Art from the Heart ... of Jerusalem

Whimsical Wisdom From Jerusalem

Timeless Artwork

I don’t get fan mail very often, but just today this arrived in my inbox.  Not only did it bring joy to my heart but it summed up my dream for Art from the Heart….that the messages in my work would become part of a child’s life, even after they grow up!

“Hi Rebecca,

I hope you are well.

You won’t  remember me. I was on an Aish Hatorah fellowships programme from the UK in 1998. I was in the Old City one day and bought a beautiful Mitzvah train painting for my niece who  had not long been born.
Shabbat came around and we were sent to host families and you happened to be mine, and I recognised your name from the artwork I had bought days earlier!
A few years later I returned to the Old City and bought the ‘Bridge’ for my nephew when he was born.
The point of this mail (apart from to say hi and see if all is well ) is to let you know that both of those children now almost 14 and 16 years old both still have your artwork on their bedroom walls. Not only that, they are both having their rooms redecorated as we speak and both have decided to keep the mitzvah train and bridge up on their respective bedroom walls!
I just thought it would be nice for you to know how much your work is appreciated.
Kind regards,

Amanda (from the UK)”


Celebrating Light

The long and light filled days of summer have arrived.  Here in the Old City we are in the middle of the 5th annual Light Festival.  Every night after dark, for ten days straight, thousands of visitors wind their way through the Old City streets.  At different intervals there are installations made by both Israeli and international artists.  There is even one right outside our house.  It is a short multi media show projected onto the front the of Rothschild building.  It celebrates art and children.  Very appropriate themes for

The whole neighborhood has turned into a large alternative art exhibit!

Let’s just say that life in the Jewish Quarter is never boring.

I have only done a few pieces  that feature Jerusalem at night.  My absolute favorite is a piece called Jerusalem Moon.  It celebrates the beauty of the Old City at night and includes a gorgeous prayer for the new month. “May the Holy One, Blessed is He, renew it upon us and upon all his people, the family is Israel, for life, peace,joy,gladness,salvation and consolation.”

Snow in Jerusalem

This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland here in the Old City.  When I looked out our kitchen window, I was greeted by the sight of enormously large snowflakes drifting peacefully onto our terrace.  I jumped back into  bed.  It isn’t every day that I get to sleep in.  My fantasy of an extended snuggle with my pillow ended shortly thereafter.  My kids, who can sometimes be difficult to rouse in the morning, were up with the first rays of the sun.  After all, snow in Jerusalem is about a once in 5 year experience.

We managed to be out by 7:30 am and had the chance to see the square and the parks in pristine condition.  Because it is covered in stone, the Jewish Quarter quickly turns from a winter wonderland to one very  large and very cold slush puddle.

What I find most fascinating about snow in Jerusalem is its effect on Israelis.  I am not sure why this is, but as soon as there is even 1 centimeter of snow on the ground, Israelis all of a sudden become different.  They morph from a fairly intense and serious group of people who tend not to smile very much – to a goofy and friendly bunch. This morning,  I was greeted by multiple Israelis, who I have never met.  Each one flashed me a large and silly grin.  We all seemed to belong to the same happy fraternity of intrepid snow frolickers bent on finding all the untrodden expanses of fluffy white that we could.  Complete strangers engaged in snowball fights. Everyone talked to each other.  Amazing!

I have tried to figure out  what it is about snow that causes this to happen? Is it the novelty?  Is it the beauty?  Is it the peacefulness?  Maybe it’s a combination of all of these or perhaps it is something more.  Somehow, when it snows, everything looks better.  That pile of old planters and recycling bottles on my porch becomes a surreal sculpture of profound beauty.  it shifts our  perspective from what’s wrong to what’s right.  It’s a chance to forget about the pressures of living in one of the most intense places on earth and to be in the moment for a few hours.

After all, Jerusalemites know that time is short .  Snow  over here is meant to be enjoyed immediately because as soon as the sun comes out,  it’s gone.

I hope that this time,  those snow-induced smiles last longer than it takes for the  snow to  melt.

The Art of Chanukah

I have always been artistic – from as far back as I can remember.  I was in pottery class at age four.  My mother, bless her, held onto my creations for years – until just recently, when their impending downsize forced her to relegate my first “masterpieces” to the garbage. I painted and created throughout grade school and high school.  Of course, being a New Yorker, we took requisite visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There we would walk from room to room – I don’t remember much except for the Egyptian Mummies and statues of cats.

