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“Elegant, Happy and Inspiring”

Temple Beth Rishon SchoolBeth Rishon in Wyckoff, New Jersey was the location for my most recent project. Their wonderful committee requested a design that was “elegant, happy and inspiring” for the entryway of their new education wing. The design challenge was to create a design that would be interesting and fun for the students and still honor the incredible generosity of the donors in an elegant way.

Beginning with  the Jewish quote ” As my parents planted for me , so do I plant for for my children” I created a sculptural, dimensional tree design and the Welch Architectural Signage company figured out how to  beautifully detail the framing and tree trunk that frames  my mosaic art. The artwork is made from a combination of handmade tiles and recycled glass tiles. Each dimensional leaf on the tree represents one of the seven days of creation. There are small  handmade tiles that depict  nature images like flowers , fish,animals, stars and other Judaic symbols that children will be able to enjoy discovering.

This was a great collaborative partnership between the committee, the signage company and me. Kathy Davis, the project manager at Welch made sure we all communicated right from the beginning and, as usual, every detail was meticulously well thought out.  As you can see from the comments below, the dedication  ceremony inspired more donations!!

I hope the artwork will continue to be enjoyed and inspire generosity for the Temple Beth Rishon family!


“I really don’t know what to say except – wow and thank you!  Our expectations on the recognition wall you designed, executed and installed have been far exceeded.  It is just beautiful. Everyone that sees it is just blown away by its elegance.  The dedication plaque and letters are perfect.  I remember saying to you that we wanted something elegant, happy, and inspiring and that is exactly what we got.”

from Temple Beth Rishon, Wyckoff, NJ


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” How Awesome is this Place….”

 Remarks from the

Dedication of the New Beth El Building

 Bonnie Cohen August 7, 2013

In 1950, a group of men marched our Beth El Torahs from the Balch Street JCC to the new Beth El building on Hawkins Avenue. The people who gathered that day included holocaust survivors, veterans of World Wars, and many who were the first members of their families to become American citizens. The people in the room that day in 1950 could not have imagined our lives today connected by the internet and attached to our cell phones. Nor could they have imagined a woman leading services and being counted in a minyan.

And yet, as different as our lives are today, there is a common thread that binds us together. In times of joy, and in times of sorrow, we are drawn together, to be surrounded by people who share that common thread. It’s not the building on Balch Street, or the building on Hawkins or even this new building that draws us together. It’s the connections we’ve made, the personal stories of caring for one another- that is the most important lesson of our Torah.

The Rabbis teach that there are three pillars of our faith: studying the Torah, praying together and doing good deeds. And to accomplish those things in a beautiful place makes them even more meaningful. That is the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah – to beautify the commandment.

God gave Moses detailed instructions to build a portable sanctuary so that He could dwell among the people. It was not just the work of the talented craftsmen that made that portable sanctuary beautiful. It was the workers generous spirit and team-work.

That same spirit is present in this room today. Your generous and willing spirit to answer every call for help, to get your hands dirty,  to open your check books,  and to support an idea, that few of us thought possible a few years ago.

The choices we made for this sacred space were respectful of one another and inspired by a reverence for God’s creations. We tried to make environmentally conscious choices wherever possible and we honored all who came before us by re-furbishing our treasured artifacts. From the Merkaz room that includes our congregant’s handmade tiles, Paula Newman’s stunning Ner Tamid, the mosaic artwork created almost entirely from recycled glass- this was a project of thoughtful and communal efforts.

I tried to make the artwork luminous and uplifting. The donor wall illustrates the seven days of creation and sheltering wings still emerging from the background just as we are still emerging from the transformation of our move. And the ark wall, is a pillar of light, a tree of life reaching to the heavens.

Thanks are due to so many people whose names are listed in the program. But I want to especially thank SteveBotnick, our own Beth El Bezalel, who had the vision and  expertise to make this happen in our community. To my husband Randy for all of his help and support  and to Jason and Roger Boltz, who contributed their extraordinary talents to make this place a beautiful jewel box. And to Andrea, the most dedicated and devoted President.

I also want to express my most sincere gratitude to my Uncle Jay Nusbaum (of blessed memory). Before he passed away, he asked me to promise I would create something beautiful for Beth El.

For his blessing, and for all of you whose names are etched on the wall of blessings, it is my hope and prayer that you continue to cherish and strengthen the common thread that brought us all here today. You are the true blessings of our congregation.

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Amercian Guild of Judaic Art

Why I’m a member of the American Guild of Judaic Art


Ten years ago, I received an email that changed my life. It began like this, “I saw your work on the Guild of American Judaic Art website and I wondered if you would be interested in creating a piece of artwork for our Synagogue?”

That email and subsequent commissions from that first project, opened up a new direction to my Judaic art career. I have the AGJA to thank for that. I’ve enjoyed 10 years of steady commissions through word of mouth, good references and the help of many kind and generous people.

I believe that creating Jewish Art is a true labor of love based on traditions that go back thousands of years. I approach each project by asking myself “how can I instill the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah and holiness into my artwork?”  The answers always come to me through interactions with other artists, clergy, lay leaders and other dedicated people who care deeply about enhancing Jewish life with art.

The people I have met, the friends I have made and the artworks I have installed all over the country have given me more joy than I could ever have imagined.

Membership in the Guild has offered me a sense of belonging to a community of other professional artists who generously share ideas and opportunities.  I encourage all of the present members to renew their memberships and find other professionals with a love of Jewish Art to join as well. I believe the more you share your art, the more joy and success will come back to you.

And you never know…by being a member of Guild, you’ll have the opportunity to receive that life changing email too!!


It’s a small, small world of Jewish Art

I was traveling by train from Nahariya to Rehovoth on Friday morning to visit my cousins. Since I was traveling alone and had to transfer in Tel Aviv, I wanted to make sure I was on the right platform. I happened to pick a lady out of the crowd to ask directions. She assured me I was in the right place and came with me on the elevator, and showed me where to put my luggage. She motioned for me to sit next to her and she began asking me about my visit. When I told her that I was an artist, she looked surprised and said she was an artist too. Her name is Adina Gatt  and she’s  a fabric artist with a studio in Nahariya and Jerusalem. I showed her some photos of my work. We couldn’t believe we both had just completed projects for the same Synagogue in New Jersey!!  We had a good time sharing stories about the project and we  promised to stay in touch. What a small world.

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Garden Art with Jewish Roots

IMG_0326 Gan HaOr Plant signs (1)

“Beth El is a Synagogue that is growing- literally”
( that’s what a recent article in the Cleveland Jewish News says about us!)

It’s hard to believe how much has happened at Beth El since February. Just a casual comment at a lunch with friends has turned into an amazing, revitalizing phenomenon called “‘Gan ha’Or”, Beth El’s Community “Garden of Light”. With the  incredible perseverance of Ellen Botnick, Andrea Steinberger and a crew of talented dedicated volunteers , the garden is coming to life. The beds are built, filled with rich  soil and planted with a few  early crops. More planting will be done in May.

Now it’s my turn to add some garden art with Jewish roots, of course ! I’m told we’re the first Synagogue to have a community garden in Northeast Ohio and I’m guessing we’re the first community garden anywhere with Hebrew and English plant markers.

Dick Rossen made all the wooden plant markers with  recycled wood from the exisitng play structure that was located in the garden area. He routed out all the English lettering and I  painted the Hebrew words. The Academy students will be painting and decorating the signs next week. The confirmation class is helping make the mosaic sign to hang in the garden as their class gift.

http://www.ohio.com/news/92648294.html Check out the Akron Beacon Journal article about the garden