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Voyage on the Volga River Project, Russia

As the artist-in-residence at Project Kesher’s Multi-national Jewish Women’s Summit, I set up a temporary studio on board a ship voyaging down the Volga River. My intention was to assemble a collection of Jewish women’s stories by creating pages adorned with images and text.

In our workshops, we talked briefly about how history is documented from a point of view and later interpreted from a contemporary perspective. I emphasized how important it is for women to write our own histories so our version of the story will be included. I asked each participant to document a part of her story in a visual manner using the art supplies provided and photo/collage materials they brought with them. We each worked on a piece of 12 inch round handmade rag paper.

Click the image to enter the box

In this cross-cultural setting, many themes were shared and a delightful chatter carried on as participants noticed where their stories overlapped. Some women reached into their past family history or expressed the joy of their present extended family, while others portrayed dreams of the future. It became clear that we were making history on this Voyage on the Volga. Many of the women from the former Soviet Union created emotional images of their Project Kesher experiences of receiving a Jewish name, joining in at Tefillah services or receiving a Torah to take home to their community. There was no shortage of inspiration.

We now have a visual representation of Jewish women’s stories in a handmade round box to house this collection. Project Kesher is sharing this collection with the public at national meetings and local fundraisers. It is a document of a momentous journey that reveals a unique perspective on Jewish heritage and identity. Thank you to Dr. Elizabeth Sackler for funding this project.

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Studio on board
Studio on board
Studio on board
Larissa Volovik in studio on board
Linda Allen and Beth Grossman
Torah giving ceremony
Lunch at Dacha near Kostroma 2004
Voyage on the Volga Scenery
Voyage on the Volga Scenery

Photographs of artwork by Denise Rehse Watson