- Community of Residence: Newton Center
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 617-558-1404
- Artist Biography: I grew up in West Hartford, CT. When I was a child, my family and I spent incredible summers either boating in and beyond Long Island Sound or camping in many parts of the US with a tent-trailer. Being in nature had a magical effect on me; it demanded curiosity, absorbed my attention, and made me feel like I was not alone in her presence. As a pre-teen I started spending summers at Camp Ramah, first as a camper, and later on staff. At camp I began to connect my spirituality to my connection with nature. At the same time, I soaked up all the Jewish experiences that I could.
Growing up, all my grandparents lived within walking distance of my house, and most of my first cousins’
families lived within a 2-hour drive. That proximity made it easy to celebrate Jewish holidays together at
one of our homes. In retrospect, I realize that these two childhood ‘backdrops’--- joyful experiences
while immersed in nature, and spirited, meaningful Jewish time with family---were formative in my
journey to the rabbinate, and in the formation of my personal spirituality.
It was when I went to college and eventually rabbinical school, both in New York City, that I truly
began to appreciate the advantages of urban life as much as I already appreciated a big back yard and
easy access to undisturbed natural habitats. In the city I persisted in connecting with nature through
birdwatching and frequent escapes to the beach, but I also frequented the city’s great art museums, and I
took courses in architecture and art history. In those classes I discovered my love of Impressionist paint-
ing and Gothic architecture. Those activities, however, were the extent of any formal foray into the world
of art. I never took art lessons nor did I attempt to create what I would have considered works of art.
Jumping to the early years of my marriage and professional life, my husband Mike (aka Rabbi Michael
Swartz) and I moved from Washington, DC to a rental in Needham. A year later, about twenty-eight
years ago, we bought the home in Newton Center where we still live, and where we raised our
now grown sons, Nadav and Barak. I’ve held a variety of rabbinic positions including solo rabbi of a con-
gregation, Hillel rabbi, hospice/hospital chaplain, co-rabbi with Mike, and advocate for Jews affected by
addiction. Currently my professional focus is on writing, facilitating Mussar groups and working as a
Spiritual Director with private clients and students at Hebrew College.
- Artist Statement: From a young age I picked up stones, leaves, driftwood, shells—just about anything I noticed on a hike or family outing, that fit in my pockets. And I’m still that person today. When on walks, wherever I happen to be, I still stop to pick up unusual shapes of wood, beautiful pieces of bark, and small distinctive stones that I notice. When vacationing, I frequently bury such ‘finds’ in my return suitcase so they will not be damaged. For me, these ‘treasures,’ like those of my childhood, serve as evidence of the beauty, diversity, complexity, resilience, and audacity of Creation itself, even as they remind me of the wonder within the places I’ve been.
About 5 years ago, when there was a very noticeable increase in invasive vines that were choking out
trees in our region, I started taking small pruning clippers with me on walks, particularly when taking out
our beloved dog. Despite a leash in hand, I often ended up carrying home long branches of wood that
appealed to me, as well as complex, tangled strands of the vines. Afterwards, I hung the vines in our
basement, sometimes wrapping them around one another in a wreath-like fashion. Other times I just
bunched many vines together and hung them that way, to dry. I piled the long branches in our garage
where many remained until early in the pandemic, when I started imagining what I might do with them.