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A Jewel in the Am Shalom Crown

03/12/2019 11:28:44 AM


"He has told you, O'man what is good, and what the Lord requires of you. Only to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

These words, familiar to all of those who have walked into our building, also inspired Joanne Hoffman, one of Am Shalom's founding members and the artist behind the beautiful needlepoint artwork that now hangs in Am Shalom's administrative office.

The artwork was first unveiled in 1983. "A jewel has been added to the Am Shalom crown," reads an article from the July 1983 KOL. 

"When we moved into the new building, Rabbi Kudan asked me to make the drawings," remembers Joanne. "He wanted a project that would involve a lot of women. And so since there are 15 prophets, that meant there were 15 women who had to do it."

Joanne, who has a degree in fine arts from Syracuse, admits she didn't quite realize what she was getting into.

"It meant reading every prophet and then figuring out what would lend itself visually - certain words or phrases - what's vivid."

Once she determined the specific phrase that would provide the inspiration, she then needed to decide how to illustrate it. It took her over a year to do the drawings.

Once the drawings were complete, another Am Shalom founding member, Lynda Strusiner, transferred them to canvas, and the two women went together to pick out colors.

At that point, the women were ready to find volunteers to do the needlepoint, so they put a notice in the KOL. The artists were told to do the work in whatever way they wanted. And, when looked at closely, one can appreciate the different kinds of needlework, which made it a unique, creative process for each person who did it.

"The magnificent depictions of 15 prophets, exquisitely done in needlepoint by members of the congregation, now hang in the Sanctuary lobby," the 1983 KOL article continues. "The glowing colors radiate from the niche where the objet d'art is now permanently in place."

The article also notes that the Chicago Cultural Center asked permission to hang the piece for display.

Fast forward 20-some years, to Am Shalom's building renovation. The artwork was moved and eventually fell into disrepair.

"After the renovation I came back into the building and I saw it in the back," recalls Rabbi Harold Kudan. "It was so decrepit, nametags were falling down. I was heartbroken. Now to see it there in its glory - I am so proud of what the congregation has done to restore that piece of art."

Joanne Hoffman, pictured above, stopped by recently to see the reframed artwork and recalled the specific phrases that inspired each piece. 

"I thought this was great fun because the artists made it very much their own," she said.

All are welcome to stop by the administrative office to take a look at the stunning artwork, lovingly created by our very own members.


Sat, December 2 2023 19 Kislev 5784