Diasporas, i.e., American Jewry and Israel, are strongly present in the comics of Eli Valley. On the other hand, the particularistic history of American Jewry is addressed in the works of Yona Verwer and Cynthia Beth Rubin, who employ the new technology of Augmented Reality to add layers of meaning and association to their imagery. The texts and myths that connect the different Jewish Diasporas create a connection between the past and the present in the works of Richard McBee and David Wander. McBee’s works draw their inspiration from the Bible and midrash, to which he offers psychological and existential interpretations. The political context of his works, which address the biblical stories of Hagar and Ishmael, are reinforced in the current Israeli exhibition. Wander’s work in the exhibition looks at Samson, the biblical hero, and is part of a broader series of visual midrash. The connection or confrontation between biblical myths and current culture is clearly expressed in the art of Ahron D. Weiner, whose work deliberately reveals the holy encoded within the secular. Through the medium of décollage using advertisement posters, he creates high culture (art) from what is considered low culture (advertising). Joel Silverstein achieves a similar effect in a different way, by hybridizing the legends that sprung from American Jewry—Superman and The Incredible Hulk—with traditional Jewish myths, like the Golem of Prague and the Messiah.
Israeli culture has no defined or well-developed field of Jewish art; Judaism—as a living and unique religious tradition—is usually excluded from the central discourse of Israeli art. Viewing the “there” from within the prism of the “here,” through an art exhibition that draws its inspiration from Jewish tradition, sources and culture, can challenge the conventional dichotomy in Israel that separates art from religion, and Jewish art from Israeli art. Unraveling these dichotomies and subverting the resulting hierarchies can inspire the local art scene that alienates itself from tradition.


Wednesday 30th of September, 16:30 – 19:30


Polonsky Auditorium, Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem, 43 Jabotinsky Street.


16:30 – With exhibiting artists Yona Verwer, Richard McBee, Siona Benjamin, Cynthia Beth Rubin, David Wander.

Moderated by Dvora Liss and David Sperber.


18:00 – BLUE LIKE ME: The Art of Siona Benjamin
Director: Hal Rifkin (28min, USA/India, 2015) English. Documentary. An exploration of artist Siona Benjamin’s fascinating life and work. A Jew raised in India, Benjamin goes on to achieve global acclaim for her vibrant paintings, which blend Talmudic, Hindu and Islamic references with contemporary Western art influences.

Conversation with Siona Benjamin follows the screening.

19:00 – The Liberation of Helène Aylon

Filmmaker: Kelly Spivey (25 min, USA 2015) English. Sound Mix: Alex Noyes. The Liberation of Helène Aylon is a film portrait that explores how a Jewish Orthodox woman became a contemporary feminist artist.


NOVEMBER 1, 2015, 17:00-20:30

SYMPOSIUM – Contemporary Jewish Art in America

Moderated by David Sperber.

Polonsky Academy Auditorium, Van Leer Institute, 43 Jabotinsky Street.

The symposium marks the closing of the exhibition New York/New Work: Contemporary Jewish Art in NYC.


17:00-17:30- Greetings by Rami Ozeri, Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Biennale on Jewish Art

Part 1, in Hebrew:

17:30-18:00- Dr. Ronit Steinberg, Bezalel Academy, Shechter Institute:

First they build a Jewish Museum, then they ask, Is there a Jewish art?” – About The Jewish Museum, New York

18:00-18:30- Dr. Mor Presiado, Bar-Ilan University:

Feminist Ideology in Holocaust Works of Contemporary American Artists

18:30-19:00Dr. Nira Tessler, Talpiot College:

George Segal: Thoughts on Judaism

Part 2, in English:

19:00-19 :30- Professor Ori Z. Soltes, Georgetown University:

What is Jewish art?

19:30-20:30- Tobi Kahn: Image and Ritual: Conversation between art historian Emily Bilski and artist Tobi Kahn


Jewish Art Salon members are also exhibiting in the following:

Ima Iylaa; The Art of Motherhood. With JAS members: Dorit Jordan Dotan, Ruth Schreiber, Ken Goldman, Joan Roth, Doni Silver Simons, Judith Margolis, Yehudis Barmatz, Ma’ayan, Gidon Levin. Venue: The Hechal Shlomo Museum, King George Street.  Opening Reception September 30, time TBA.

