Artist Beth Bourland’s conversion to Judaism in watercolor and collage – J.


Beth Bourland’s path to turning into a Jew started in earnest three years in the past, when she began working with Rabbi Yonatan Regev towards her conversion. Regev, then of Oakland’s Temple Sinai, talked about that some individuals maintain a journal of their conversion expertise, and Bourland took his phrases to coronary heart.

Relatively than file her emotions in writing, the Alameda resident expressed them by way of artwork. Lots of the watercolors and hand-cut paper assemblages she produced type a part of a 17-piece exhibit known as “Journey to Judaism.” The exhibit is presently on view within the social corridor of the Reform synagogue and can be up by way of the Excessive Holidays.

Beth Bourland
Beth Bourland

An exhibiting artist who has had each solo and regional reveals within the space, Bourland mentioned “Journey to Judaism” stands aside from the others. “This collection is probably the most emotional challenge I’ve ever executed,” she defined. “It actually was a challenge that got here from the guts.”

Bourland, 60, grew up in a Methodist however secular household in Michigan. “As a younger girl, I appeared for some type of religious path and didn’t actually discover something,” she recalled. Years later, she discovered Judaism.

“A good friend invited me to a musical service at Temple Sinai within the spring of 2019, and I used to be drawn to the synagogue, the siddur,” she mentioned. “I had tried to search out spirituality and hadn’t discovered something I completely agreed with.” That summer season, she started assembly with Regev.

“I really feel now that it was inevitable,” she mentioned. “I didn’t comprehend it until I used to be in my mid-50s. For me, the core is that Judaism doesn’t dictate anybody perception or set of beliefs. It doesn’t faux to have all of the solutions. Judaism welcomes debate. It could possibly settle for that there are mysteries and is OK with that, and I feel that’s intellectually courageous.”

Bourland studied with Regev from July 2019 till the spring of 2020, when Covid introduced a halt to their one-on-one periods. She additionally visited synagogues and historic websites, akin to the unique shul that sits behind Temple Beth Sholom in San Leandro, the place she noticed Tisha B’Av in 2019. A number of of those locations, akin to “The Little Shul,” are depicted in her exhibit.

Her beit din conversion ceremony befell through Zoom in July 2020 and was officiated by Regev, Sinai cantor Ilene Keys and educator Rabbi Ruth Adar. Bourland hasn’t but dipped into the mikvah however hopes to quickly.

Although the pandemic interfered with Bourland’s research, it performed in her favor by giving her extra time to develop the art work on exhibit. She credit Temple Sinai member Daybreak Kepler for aiding her: “She was somebody that Temple Sinai listed as an outreach-greeter. That’s how I met her. We turned associates.” Kepler proved to be “instrumental” in aiding with the challenge, Bourland mentioned. “She helped me navigate the channels of getting this exhibit going,” even serving to her cling the present.

Kepler was intrigued from the get-go. “Once we first met, [Bourland] advised me that she was going to do a sketchbook,” she mentioned. “I used to be actually excited and requested, ‘Would you think about doing an artwork present?’”

Bourland’s works mirror the analysis she poured into the challenge. “Joyful Shabbat,” a paper assemblage exhibiting a various group of individuals clapping and dancing, was impressed by a Friday evening Shabbat she attended at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley.

For “Almond Blossoms,” Bourland traveled to Modesto to go to a farmer with the intention to seize the glory of the flowers — a Jewish image of hope and renewal — in full bloom. And she or he hung out in Vacaville with Maayan Kline and her canine, Benzi, each of whom served within the Israel Protection Forces, after studying about them in J. She titled her portray of the 2 “Heroic Workforce.”

“The Reminiscence Backyard” is a serene scene of the Jewish sacred house on the Everlasting Residence Cemetery in Colma for these grieving fertility or being pregnant loss, whereas the ink illustration “Kosher Deli” is a whimsical tackle Bourland’s outings to Bay Space delicatessens — with a dollop of humor, such because the little boy chasing a dwell rooster by way of a deli retailer. “I made a decision to go within the cartoon route,” she defined.

Does she have a favourite within the collection? Sure, she mentioned, “Violins of Hope,” a watercolor impressed by the exhibit of rescued Holocaust violins and the live performance Bourland witnessed when it toured the Bay Space in 2020. Seeing the devices and listening to them performed was “intense,” Bourland recalled. “This system helps protect the reality. It’s essential.”

Journey to Judaism

On view by way of the Excessive Holy Days at Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, when the synagogue is open for occasions.


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