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From left, Ricky Tollman, Melanie Cheskes, Daniel Abramson, Romy Block.

By KYLE GORDON
CJN Intern

Young Jewish artists on a journey to learn more about themselves have a supportive environment in which to showcase their art at the annual Jewish students’ art show.

The exhibition, Jan. 18 to 29, is “an avenue for people to explore their Jewish identity and meet other people who are thinking about their identity,” said Daniel Abramson, arts and culture co-ordinator for Hillel of Greater Toronto.

The title of the show, “Lech Lecha – Find Yourself,” emerged from a text study discussion about identity and the journey of Abraham after he was commanded to leave his home. It was by leaving his nation, community and family that Abraham discovered his own true identity, Abramson said.

“This fit really well in terms of the arts stuff. We are all trying to explore our own identity through our work,” he said. The art show is an opportunity for young Jewish artists to express themselves in a forum where they do not feel alone.

Ricky Tollman, 20, is taking his art out of his bedroom and into the public eye for the first time.

“I don’t normally like people to see my art, so we’ll see how it goes,” Tollman said of the three paintings and two cartoons that are on sale at the show.

“This show is also important because most of the people submitting their work are not associated with Hillel or with the Jewish community. This is their chance to get involved,” said Melaine Cheskes, 20, an artist who helped organize the exhibit.

Pearl Hirsh, 21, admits that she has never participated in a Hillel event, but the theme of the art show – find yourself – really resonated with her.

Hirsh’s photograph of a glass of kosher wine and a birth control pill, a favourite from her 12-piece series called The Chosen Girls, is one of the works on display. The series explores Jewish female sexuality and the various ways gender and “girlness” are created and maintained in today’s culture, Hirsh said.

“I’m very excited. It’s exhilarating to have other people appreciate my work… I feel like for the first time in my life I have original ideas and insight. It’s great,” she said.

“I’m just beginning my journey as an artists. I’d like to continue to explore these ideas and rethink and reshape what I have to say about my Jewish culture.”

In addition to showcasing the work of 10 talented student artists, the show at the Propeller Centre for Visual Arts, 984 Queen St. W., will hold a silent auction on the evening of Jan. 26. The auction will feature the work of professional Jewish artists from Toronto. The goal is to raise enough money to send one child to Camp Koby in Israel.

The Koby Mandell Foundation was created in memory of Sherri and Rabbi Seth Mandell’s 13-year-old son Koby. He and his friend were stoned to death by Arab terrorists in a cave near their home in Tekoa, Israel.

Camp Koby was established to provide children of families struck by terror with a place where others understand. The welcoming environment allows these children to begin the healing process while engaging in fun programs like art, music and sports.

For more information contact The Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts at (416) 504-7142.