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Siona Benjamin

b. December 11, 1960

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Siona Benjamin until we are able to commission a full entry.

Siona Benjamin

Born in Mumbai, India, Siona Benjamin is an artist now living in the New York City area. Her work reflects her experience of growing up as a Bene Israel Jew in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim country. In her paintings she combines the imagery of her past with the roles she plays in America today, making mosaics inspired by Indian and Persian miniature paintings, transcultural myth, and iconography. Her Fereshteh (“angels” in Urdu) series of paintings examines female biblical figures through these lenses, most notably featuring Lilith, who is used as a feminist figure to speak out on the plight of women.  Benjamin earned two Masters of Fine Arts: one in painting from Southern Illinois University in 1989 and a second in theater set design from the University of Illinois in 1993. She has exhibited in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2011 for an art project titled Faces: Weaving Indian Jewish Narratives and a second Fulbright in 2016-17 for an art project titled From Motherland to Fatherland: Transcultural Indian Jews in Israel. In 2015, Benjamin and her work were featured in a short documentary Blue Like Me, directed by Hal Rifken. She also collaborated with Rabbi Susan Talve, founding rabbi of the Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, to install mosaics of the Zodiac and other Jewish imagery on the synagogue’s floor. Her Zodiac was featured in Talve’s book The Zodiac Floor: At Central Reform Congregation (2020), detailing the process and artistic inspiration for the piece. Benjamin’s memoir about her upbringing as a Bene Israel Jew in India was included in Growing Up Jewish in India (2021), edited by Ori Soltes. She also illustrated I Am Hava: A Song’s Story of Hope, Love, and Joy (2021), a children’s book by Freda Lewkowicz that personifies the song of Hava Nagila as a young girl. In 2022 Benjamin was one of 24 Jewish female artists in the Holy Sparks Exhibition at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum in New York City, which celebrated 50 years of women in the rabbinate by pairing pioneering rabbis with artists; Benjamin was paired with Dianne Cohler-Esses, the first Syrian Jewish woman ordained as a rabbi.  


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Siona Benjamin." (Viewed on March 3, 2024) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/benjamin-siona>.