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Kaddish for my Sister

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Contributed by : Ilana Weltman

Object # 60


On the wall of my dining room there is a beautiful painting by Lionel Reiss, inscribed “To my great grand niece Ilana Weltman 1984.” As an adult, looking through the archives of Lionel’s work, I felt the importance of preserving Jewish history as Reiss did. This poem is about his dressmaking sister, Rebecca, the first of his family to immigrate. He later told his niece, Helen Weltman that “had Rebecca known the right people, she could have been the Hattie Carnegie of Fifth Avenue.”

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Lionel Reiss, a Jewish American artist, immigrated to the United States as a young boy in 1899. As a young man in 1922, he left his successful commercial artist position, to capture Jewish life throughout Europe, as he sensed it was vanishing. He made portraits of Jews from around the world to contest Jewish racial theories. Aside from his many paintings and drawings, Reiss wrote poetry. Compassionate about maintaining family ties, Reiss would often send postcards with his poems and artwork to relatives.

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