Tyne & Wear Museums homepage

Contact us

 

Tree of life

A photo of the Jewish Lives community textile artwork.

The Tree of Life wall hanging

Click here to view the full version

Throughout June and July 2006, members of the United Hebrew Congregation Synagogue worked with textile artist Louise Underwood to produce this vibrant wall hanging. Written by participant Dorothy Sadlik, the following text explains the images and ideas behind this piece of work.

"Our tree of life begins from the roots, grows upwards and spreads. It continues to grow as the cycle of life continues, through birth and death, from Shabbat to Shabbat, through the annual cycle of the festivals and from generation to generation, our etz chaim, our tree of life rooted in the torah, continues to flourish."

We chose a tree because we felt that it would symbolise the roots of our people and our religion. Our lives are rooted in the Ten Commandments, the foundation of Judaism. The tree is made up of tiny sequins which represent mirrors. A mirror shows the divine in each of us. One piece of our mirror is missing to signify that there are defects in all of us. Behind the tree are 613 pictures of Jewish people, some of them very well known, some of them ordinary men and women. There is one person for each of the 613 commandments that Jews must keep. Festivals and are very much a part of our everyday lives, the fruits of the tree represent some of the most important: Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Simchat Torah, Tu B'Shevat.

Behind the tree are painted scenes depicting a Jewish wedding, an elderly man in a prayer shawl, a young man and a girl. These faces represent members of the artist's family. The elderly man and the girl perished in the Holocaust, the young man is the artist's son, the hope for the future. The bride and groom signify the continuity of life and the Jewish people. These paintings remind us of dark times and happier times.

See the detail

Click a thumbnail to view the artwork close-up.

  • A close up photo taken of the textiles design.
  • A close up photo taken of the textiles design.

The artists

  • Rabbi David Lewis
  • Jenny Cawson
  • Marta Josephs
  • Natie Sterrie
  • Jean Sussman
  • Dorothy Sadlik