A Fine Line” with JAS members Andi Arnovitz, Ken Goldman, Judith Margolis, and Ruth Schreiber. The Achim Hasid Complex, 47 Emek Refai’m St. Opening Reception September 26, 8pm

7,567mi” with JAS members Ruth Weisberg, Doni Silver Simons. Venue: The Achim Hasid Complex, 47 Emek Refai’m St. Opening Reception September 26, 8pm

Women of the Book: Jewish Women Recording, Reflecting, Revisioning,” with JAS members Siona Benjamin, Ruth Weisberg, Judith Margolis, Andi Arnovitz, Ellen Holtzblatt. Venue: The First Train Station,  (Tachana), David Remez Street. Opening Reception September 29, 20:30.

Do not miss the main event: JERUSALEM.PASSAGES consists of five large scale projects by five leading artists. The projects, chosen by the Advisory Committee of Biennale2015, will be presented in the Tower of David Museum. Participating Artists: Sigalit Landau, Motti Mizrachi, Ynin Shillo, Pablo Lobato (Brazil) and Dov Abramson.

Buy Biennale tickets here.

See a map of the venues here.

Two exhibitions showcase the work of artists from New York (Jewish Art Salon) and Los Angeles (the Jewish Artists Initiative of Southern California which will also host three exhibitions in LA in conjunction with Biennale2015, representing the first time the Jerusalem Biennale extends its reach overseas.) In addition, there will be an exhibition from Buenos Aires, and another from Barcelona.

Six exhibitions are from Jerusalem-based groups and/or curators, including well-known Israeli artists such as, among others, Sigalit Landau, Motti Mizrahi, Dov Abramson, Maya Zack and Ynin Shillo exhibiting alongside Israeli-Anglo artists such as Andi Arnovitz, Ken Goldman and Ruth Schreiber.

Biennale2015 will host the inaugural exhibition of a nine-year project, Women of the Book and the inaugural installation and performance Present=Presence by Canadian-Israeli artist Alana Ruben-Free in collaboration with Israeli artist David Gerstein. There is also a special tribute exhibition by Bezalel artists in memory of the late Zelig Segal. 

Jerusalem Biennale Founder Rami Ozeri: “The Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art provides a stage for professional artists who refer in their artwork to Jewish thought, spirit, tradition or experience. The first Jerusalem Biennale in 2013 created an exciting buzz in the contemporary Jewish art world and, as a result, we were inundated with submissions of the highest quality from Israel and around the world. The Jerusalem Biennale 2015 will further expand the debate on what is contemporary Jewish art and we are thrilled that, once again, this is taking place in Jerusalem, the spiritual and creative center of the Jewish world”.

One ticket (NIS 45) grants access to all Biennale2015 exhibitions – all the venues are located in the city center and within easy walking distance of each other:

Buy tickets here.




The main exhibition of Biennale2015, JERUSALEM.PASSAGES, consists of five large scale projects by five leading artists. The projects, chosen by the Advisory Committee of Biennale2015, will be presented in the Tower of David Museum. Participating Artists: Sigalit Landau, Motti Mizrachi, Dov Abramson, Ynin Shillo (Israel), and Pablo Lobato (Brazil)

Sigalit Landau – Salt-Crystal Bridal Gown

In this eight photograph series, Israeli video artist Sigalit Landau in a collaboration with photographer Yotam From, tracks the gradual change of a black dress, immersed in the Dead Sea, as it slowly becomes encrusted with salt crystals. The dress is a copy of the iconic dress worn by Lea, the main character in “Hadibbuk”, played for more than four decades by legendary Israeli actress Hanna Rovina.

Motti Mizrahi – Engagement

In this installation, Israeli artist Motti Mizrahi has created a 5 meter-high white dress that will hover four feet above ground, with several of the artist’s statues installed around it. On the last day of the Biennale, the dress will be set free to drift upwards into the sky over the Old City of Jerusalem.

Ynin Shillo – Longing

In these seven video art works and one site-specific sound installation, Israeli-Dutch artist Ynin Shillo explores changing seasons and the changes of light in the Mount of Olives Cemetery. By returning to the same frames time and again, Shillo captures the mountain’s human events, as actors entering the stage; the Hasidic consciousness of God is so strong, that they look as actors who feel that they are being watched.

Dov AbramsonKav 70

Kav 70 (“Line 70”) divides Jerusalem into 70 equal-sized cells, and explores linear forms and space in each of those cells, comprising a new and conceptual map of the city. Jewish tradition holds that Jerusalem has seventy names – all can be found in the words of ancient Jewish scripture and in the majestic teachings of the prophets. An unconventional journey through Jerusalem that walks the lines that connect – and divide. 

