(The Guild celebrated the its 20th jubilee )
This year, we, members of the Jewish Folk Craft Guild in New York City, are celebrating 20 years since its foundation. The Guild is the only non-profit mass art organization in New York that, has done and continues to carry out an enormous work to promote and popularize Jewish folk art and pass on its heritage to the younger generation, with great enthusiasm and active work of its members on a volunteer basis. Hundreds of exhibitions held by the Guild in various parts of the city and the great interest of spectators, including young people, gives us the reason to say confidently, that the Guild has successfully performed this task which we proudly inform our fellow countrymen-members of the Russian-speaking Jewish community and all residents cities.
The Guild began recruitment in 2000; it was open to everyone who responded to the ad in the “Jewish World” newspaper “Whenever you love creativity, with you own hands – respond.” Creative people of two categories gathered. First there were professionals who belonged to the world of art, or who worked in relative fields like designers, architects in Russia; and the second were those who used to be engaged in creativity as a hobby or had nothing to do with it at all.
Professionals set the bar for the artistic level of the guild, and those who came to creativity, here in America, -were: engineers, technologists, economists, teachers, doctors, scientists and people of other specialties. Here in the guild, they found great moral and professional support from the guild members, who were professional artists. Over time, they all achieved significant success and became true folk craftsmen. The members of the Guild united around Ilya Nathanzon, a professional woodworker with a higher pedagogical education and around Rudolf Rosenblum. the honored art worker of Georgia, master of embossed work. The guild debuted with a large exhibition at the Bnai Zion Gallery (Manhattan).
Today the Guild – is a large team of about 50 people, (totally, about 80 people have passed through the Guild over the years). In general, these are ones who immigrated into the USA in 90ies, from former Soviet Union, as well as a couple of Americans. The group of artists (about 8-10 people) members of the then existing Jewish Community Center of Bensonhurst Artists’ Club, were the core of the Guild during while it was organized.
The Guild palette is extremely rich; its’ arsenal includes fine arts: painting, watercolors, graphics; applied arts: tapestry, embossed work, stained glass, straw, ceramics, woodwork: woodworking, woodburning, root plastic, wood sculpture; ceramics, ceramic sculptures; appliques, embroidery, leather work, floristry, shells, natural and mixed materials; photography: documentary and fiction. The Guild has held hundreds of exhibitions of applied and visual arts that are popular in the Russian-speaking community and among the American audience; was a regular participant in the “Russian Heritage Festival”, won a large audience and confidently occupied her niche “Contemporary Folk Art” in the art space of New York.
The Guild is engaged in exhibition activities, organizes festivals, creative evenings; and has programs for working with children. All work is carried out under the guidance of the Art Council of the Guild (in various years its’ Chairmen were: Rudolf Rosenblum, Evgeny Tonevitsky, Vladimir Lobanov, Gulnara Tsiklauri); events are formed with the help of curators. Events are formed with the help of curators. The guild is a “live” organization, it is constantly replenished with new people who have submitted a portfolio, usually Mark Rabinovich previews it, and gives his recommendations to the general meeting of the team.
The guild does not have its own venue, but thanks to the support of public figures of the city, the Brooklyn administration, the leading Jewish organizations of the city: UJA federation, Cojeco, JCRC, as well as its established authority, it received and gets the opportunity to demonstrate its exhibitions in: the system of libraries of different areas of the city: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan; in YM-YWHA organizations, community centers, Jewish centers, college premises, the Folksbine Jewish National Theater and other places.
