WASHINGTON _ A walk through the Hebrew Bible will become a reality in early May in Bethesda, Md.
“When you think of Jesus or Mary you see a face in your mind because of the thousands of pictures that exist,” said Phillip Ratner an internationally recognized artist who's a co-founder of the new museum. “But when you think of a person in the Hebrew Bible no face comes to mind.”
The new museum, he said, will change that. “The pages of the Bible will come to life as people walk through and see the faces of people they have only read about,” said Phillip Ratner.
The non-profit museum will be the Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum, after the artist and his cousin, Dennis Ratner, founder and owner of the Hair Cuttery salon chain. Dennis Ratner has donated more than $2 million to create the Bethesda museum, said Phillip Ratner. Admission will be free. Bible study programs will charge $18.
The Hebrew Bible – called the Old Testament by Christians – has inspired much of Phillip Ratner's works of art. Among them: 10 carved glass windows of “The Ten Commandments” in the chapel of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.; a series of sculptures and graphics called “The Bible” at Mt. Sinai Synagogue in Los Angeles; and a mural of “Noah and The Ark” in the lobby of the Jewish Community Center in Fairfax, Va.
This is his second venture into illuminating the ancient Jewish holy texts through museum artwork. In 1984, he opened the Israel Bible Museum in Safad, Israel. It features 300 of his paintings, sculptures and graphics illustrating Biblical stories and figures. It draws more than 2,000 visitors each year.
Now the Bethesda museum, he and others say, also will add the pictures to the Hebrew Bible's thousands of words.
“This museum will be a wonderful contribution to helping the world of the Bible come alive,” said Stanley J. Schachter, senior rabbi of the B'nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, Ohio, and an admirer of Ratner's artwork. When he heard about the new museum, he said, he saw it as a teaching tool. Through Ratner's Biblical images, he said, “You don't just look at things on the wall. You travel into the past.”
Some examples of Ratner's work in the new museum:
–“Song of Songs,” a 3-D combination of painting and sculpture of a Biblical-era king, suggestive of Solomon, and maiden in a field.
–“Burning Bush,” an 18- inch acrylic painting of an open-armed Moses in front of the brightly colored burning bush.
–“The Tablets of the Law,” a 3-foot tall welded steel sculpture of an elongated Moses reaching heavenward with the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
The Bethesda museum also will showcase traveling exhibits from the American Guild of Judaic Artists. Paintings will not be for sale in the museum. Later, said Phillip Ratner, the museum also will display paintings and sculpture with Biblical themes by Christian artists.
He wants, said Phillip Ratner, “to foster love of the Bible through the graphic arts.”
For more information, go to http://www.ratnermuseum.com