Flock of "Doves of Hope and Peace" in PJA lobby

PHOTO: A sampling of the paper doves that make up Portland Jewish Academy's 2024 Community Art Project, "Doves of Hope and Peace," displayed at the school Friday, Dec. 17, 2023. (Courtesy David Solondz)

The Jewish Review
If you walk into the main lobby of Portland Jewish Academy and look up, you’ll be met with quite the sight – hundreds of blue and white paper birds – doves – together with a simple wish in Hebrew; “Shalom.” (peace) 
“Doves of Hope and Peace” is the latest in a series of community art projects put together by parents and students at PJA. The projects began during the Covid pandemic and continued with this year’s work meant to express solidarity with Israel and the hope for a better future. 
David Solondz, co-chair of PJA’s parents’ association, Kehillah, explained that the first two community art projects were outward-facing expressions of connectedness during the pandemic. The group’s art committee took last year off but was seeking a project for this year. 
The practice of origami is not a new one at PJA – a number of faculty members teach the practice either through art classes or as part of other programs. Origami had been tossed around as an idea for a project, but concrete plans had not been laid.
Then Oct. 7 happened. 
Solondz was inspired by the Japanese practice of senbazuru, the folding of 1,000 origami cranes as a metaphorical wish of long life. 
“I kind of came up with the idea of making a certain number of doves. And figuring chai is 18, 1800 was our goal,” he said. “For peace and for the future of Israel in response to the events on Oct. 7.”
Solondz’s co-chair, Naomi Harwin, had a similar moment of inspiration.
“I went down to San Diego for a bat mitzvah and there’s an installation at the San Diego airport of origami cranes,” she recalled. “I said, ‘I think this is exactly what we need to do.’ So everyone was on the same page.”
Having the idea is one thing, getting it done is something else. Students and families started folding just before Thanksgiving with the ambitious goal of installing the finished project during the school’s winter break.
“We weren’t sure if anyone was going to do this,” Harwin recalled, “and the first day that we opened it up, I brought home three (grocery) bags full of doves. The second day, David brought home two bags full of doves. We just kept having more and more people contributing. It really was a community effort. I think that people really needed something to express how they were feeling and, in a way, to feel connected to one another and connected to Israel.”
Many of the doves had messages written on them – some on the outside, some folded up into the body of the dove. 
“I didn’t peak,” Solondz said. “I treated them like the messages you put in the Western Wall, where it’s a little message that’s private to them, between them and whomever.”
A total of over 900 doves – 50 chai – were collected. From there, parents strung them together with 350 yards of thread into a frame using over 60 feet of left over half-inch PVC pipe, along with 900 plastic beads to hold the cranes on and 28 heavy-duty zip ties to secure the whole array to the lobby ceiling. 
For Harwin, a conversation with her daughter gave the finished work even deeper meaning.
“My daughter was saying that in fifth grade they were talking about words of inspiration for the New Year and she had chosen the word ‘soar’ as her word,” Harwin explained. “One of the greatest things is that you walk in and you immediately look up and you lift up your mind, your heart, looking up at something and, to me, it really lends itself to that idea of being able to soar together as a flock.”
“I couldn’t believe how impressed I was with our organization as a community,” Solondz added, “that we were able to pull this off. Not just that, but how amazing it looks as well.”


Add Comment