Loren Yagoda

Loren Yagoda

Do you know a local Jewish artist in the Phoenix community? Are they your friend or family member? My grandmother, of blessed memory, shared her passion for sculpture and metalworking with me. My father shares his love for music. My mother, a local artist, inspires me to seek creativity in all aspects of my life. My own home is filled with art, stories, music and a strong creative spirit. There is Jewish artwork, both newly acquired and gifts of previous generations coming together beginning with a single, meaningful piece of art: the ketubah proudly hanging in my home … more on that story in a moment.

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and was surrounded by art and those who live it. When we moved to Arizona, our synagogue, Temple Chai in Phoenix, created a dedicated gallery space for local artists to showcase their livelihood alongside preserved historic artifacts. My mother was moved by these spaces and the artists that presented their works for the congregation. She began collecting art to bring into our home, thus beginning her influence on me and my family today. The old was made new, through young eyes, and the new was made holy.

Phoenix area synagogues, community centers and museums embody love and appreciation for art by proudly displaying the original works of Jewish artists, but how can we bring this home with us? We beautify spaces where we congregate as a people, but how do we bring this into our living spaces?

It’s funny how some pieces of art come into our lives. My wife and I were busy planning our wedding with details galore, such as selecting our ketubah. We decided to independently select our favorite designs (from a website specializing in such things) and compare notes. As we came together to choose a design, we decided to write down our favorites and orchestrate a “big reveal” to see just how onerous our final selection process would be. To our shocked delight, and out of thousands of designs, we both selected the same ketubah. It would be wonderful if all wedding decisions were that b’sheirt! This single work of art forms the cornerstone of our Jewish home.

Where would you go to purchase art for your home? New York? Los Angeles? Where would you go to find a Jewish artist in Phoenix? This might be a little tougher. While there are several local directories that support local Jewish arts and culture, we sometimes struggle to connect local Jewish artists with local Jewish patrons.

Tradition is passed from generation to generation and serves as a backbone for our faith. Art is passed from generation to generation and serves as its soul. The beautification of a Jewish home is more than decorating a space. When we fill our homes, intentionally, with original works of art by Jewish artists, their very brushstrokes create a legacy for our children.

My mother recently told me a story about a commission where the Jewish client asked for a message on the back of the painting itself, hidden from public view. It was a message of love and legacy for her children inscribed behind the canvas, a spiritual fingerprint brought into their family’s home.

My wife and I took our son recently to the Celebration of Art in Scottsdale to visit my mother’s booth. It was immediately apparent how well he connected with the creativity and atmosphere in the tent. Her booth happens to be near another Jewish artist, and the sense of community and intergenerational love was palpable. As a father, seeing my son engage in this discourse brought tears to my eyes.

When Jewish patrons come to see my mother, she is always excited to share the Jewish symbolism, ideals and spirit within her art. Throughout history, we have reclaimed lost treasures. Today, the sparks of creation give us the opportunity to claim our connection to Judaism by meeting Jewish artists and bringing their original works of art into our homes. What dedicated spaces have we created, or need to be created, to support those that inspire us?

“Like the bone structure of a skeleton, the construct of our character leaves footprints of those who have shared our time and space. My hope is that my paintings will remind you of your own history and its importance in your existence.” — Loren Yagoda (a.k.a. my mom). JN

To see Loren Yagoda’s art, visit lorenyagoda.com.

Jeremiah Kaplan is a researcher and educator for the Arizona State University school of social work, music lover, art lover, avid reader, husband and father of two.