Jewish artists explore a difficult topic – abuse | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Jewish artists explore a difficult topic – abuse


Married Jewish artists Amy and Jonathan Gelfman painted their interpretation of domestic abuse, intertwined with Jewish symbolism.

You can find their piece, a three-panel work of art, at Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s new art gallery, Giving Gallery: Community in Process. Amy and Jonathan were two of 17 artists commissioned for the gallery, which shows art related to 25 nonprofits.

Amy and Jonathan represent local nonprofit Sojourner Family Peace Center, a domestic violence prevention center.

They said their three-panel piece transcends race, religion and gender, because domestic abuse can affect anyone.

According to the Sojourner Family Peace Center website, the nonprofit offers victims and children a variety of services which include emergency shelter, case management, access to restraining orders, support groups and activities for children.

Looking straight on at the three-panel piece, Amy painted the right panel which is the feminine perspective of domestic abuse. Jonathan painted the left panel, with a notably darker color scheme, as the masculine side that “comes through the lens of the perpetrator or the aggressor,” he said.

A house in the piece is an important symbol on the feminine side which represents Sojourner Family Peace Center, Amy said.

Amy painted a pregnant woman to signify the first home and “the seed that grows,” she said. Home is also a Jewish symbol. “In Judaism, home is the epicenter of everything — the values and nurturing, physical and emotional,” Amy said.

Women with their children seeking refuge at Sojourner Family Peace Center are “choosing a new life,” Amy said. The panel ultimately represents “personal ownership for one’s life.”

About their collaboration, “working on the painting was very much like marriage” Jonathan said. He mentioned there was both conflict and compromise between them.

The painting was an emotional experience in which “we discovered a whole new aspect of our relationship,” Amy said.

On the left panel, Jonathan purposely did not want to paint acts of violence. Instead, he wanted to show the feeling behind committing an act of violence which is an “image of shame,” he said. This is depicted by the hands covering the face, he said.

A painted lion serves as a symbol of strength, specifically “keeping back all of the internal demons,” he said.

According to a press release, Northwestern Mutual Foundation gave a $10,000 grant to each nonprofit represented at the gallery which includes Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, American Red Cross and others.

The gallery is open to the public through 2019. Visitors are encouraged to find a nonprofit they connect with and consider volunteer work or donation.

About Sojourner  Family Peace Center, Amy said, “They are such a caring force in the community. What they offer to families is unbelievable.”

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How to go

What: Giving Gallery: Community in Process

Where: Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons, 808 E. Mason St., Milwaukee

When: Open to the public Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Admission is free

Sojourner Family Peace Center’s 24-hour domestic violence confidential hotline: 414-933-2722