Pablo Lobato – Distracted We Will Win

Brazilian video artist Pablo Lobato has created a new video work specially for Biennale 2015. The work stems from an essay of 21 photographs of Israeli soldiers at rest. The uniformed bodies listen, in silence. The title, Distracted We Will Win, is also the title of a book by Brazilian poet Paulo Leminski. With this book, Leminski shows us a confidence in the body, beyond consciousness. The photographs were taken during Lobato’s May 2015 visit to Jerusalem.

Tree of Creation: I am the Tree of Life

From Barcelona to Jerusalem: a long journey, as if returning to one’s origins after a time of comings and goings. The exhibition Tree of Creation: I am the tree of life explores the complexity and the significance of our identity, through 5 + 5 artists,. Identity as individuality and plurality. In art, appearances may be deceiving and every so often they might trick the distracted viewer, but there’s more beyond a shadow or a reflection: behind every single little thing there is always the creative hand and will of the artist, because nothing is accidental. Artists include five men and five women: Ferran Aguiló, Víctor Pimstein, Antoni Aloy, Elia Sabato, Lautaro Saavedra and Le Bestevem, a multidisciplinary group made up of five young women living in Rome (Marisa Dipasquale, Ilenia Zincone, Eva Basteiro-Bertolí, Ester Stigliano, Isabella Faggiano). They are descendents of the ancient kingdom of Catalonia (Catalunya, Mallorca, Italy), where Judaism was, and remains, deeply rooted in the culture, unlike the rest of Sefarad (Spain). Curator: Carles Basteiro-Bertolí ( MOZAIKA for Jewish Culture of Catalunya

New York, New Work: Contemporary Jewish Art from NYC

This exhibition features works by members of the Jewish Art Salon, a New York-based community of artists and scholars who are slowly transforming their New York Diaspora with a steady infusion of Jewish identity in artwork. Participating artists include Archie Rand, Helene Aylon, Siona Benjamin, Richard McBee, Tobi Kahn, Eli Valley, Joel Silverstein, Robert Kirschbaum, Rachel Kanter, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Yona Verwer, David Wander and Ahron Weiner. Curators: David Sperber and Dvora Liss.

It Has Always Been the Book

The exhibition It Has Always Been The Book includes the works of 22 Jewish and non-Jewish Argentinean artists, referring to the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. The main medium of the exhibition is artists books, accompanied by related video art. The exhibition circles around the transition from books to digital media, from paper to screen and from ink and paint to pixels.

Participants: Grupo Escombros, Teresa Volco, León Ferrari, Delia Cancela, Eduardo Antonio Vigo, Mercedes Estéves, Mónica Goldstein, Teresa Puppo, Leandro Katz, Maiaugusta Vintimilla, Matilde Marín, Susi Sielsky Cantarino, Margarita Paksa, Juan Carlos Romero and Carlos Espartaco.

Women of the Book: Jewish Women Recording, Reflecting, Revisioning

Social Practice Artist and Torah scribe, Shoshana Gugenheim introduces the inaugural exhibition Women of the Book:  Jewish Women Recording, Reflecting, Revisioning.  This nine-year collaboration presents contemporary visual commentary on the core text of the Jewish people, the Torah (The Five Books of Moses). The 54 participating women artists represent 5 continents and span the continuum of Jewish identity, from secular to ultra-Orthodox, while voicing diverse cultural inheritance. Women of the Book allows the dynamic creativity of visual midrash by Jewish women artists around the world to fill in the blank of ‘How do women interpret the core story of the Jewish people?’ Participating artists include: Audrey Flack, Ruth Weisberg, Andi Arnovitz, Judith Margolis, Siona Benjamin, Ellen Holtzblatt and Nehama Golan. Curators: Shoshana Gugenheim, Judith Margolis and Dr. Ronit Steinberg


7,767 mi® is an exhibition that explores connections that bind Jerusalem and Los Angeles by the members of the LA-based Jewish Artists Initiative (JAI), even though the two cities are separated by 7,567 miles. Three additional exhibitions will be mounted at the American Jewish University, Hebrew Union College and USC Hillel in Los Angeles at the same time as the Jerusalem Biennale, with video links enhancing the connection. Participating artists Melinda Smith Altshuler,  Bill Aron, Pat Berger, Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik, Ellen Cantor, Sam Erenberg, Carol Es, Benny Ferdman, Karen Frimkess Wolff, Susan Gesundheit, Carol Goldmark, Gilah Yelin Hirsch, Nancy Goodman Lawrence, Laurel Paley, Avi Roth, Doni Silver Simons, Hillel Smith, Debra Sokolow, Ruth Weisberg, Cathy Weiss and Jana Zimmer. Curators: Georgia Freedman-Harvey and Anne Hromadka.

