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November 2018 - Message from the Rabbi

rabbi gary mazo Shalom!

On Kol Nidre, I shared the amazing (almost too amazing story to be believable) of "Abraham the First Jew.""Abraham the First Jew" was a print created by the artist James Grashow, to illustrate an advertisement in The NewYork Times. He made a beautiful woodcut, ͞Abraham, the first Jew,͟ along with 100 prints, signed and numbered.

As I mentioned in the sermon, A Swedish art dealer saw the newspaper ad, loved the work, and found his way to the Grashow’s New York apartment. He offered to sell the prints in Europe and send James the money. The Grashows agreed and put aside one print for themselves. James and his wife never heard from him again. 99 prints of "Abraham the First Jew" were stolen.

On July 12, 2017, James received the following email:
My father... passed away a couple of years ago. Now my mother also passed and we found a series of "Abraham" when cleaning out their estate. It’s a series of 100, and we’ve got lots of them. We are three siblings that live in Sweden, Norway and California. We would love to have your input and look forward to hearing from you.

Abraham The JewAfter learning the truth, that their father had stolen the prints, the siblings wanted to atone for their father’s wrongdoing. They decided to return the prints, and they wanted to do it in person.Stepping off the train in Connecticut, carrying a big, battered suitcase, they greeted James Grashow with smiles and big hugs. Inside his studio, they opened the suitcase. It contained the original cardboard box, wrapped in a quilt. Upon seeing the 87 prints in the box, Mrs. Grashow burst into tears. It was a moment of true, redemptive teshuvha -- a literal "return."

The Grashow family never thought they would see these prints again. In the belief that they were returned for a special reason, their family has sought homes in synagogues and in clergy studies across the world for "Abraham: The First Jew."

During my sermon, I revealed (actually, Gloria did the honors) number 14 out of 100 of "Abraham: The First Jew." Rabbi Zoë Klein Miles, the daughter of James Grashow offered a "lottery" of sorts to members of the CCAR; I literally "won" the lottery among thousands and we now have an original print here at TABI. The Grashow/Miles family wanted the prints to hang in rabbi’s studies and Congregations around the globe.

It is my hope that when we see this print we will always remember this story. It is my hope that when we see this print we will think about this remarkable story of "teshuvah"– a literal "returning" and think of our own lives and the reconciliations that can be made.

The print is still in the lobby – waiting for its new home in a yet to be designated spot in the building. Come on in and take a look – if you didn’t get a chance to see it over the holidays.


Gary A. Mazo, Rabbi