Area art teachers celebrate Israel, inspired by trip to Jewish state
Israel trip inspired local artists for recent exhibit

Area art teachers celebrate Israel, inspired by trip to Jewish state

Thirty artists traveled to Israel to tour the country, discuss art and meet local artists using "art as a catalyst" for conversations about politics and conflict.

Alan Doe and his Israel-inspired sculpture “Pigeon of Peace.” (Photo by Toby Tabachnick)
Alan Doe and his Israel-inspired sculpture “Pigeon of Peace.” (Photo by Toby Tabachnick)

Alan Doe, an artist who teaches at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, was not prepared for what he saw and experienced in Israel when he traveled there for the first time last summer with Classrooms Without Borders.

“I had no idea about the diversity there,” said Doe, one of 30 artists and teachers selected to explore the Jewish state on CWB’s first Arts and Culture Seminar in July 2017. “I thought I was prepared — I had read a lot about it and watched videos. But none of that can prepare you for being there.”

Doe was particularly moved, he said, by the “good nature of the people,” and the diversity of the land itself. “The Dead Sea to the Mediterranean — it was unbelievable.”

After returning home from the 10-day tour of Israel, each participant created art shaped by what they learned and saw there, while spreading the word at their respective schools about the cultural richness of the country. The work they produced, which included photography, sculpture and paintings — was displayed at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on May 9 at a celebration of the State of Israel hosted by CWB. It was called “Israel Night at the Museum.”

The Israel-inspired art will also be exhibited at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in June and will subsequently travel to many schools across the region.

Some photographs displayed at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh at a celebration of the state of Israel hosted by Classrooms Without Borders. (Photo by Toby Tabachnick)
CWB, founded in 2011 by Zipora Gur in association with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, provides experiential professional development for teachers through study seminars that take place outside of the classroom. This was its first seminar to Israel focused on the arts.

Although CWB has sponsored many trips for educators, including travel to Poland, this particular seminar was especially meaningful to board member Hilary Tyson Porter.

“This trip holds a special place in my heart because we collaborated with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust,” said Porter, who accompanied the artists to Israel, adding that several leaders of the Trust, including President and CEO Kevin McMahon and Murray Horne, the curator of Wood Street Gallery, were also on the trip.

Many of the artists who were on the trip came out to enjoy Israel Night at the Museum.

Touring Israel “was such a rich experience, visually and culturally,” said Doe, a visual arts teacher who focuses on photography. “And to travel with other artists, and to share the way you perceive things in ways that other artists can understand, is a delight.”

Traveling to Israel with CWB broadened the worldview of Zena Ruiz, the Children’s Museum resident artist, noted the museum’s executive director, Jane Werner. “The trip changed her ideas, and enriched the programs here.”

Artwork from one of the 30 artists and teachers who traveled to Israel for the Arts and Culture Seminar. (Photo by Toby Tabachnick)
While in Israel, the participants were exposed to many Israeli artists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were exploring a diverse array of subjects. Some of those artists, said Ruiz, “are using art as a catalyst to have conversations about the struggle, about politics.”

Nanci Goldberg, who teaches art in the Fox Chapel Area School District, had not been to Israel since her bat mitzvah, and was eager to travel there with CWB to get an adult perspective of the country.

“I wanted a clearer understanding of this complicated land,” Goldberg said. In addition to getting the chance to speak with both Arab and Jewish artists and visit their galleries, she appreciated the museum tours and learning “how they teach art in Israel.”

Likewise, Tabetha Morgan, an art teacher at John Marshall High School, said the trip was a “reawakening, being with other artists and seeing how art can change the world.”

“We went to a Muslim museum,” Morgan recalled. “It was very interesting. I wasn’t expecting to see that on the itinerary.”

The artists were housed with families in Karmiel/Misgav, Pittsburgh’s Partnership2Gether sister region.

“This was clearly a transformational experience for us,” Doe told the crowd gathered at the Israel Night at the Museum event. “I had heard the negatives about Israel, but when I got there, I found an astonishingly beautiful and welcoming country. And I saw the power of art to transform people; to be a part of that process was priceless.” PJC

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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