A Fine Line

A group exhibition entitled A Fine Line with works by artists Heddy Abramowitz, Andi Arnovitz, Yoel Gilinsky, Nechama Golan, Ken Goldman, Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov, Shimon Low, Judith Margolis, Lilach Schrag and Ruth Schreiber exploring the fragile paradigm of those things which define and separate, the public from the private, the real from the imagined. Curator: Susan Nashman Fraiman.

A Sense of Space, A Sense of Place

A group exhibition using works in a variety of media, notably ceramics, that brings together artists whose work spans the spectrum of questioning what it means to be a conscience being in this place, in their space. Our daily lives can encompass both the mundane experiences such as eating or crossing the street, to the complexity of our cyber communication. With works by Elisabeth Applebaum, Hadassah Berry, Heddy Abramowitz and the Sisters Serebrin. Curator: Mallory Serebrin

Ima Iyla’a: The Art of Motherhood

“How does the Kabbalistic concept of Mother (Ima Iyla’a) find expression in our world through human wisdom, empathy, and nurturing?” This and other existential questions are posed in a multi-disciplinary exhibit on motherhood by internationally acclaimed artists such as Joan Roth, Maya Zack, Joy Rose, David Gerstein, and others, leading to new interpretations of the real and the ideal of the maternal in the postmodern age of Jewish Art.  On September 30th, American-Israeli theater artist Alana Ruben Free, in a collaboration with Israeli artist David Gerstein who created the sculptural set, will premiere Presence=Present’, and then invite her audience to participate in this immersive performance art experience. The exhibit aims to enliven the conversation on art and motherhood as well as point to the yearning, pain, loss and inner connection that mark all mother-child relationships.  Curator Nurit Sirkis Bank.


A contemporary visual interpretation of the obscure phenomena associated with the windows in the Temple built by King Solomon, [Kings I 6:4: “And he made for the house transparent-opaque\sealed windows”. Transparent and opaque are two opposites existing in one object and, similar to the commentators that tried to find meaning in the phrase, so the artists seek their personal interpretation of the opaque/transparent phenomenon. Artists include Aldana Kac, Chana Cromer, Debbie Kampel, Elisa Pritzker, Esther Schneider, Hiyuli Lieberman, Carolina Bonfils, Lucas Jalowsky, Martina Grounauer, Moishe Kampin, Nachama Golan, Nir Artzi, Noa Sauer, Pesi Komar, Yifat Steinmetz Hirst, Eliran Jan, Shimon Pinto and Maya Zack. Curator Avital Naor-Wexler.

Bezalel: In & Out

30 artists, most of them teachers of the Bezalel School of Art Design Department and including Sari Srulovitch and Israel Dahan, challenge the borders between Contemporary Art and Judaica. Amulets and wedding rings, cactus-shaped Shabbat candlesticks, a Hanukkah lamp in the Altneuland style and more- all celebrate Jewish ideas in a contemporary context. The exhibition includes a special tribute exhibition in memory of Zelig Segal, a contemporary Jewish art pioneer who passed away this year. Curators: Ido Noy and Dr. Shirat-Miriam Shamir.

Guided Tours in English:

Three tracks of guided tours in English will be available during Hol Hamoed Succot (September 29, 30 and October 1, 2) at 10:00, offering the back stories behind the art works and the exhibitions. (2.5-3 hours). For registration:

Requests for group bookings for tours after Succot:





Each venue will have its own opening event. Details and times to follow:

September 24: Van Leer Institute, 18:00 – 21:00

September 25: Tower of David Museum

September 26: Achim Hasid center

September 27: North Africa Jewish Heritage Center

September 28: Hebrew Union College

September 29: First Station

September 30: Hechal Shlomo

Updated information will be available at

The Jerusalem Biennale is supported by the Leichtag Foundation (San Diego), the Pershing Square Foundation (NY), the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Foundation, PAIS, Bank Hapoalim, the Tower of David Museum, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and private donors.

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