My first boyfriend’s parents had a prolific Jewish art collection. I loved to wander the halls of their home, stopping to look at each piece. I would contemplate why the artist chose to replicate that particular image and what it meant to her. Occasionally I began to imagine the story behind the piece, and sometimes wrote a poem in response to my rambling thoughts.
One particular piece stood out to me. It was of a ghostly figure lingering at the Kotel. I would spend long periods of time in front of this lithograph and my imagination would take me on all sorts of journeys. Slowly I fell in love with this piece of art. Over the years, I would purchase art books that had replicated it, find reproduced images of it on the internet, and continue to turn to it for inspiration. It became my muse.
Imagine my surprise, when looking for something in the storage area of University Synagogue, I found another beautifully framed lithograph of the same image. I immediately asked for permission to hang it in my office, where it now takes center stage. A few years later, a family walked in to enroll one of their children into our Religious Education program and were touched to see it on my wall. They explained that it had belonged to a deceased relative and they had donated it to the Synagogue in the hope that it would find a good home.
Not only did this lithograph find a good home, it found a loving home. A home where it continues to guide and inspire. It represents a huge part of my Jewish journey through life and I love sharing my office with it.
What a blessing this one work of Jewish art has turned out to be!
SUE PENN is currently the Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue where she oversees all education from ages 4-104. Sue has been honored for being an innovative educator and is committed to creative approaches in Jewish Education. Sue currently sits on the Board of the Jewish National Fund of Orange County, and of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America, where she was a previous chair. She is also co-president of the Orange County Jewish Educator Association. Sue also runs educational webinars for the Reconstructionist Movement.