Shir Hadashs new sculpture plays up family ties and Israel

A bronze sculpture simply titled "Together" tries to evoke how family members are bound to one other, their community, Jerusalem and the world.

That is how sculptor Sara Aldouby characterizes her latest work, which now sits outside of Congregation Shir Hadash, a Reform synagogue in Los Gatos.

The sculpture was dedicated last Friday during Shabbat services, where the artist spoke about her life, her sense of Jewish art and the sculpture.

Carolyn and Max Lettween of Saratoga, Karen and Fred Bookey of San Jose and their father, Morton Bookey of Des Moines, Iowa — all of whom are synagogue members — commissioned the piece to honor their mother and wife, Lois Bookey, who died in 1997.

"It was a challenge to…bring the spirit of the family out. I wanted people to feel being together," Aldouby says.

"Together" is also meant to represent the continuity of the generations and the contribution that each generation to its successors.

The sculpture itself combines the forms of a mother, father and child into the shape of a lyre.

The lyre symbolizes Shir Hadash, which is Hebrew for new song.

"When I saw the piece, it said Shir Hadash to me, serving as a welcome to everyone on our site," said Rabbi Melanie Aron, the congregation's spiritual leader.

The mother and father huddle with their arms holding the head of a child. These two parental figures create the outlines of the lyre, and the instrument's strings create yet another link.

"I felt that I wanted to connect the family together in harmony with the strings," Aldouby said.

Carolyn Lettween said the family is pleased with the sculpture.

"We were looking for something that represented family, the Shir Hadash community and Israel. All three elements are part of this art piece," she said.

The sculpture stands 6 feet and weighs l,000 pounds. It sits on a base of Jerusalem stones imported from Israel. A plaque reads "Dwelling together in harmony."

The family did not wish to disclose the cost of the sculpture.

As befits a Silicon Valley congregation, the Internet played a role in the project.

Cheryl Kole, a sculpture project committee member, used the Internet to contact more than 100 Jewish artists' Web sites. After receiving a number of sketches, four finalists were selected and interviewed.

"Aldouby was chosen for her feeling and understanding of the family," Kole said.

The artist, born in Hungary, speaks of two "miracles" in her life and her family's life. First, an explosion resulted in re-routing the train carrying her to certain death in a concentration camp. Second, her entire family — eight siblings and her parents — survived the war despite being dispersed throughout Europe.

Following the war, she immigrated to Israel. In 1986, she moved to the United States. She and her husband now live in Trinball, Conn.

Aldouby studied sculpture in Israel as well as in Italy.

Her works, covering a broad range of artistic expression, can be found in BLD Gallery in New York City as well as private collections in Israel, England, Canada, Austria, South America and the United States.

Her commissions include "Wings of Peace" in Tiberias, Israel; a Holocaust sculpture for a congregation in Bridgeport, Conn.; a Holocaust bronze at the Jewish community center in Bridgeport; and a Holocaust memorial at the Jewish museum in Budapest, Hungary.