JCC Exhibit Highlighting Abrahamic Religions by Harvey Paris

On exhibit now through October 4 at Hoos Family Art Gallery of the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven is “Artistic Representation of Jewish Teachings and Later Religious Emergence,” an extraordinary body of wood and leather carvings created by Connecticut artist Harvey Paris. The featured piece, Abraham’s Gifts, is a 20-foot carved leather book that illustrates the teachings of Abraham and highlights the central beliefs of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

There will be a related panel discussion featuring three clergy — a rabbi, an imam and a pastor — to be held on Sunday, September 10 at 2 p.m. at the JCC.

Recently, Paris described to Shalom New Haven how his art and creative inspiration came together. Here is an excerpt of what he had to say.

“I garner inspiration for my work from traditional Jewish sources such as the Torah and other traditional Jewish writings as well as Jewish folk art, especially East European Paper Cuts. The great bulk of the exhibit features familiar Jewish themes such as the Torah, Revelation at Sinai, and the Wisdom of King Solomon. The exhibit also contains examples of Hidar Mitzvah or the concept of beautifying ritual items. Included in the exhibit are original carved designs of a seder plate, a challah board and many others.” Paris added that “all of the carvings in the exhibit are original designs and were carved with just one hand held knife”. Paris went on to say that “he believes that he has created a new and unique form of Jewish and multi-religious art that he hopes speaks to the soul. His art is an attempt to represent, as well as to explore, the spiritual nature of life from a religious perspective. He concluded by adding that “I hope you enjoy the exhibit and gain a greater appreciation for the art of chip carving. I have taken traditional chip carving techniques, combined them with my original designs, and have created a unique body of carvings that reflect who I am as an artist and as a human being.

CLERGY PANEL DISCUSSION: The September 10th clergy panel discussion aims to provide perspectives on Abraham’s legacy to the three monotheistic religions. The distinguished panel includes: Rabbi Barbara Paris, Rev. Milton Brasher-Cunningham, and Imam Saladin A. Hasan.

Rabbi Barbara Paris, LPC, serves many communities. She is the Hillel advisor and adjunct professor at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in New Haven, as well as the rabbi at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford and at the Watermark Senior Living Center in Bridgeport. She is also the associate rabbi at the JCC in Harrison, N.Y., and vice president of Jewish Family Service in Fairfield where she heads up the adoption program. Rabbi Paris earned her rabbinic degree from the Academy of Jewish Studies and took classes toward a Doctor of Ministry degree at Hartford Seminary where she was awarded the Celie J. Terry Prize for her interfaith community work. At SCSU, she works closely with the Muslim Student Association and the Newmann Club as well as other religious and multicultural groups. Rabbi Paris serves on the Board of Rabbis of New Haven and is a Fairfield Human Services Commissioner.

Reverend Milton Brasher-Cunningham is pastor of Mount Carmel Congregational Church UCC in Hamden. He was born in Texas, grew up in Africa, and spent the last 30+ years in New England and North Carolina. He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and has worked as a high school English teacher, a professional chef, a trainer for Apple, and an editor for Church Publishing. He is the author of three books, Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Mealand This Must Be the Place: Reflections on Home, and The Color of Together: Mixed Metaphors of Connectedness. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut with Ginger, his wife, who is also a UCC minister, and their two Schnauzer rescue pups. He writes regularly for donteatalone.com.

Imam Saladin A. Hasan started working for the Connecticut Department of Corrections in 1989, where he served as a corrections officer and staff trainer in the fields of behavior management, diversity, morals and ethics, pandemic response, recidivism etc. He retired from the Department in 2011. Imam Hasan’s goal has been to develop the minds of the youth, through youth sports, summer camps, martial science (boxing/aikido/karate) and life skills courses. He speaks in the school system and bonds with those in need of parental direction. Imam Hasan was elected Imam of the Abdul Majid Karim Hasan Islamic Center in January 2020, upon the passing of his father, Imam Dr. Abdul Majid Karim Hasan. The AMKHIC was launched in the early 50’s in the home of his maternal grandparents, Harold and Martha Peters. The Center is known as the establishment for Islam in New Haven County. It was in their home that El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz -- aka Malcolm X -- came from New York to introduce his understanding of Islam to a small crowd.

For info on the exhibit and the panel discussion, contact Susan Skalka at susans@jccnh.org. For info about the wood carvings of Harvey Paris, visit jewishcarving.com

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