Right before Sukkot, I had the opportunity to work with the sixth graders at Central Synagogue in NYC. Before creating art, we spoke a little about my Temporary Shelter project and the texts which inspired the installation piece. We also briefly discussed the homeless people of New York City and the holiday of Sukkot.
The students then worked in groups to create artwork inspired by the texts that guided my own work: “Rabbi Yona said: The verse does not say ‘Happy is the one who gives to a poor person.’ Rather, it says ‘Happy is the one who considers a poor person,’ (Psalms 41:2) therefore you must consider how best to benefit such a person.” (Vayikra Rabba 34:1) and “If a community lacks a synagogue and a shelter for the poor, it is first obligated to build a shelter for the poor.” (Sefer Chasidim)
The groups discussed the quotes and created artwork which reflected their own interpretation of the texts. The result was a series of thoughtful and meaningful artwork which was hung in the synagogue’s sukkah.
The group below created a piece depicting the world to emphasize the fact that homelessness is not just a local problem, but one that affects people everywhere.
Both of the pieces below depict New Yorkers helping the less fortunate. On the left, people happily welcome a homeless person into their sukkah and on the right, the piece-in-progress shows New Yorkers with big hearts encountering a homeless person on the street.
Once the artwork was complete, the students shared their pieces with the others in the classroom and explained the meaning behind the symbolism.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with these thoughtful and talented students and hope that this project added a new dimension to their holiday.