The United Jewish Federation of Tidewater is proud to offer the community access to collections that feature a variety of mediums in our Leon Family Gallery, located on the second floor landing at the Simon Family JCC. 



Each exhibit we present throughout the year represents Israeli and/or Jewish artists, spotlighting talent from within our Tidewater community, or from around the globe.


All exhibits are free and open to the public. Upcoming exhibits and meet-the-artist events are announced in our twice-monthly newsletter. Click here to sign up for that correspondence. 


Gallery Hours
Monday – Thursday | 9 am – 8:00 pm
Friday | 9 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday  | 9:00 am – 6:00 pm




The Meaning Within the Letters: A Framework for Connection

Paper Cuts by Nancy Schwartz-Katz

A graduate of Parsons School of Design, Nancy found Judaica to be the perfect medium for her to intertwine her artistic talent, love of learning, people, storytelling, and her Jewish heritage. Schwartz-Katz’s papercuts are an intricate play on the balancing of negative and positive space to emphasize concepts while telling stories of individuals, organizations, and history. Her art is in the collections of synagogues, hospitals, foundations, and hundreds of homes. She also exhibits nationally. Nancy lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with her family, her sweet dog, and grand-cat.

On exhibit in the Leon Family Gallery through February 2024.

MEM (2019-22)

18”x 22”, Paper


Mem is one of the three “mother” letters; aleph- breathe, mem- water/earth, and shin- fire/light. Mem, for mayim,  means water. We are made mostly of water, and like water, we are constantly moving and growing. The open mem represents things we know and can learn, and the closed mem represents things we don’t know.

PEI (2019-22)

18”x 22”, Paper


Pey means mouth, which is used as a vehicle or messenger. It allows us the power to be in the here and now as we do not know what a person is thinking until they speak. This means that what we say matters. We are all connected by what we say, how It affects us, and how we internally interpret meaning from what someone says to us or us to them. The flowers in this piece, anemone, and pansies, represent fragility and intention as our words need to be spoken carefully and thoughtfully.

VAV  (2019-22)

18”x 22”, Paper


Vav is the number six. She represents the physical around us; right, left, up, down, front, back. Think of vav as the connector letter, as a bridge from one to another. G-d created the heavens AND the Earth.

Artist Statement:

The Meaning Within the Letters stems from my research on the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Though mostly used in today’s world in a very mechanical way, the Hebrew alphabet has a depth of meaning and mystical connection to the larger universe that G-d has created. Each letter is more than a medium to write text. They are a guide, a framework for sharing a connection with others. It is a way for one to facilitate and to exchange ideas, a ritual script that alternates between G-d’s actions and the instructions to the reader for everyday existence. This allows one to engage with one another in our daily lives enabling us to transform ourselves to make a difference in this world.


The alphabet is divided into sections with three “mother” letters: aleph, mem, shin; seven “double” letters: bet, gimel, dalit, kaph, pey, raish, tav; and twelve “simples” or “elemental” letters: hey, vav, zayin, het, tet, yud, lamed, nun, samech, ayin, tzade and koof. Mother letters are associated with Creation – they represent the three fundamental elements: water, fire/light, and air. Water formed the Earth, Heaven was created from fire, and air is between Heaven and Earth. These elements are independent of one another. Aleph is associated with your chest-air; shin, your head, fire/light and mem, torso-water. All the elements are here. Ever wonder why it is so calming to be standing in the ocean? Your feet are on the ground in water; your torso is standing tall with your head toward the sky. You are experiencing all of these elements, earth/water, fire/light, and Heaven, at once!


The double letters are representative of humans’ duality. Like the planets that are constantly in motion, people are always on the move. We are influenced by what is going on around us. Because of these influences, people can go from one extreme to another, seeking the balance between the extremes. The seven double letters are also associated with the seven planets, the seven days of Creation and the seven openings in a person. These apertures connect humans to the outer world: sight – two eyes; hearing – two ears; two nostrils – smell; and one mouth – taste and speech.


The simple letters in contrast to the mother and double letters are said with one sound each. They, like the doubles, have power. These letters are associated with stability; like the twelve months of the year, they are a constant. A person is independent in the world and it is one’s actions, or reactions, to the world around them that has an effect.

The 22 letters are a road map to life with an explanation, shaping our minds to live with intention. We are constantly dealing with the shifts in life. When do we go too far with something? When do we feel we have not done enough of something? The letters help provide stability with a back and forth between one, and many, and the impact of our actions on the world.



Marilyn and Michel Ashe
Karen and Avraham Ashkenazi
Susan P. Barr
Wendy Jo and Ronald Brodsky
Stephanie Calliott and Don London
Armond and Rose Caplan Foundation
Marsha Chenman
Billye Roy and Jeff Chernitzer
Susan and Andrew H. Cohen
Shari Friedman and Andrew King
Cheryl Dronzek
Leora and Nathan Drory
Barbara Dudley
Susan and Jim Eilberg
Lois and Barry Einhorn
Mona and Jeffrey Flax
Anne and Lawrence Fleder
Alan and Esther Fleder Foundation
Fox Pest Control
Alicia and Robert Friedman
Bootsie Goldmeier
Jeri Jo and William Halprin
Marcia Hofheimer

Ellen Hundley
Jaffe Family Fund
Connie Jacobson
Carol and Joel Jason
Betsy and Ed Karotkin
Brenda and Larry Klar
Jodi and Jay Klebanoff
Anne and Edward Kramer
Celia Krichman Charitable Trust
Sierra and Steven Lautman
Ruth and Edward Legum
Robert Lehman
Caren and Stephen Leon
David Leon
Sandra Porter Leon and Miles Leon
Fern and Larry Leibowitz
Betty Ann and Scott Levin
Karen and Richard Lombart
Robin and Matthew Mancoll
Marcia and Burt Moss
Stacie and Marc Moss
Andrew Nusbaum
Poole, Brooke, Plumlee, PC

Elinore Porter
Lisa and Howard Roesen
Sharon and Gene Ross
Shikma and Danny Rubin
Sara Jo and Joel Rubin
Laure and Richard Saunders
Beth Scharlop and Roger Schultz
Lynn Schoenbaum
Miriam Seeherman
Patty and Herman Shelanski
Sandy and Norman Sher
Leslie and Larry Siegel
Helen Sissel
Edward Soltz
Lawrence Steingold
Renee and John Strelitz
Tidewater Jewish Foundation
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Jody and Alan Wagner
Wilks, Alper, Harwood & McIntyre, PC
Amy and Frank Zelenka
Jennifer and Rabbi Israel Zoberman


Contact Hunter Thomas, Director of Arts + Ideas, at or (757)965-6137.