Konar Center for Tolerance and Jewish Studies

Artwork at the Konar Center

By Lynne Feldman, Artist

I have always been an artist. Growing up as an only child in New York City, art was my playmate and my identity. My parents were first generation American Jews, my grandparents having immigrated from Russia spoke Russian and English in the home but were familiar with Yiddish. I adored them. Our family was totally secular in terms of religion, we never joined or attended a synagogue and I never went to Hebrew school. However, my identity was still Jewish. Years later when my husband and I were starting our own family, I called on those warm feelings of assimilated culture from my grandparent’s home to inform my art. Since I knew almost nothing about being Jewish, I educated myself about the parts of my culture and religion that I chose to share with my children…the beauty of the rituals and holidays. 

For ten years the themes of my art were primarily on Judaic themes like holidays and cultural rituals. These works, which were all oil paintings on canvas, were exhibited around the country in Jewish Museums and cultural centers. They were widely reproduced in books, magazines, calendars and greeting cards, and I was asked to give talks to groups all over the country. 

About this time, I began to notice something curious yet consistent during the question and answer portion of the talks. Invariably the first question I received was, “Why have you made the skin color so dark?” I was surprised by this question mostly because I had not realized that I was doing this. As an artist, the colors that I used in my painting had to do with what colors worked harmoniously with each other. Color was about color, not race. If there was a shade of brown that worked for skin tones with the other colors in the painting, its what I used. 

As I began to understand the implications of this question, I began to give the answer, “We are not all Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jews).” Here the truth lies; because of the diaspora, Jews are all over the world. Jewish skin tones are as varied as the countries that they live in. At this point my work began to take on another dimension that I wanted to continue to express.   

Years later, when I learned about the creation of the Konar Center at Nazareth College and what the center represented,

I knew that I had found the perfect home for my works. The guiding principle of the center is social justice through a Jewish lens. This resonates completely with my work. My works are about the Jewish holidays but they are also about family, unity and diversity.

Passover print
Purim print
Rosh Hashanah print