The was an audible gasp as the cover was removed from the new mosaic in the Daniel Pearl Youth Center of Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac, Maryland. The b’nai mitzvah cohort that created the mosaic mural as part of their pre-b’nai mitzvah studies smiled with pride.
Named after Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed in 2002, the youth center is funded by the Colburn Family Foundation and is a beautiful space with vibrant programming for youth of all ages. The new mosaic mural is the second in an ongoing series on permanent display in the youth center.
An artist and arts educator as well as the founder of Big Picture Mosaics, I’ve seen firsthand how the process of groups making mosaic murals together builds community and allows participants to enhance their personal understanding and engagement with abstract ideas. I began the project by brainstorming with the students how to translate their ideas into mosaic images. As we came together to plan and create the design for the mural, Beth Sholom’s Rabbi Nissan Antine and Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter also facilitated text study related to the project for the students and their parents.
Inspired by Daniel Pearl’s journalism background, the mural’s five gears represent Jewish adaptations of the five classic journalistic questions:
Who are our Jewish role models and heroes?
What aspects of Jewish life are we most engaged with?
Where are the places that “doing Jewish” is most important to us?
When during the cycles of our lives does Jewish identity need our attention?
Why and how does the richness of an intentional Jewish life lead us to meaning and satisfaction?
The gears also make the point that each question moves and impacts the next question, said Fruchter. Jewish learning, life, and identity is in constant motion.
By Rena Fruchter
Rena Fruchter, founder and artistic director of Big Picture Mosaics (and mother of Beth Sholom’s Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter), has spent her adult life as an artist and an arts and Jewish experiential educator in the Greater Washington area.