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September 21, 2007 – Jewish Advocate

Cemetery tapestry captures histories

JCAM and local artist team up to celebrate Baker Street

By Rachel L. Axelbank

Baker St. TapestryThe artistic expression of one woman's affinity with the Baker Street cemeteries in West Roxbury has recently become ­ and will continue to be for the next year ­ the focal point of a new traveling exhibit presented by the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts.

"Dor L'Dor Baker Street Tapestry," Framingham resident Lisa Rosowsky's 10-foot, monochromatic creation, is a representation of the numerous historically significant Jewish cemeteries that make up the Baker Street complex. For the past two Sundays, it and a number of artifacts of the Boston Jewish community have been on display for public viewing at Mohliver Chapel, located at cemetery number 10.

"Many of my family members are buried at the Baker Street cemeteries," said Rosowsky, who chairs the Communications Design department at Mass College of Art and, on her own time, works in mixed media in her private studio. "I wanted to try to capture what I like best about Baker Street, which is this cluster-y, almost shtetl-like quality."

Rosowsky began the piece roughly a year ago, working with photographs transferred to fabric, and a tallit she found in the Baker Street genizah, where community members bring unusable holy materials for proper burial.

"I have a studio full of art that I have no intention of selling," Rosowsky said. "For me, it's just a way of expressing how I feel." Still, she added, her hope had been to eventually display the piece, and a coincidental encounter between Rosowsky's mother and a JCAM field supervisor helped bring the tapestry to JCAM Executive Director Stan Kaplan's attention.

"I was blown away," Kaplan said. "Each one of these cemeteries has a story. These stories have been captured in this tapestry."

For example, the Mohliver Chapel's cemetery is so called because the people who are buried there all came from a Polish community of the same name."It's a montage of all that makes up Baker Street," added Kaplan.

Some aspects of the montage are what Kaplan calls "signature elements" of the cemeteries, including names on the gates and symbols on the headstones, as well as the brick chapels, a single square containing parts of a real windowpane and the transferred porcelain portrait plates that Rosowsky said are her acknowledgement of the Christian iconography.

The exhibit also features photographs, cemetery record books and immigration papers, including some regarding the families of local philanthropists Robert Kraft and Sheldon Adelson. Combined Jewish Philanthropies President Barry Shrage was invited to visit the display on Sept. 16.

"I saw a really beautiful work of art and a very important part of Boston's Jewish history," Shrage told the Advocate. "The Baker Street cemeteries are connected to so many of the people who founded Boston's Jewish community.

It's a great history lesson." Currently, Kaplan is planning to take the tapestry on a yearlong tour of the local Jewish community, starting with the next meeting of CJP's board of directors and continuing to day schools, synagogues, universities and other institutions.

Reproduced here with the permission of The Jewish Advocate.