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Temple Israel event merges art, sustainability with religion

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Miranda Davis, The Recorder

GREENFIELD -- Jess Rigollaud spent Sunday afternoon teaching an upcycling class where she and others made scarves and bags out of old T-shirts.

Her class was one of 18 at Temple Israel's first Art, Creativity & Community event this weekend. Rigollaud said upcycling items may not seem overtly religious, but there is a connection.

"It's not in and of itself Jewish, but you know there are parts of our text that say to take care of our world," Rigollaud said.

The event was a three-day celebration of Jewish art and culture, with religious services, a concert, classes, children's activities and an art showcase.

The weekend was the first of its kind at Temple Israel and was planned by Shelburne Falls artist and Temple Israel member Nancy Katz.

"It just felt like the time was right to engage the community, and have this place reach out to the greater community and tell them who we are and what we're all about," Katz said.

Katz said that she had previously lived in San Francisco where she was part of a thriving Jewish arts community, and was interested in starting something similar in Franklin County. She was debating how she wanted to bring together the local Jewish art community when it dawned on her that the temple could host a weekend of different activities.

Katz said she's encouraged by the attendance and the enthusiasm for the event and is hopeful that this could start a more concrete relationship between the Jewish community and the local artists.

"This feels like the beginning of the conversation," Katz said.

Organizers hoped the event brought the congregation together as well as the Jewish community in neighboring areas. They also wanted the event to serve as a way to connect Temple Israel with the broader community in the area.

Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener said the art and religion overlap is more prominent than many think.

"I think that those intersect because religion isn't just about having spiritual ideas, it's about, in this case, bringing beauty into the world, doing good deeds and developing local economies," said Cohen-Kiener. "I think more of that is needed in our area."

The classes ranged from a bagel cooking class, quilting, embroidery and storytelling. Jane Trigere, a calligraphy artist from South Deerfield, held a book of Hebrew scripts going from one letter to another while pointing out similarities and differences that can completely change the sounds. Trigere's workshop, Hebrew letters for textile art, covered different scripts and styles of Hebrew. She encouraged the attendees to jump right in and ask questions as they went along.

"Just take a marker and make a mark," she said.

Overall, the organizers were happy with the weekend's events and participation. Youth of all ages and adults attended the different classes. Cohen-Kiener said about 200 people from the congregation and greater community attended the event.

Katz was encouraged.

"From the interest, it won't be the last," she said.

Reach Miranda Davis
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