My real appreciation of art came when I went to college and took my first course in art history.  It was there that I was introduced to the scope and breadth of art through the ages. In particular, I remember learning about the art of classical Greece.  We studied bas-relief and proportions.  It was clear that the classical Greek idea of beauty was the gold standard of art for centuries to come.  I was struck by one sculpture in particular – a headless woman who was leaning over to fasten her sandal.  It seemed so current and so timeless – as if she had stopped just a moment ago.  Clearly, ancient Greece was on to something and the refinement and beauty that they achieved was unsurpassed in the world up to that point.

Becoming observant placed me in a puzzling position. Was there room for me to appreciate art?  Was there room for me to create it?   Being faced with so many meaningful things to do in life, I constantly questioned whether painting in itself had any point beyond the positive effect on my psyche.  One could argue that pursuit of art as an “outlet” is justification enough and I think it is.  But on a deeper level, I think that there is much Jewish wisdom to be learned from the experience itself.

What is the goal of a painting and how is it achieved?  I know that what moves me when I see an image is not its realistic depiction. For that, I can look at a photograph.   I also know that my best work is achieved – not when I am depicting what I actually see, but when I forget about what I am seeing. The more I am able to let go of my preconceived notion that  “this is a tree” and this is a “house”, the better I am able to depict them.  It is counter-intuitive but true. It is also very difficult.

My brain constantly wants to limit my perception.  It tells me  “it’s a tree” – ”it’s gotta look like a tree”.   So, I try and make it look like a tree – and it ends up looking like a lollipop on a stick. When I am able to shift over – to see that it is not a tree – but rather a shape that lies next to another shape then, something beyond my superficial categorization – voila – I end up with a tree.

And here lies the life lesson. The more I try to invest in the physical and hold onto it – the more limited it becomes. To be Jewish is to realize that this world is a façade to a much deeper reality and my opportunity to earn eternity is based on my ability to choose to “see” events in a transcendent way.

Let’s say that I knock the bottle of olive oil off the counter 5 minutes before Shabbat candle lighting.  I can see it as a disgusting, annoying mess – a disaster and an opportunity to get angry with everyone.  Think “lollipop tree”. Or I can see it as something more – a moment in time where I can choose my response and see it for what it is – an opportunity to grow. Voila – a transcendent moment: and a chance to put a few more stokes on my eternal canvas.

This brings me back to that Greek sculpture and being Jewish.  My understanding of Chanukah in those days was limited to eight nights of presents and lighting candles occasionally.  We used to forget a lot – since the menorah was located way back in the family room.  I remember being told about the victory of the tiny Maccabees over the mighty Greeks.  I never quite connected the oil of the latkes to the miracle of the oil.

Only later did I learn the details. The Greeks outlawed three specific mitzvoth: Shabbat, Brit Milah and marking the New Moon. At first glance, these seem like strange choices, random and unconnected.  Actually, there is one theme that unites them all.  These mitzvot connect us to a metaphysical realm that transcends physicality.  For the Greeks, the physical world is perfection itself.  There is no need for transcendence. There is nothing beyond. This world is it:  beauty for beauty’s sake.  For the Jews, living a life like that is pointless.  It is flat and purposeless.  Kind of like a tree that looks like a lollipop on a stick.  They were willing to fight and die for the right to elevate reality.  In the process – they rededicated the Temple, which was the masterpiece on this earth of spirituality transcending physicality.






20th Anniversary of Art From The Heart…of Jerusalem

Two weeks ago it was my son Michael’s 20th birthday.  I can’t believe that he is out of his teens – the third Shore to reach this new and exalted post-teen status.  We had a gala celebration in the Shore house – complete with both married couples squeezing in for a festive birthday Shabbos.  Michael almost didn’t make it – he is in the army and his leave was almost cancelled.  He was saved at the last minute by a relenting commander.  TG – the celebration went on as planned and we all had a blast.

Michael’s birthday is how I keep track of how long I have been in the Judaica art business.  I was VERY pregnant with this very son, when I made my first print.  I vividly recall walking out Jaffa gate at the crack of dawn so I could get to Tel Aviv in time to be the first  person on the printing que.   At the time. I knew very little about printing.  I only knew that I had created a Noah’s ark inspired by my brother Ken Spiro.  It was  large and intricate.  Everyone who saw it  seemed to want one.  I got this response so many times that I decided to hold my nose, jump in and print it. It was a big decision and a fortuit0us one.

Until this point, I had been limited to creating one of kind commissions.  Most of them were custom designed “name pictures” that paired the Jewish name of a child with a relevant image that expressed the meaning of the name.  I still make these name pictures and have met a number of my “name picture kids” who tell me that they have taken their picture with them to put in their own child’s room.  Nachas!

