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Resilience: Meeting Life's Challenges

Resilience is a leitmotif throughout these women's stories. Born in the early decades of a tumultuous century, many of them faced the upheaval and displacement of migration, disease, war and the Holocaust. Some were orphaned while others struggled as young widows. Many survived the loss of beloved children or life partners. They also confronted the challenges of anti-Semitism and gender discrimination faced by other women and Jews of their generation. These women courageously responded to daunting challenges, creating inspiring lives of meaning and purpose.

Artist's Statement

Robbin Ami Silverberg
Brooklyn, New York

A simulacrum is that which is made in the likeness of a being or thing. I used this title to refer to a life or more exactly, the lives of these women whose oral histories I have read.

Nine glass and paper lambdoid forms stand in a cluster. The papers within are thick with these women's many words, pulp-painted on both sides of translucent paper. Because of the paper's translucency, the words on both of their sides entangle and become one—a complex mesh of lines. The paper is cut out in many places between these lines, which visually cease to be language, the actual space between the words having been taken away.

The representation of a life through written or oral documentation is clearly the goal of any archive such as this one, but questions immediately arise as to the limits of language: Words.What are words? Can they really contain a life? The Kabbalists believed in two Torahs—the Black and White Torah. The Black was comprised of all the written words—all that we deem important. The White Torah, on the other hand, was the space in between—between the words and between the letters. Only here, they believed, could true wisdom be found.

It is this 'in between' missing from the words where all that goes on in a life—the blood, the guts, the sinews, the tears, and the silences—these interstices that this ""simulacrum"" chooses to honor. In these in-between spaces, I honor the wisdom that we all search for, whether in Torah or in life.

The particular technique of pulp painting, where the text is made of pigmented paper fibers on handmade paper, adds yet another layer of meaning. In ""Simulacrum"" the words and the spaces between them are actually one and the same, at least in terms of material. There is a merging of subject and content INTO the paper itself.

So: nine glass and paper lambdoid forms stand clustered, as ciphers and as semblances. Like small lean-tos or roof-tops, they literally protect their internal—and eternal—light. Like a house of cards, they stand precariously in balance, but unlike a deck of cards these facets are made of glass: fragile yet resilient; dangerous yet present. As ciphers they acknowledge the many words spoken; as semblances they honor all that cannot be said.

"Nothing is before it has been uttered in a clear voice."

Simulacrum (detail) by Robbin Ami Silverberg
Full image
Simulacrum (detail) by Robbin Ami Silverberg, glass, handmade paper, porcelain fixtures with fluorescent bulbs. Each unit 4" x 28" x 45" Total: 36" x 28" x 45". Photograph: Gregg Stanger

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Resilience: Meeting Life's Challenges." (Viewed on January 22, 2018) <>.


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