You can help create the ‘Jewish Roots’ art installation from home


In the “new normal,” when we have to be physically apart from one another more than we would like, the message of artist Nancy Katz’s “Jewish Roots” community art project is clear: We have to find creative ways to be together.

Katz’s art project was conceived as a way to grow the Jewish community’s sense of physical togetherness during a time of remote working, online learning and Zoom happy hours. Commissioned by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, the project’s framework is an 11-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide wooden board shaped like a tree, which will soon be installed in the lobby of the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence.

The tree is waiting to be filled with personalized mosaic “tiles” created by members of the Rhode Island Jewish community in the comfort and safety of their homes, and then turned into “gems” to decorate the tree.

Your role in this collaborative process is beautifully simple: decorate a template and send it to the Alliance online. What you do with the template is up to you. For example, you could print it out and paint it, fill it in digitally, place a quote inside the round- and leaf-shaped contours, or place a photograph inside the outline. The Alliance, and Katz, welcomes whatever feels meaningful to you.

You can download the template and upload your decorated version at the same place, at

Katz, who works out of the Nancy Katz | Wilmark Studio, in Pawtucket, takes it from there. She will turn your creation into a glass “gem” that will live on the walls of the Jewish Community Center, adding to its beauty. So far, close to 600 decorated templates have been contributed; the goal is 1,000.

“I see ‘Jewish Roots’ as a physical representation of our interconnectedness as a community, a way of reaching out and reaching back,” Katz said. “It is designed to serve as a reflection of the mix of what makes this community one, regardless of geographic location, age and religious affiliation.

“The project, given these crazy times we are living through, is an invitation to engage, through simple creative expression, with something bigger than ourselves from the comfort of our respective ‘safe’ zones. All this with the recognition that some day, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, we will be able to join together in person with visible smiles, rubbing shoulders and noshing on yummy treats, to celebrate the fruits of our collective creativity.”

Years from now, when we walk sans mask into the lobby of the JCC, perhaps arm in arm with a dear friend, we will gaze up at the gem-embellished tree and be reminded not of loneliness, but of a time when the community came together to build something beautiful.

Editor’s Note: For more on Nancy Katz, go to

HANNAH ALTMAN ( is the content producer for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

Nancy Katz, Jewish Roots Project