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'VESSEL OF LIGHT: Sarah, Queen of Light' Weaving/Mixed-Media Assemblage by Wendy A. Rabinowitz 26"W X 18"H x 3"D

WENDILAH: A personal remembrance of Wendy Rabinowitz

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By Thursday, Dec 13, 2018 Viewpoints 2

As some of you might already know, on Tuesday, December 11, Wendy Rabinowitz, 72, died in a car crash several miles from her home in Pittsfield.

What you might not know is what a luminous presence she was in the Berkshires, and beyond.

Wendy Rabinowitz. Photo: Susan Geller

Wendy Rabinowitz, or Wendilah, as she liked to be called, was a gifted artist, whose deeply spiritual work was also political. “All art is a healing,” she wrote. “A tikkun olam to creation.” Tikkun olam refers to the Judaic concept of human action that repairs a broken world.

I am thinking of her exhibit “Women At The Wall: A Call for Peace” at the United Nations. It was an extraordinary vision: an eight foot interactive assemblage of weaving and copper, handmade paper, glass beads, wood, ceramic, papyrus, abalone, a prayer shawl and stone. Wendy provided small blank scrolled papers for viewers to respond. They left over 3,000 messages of peace. The plaque was exhibited widely including at the Hancock Shaker Village.

I originally met Wendilah when I first moved to the area. She asked me if I’d join her to see her show “Imoteinu (And Our Mothers),” which was based on the voices, power and wisdom of the ancient Jewish Matriarchs. I remember her images of the feminine “outlaws” of the Old Testament: Lilith and Hagar. Wendy was steeped in religious study, but never sanctimonious. As her friend Susan Solovay, an artist and hypnotherapist, has written: “Wendy had an impish, mischievous playful side that wove beautifully with a deep seriousness. She cared about what is important in life: compassion, art, justice, spirituality.”

The two of us along with Wendy, Marilyn Kalish, Mary Gendler, Joy Dronge and a few others were part of a group of Jewish Women Artists, who met regularly for several years and shared our work. We called ourselves the Bollabustehs.

Barbara Newman, a filmmaker, wrote this: “She took on and fought for all she believed in – the health of the planet, peace, human rights, love, equality, and the family of humankind… I always knew that when she showed up, she’d be wearing jewel-toned colors to match her brilliant, light-filled spirit. She wove her magic into everything: her art, her friendship, the way she lived her life.”

Wendy’s friends and teachers were numerous. She had been a student of the famed Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement, in Israel, who helped shape many of her ideas as well as Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Everett Gendler.

One more caveat: family. Wendy celebrated family life. Her partnership with Jeff Borak, arts editor of the Berkshire Eagle, was legend. Although they met in their 40s, theirs was a romance. Wendy and I once went together to the Boston Museum of Art where she picked up a puppet for Jeffilah, as she called him. I looked at it curiously. “Oh, we sometimes like to talk through puppets.” A very unusual spirit. And she was inordinately proud of her daughters, their husbands, and her grandchildren.

“Life was an adventure for Wendy,” Susan Solovay concluded. “Just too short for the rest of us – we are not ready for her to go.”

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2 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Susie Kaufman says:

    Sonia….You really captured Wendy’s spirit of delight in life. I love the story about the puppet and appreciated the quotes from Susan Solovay, Barbara Newman and Marilyn Kalish. I could hear their voices along with yours and Wendy’s.

  2. Karen Shreefter says:

    thanks for your beautiful remembrance. I first met Wendy at a community Passover dinner 36 years ago. During those decades we helped each other in hard times and celebrated the special times…we were In each other’s wedding party. But of all her gifts none was greater than her roles as wife, mother and grandmother. It’s a testament to her that her amazing daughters are the beautiful souls they are.
    Rest in peace sweet one

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