Of the estimated 5,000 Chabad centers worldwide, some have exceptional locations, such as the one in Paris on the Champs Elysees, or the one in Jerusalem facing the Western Wall. “With this magnificent view of the Atlanta skyline, Chabad Intown is not bad either!” proudly exclaimed director and Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman. “There are more than 12 Chabad centers in Atlanta, but this one, in the heart of the BeltLine, is unique.”
Due to health precautions, he wears a mask with the logo of the Center: lines that symbolize the tassels of a Jewish tallit with bright colors to reflect the energy of the BeltLine. The rabbi’s decorative mask is consistent with the exhibition, which contains 39 art works by three Atlanta artists who share a common desire to illustrate the enthusiasm, the joy and the spirit of Judaism.
Adrienne Zinn, Alice Levenson Rogers and Shelton Cochran worked for several months to prepare this exhibition. “There was no question of canceling it because of health restrictions, we just had to manage differently the organization,” Rabbi Schusterman said. On the contrary, the current situation is perfectly in line with the title of the exhibition: “Resilience.”
“This pandemic calls us to be resilient,” said Zinn, a self-taught artist who has been painting for eight years, drawing her inspiration from her many travels. She’s known Rabbi Schusterman for years. He asked if she would be interested in organizing an exhibition and she said, “definitely!” The Intown center, with over 21,000 square feet, is home to a synagogue, a co-working space, a preschool, a Hebrew school and a kosher restaurant. The artworks are displayed in the lobby and in the community café, Jeff’s Place.
Rabbi Schusterman is enthusiastic. Not only does he see the exhibition as a way to raise funds for the center, since all the paintings are for sale, he also knows that it is a great opportunity to open the doors to new attendants. “It has always been our goal in Chabad Intown to entice the huge mass of people who pass through here every day, locals and tourists alike, to enter Chabad Intown freely, without pressure, without the need to embrace a full observant life.”
He wants to make this exhibition a cultural stopover for families coming to the BeltLine. “In front of these paintings, which represent a Shabbat table, the lighting of the Hanukkah candles, a woman dancing at a wedding, we can talk about religion, art and even Israel. There’s a beautiful painting of a beach in Tel Aviv.”
Zinn, the painter of the Tel Aviv beach, has a predilection for sea blues, and Israel, which is the homeland of her husband, Ben. “Most of my other paintings, 25 in all, offer my vision of Judaism. As much the naive strength of the Hanukkah doughnuts as the mystical power of the Western Wall.”
It was she who invited Cochran and Levenson Rogers to join the exhibition, and they enthusiastically agreed.
Levenson Rogers, a retired physical therapist, has been painting with passion for nearly 20 years. “I feel that I best express myself through my art.” Painting Jewish themes awakens so many childhood memories as well as memories of seders, candle lightings, weddings and b’nai mitzvah with her husband, children and grandchildren. “I love the joy in Judaism, and I’ve tried to capture it.”
Cochran’s work offers a totally different style and perspective. He calls it modern folk art. Cochran, raised as a Southern Baptist, is a graphic designer/mixed-media artist who runs his design company in Atlanta. Passionate about the storytelling and the history of religion, he combines both in five original pieces, using wood carvings as a base. “I’ve always felt Judaism and the African American struggles are close. Today I don’t attend church regularly, but I still admire the devotion, the fervor. I have carved women reciting the Shema with their eyes closed. Praying is a perfect act of resilience.”
The exhibition “Resilience” runs from Aug. 16 to Nov. 29 at Chabad Intown, 730 Ponce De Leon Place NE, Atlanta 30306. For more information and to RSVP, www.chabadintown.org/resilience/.