Education

Noted artist brings vibrant art to Sacramento-area Jewish school

Nine-year-old Ben Rubin gets an art lesson from artist Mordechai Rosenstein at Shalom School in Sacramento on Tuesday. Rosenstein was the artist-in-residence at Shalom School for three days this week.
Nine-year-old Ben Rubin gets an art lesson from artist Mordechai Rosenstein at Shalom School in Sacramento on Tuesday. Rosenstein was the artist-in-residence at Shalom School for three days this week. rbenton@sacbee.com

Mordechai Rosenstein, known for his vibrant tapestries, murals and silkscreen prints influenced by the Hebrew alphabet, mentored students this week at Shalom School.

Rosenstein, 80, talked to students Tuesday about the Hebrew alphabet before asking the room of third- and fourth-grade students to use Crayola markers to tell the story of their lives. The children spelled their names in Hebrew and used the shapes of the letters to inspire their art.

Ezekial Zeff, 10, drew a football helmet, a field goal, a door to a house and half of the American and Israeli flags using the letters of his name.

“My man. Beautiful,” Rosenstein said, offering a fist bump.

Shalom School is the only Jewish day school within 100 miles of Sacramento, said Nancy Leaderman, head of the school. The program offers a dual language education – Hebrew and English – to 180 students from infancy to sixth grade. The private school, north of Fair Oaks Boulevard behind the Pavilions shopping center, has existed for more than 30 years and serves students throughout the Sacramento region.

Rosenstein’s artist-in-residence stint this week enhanced the school’s active arts program and brought the community to the school for a welcome reception, Leaderman said.

The reception allowed Rosenstein to sell some of his art to pay for his visit and raise money for the school. He gives the school 20 percent of any art sales and a personalized art piece before he leaves.

Rosenstein and business partner Barry Magen, 57, spend about 100 days on the road each year, teaching and speaking at synagogues and schools across the country. The duo left Sacramento on Wednesday, shortly after Rosenstein’s last class at Shalom School, for a three-day stint in Foster City. They will then move on to Columbus, Ohio; Bridgewater, N.J.; and finally to Las Vegas before returning to their homes in Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, the artist, wearing jeans, a jean shirt and canvas cap, gave the children inspiration, direction and fist bumps.

“He is so approachable when so many artists aren’t,” Magen said. “He’s such a warm human being.”

Rosenstein grew up in Philadelphia. His journey as an artist started in high school when a teacher asked him to use Hebrew letters to create a piece of art. He balked.

“I’ll do it, but I want to be the next Matisse,” Rosenstein said he told him.

The young artist’s plans were delayed by a brief stint in the Army and a series of jobs that included textile designer and operating and owning a frame shop. Thirty-three years ago, he started his art business in earnest. Rosenstein started to work with children 13 years ago after Magen became his partner.

Now his paintings, three-dimensional art and stained-glass works are on display at synagogues across the country and have been presented as gifts to former world leaders, including President Bill Clinton, President George H.W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Magen said.

“I use the Hebrew language,” Rosenstein said. “That’s the only difference between me and other artists.”

Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.

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