Jewish history, told through art | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Jewish history, told through art

The details were exquisite, right down to the miniscule, rolled up papers, each smaller than an eraser head. The rolls, all violet, made up a three-inch model of a Torah cover – with one yellow roll for each of the Torah handles. 

Ruchy Brach, 17, and her group worked on a model of the world that shows the spread of Jewish communities since 1900.

Students at Torah Academy of Milwaukee created massive art banners, three-dimensional models and video, to tell a centuries-long story of the Jewish people, from Moses at Mount Sinai to present day.  The girls were broken down into five groups, each tasked with a different period of history. 

In an interview with girls who worked on the project, it was quite clear the teens had a greater command of much of Jewish history than, ahem, the journalist on the story. “And then we have King Saul being anointed to represent all the kings,” said Malka Brafman, 17, pointing out one aspect of a large painting by her group. 

The project includes the transition from Oral Torah to Written Torah, and a model representing the time of the Spanish Inquisition, a dark time for the Jewish people. A model boat shows how some fled; others were forced to convert.  

Malka Twerski, 16, is with a chain behind a representation of the Talmud, with tiny study desks on the pages. Each desk has a tiny chair with it, with the name of a sage.

One group made use of a chemical wood burn on a gigantic placard to explain how Hassidic Judaism, Chabad and others emerged in history. Yet another project has a snow-covered landscape worthy of a Hollywood set, representing a Yeshiva in Europe. Each door of a building on the snowy hill represents a leader or founder within a Jewish movement. Different customs, but still Jews. 

“This wasn’t necessarily hard, but it took hours and hours,” said Malka Twerski, pointing to the diamond art portion of her group’s project. An image of a treasure box on that project is gaping open with a glow inside – symbolizing Jews in Exile awaiting redemption and the world to come, said Malka Twerski. 

Girls got started on the projects in November, toiling away on them both at school and at home, culminating in a presentation for parents and others in May.  

Malka Twerski worked on the chains behind a representation of the Talmud at home. The chains are foam. 

“We didn’t realize that spray paint is acidic and melts foam. So we made an entire set of them and they all got ruined. We must have made at least three chains because we made more, and they also melted. You couldn’t even tell what it was. It completely disintegrated.”  

In the end, however, perfect chains were on a table surrounded by a roomful of highly detailed group projects, telling the amazing, heartbreaking and joyful Jewish story. 

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Did you know? 

The Chronicle strives to avoid printing some representations of G-d’s name, because of a prohibition against erasing or destroying it. Our photo of a representation of the Talmud, on this page, is shot at an angle to avoid showing words. Though it is possible that small and distant representations of words will not trigger the prohibition, we do not wish to give pause to our Torah-observant readers. The girls tell us their model Talmud will not be destroyed.