"Holy Pictures for a Holy People"
By Roberta Carasso, Ph.D., Art Critic and Elected member of the International Art Critics Association
Pictures of holy Jewish people, places, or events are one of the most potent items a Jewish home can include. Reminders of great thinkers, honored people of the Torah, places of miraculous happenings, and scenes of Shabbat and holidays are powerful reminders of the beauty of Judaism. All who enter such homes are immediately aware of the values and beliefs that are revered by the Jewish family. Jewish art makes a clear and powerful statement for all to see.
Nechama Tamara Farber is an artist who is known for creating paintings that encapsulate the holiness of Jewish tradition. Because of her devotion to Judaism and her travels to many parts of the world, Farber's art adds a timeless, international flavor to everything she creates. She was born in Minsk, Belarus and trained at the prestigious Glebov's Arts College and the State Academy of Arts there. Later, as chief artist for a theatre company, she traveled throughout the world, lived in Europe, Australia, USA, and finally settled in Israel. Living in each country, and directly witnessing how Judaism is observed in each, adds to the rich flavor of her art.
Farber is known for her commissioned portrait painting and Judaica. A significant characteristic of her art is that she draws with great accuracy creating powerful images in precise detail. However, she does not only capture the visual appearance of the person, object, or location, but rather she seeks to discover the inner essence that distinguishes one likeness from another.
Farber has created many outstanding works of art. One of her memorable and recent paintings is a celebration of a father embracing his young child while studying the Talmud. Farber portrays the special home environment, where Torah is learned, using vivid colors, a lively composition, and attention to a special relationship of father and son learning together. The final portrait is a celebration of life and realism; it captures the spirit of the family that will be enjoyed for years to come. The painting is also a reminder to all parents of their parental obligation in keeping the flame of Torah knowledge alive and how the intimacy of father and son learning together becomes an eternal joy.
Abraham and the Angels is a beautiful rendition of a scene from Parshas Vayeira when Abraham, the Father of Judaism, washes the feet of visiting angels. Then there are portraits of the idealized Shabbat, replete with wine, fruits, candle and beautiful cloth, holy images that aids the memory during the week of the beauty that is to come on each Shabbat.
In her art, Faber pays attention to intricate details that makes a difference in realizing the sensitivity of each image and the significant aspects each plays in the total artistic composition. A viewer can spend hours looking at the amazing and intricate smaller details within the larger painting yet be engulfed in the overall mood of the work.
Clearly, Farber was born with artistic talent. At two years old, her grandmother bought her a set of oil paints. Where other toddlers would smear it mercilessly on furniture, Faber worked with the paint as if she knew what she was doing. When she was five years old, she recalls how everyone in her class liked her art as it clearly stood out among everyone else's. In school, she was asked to be the head of an art club. From a very young age, her talents were obvious to all.
As an older teenager, a sympathetic History teacher, recognized her great artistic talent, and asked Farber if she would like to go to an art college. The teacher even brought her there and introduced her to a possibility that would alter her life. The next year, she passed the challenging examination and attended the four-year prestigious Glebov Art College in Minsk.
The professional curriculum at Glebov College offered the most superior education to enhance artistic development. It required students to draw in and analyze the styles of many famous artists, such as Cezanne, Da Vinci, etc. Only after several years of absorbing a wide variety of artistic understanding in styles, techniques and different realities from many artists, students were asked to draw in their own style.
After college, Farber attended the State Academy of Art where she continued her art studies and also learned the Clothing Design. Not only did she learn the intricacies of clothing, but all the fabric arts, including sewing, embroidery, and complicated needlework. Through its superb instruction, the Academy turned out professional artists with many related accomplishments and skills.
With this broad base of artistic knowledge, Farber was hired by the Northwest Theater Company in Belarus. It was apparent by all that she could create whatever was needed, from makeup to stage design, to costume design, to designing programs. The position included world travel and the opportunity to perfect her many talents and skills. The joke in the theater company was that they would have to hire ten people to do the jobs that only one Tamara (her name then) was capable of doing.
One day, while the theater staff was chatting among themselves, the topic of religion came up. Once Nechama learned that she was Jewish, she realized that she had little knowledge about what this meant. Suddenly, her passions turned completely to her religious heritage and she wanted to learn; but Russia was hardly the place to study.
Being a resourceful person, and eager to pursue her new passion, Nechama investigated where and how she could learn more about her heritage. There was a program in Warsaw, Poland, led by Rabbi Michael Schudrich, in the Jewish Education Center sponsored by Ronald Lauder Foundation. Alone, Nechama left her beloved theater and went to Poland; her yearning for Judaism far exceeded her love of creating art and theatrical life.
Rabbi Schudrich was extremely enlightening and Nechama had to learn Polish to study with him and other teaches in the Center. Later, Rabbi Schudrich, the native New Yorker, became the Chief Rabbi of Poland.
The next step in Farber's journey was going to Israel where she studied at Midrashet Rachel in Jerusalem, a yeshiva for women. During her stay at the yeshiva, the internationally famous Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis met Nechama at a wedding and told her of David Farber, also Russian-born, who was living in the USA at the time. Encouraged by Rebbetzin's advice to meet Nechama and inspired by Rabbi Shudrich's most favorable reference of her, David soon came to Jerusalem. They got engaged just 20 days later and married 5 weeks after that. At the wedding, Rabbi Schudrich was their guest of honor, Rabbi Leib Kelemen, their teacher, was a witness, and Rebbetzin Jungreis was Farber's Ema, who walked her down the aisle to the Chupa.
Faber is now happily married to David, who is inspired by and proud of her talents. In fact, he encourages and helps her by giving her time to paint and work on her art projects.
Nechama Tamara Farber's beautiful portraits and Judaica grew out of her journey from being an artistic child in Russia who knew little about her heritage to becoming a major, religious artist whose work exudes Torah principles through her extensive Torah study that is expressed through her exquisite paintings. Now living in Israel with her husband and son, her art has become even more profound as she is surrounded by the holiness of the land and its people.