The guild works in four directions (programs)
“In a Circle of Friends” – club shows at Brooklyn Public Library (Kings Bay branch, Nostrand av & Kings Highway branch, Ocean av)
Exhibitions of individual members of the Guild, group exhibitions, seasonal and annual general exhibitions, anniversary exhibitions and all kinds of meetings. Were held within this program. In our club there was a demonstration of collections, discussion of the creativity of the authors and their new works; friendly recommendations were given. Leonid Alaverdov, Isaac Weinshelboim, Rudolf Rosenblum and other members of the Guild did it with great tact. In recent years, Brooklyn Public Library (Kings Bay branch, Nostrand av.) Has become a home for the Guild. We are very grateful to the directors of the library: Liana Alaverdova and Nele Raizran. Exhibition Coordinator at the Kings Bay gallery – Nina Tsypina; responsible for exhibitions: Leonid Alaverdov, Mark Rabinovich, Zina Kelebeyeva, Asya Oranskaya, Natasha Kezerashvili, Tatiana Nazarenko, etc.
Exhibition coordinators: Kings Highway gallery (Kings Highway branch, Ocean av.): Ilya Natanzon, Evgenia Rozentsvit: responsible for exhibitions :, Ilya Natanzon, Evgenia Rozentsvit, Inna Kaplun, Asya Oranskaya and others. This library hosted a similar exhibition activity. There was also held a jubilee evening – 90 years of Isaac Weinshelboim (together with the Odessa community); Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz personally congratulated him. The evening became a significant event and holiday for the entire Russian-speaking Jewish community in New York
The “Bright Colors of America” program. (the exhibition “New York Inspired Us”) is a kind of tribute to the city of New York from the Guild Masters. New York is where we settled after immigration to America. Usually about 30 -40 people participate in such exhibitions.
*Ilya Natanzon was responsible for the program.
*The main exhibitions were held: at YM-YWHA at Nostrand (Ilya Natanzon was responsible),
*Brooklyn City Hall (Ilya Natanzon, Inna Kaplun were responsible),
*ASA college (Eugenia Rozentsvit responsible)
*Bridge organizations (Ilya Natanzon, Gulnara Tsiklauri were responsible);
*Kings Bay library at Nostrand (Leonid Alaverdov and Mark Rabinovich were responsible:),
*ASA College (Evgenia Rozentsvit, Natasha Kezerashvili were responsible),
*New York Public library: Amsterdam branch (Evgeniya Rozentsvit, Irina Dzevel were responsible),
*JCRС (Ilya Natanzon was responsible).
All exhibitions received warm, cordial responses from spectators and leaders of the listed organizations.
The Program of Aid for Israel (the State of Israel and a group of Israeli artists led by Fira Razina). Includes charity exhibitions in favor of Israel in the premises of Bnai Zion (leaders: Oleg Liner, Evgenia Rozentsvit).
Also, there was a charity evening in support of a group of Israeli artists in the Bridge organization (headed by Ilya Natanzon). In addition, exhibition space regularly has been provided to a group of Israeli artists withing Guild exhibitions at the JCRC and elsewhere.
*“Keeping the Memory of Our Past” Program is a (cycle of Jewish Shtetl.” exhibitions)
*”We come from a Jewish place” Booklet (English and Russian versions.)
*The (“Festival of Yiddish culture”) – responsible Evgeniya Rozentsvit.
This project began with a series of joint works by Evgenia Rozentsvit and Elena Khazan – (ceramic sculptures and fabric) – “Inhabitants of a Jewish shtetl”, shown in the HIAS organization at the seminar of the Genealogical Society, and an extensive cycle of paintings by Isaac Weinshelboim “Images of the townspeople”.
Then 40 members of the Guild, working on the theme of Jewish Shtetle in different genres joined.
All project participants with their main works are shown in “We are from a Jewish shtetl” booklet (released 2017 by Evgenia Rozentsvit, with Isaac Vainshelboim as a consultant, Leonid Grinberg as a designer, and Nina Tsypina Russian text editor).
Translation of the text into English was performed by Julia and Wendy Greenberg, and posted to the Internet by Gregory Katz.
