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The gift of art and the art of gifts
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The gift of art and the art of gifts

Gary Rosenthal, second from left, designed the tzedaka box to mark The Jewish Center’s 60th anniversary. With him are, from left, Naomi Perlman, 60th anniversary committee chair; Neil Wise, director of programming; Rabbi Adam Feldman; and H
Gary Rosenthal, second from left, designed the tzedaka box to mark The Jewish Center’s 60th anniversary. With him are, from left, Naomi Perlman, 60th anniversary committee chair; Neil Wise, director of programming; Rabbi Adam Feldman; and H

The Jewish Center of Princeton began the celebration of its 60th anniversary by welcoming a prominent Jewish artist to the synagogue to teach its youngest members about the “art” of mitzvot.

For more than 30 years, sculptor Gary Rosenthal has fulfilled the mitzva of creating art. Fashioned from copper, brass, steel, and glass, his work — which often deals with Jewish themes — has appeared in such venues as Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, Corning Museum of Glass, American Craft Museum, B’nai B’rith Museum, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Rosenthal created the Hiddur Mitzva Project to fulfill the commandment of enhancing the performance of mitzvot. On Nov. 22, he brought that philosophy, his talent, and supplies to the center to conduct yet another mitzva: teaching the next generation.

“The day was a huge success,” said program chair Helaine Isaacs. More than 300 students participated in decorating a one-of-a-kind tzedaka box Rosenthal designed in honor of the center’s landmark year. The two-foot-tall box — in the shape of a Jewish star — has two slots so the synagogue can alternate charities to receive the funds. Each of the students had the opportunity to place several pieces of glass on a panel that will be fused together in Rosenthal’s studio and used to decorate the box. 

“All of our religious school students had a hand in decorating the tzedaka box that Gary created for us,” Isaacs said. “In addition, families worked on projects for their homes, and empty-nesters came together to work on these projects, sharing good food and good company.”

The artist spoke with the children about tzedaka and the concept of hiddur mitzva.

According to Rosenthal’s website, “Our mission is to ensure appreciation and a sense of artistic responsibility in children and communities alike.”

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