The first run of prints sold out in about 6 months and inspired me,  with the advice of my mentor Lorna Sokolovsky, to print a line of work.  Art From the Heart…of Jerusalem was born!  At that time, I wold never have imagined that I would sell thousands of prints all over the world and bring joy to so many people’s lives.  What a privilege!

The rest, so they say, is history.

Autumn 2012

Today is the first day back to school after the holidays.  There is a nip in the air.  Autumn in Jerusalem  is brief but beautiful.  Perfect weather. Crisp air.  Fluffy cotton candy clouds float by in the sky.  It is my favorite time of year.  It is the time of year that holds promise and potential. The spiritual and interpersonal insights that I  received over Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot can now be implemented into my daily life.  It is a new beginning.

Winter in Jerusalem is brief but intense.  It is also mercurial.  One minute it can be pouring and the next minute  it is sunny. One of the things that I learn from this is from my  ”Ducks” piece – “Who is the  wise person? One who plans ahead.”  Don’t forget that umbrella  or your boots on a cloudy Jerusalem day.

I also realize that the Jerusalem  weather is like life – we have the ability to change from one moment to the next.  Even if I am not my best self – ie: I give a grumpy response  to someone , this doesn’t mean I have blown it forever.  The next moment I can choose to to be positive, I can apologize, I can switch gears.  I don’t have to give up.  I can be like the sun that pops out  after a Jerusalem downpour.

Happy Cheshvan!

Summer 2012

Summertime is here.  My kids are just about to go on break from school.    We have a shorter summer  vacation over here in Jerusalem- a total of three weeks.  It’s the time of year when it is hard to get the kids home for dinner and bed because  it stays light out for so long.

RIght now the summer fun is tempered by the three week period of national mourning that we have been marking for the last two thousand years.  Called Bein HaMeitzarim, this periond culminates with the holdiay of Tisha B’Av – a fast day that marks the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem in addition ti many major catastrophies that have occured throughout our history.

The destruction of the 2nd Temple was caused by baseless hatred between Jews.  During this time we are supposed to work on our interpersonal relationships.  So much of how we view others comes from how we feel about ourselves.  These are feelings that are formed early in life – when we are 6 or 7 years old.   We have such a short time to impart positive feelings of self-worth and security  into our children that will allow the to grow into adults who will be able  to judge others favorably and be outwardly focused.  I have always tried to keep this in mind when I am creating my work.  I think that one of the most important messages related to this,  is in my piece called  ”Brother and Sister”.  It is from Ethics of the Fathers and teaches “Who is rich?  One who is happy with what they have”.  Just think how much strife and jealousy can be avoided in the world if we can truly internalize this wisdom.

Jerusalem Day 2012

Thanks to all my friends for their good wishes  in response to our e-mail blast announcing our updated site.  I  got bombarded with blessings and comments.  It was lots of fun!

Yesterday was Jerusalem Day and the Jewish Quarter was filled with people celebrating the re-unification of Jerusalem.  I  got caught in a human traffic jam while on my way to someone’s house for an appointment.  There was music and celebration everywhere . The Kotel was filled with people dancing long into the night. It was a good reminder for me not to take living in this magical place for granted.

Every time I leave my house I am struck by how beautiful it is here – how the stone on the walls contrasts with indescribable blue of the sky.  I am constantly being inspired and I am so grateful that we merited getting this place back after a 19 year exile.

Song of Songs

Can’t believe that Passover is behind us…time flies and we are well on the way to Shavuout – 25 days on the way to be exact.

We had the great pleasure of spending five days in the North before the Passover holiday. We have  a family tradition  to turn over the kitchen early and then beat the crowds by going on a holiday before the holiday actually begins. We went to the lower Galilee and stayed in Moshav Tzippori which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful places in Israel. It was there at least 12 years ago that I was inspired to create the featured print above called Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs). I am happy to report that the morning glory arbor still exists – as does the fabulous view.

Israel was blessed with bountiful rain this winter and we were treated to a dazzling display of wildflowers as far as the eye could see. As always, i found it amazingly inspiring and I hope to translate that inspiration into a follow up piece for Shir HaShirim very soon.

Passover Coloring Pages

Now that Purim is over …Passover is fast approaching.  A few years ago I did some coloring pages for  I think they are still available.  They feature  my famous mice  doing Passover preparations.   Lots of fun for the whole family!

I know that allot of people get stressed out by Passover cleaning.  It can seem very overwhelming.  I try to pace myself and do something every day.   I take pleasure in reorganizing all those drawers and  shelves that have been “bothering” me for months.  There is something very satisfying about seeing the chaos turn to order, even if it doesn’t last very long.   With the amount of kids running in and out of our hose, nothing stays orderly for very long.