Ben Shahn - The Call of the Shofar

The Temple’s Mosaic Art by Famed Artist Ben Shahn Unveiled 50 Years Ago

Congregration Ohaibai Sholom, Nashville, TN (January 4, 2010): The Temple’s first major artwork, a mosaic entitled The Call of the Shofar was commissioned and designed by Shahn and erected 50 years ago when city officials were in heated discussions about integration and civil rights.

“The mosaic, unveiled in 1960, still speaks to us today,” says Betty Lee Rosen, chair of The Temple’s Beautification Committee. “The art is a powerful, intellectually and artistically provocative piece. It transmits a message about the people of Nashville and the importance of unity and community.”

The mosaic represents racial equality with an outstretched hand that symbolizes God’s calling to unite mankind into one community of brotherhood, depicted as five different heads as the five races of man.

Shahn, a Lithuanian-born American artist (1898-1969), is well-known for his 1965 portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. which appeared on the cover of Time as well as for his works on social realism and his series of lectures published as The Shape of Content. Shahn was a commercial artist for CBS, Time, Fortune and Harper’s. The Art Directors Club Hall of Fame recognizes him as “one of the greatest masters of the 20th century.”

“The importance of social action and social justice has long been part of the strong foundation of this congregation, and this artistic creation is an echo of our congregation’s goals and an impressive reminder of what is important in our lives,” says Patty Marks, president of The Temple Congregation Ohabai Sholom.

photo by Steve Shapiro

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