Then dozens of exhibitions followed; the most interesting were in YM-YWHA -108 (accompanied by the Klazmer ensemble),
in the Bnai Zion organization (in the presence of Bel Kaufman-granddaughter of Sholem Aleichem)
in the Folksbine Theater (in the presence of the actor Theodore Bickel), in the “Tenri” Japanese cultural center,
and in the UJA federation (the largest philanthropic organization supporting Jewish communities around the world, including ones in New York). …
The permanent organizer and curator of all the exhibitions and of the “Festival of Yiddish Culture” is Evgenia Rozentsvit, a permanent consultant and participant in all events, the author of articles on exhibitions was Isaac Weinshelboim. Naturally, such projects are possible only with the collective work of all of theexhibition participants; first of all, the great work of Leonid Grinberg should be noted. Zina Kelebeyeva, Elena Khazan, Nina Tsypina constantly rendered their great help.
We held the First (3-day) “Festival of Yiddish Culture” (leader E. Rosenzvit, consultant Isaak Weinshelboim, assistant Fira Reicher).
Evgeniya Rozentsvit – as a responsible for the art exhibition -, literary evening was made by – Asya Oranskaya; demonstration of films on a Jewish theme (based on the materials of the members of the Guild) -Lev Leibo (Studio “People’s House”). The exhibition “We Come from a Jewish Township” was attended by the head of the arts department of the Brooklyn government; the review was positive.
We believe the Guild has revived the pages of our memory; we have created our own settlement and we are proud of the “certificate of authenticity” which was received by us from Bel Kaufman and Theodor Bickel.
A number of the aforementioned iconic exhibitions have been sponsored by Cojeco. The guild constantly works with children, organizes children’s exhibitions and workshops on teaching arts skills. The guild constantly works with children, organizes children’s exhibitions and workshops on teaching skills. For several years, well-organized exhibitions of children’s drawings by the Guild (curated by Zina Kelebeyeva) have been held in the library premises on Nostrand Ave and in the Bnai Zion organization; in addition, there are ongoing developmental art classes for children in synagogues and Jewish centers in Brooklyn.
For 15 years, Evgenia Rozentsvit has been working with children under the Education through the art program; she has been teaching practical classes under the New Americans program in Queens public libraries.
For almost a year and a half, a group of 10 masters of applied art under the leadership of Nina Tsypina carried out the “Guild Artists for Children” project. The authors conducted hands-on activities with children in Brooklyn and Queens in a very specially developed methodology. Which was then described in detail in for 2011-13 issues of the Journal for Parents. Information about the creativity and work of our artists, reports about our exhibitions are reflected in numerous publications of the Russian-language press and in radio and television programs.
For the future, in addition to the usual exhibition work, the Guild intends to intensify the practical work already underway with children; however, the guild plans to direct it in a new direction, according to the “Crafts of the Jewish Shtetl” project. We consider acquaintance with crafts and mastery of work skills to be a very important direction in raising children. In addition, the joint work of children and parents will allow them to communicate closely and to establish close family relationships, which are absolutely necessary in the modern computerized world.
This project with hands-on activities with children at Marine park of NYC will be supported by Cojeco; It will run in person or online depending on external circumstances.
Despite the period of the severe pandemics, the Guild managed to celebrate its anniversary and to make an “Art against the Pandemic” exhibition at the Salt Marsh Nature Center of in Marine Park section of Brooklyn, NYC on November 1. This exhibition was dedicated to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Guild. About 30 people attended, and participated in it. Works on various topics were presented; many of them dealt with life during the pandemic and the heroic work of doctors at the front line (“Covid-19″ painting by Savely Kelebeyev). Despite the cold rainy day, the atmosphere was very warm and family-like; with the warm welcome of the Cojeco organization Deputy Executive Director Alina Bitel.
We would like to thank our sponsors, COJECO – Roman Shmulenson (Executive Director) and Alina Bitel (Deputy Executive Director) for making this event possible!
In conclusion, once again we congratulate the guild members and its friends with the 20th anniversary of the Guild!
ILYA NATHANSOV The president of the Guild.
EVGENIYA ROZENSVIT Vice President of the Guild.