Silver Spring, MD—Resident members of the Riderwood Jewish Community made a spiritual journey this summer without leaving the 120-acre campus they call home.
With the guidance of artist and wife team Barry and Marlene Goldstein, Jewish Community residents created a sculptural representation of a Torah scroll that combined individually created paintings with the written word to express personal aspects of their Jewish identity and faith. Barry is the son of residents Bernard and Gloria Goldstein.
The endeavor began on June 19 as the Goldsteins met with a group of thirty-two (32) members of the Riderwood Jewish Community. Barry shared his vision "to create a piece of art through painting, writing and community collaboration that captures each individual's very personal expression of an aspect of Jewish identity." He also described a similar art experience that he led in Chicago during a weekend retreat with high school students.
According to Roy Stern, President of the Jewish Community, the participating members were curious as to what the project entailed and excited by the possibilities.
"We were very impressed with the idea and the detailed coordination offered by Barry and Marlene," said Mr. Stern.
The participants then went to work, reflecting on a series of questions provided by the Goldsteins to serve as a starting point for the messaging that would be articulated on the panels. They thought about their influencers, connections and life experiences as it related to being Jewish.
On July 23, the group came together in a craft room of the Erickson Living retirement community to make and decorate the scroll and organize their panels. The residents divided into teams to complete each assignment.
The stories behind the panels began to emerge at this gathering. For instance, Lilian Goldberg, 84, painted a colorful water scene on her panel.
"I was born in Brooklyn, and our large family often visited Coney Island and Brighton Beach," she noted. "We always seemed to be near water so my panel reflected the faith and wonderful memories shared with my family."
The completed Riderwood Scroll was revealed during two ceremonies in August, one at the community's continuing care neighborhood and the other at the non-denominational chapel. As it was unfurled, the length of the scroll reached nearly one-hundred (100) feet.
During these presentations, participants eloquently stated the emotions of the near-two month journey.
"The responses ranged from exhilaration to fulfillment," described Mr. Stern. "We performed this project in an open, non-judgmental manner so that everyone would be comfortable in sharing their panels."
Rabbi Stan Levin agreed. He has served the Jewish Community at Riderwood for thirteen years.
"When Barry and Marlene proposed the concept, I was delighted. It was time well spent, a thrilling ride for our residents," said Rabbi Levin. "Whether the participants could draw a stick figure or paint the Mona Lisa, they did so in a loving, encouraging environment. The panels were stitched together as one, and as they were revealed, it was a spell-binding moment."
To the point, participants wrote testimonials about the project. A sampling of their comments included:
"Has given me a gift to enrich my Jewish life!"
"I'm so privileged, one of those amazing times in life, that you just had to be there -- so deep, so powerful and so truly personal."
"Our scroll is a tangible work of art and we can all take pride in its production. It is precious not because it is fashioned with precious metals, jewels, and rare fabric. It is precious because we all put our heart and soul into it."
The project leader was energized by the passion of the residents. "From day one, it was deeply moving to be a part of this experience," described Barry. "We have the highest reverence for the Torah and our sense of community, and as a group of artists, we found a way to express those sentiments with purpose."
Mr. Stern stated that the scroll is being temporarily housed in the chapel, but the group is exploring ways in which to share it during future events at Riderwood and the greater community.
As Barry noted, "when you walk in the sand, you leave a footprint. The messages on this scroll live beyond this summer."
About Riderwood: Riderwood is one of eighteen continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living. Located in Silver Spring, Maryland, the scenic 120-acre campus is home to more than 2,500 residents. Riderwood is the ideal greater Washington, D.C. retirement destination offering a true sense of community, convenience beyond compare and a sensible financial structure.
About Barry Goldstein: Barry is currently an artist-in-residence at The Montpelier Art Center and Board Member for the Washington Sculptors Group. A sampling of his work can be found at www.HeartoftheOnion.com and his Facebook fan page: Barry Goldstein, artist.