Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Russian Culture Week offers art and education

Exhibition of Babi Yar paintings by Felix Lembersky a highlight

In-depth looks at Jewish art and propaganda in the Stalinist period and during the Russian revolution will highlight this year's Russian Culture Week, which also includes a talent show, an evening of card games and a traditional Russian ball.

The week of programming is a joint effort of the Brandeis Russian Club, the Russian Studies Program and the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry. It aims to introduce the broader Brandeis and local communities to various aspects of Russian culture, society and history. The Brandeis-Genesis Institute focuses in particular on Jewish components of Russian culture.

The most remarkable program of the week is a showing of works painted by Felix Lembersky (1913-1970) in response to the horrors of Babi Yar, the single largest mass murder of Soviet Jews.

Two of Lembersky's most poignant Babi Yar paintings, one of which is being exhibited for the first time, will be on view at the Rose Art Museum from 12 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 10. These paintings were done at the height of Stalin's campaigns against Jewish culture. The installation also will include Lembersky works of oppressed miners which embody the rich symbolism of his Babi Yar paintings.

Lembersky moved away from socialist realism to non-conformist forms of art later in his career, increasingly returning to his childhood town of Berdichev, where his parents perished at the hands of the Nazis, and employing Jewish symbols and imagery.

The exhibit of his work at the Rose has been curated by Nera Lerner `12, an economics major and fellow in the Brandeis-Genesis Institute; the program was been developed under the guidance of Professor ChaeRan Freeze of the Department of Near East and Judaic Studies. Students in one of Freeze's classes are working on a website on Lembersky's life and art that will go live toward the end of the current semester.

Russian Culture Week begins with a talk on "Jewish Art and Propaganda of the Russian Revolution" by Freeze at 7 p.m. Monday, March 7, in Rapaporte Treasure Hall.

Freeze will examine the contribution of Russian Jewish artists to the construction of a new socialist society following the revolution of 1917, and will focus on the works of Marc Chagall, El Lissitzky, Solomon Yudovin and others who participated in the creation of new avant-garde art forms and culture.

Russian appetizers and desserts will be served.

International Women's Day, which is Tuesday, March 8, is a national holiday in Russia, when women of various ages, married or single, with children or without, receive flowers and appreciation. In celebration of the day, the Brandeis Russian Club and friends are presenting a benefit concert and serving traditional Russian dishes in Rapaporte from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

On the initiative of the Russian club, this and other events this year are raising funds for a brain cancer research fund at Massachusetts General Hospital. This initiative is rooted in the club's tradition of involvement in philanthropic activity, which in the past has included efforts to support young blind people in Russia.

The week concludes with a card tournament in which participants play a popular Russian game known as "durak" – Russian for "fool" – which is what the loser is called. There will be prizes and dinner Russian-style will be served. The event is from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday in Ridgewood Commons A.

The final event is a Russian ball, beginning at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 12 in the Lurias Room of Hassenfield Conference Center. This Russian Club-sponsored evening will feature DJ Belo from Bentley University spinning the latest and greatest Russian hits as well as some Top 40 favorites. Semi-formal attire is required.

Admission to all events is free, and reservations are not required.