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Installation view at Ellis Island Museum (New York)

"Passages" is a series of seven painted doors, illustrating the story of my immigrant great-grandmother Bella. Walking through a passageway of her history and heritage has given me a historical perspective on the cultural rituals and political/social realities that have shaped my identity both as an artist and as a Jewish woman. Each door depicts essential aspects of this Jewish heritage which link my current experiences and beliefs with those of my great-grand-mother. Inscribed on the back of each door are two words. The first word denotes the essence of my great-grand-mothers experience. The second describes an action I took as a result of exploring her history.

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The first door, "Passages," shows Bella leaving Russia alone. She keeps the light of her menorah and heritage close to her. Her strength and fear as she arrives at Ellis Island are depicted in the second door, "Entrance to America." Next, "Matchmaker," marks Bella's arrival in Michigan and the efforts of her two brothers to secure a husband for her through a traveling suit salesman. "Wedding," the fourth door, celebrates her marriage and the continuity of Jewish ritual. The fifth door, "Home," shows Bella and her husband Abraham, living behind a curtain in the back of their grocery store. This lifestyle, which blurrs the boundaries of home and work, was not uncommon for immigrants of the time. "Sabbath," the sixth door, characterizes family dynamics at Bella's Sabbath dinner table with the traveling Rabbi. The final door, "Encounter" depicts recent history. Bella is passing the light of her menorah to me as I board a plane for the Ukraine. My mother and I returned to the "old country" to participate in the International Conference for Jewish Women in Kiev. In researching and documenting Bella's life, the relativism of her history has become evident.

Everyone has his or her own version of the story. The doors, which reflect my life as well as Bella's, will also contribute to the remaking of her history. Viewers who experience the doors are often prompted to tell their own stories of immigration and search for heritage. These doors are a passageway for others to explore and document their oral histories.