As an artist, Cantor Marsha Dubrow hopes to convey the beauty and joys of Jewish ritual.
Photos by Marilyn Silverstein
“Culture in Context: A Tapestry of Expression” will run through next spring at the New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State St., Trenton. The museum is open Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. For information, call 609-292-6464.
New Jersey Network will present a half-hour program in connection with the exhibit on Friday, June 27, at 8:30 p.m. and Wednesday, July 2, at 11:30 p.m.
June 26, 2008
Jewish folk art is being showcased in a major new exhibit at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, thanks to the artistry of a cantor from Upper Montclair.
Cantor Marsha Dubrow, religious leader of the 225-family Congregation B’nai Jacob in Jersey City, is one of 24 artists featured in “Culture in Context: A Tapestry of Expression,” which is being presented by the museum and the New Jersey Department of State. The exhibit marks the reopening of the museum following an extensive period of renovation.
Dominating one of the rooms of the new exhibit is a sukka containing many objects of sacred Jewish folk art donated by Dubrow — a kipa embroidered in gold thread, a colorfully embroidered tallit and hallah cover, an olivewood etrog box inlaid with Hebrew lettering, and two tapestries offering the charm of the hamsa amulet. Decorative wall hangings depict the biblical seven species, a Jerusalem scene, and a blessing for the home.
Adjacent to the sukka is a display of early 20th-century Yiddish sheet music from Dubrow’s collection. These representations of sacred and secular Jewish folk art take their place among a kaleidoscope of displays of ethnic folk arts from around the state, including traditional Chinese knot tying, Ukranian Hutsul embroidery and weaving, Nigerian Etsako storytelling, Puerto Rican bomba drums, African-American fabric dolls, Jamaican pottery, Bengali pata paintings, Gujarati Kutchi embroidery, Palestinian embroidery, and Cambodian court dancing.
“I think New Jersey is a community of very rich ethnic diversity, and this exhibit gives residents of New Jersey the opportunity to experience our collective humanity and rich talents in the area of folk arts,” Dubrow said as she stood in front of the sukka. “Having been selected for this honor gives me an opportunity to communicate to the Jewish and non-Jewish communities of New Jersey the beauty and the joys of Jewish rituals — especially through music.”
The artists represented in “Culture in Context” were selected from among the 150 artists who have participated in the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Grant Program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, according to Dubrow, who is also a performing artist, a composer, and a scholar specializing in musicology.
“I received four years of folk arts grants — two years to study traditional cantorial hazanut with Cantor Perry Fine of Congregation Beth El in South Orange and Cantor Naomi Hirsh, a guest cantor at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Montclair, and then two years with renowned singer of Yiddish songs Adrienne Cooper,” she said.
“The model of the program is to create a master/apprentice relationship,” she said. “I served as an apprentice, and now I’m hoping to serve as a master to others who will apply to study various aspects of Jewish music through the folk arts program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.”
A colorfully embroidered tallit and an inlaid olivewood etrog box are among the objects of sacred Jewish folk art in the sukka on display in “Culture in Context: A Tapestry of Expression.”
“I came to the Center for Jewish Studies with a vision to build a world-class resource in Jewish music, research, and performance,” Dubrow said. “Such a center does not exist anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. I’m committed to the dissemination to the public of information about all Jewish music.”
In addition to her selection as one of the artists represented in “Culture in Context,” Dubrow recently received recognition from Shalshelet: The Foundation for New Jewish Liturgical Music, when her new musical setting for the Hashkiveinu blessing captured a winning spot in the foundation’s nationwide competition.
Dubrow will weave together all of these threads when she performs a program of sacred cantorial music, Israeli songs, and Yiddish folk and art songs at the state museum during hol hamo’ed Sukkot next fall. The program is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 19, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the auditorium adjacent to the exhibition.
“I view this as a backdrop,” Dubrow said, indicating the sukka display. “It’s nice that they’ve asked me to present aspects of Jewish music against the backdrop of home ritual objects appropriate to the holiday of Sukkot.”
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