Many artists think they are close to G-d when they create. Some might posit the ten artists being shown at The Sag Harbor Chabad’s art gallery, curated by Kimberly Goff, just got a little closer. The Nature Show, featuring local artists, opened Sunday night [June 20] and will run for three weeks.
Goff’s in it too. She’s a talented abstract expressionist as well as the gallerist who ran her mother Elaine Benson’s eponymous gallery for many years. Curating is in her blood. Since spirituality is in her heart, it’s a good fit. “I like to say we have a soul detector at the front door,” Rabbi Berel (Chaim D) Lerman, executive director of Center For Jewish Life told us at the opening. “We welcome anyone who has a ‘Neshama,’ a soul.” The Chabad is for the community, any Jew who seeks a religious center, no matter what their level of practice, and any non-Jew who would like to enjoy the art or participate in the classes. To paraphrase the old ad campaign, you don’t have to be Jewish to like challah…or to learn how to braid it.”
“Our mission statement is to create a beacon of light, education, spirituality and Jewish culture that radiates brightly in the Hamptons and beyond,” Rabbi Lerman said. “We see the arts as a way to bring people from all backgrounds together for the common good to appreciate art and appreciate goodness in the world and nature. That, in fact, is the theme of this show.”
Yes, Kimberly likes to open the summer with a show that reflects our beautiful Hamptons environment. As she did in the Elaine Benson gallery, Goff likes to showcase local artists. There are landscapes by Casey Chalem Anderson and Pamela Topham, Steven Zaluski’s stylized, silver flower wall sculptures, Edward Joseph’s photo realism in panels, Mary Delaney’s twisted tree trunks that border on abstraction, Dana Little Brown’s trees, Goff’s abstractions taken from nature, Blair Seagram’s water photography, Linda K. Alpern’s overpainted photographs and Jessie Pollock’s abstractions with natural materials, including stones.
They were certainly well thought out: Goff had an extra year to consider her picks. “During the pandemic, I’ve been thinking and churning and figuring out who was going to be in it,” she told us. “Most of the artists were asked a year ago. One of the artists I just asked a few weeks ago. It’s such a beautiful show, jewelry designer Joann Schwartz (who has also set up shop in the Chabad) will host open wine evenings from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. I’m available by appointment.”
The open to the community center is the brainchild of Rabbi Lerman, who started the Chabad presence in the Sag Harbor area in 2013, on a grassroots level in people’s living rooms, thanks to supporters like Denise Wohl, who spearheaded the effort. When the library moved out of their temporary space in 2017, the Chabad found a home. With the space now earmarked for the new Bay Street Theater, the Center will have to relocate, and is fundraising toward that end. With the theater plans subject to the newly-elected Mayor’s review, the Center can remain in situ for the summer. And Kimberly has begun planning how to fill the space. Expect abstract art next.
In the meantime, the Rabbi’s wife Brocha is organizing their Summer Fest. She cooks an open to all Friday night dinner and teaches a workshop on braiding Challah. Kimberly teaches painting. The Rabbi teaches Kaballah. There was a jewelry workshop last year and more.
What gave the Rabbi the idea to add culture to his curriculum? “When we moved in, we realized we had big beautiful walls with natural light, Rabbi Lerman told us. “The arts are an important factor in people’s minds here in the East End. So, we decided to take advantage of the space. We were introduced to Kimberly Goff by mutual friends and, with her expertise and background, she took it to the next level.”
And she got back to her ancestral roots. Shabbat dinners were not part of her upbringing. But, last week, visiting in anticipation of the show, she got a “taste.” “The Rabbi’s wife was out of town and they needed a woman to light the candles, so they asked me,” she said. She did and skipped her plans, to stay for dinner. G-d, as they say, works in mysterious ways.
For more information, please contact, Rabbi Berel (Chaim D) Lerman, executive director of Center For Jewish Life. Phone: 631-938-6202 Email: [email protected].